Where Will the Kingdom Be Established?
A dominant falsehood that Satan has foisted on mankind is the belief that one's soul goes to heaven after death. Many people assume that the phrase Kingdom of God is synonymous with heaven, but the Bible teaches that when Jesus Christ returns, the Kingdom of God will be established on earth!
First, notice how the Bible completely refutes the notion of "going to heaven" after death. Peter tells the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.. .. For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). This "man after God's own heart" is not in heaven, but still in the grave! Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."
The dead saints of the Old and New Testaments alike are sleeping in their graves, awaiting the resurrection - without consciousness (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). Job describes waiting for the resurrection in this way: "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You. . ." (Job 14:14-15).
Many verses refer to the dead as "sleeping," and this analogy comes from the fact that when a person sleeps deeply, many unaccounted hours may pass. Likewise, during the time we are dead, we will have no consciousness, no awareness. Many years may elapse between the time that we die and our resurrection, but we will not be aware of the passing of time. It will be as if we blinked, and then are alive again. Thus, from the point of view of consciousness, it will seem like we have gone from the physical body to the spiritual immediately, despite perhaps many years separating death and resurrection.
Paul teaches in I Corinthians 15 that the resurrection does not occur until Jesus Christ returns - at which point the "dead in Christ" will be resurrected with spiritual bodies, and the living saints will be changed to spirit "in the twinkling of an eye" (verse 52). If the saints were to go to heaven automatically after death, what need would there be for a resurrection? In verse 53, Paul even says that the "mortal" will have to "put on immortality," meaning we do not now have it (see also Romans 2:7). Only God has immortality now (I Timothy 6:15-16).
In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, Jesus says that the poor in spirit receive the "kingdom of heaven," while the meek "inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:3, 5; see also Psalm 37:11). Will God divide the "poor in spirit" saints from the "meek" saints, sending them to different places? If a saint is both meek and poor in spirit, will he inherit both heaven and earth? No - this apparent conundrum dissolves when we realize that Matthew uses the phrase "kingdom of heaven," whereas the other gospel writers refer to the "kingdom of God." Obviously, the "kingdom of God" does not mean that the Kingdom is located in God, but that it belongs to God. In the same way, the "kingdom of heaven" simply means that the Kingdom is owned by "heaven," where God's throne is. The poor in spirit will inherit the same Kingdom that the meek will - and that Kingdom will be set up on earth.
Galatians 3:29 says that if we belong to Christ, then we are considered to be Abraham's seed, and thus heirs (though not yet inheritors) of the promises to him. Whatever Abraham inherits in the resurrection, we also will inherit. Genesis 13:15 says that the inheritance is eternal, and Romans 4:13 explains that the promise is expanded to include the whole world. "Heaven," though, was not a part of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or to us.
The Bible shows that the Kingdom of God will be set up on the earth: "And You have made them a kingdom (royal race) and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth!" (Revelation 5:10, The Amplified Bible). Notice Revelation 11:15 as well, which prophesies that Christ's Kingdom will take over the kingdoms of this earth:
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
Three times in the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes the "holy city," New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, rather than being in heaven (Revelation 3:12; 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem will be set up on the new - cleansed and purified - earth. God Himself will dwell with men - not in heaven but in New Jerusalem on earth:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. ... He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." (Revelation 21:1-4, 7)
Many centuries of pagan tradition have convinced people that heaven is their "home" and their reward when they die. Nevertheless, the biblical record is plain: God's Kingdom will be established on the earth He created, and it will be an everlasting Kingdom. (For more examples of the Kingdom being established on earth, see Psalm 2:6-8; 47:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:17-18, 27; Micah 4:1-5; Zechariah 9:9-10; 14:9, 16-17; Revelation 2:26-27.)
Next: Who Are the Kingdom's Subjects and Citizens? (5/12)