Jesus Christ said that the meek will inherit the earth. So, what does that mean for those who are looking to heaven?
Playing a harp, rolling around in heavenly clouds, lounging blissfully in permanent retirement—this is how countless millions expect to spend eternity after they die. That may sound peaceful, but is it biblical? Jesus Christ promised a very different future for Christians. In the famous Sermon on the Mount, He proclaimed, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
So, will you inherit the earth? Do you want to receive the reward the Savior has promised? And what does it mean to “inherit the earth,” anyway?
A September 2021 Pew Research poll found that 73 percent of Americans believe in heaven and that 62 percent believe in hell. About a quarter—26 percent—said they believe in neither heaven nor hell, with around 7 percent saying that they believe in some other kind of afterlife and 17 percent saying that they do not believe in any kind of afterlife.
You may be shocked to learn that most who believe in heaven and hell don’t understand what either of those things are—nor what Jesus has promised to those who are faithful to Him in this present age. Is God’s plan simply that you “go to heaven” when you die? Or will you be resurrected to a reward involving planet Earth? This isn’t something Jesus was hiding. He spoke about it plainly:
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:1–5).
If you read that passage carefully, you may realize that while Jesus promised His faithful followers the kingdom of heaven, He did not promise them a kingdom in heaven. Consider this example: Britain’s monarchy is called the House of Windsor. It is not, however, only in Windsor—it reigns over a number of nations all over the earth. Similarly, the kingdom of heaven extends from heaven but exercises its rule on the earth.
Indeed, as we will see, when Jesus Christ returns He will make Jerusalem, on the earth, the capital of His kingdom. When He returns, today’s faithful Christians will receive as their inheritance a position of service, ruling in that kingdom under Him. He tells us, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). He didn’t teach us to pray, “Take us to Your heaven.” But why did our Savior tell us to pray that God’s kingdom will be established on the earth? Because our world is suffering from the sins of mankind. Just think of the hundreds of millions in the last century who died as a result of warfare or genocide. Even right now, more than two dozen wars are raging between nations or peoples around the globe. And with the advent of nuclear weapons in the last century, we can no longer take for granted that a regional war will stay regional—with guided missiles, space communications, and smart bombs, and with global alliances controlling the movement of weapons, two warring European nations can put the entire planet at risk, as we are seeing in the worldwide concern over the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Does this mean that our world has already entered the “Great Tribulation” that Jesus Christ foretold? Have the Four Horsemen begun their prophesied ride?
No, not yet. But we are headed in that direction, and it is an ominous direction; Jesus warned that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).
Those who fear the escalation of today’s regional conflicts are not mistaken. Current military trends, left unchecked, will lead our planet to total annihilation. But Jesus Christ will intervene—on the earth—to put an end to mankind’s wars and warlike nature before we destroy ourselves.
And, far from the idea of the afterlife as an eternal retirement in an idyllic heaven, Christians will, instead, have a job to do. In His kingdom, Jesus Christ will make today’s Christians “kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10).
Yes, under Christ’s righteous leadership, today’s faithful Christians will rule under their Savior, teaching the world the true way of life. All the nations of planet Earth will come to Jerusalem to learn the way to peace. Scripture tells us that the whole earth will learn to observe the same biblical Festivals that Jesus and the Apostles observed: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).
Yes, every nation on earth will worship the King. But when will that take place? And when will faithful Christians inherit the Kingdom? The great resurrection of faithful Christians will take place at Christ’s return:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
Christians today are preparing for their future service. Jesus taught that the greatest goal of a Christian is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). That search will lead to a position of service in the Kingdom of God, when resurrected Christians will help their Savior bring righteousness to the people of planet Earth.
Yes, the meek shall inherit the earth, as Jesus Christ said. He will rule all nations as King of kings and Lord of lords. Faithful Christians will assist Him in ruling over the nations. My friends, God is calling many individuals to serve Him and His work, to prepare to serve in His coming kingdom as kings and priests. “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). Those thousand years are often called “the Millennium”—the first thousand years of Christ’s coming eternal rule.
A kingdom has a ruler, territory, subjects, and laws. The ruler of the Kingdom of God on earth will be Jesus Christ as King of kings, and today’s true Christians will be resurrected to assist Him as kings and priests. So, what territory will the kingdom rule over? The earth, where Jesus Christ will rule from Jerusalem. We read, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain’” (Zechariah 8:3).
In fact, the city will have another name. At the very end of the book of Ezekiel, we read that “the name of the city from that day shall be: The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35). That name of the city in Hebrew is Yahweh Shâm. When Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God, its territory will be planet Earth. And who will be the subjects of that Kingdom? All the nations of planet Earth. We read that “the Lord shall be King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9).
The subjects living under Christ’s rulership will be physical human beings—people living on planet Earth during the Millennium—and they will be governed by God’s law.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2–3).
How shocking it is that so many today who call themselves Christians reject the truth of God’s law—the very law that will bring peace to our world under Christ’s rule. This law is far above mankind’s often contradictory and unjust laws. Jesus taught us to keep the Ten Commandments—remember that He said, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He then stated several of the Ten Commandments. He also magnified the commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, making them more binding, as when He explained that to gaze at a person with lust is to commit the sin of adultery (Matthew 5:27–28).
But this will not be a harsh and oppressive rule; it will bring peace and happiness to all the inhabitants of the Earth when they obey their King. We read, “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
This is the Gospel—the good news of the Kingdom of God. Yet how many professing Christians really understand it? Millions believe they will go to the place of their reward when they die—but is that true?
