Do we go to Heaven when we die? (part 1)
By Pastor Barry Hampton
I was told as a young child that if I was good I would go to Heaven where God is. This concept was comforting to me even though it was vague as well. It just sounded like the way it was. As I continued to grow up this concept never left me and the pictures they painted are still etched in my mind, of pearly gates, streets of Gold, and Mansions. It seemed so fantastic. John 14:1-3 comes to mind, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also.” Heaven was a vague but comforting place, a final place for us to live after our works had been tried. On the other side of that was the terrifying place of Torment, HELL!
Most of this was told us in Churches that only taught Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I didn’t even know of an apostle Paul, Different Gospels, Rightly Dividing and the likes. It was only Jesus and the 12 Disciples.
How does one get into the pearly gates? During this time of my life, I thought God was going to put my good on one side and my bad on the other. Later I found out the Bible states there is None Good, no not one. YIKES! As I grew, my bad started heavily out weighing my good. The 24th of August 1983, I trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. My sins have been paid for by the shed blood of my Lord and Savior. Thank God for his Grace. So I found out how to get into heaven was not like I had thought. But I was still looking forward to when I die entering into the pearly gates. This concept was comforting to me as a child, but right after trusting the Lord for my Salvation, it was even more exciting.
As I grew in the Lord, I thought about Heaven a lot more. I was reading and hearing preaching and considering what scripture said more and more. When Bro. E.C. Moore taught about Soul sleep I thought to myself, “What planet did he come from?” All the concepts I believed were being challenged. He stated that when we die we fall asleep until a day called the “Rapture” comes. Many people resist this thought because of their up bringing. That is, they have brought their vague and brief description of Heaven with them as they learn to rightly divide the scriptures. It is like we have to hang on to the past some how. By this point I realized that most of what I had heard as a child was a lie or vain belief. But more than that, I wanted to be a Bible believer, PERIOD! What did the Bible say about heaven?
First, let me start with pearly gates and streets of gold and mansions. This is what is described as Heaven for the most part, but what is it? Look at this city in Rev. 21:1-2 “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them and they [Israel check out Heb. 8:10] shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.” It is a city and tabernacle of God, but it is not heaven! It comes down from heaven Rev 21:11. Rev. 21:21
“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl:…” Thus we get the gates into heaven are “pearly gates.” This is not into heaven it is into the new city.
Heaven has streets of gold. Look in Rev. 21:21b “…and the street of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.” Note the description is of the new city Jerusalem and not heaven.
This is where the Mansions in John 14 are being prepared for Israel. There are some other important facts as well that need to be considered. It comes to Earth. Israel’s hope was never to leave the planet….Israel’s hope has always been a kingdom set up here on earth.
1. the promise of a kingdom of priest Ex 19:5,6
2. This city has a very strong connection to Israel. Rev 21:11-14 “Having the glory of God; and her light was like unto stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates and at the gates twelve angels and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel; 13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the lamb.” All connect to Israel. I can promise you that the Apostle to the Gentiles was not named among them.
3. Israel will be this priesthood ministering to the Gentiles in the Kingdom as in Zech 8:22.
4. Peter talks about the priesthood in 1 Peter 2:9.