Question: Most professing Christians believe that the saved will go to heaven at death. But they have little or no idea about what they will do in heaven. What does the Bible teach is the reward of the saved?
Answer: The belief in “going to heaven” at death is not only held by most professing Christians. People all over the world, of many religions, cling to a belief in some kind of afterlife—some type of “reward” or blissful afterlife after death.
Surprising as it may seem, neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught that the righteous go to heaven when they die! The “reward” Jesus promises His faithful followers (Revelation 22:12) is not heaven; in fact, its immediate focus involves ruling with Him on the earth. Note the admission of this secular encyclopedia:
“The dominant view in the early church seems to have been that until the return of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven to raise the dead, those who had died were asleep, and that they would be suddenly awakened to be given their new bodies, after which they would reign with Him on earth for a thousand years” (“Heaven,” The New International Encyclopedia, 1st edition).
The early Church of God, which Jesus Christ established, did not teach the concept of “going to heaven” as our eternal destiny. This idea did not gain wide acceptance until long after the Apostles had died. Rather, Jesus plainly told His disciples: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). The Apostle Peter said that obedient King David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), “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).
Even righteous King David did not go to heaven when he died! He is still dead, as are all the righteous men and women of God who have died. They are awaiting the resurrection from the dead, at which time they will receive spirit bodies that will never die (1 Corinthians 15:50–53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
Eternal life is the gift of God (Romans 6:23), which Spirit-begotten Christians are to receive when resurrected or changed. But what is the “reward” Jesus will bring with Him?
Christ said that at His return He will reward all overcomers—all who grow in the spiritual character of God. Some will overcome and grow more than others, and Jesus said that He “will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27; cf. Revelation 22:12).
God’s saints will not be strumming on harps up in heaven for eternity. Their destiny is infinitely more glorious and exciting! The Bible reveals that the “reward of the saved” will be rulership of the earth with Jesus Christ after He returns (Revelation 2:26; 3:21; 5:10). Jesus Christ and the resurrected Christians shall rule for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4–6). They will teach the nations God’s way of life, which shall bring lasting peace, prosperity and joy to all mankind. This does not mean that the resurrected saints may never visit heaven, wherein God the Father resides; the point is that they will have a job to do—and that job will be focused on doing God the Father’s will here on the earth, under the rule of Jesus Christ!
Scripture tells us that after God’s great Master Plan of salvation for mankind is complete, the surface of the earth will be purified by fire (2 Peter 3:10–12). A new earth and new heavens will emerge (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). And the glorious new capital of the earth—the “New Jerusalem” sparkling with precious stones and with streets of transparent pure gold (Revelation 21:18–21)—will descend from heaven (Revelation 21:2, 10; 3:12). God the Father will then come and dwell on the earth in person, and will make the New Jerusalem the location of His glorious throne (Revelation 21:3, 22–23; 22:3–5), from where He and His immortal saints will rule the entire universe!
To learn more about this amazing plan that God has in store for His faithful saints, please write for your free copy of our booklet Your Ultimate Destiny. The surprising and breathtaking truth is that “heaven” is coming to the earth—the very headquarters from which the God Family will rule the universe forever!