The Apostle Paul made a statement that is widely known, but not so widely understood. He wrote that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, King James Version). Notice that the scripture does not state, “The wages of sin is immortal life in hellfire.” The consequence of sin is not immortal life; it is death, the absence of life. If human beings already had immortal souls, they would not need eternal life as a gift, as the verse states.
Yes, a soul can die. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The Hebrew word for soul here is nephesh, which means physical or natural life—the same word that is translated “creatures” and describes animal life in Genesis 1:21. Jesus taught the same in the New Testament, warning His followers: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). That “hell” is the Greek word géenna, picturing the burning trash pits outside Jerusalem where refuse was destroyed, burned into ashes—not kept forever burning. For more on this vital topic, you can visit us online at TomorrowsWorld.org to read or listen to our January 2023 article “Are You Going to Hell?”
Of course, the Bible does teach that there is a human spirit—the spirit in man is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 2:11, for example. But this is not an immortal soul. There are many other scriptures to demonstrate that human beings do not have immortal souls. As God inspired the prophet Ezekiel to state, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
This is why the resurrection from the dead is so important. Your Bible reveals three general resurrections from the dead. The first resurrection is primarily described in two chapters of your Bible: 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. Today’s faithful Christians will receive their inheritance at that first resurrection.
So, what are dead Christians doing right now? Are they alert in a disembodied state, waiting for their inheritance? And what about the billions who have died in the centuries from Adam and Eve to the present? Are they now disembodied spirits waiting to learn of their eternal fate? Or are deceased non-Christians already burning in torment?
The truth is that those who have died are simply dead. Scripture explains that “the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Knowing nothing, it is as if they are asleep. Their next moment of awareness will come when they are resurrected. To learn more about this resurrection to “everlasting life” (John 3:16), you can read or listen to our June 2023 article “Four Hidden Truths of John 3:16.”
The Apostle John described the first two general resurrections:
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished (Revelation 20:4–5).
Who are the “rest of the dead”? These are human beings from our present age of human rule who will remain dead at the time of the first resurrection, but will be resurrected a thousand years later. Here we see that the “rest of the dead,” the billions who died without having their minds opened to true Christianity, will be resurrected after the Millennium to a time known as the White Throne Judgment—a future physical lifetime in which they will have their first opportunity to accept Jesus Christ’s teaching and learn to live His way. And it is the resurrected firstfruits who will be teaching them, under Jesus Christ. By then, they will have had a thousand years of experience living and reigning with Christ, as we’ve read in Revelation 20:4–5. Scripture describes this resurrection to physical life:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books (Revelation 20:11–12).
The Greek word translated “books” here is biblion. The good news is that the books, or the Bible—the Holy Scriptures—will be opened to the understanding of the masses for the first time. The Book of Life will finally be opened to those resurrected in the White Throne Judgment, as we see in Revelation 20:12. This will be their first opportunity to learn the truth. This is not a “second chance,” as some critics call it—all human beings will be held accountable for their actions and thoughts. But this will be the first time for many to become aware of their sins. They’ll have the opportunity to repent of those sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
All who are dead will be resurrected to one of the three resurrections. If you genuinely belong to Jesus Christ in this present age, you will be in the first resurrection. It is called “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35), because it’s a resurrection to eternal life—immortality.
Those who are in the first resurrection will become the Bride of Christ. The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 warns us to be ready for Christ’s return and the marriage of the Lamb, when today’s faithful Christians will be united with Him for eternity. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).
All who have died as true Christians in this present age will be in the first resurrection when Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God. They will assist Him in ruling in that kingdom during the Millennium, when the people who live through the imminent end-time events and into that new era will experience life under God’s benevolent rule.
During the White Throne Judgment, the rest of humanity—those who were not called in this present age—will be resurrected to a physical life, during which they will have their first opportunity to hear the true Gospel and live God’s way. Their minds will be opened to the Bible and the awesome reality of God’s truth.
Then, after all who have ever lived have received a genuine opportunity for salvation, those who died after knowingly and permanently rejecting their opportunity to live God’s way will be resurrected and thrown, with the unrepentant who are still alive, into the Lake of Fire. They will be burned up forever and will never again exist. This is the third resurrection.
After the Millennium, the White Throne Judgment, and the Lake of Fire, God will bring heaven and earth to a glorious new stage, for which all that came before was preparation. We read of this awesome plan:
Now 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” (Revelation 21:1–4).
By this time, all human beings will have had an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Inheriting the earth will be only our first step, as we read: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). Yes, for those human beings who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and who learn to live by His ways, a time will come when they will not only receive their earthly inheritance, but inherit “all things”—the entire universe.
Until then, the firstfruits will have a job to do, as we have seen in this article. Yes, they will rise above planet Earth at the first resurrection, when Christ takes them to the great wedding before God’s throne in heaven (Revelation 15:1–2). But, contrary to what so many professing Christians expect, the resurrected saints will not just stay in heaven, absorbed idly in a trance of the so-called “beatific vision.” After God pours out the seven last plagues on the earth, they will return on white horses with Jesus Christ to conquer the nations and establish His kingdom on the earth (Revelation 19:14).
Dear reader, your Father in heaven loves you and wants you to be part of His family—to receive salvation, to inherit the earth, and to inherit all things. Will you respond to His call?