What Future and Hope does the Bible teach? – Part 8

Theme Scripture: “… to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

A Scriptural Examination

Questions Arising from the Conclusion – Part 8

  1. If the “hope” of the “new creation” is the same earthly “hope” entertained by the Jews before Christ, that is, living forever on earth, what is the “better hope” spoken of by Paul in Hebrews 7:19?
    • The Greek word for “better” carries the meaning of better as something fully developed, in this case by extension the earthly hope. This Hope was fully developed by Christ (Acts 24:15, 26:6-8). Up till then, there were only glimpses because the Law was a shadow leading to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
  2. Why is the new covenant “better” than the old covenant (Hebrews 7:22) and what are the “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6) of the new/better covenant if all are eventually to live on earth, just like Abraham, Isaac, David, etc.?
    • This is answered in the context in Hebrews 7:19 where the first part of the verse highlighted that the Law Covenant (the old covenant) “made nothing perfect”. Hebrews 10:1 gives the contrast: “1 For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, [men] can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect “. Complete obedience to the old covenant could not make anyone perfect. By contrast the new covenant instituted by Christ could and would. As Hebrews 10:14 goes on to say, “For it is by one [sacrificial] offering that he has made those who are being sanctified, perfect perpetually.”
  3. What is the “better” thing that God had foreseen for Christians (Hebrews 11:40), if both Christians and patriarchs are to live together on earth?
    • Hebrews 11:39-40 says “And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the [fulfillment of the] promise, 40 as God foresaw something better for us, in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” NWT Reference Edition. Other translations render this “did not receive the promise”. What promise? Was it not “Truly I tell (say to) you today, you will be with me in Paradise”? from Jesus (Luke 23:43).
    • What about the “better” thing? Jesus had also promised the faithful apostles shortly before in Luke 22:29 on the last night of his life on earth that “I am promising you a Kingdom as my Father promised me”. (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).
  4. How can the anointed Christians be a “NEW creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) if they are to become perfect humans again? Being again perfect does not seem to be at all a NEW creation but a RENEWED creation. Or, do you think the “NEW creation” is the same thing with the “RE-creation” (Matthew 19:28)?
    • No anointed or chosen Christian, indeed, no-one other than Adam, Eve and Jesus has ever been a perfect human, therefore becoming perfect humans again is not strictly an accurate statement. Surely, transforming imperfect humans into perfect humans would be a new creation, something never done before.
    • In Matthew 19:28 the NWT has “re-creation”, but the Greek word is better translated as “re-generation” (See also footnote in Reference edition).
    • The more likely explanation is that the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is referring to Jesus’ words in John 3:3-8 where Jesus discussed being born again from the spirit. This being born again involved getting baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Failure to accept Jesus and his sacrifice would mean one would not be born again and hence not a new creation. Indeed, the Greek word for “new” used in Corinthians is kainos, which means “new in quality, fresh in development or opportunity, not found exactly like this before”. This sense of new would apply to those who were born again from the spirit.
  5. Do you really believe that a human body of flesh and blood can gain IMMORTALITY? What do you understand “immortality” to mean, according to Scripture?
  • 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 is probably the best scripture to understand immortality.
  • NWT Reference edition “But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: “Death is swallowed up forever”.”
  • Simply put, immortality is the opposite of mortality. Mortality is the fact that a soul will die. Immortality is simply the opposite, a soul will not die, no more, no less. It is not a special condition with special status and requirements, rather it is an absence of the propensity to decay, corrupt and die.
  • Greek “thnetos” = mortality, inevitablility of physical death.
  • Greek “athanasia” = without death, from “A” – without and “Thanatos” – death.
  • Any view of a special status or special requirements for “immortality” are just added speculation, for immortality is not otherwise discussed or defined elsewhere in scripture except for 1 Timothy 6:15-16. Here it is referring to Jesus which in context was discussing Kings and Lords and then saying of these he is alone in having immortality.
  • An imperfect human body is mortal, the opposite, A perfect human body is immortal.
  • We need to remember Adam was perfect and would have lived forever, but for the fact that he sinned and thereby became imperfect. Genesis 3:3-4 indicates that only disobedience would be responsible for the death of Adam and / or Eve. Jesus was also perfect and would have lived forever, but for the fact that he was put to death (which is not the same as dying as a result of sin and imperfection as we do)

6. How can we understand the following Scriptures?

  • Colossians 3:1-4
  • 1 John 3:1-3
  • Philippians 1:22-24
  • 2 Peter 1:12-15
  • 2 Timothy 2:11-15
  • Romans 8:28-30
  • Ephesians 4:1-6
  • 2 Corinthians 12:1-7

Firstly, none of these scriptures mention heaven. Therefore, any suggested support for a hope of living in heaven can only be by interpretation, not by factual statement.

Secondly, as none of other scriptures we have discussed in parts 1-6 support a destination in heaven, therefore the overall Bible context does not support such an interpretation.

In a court case, these scriptures will be dismissed as irrelevant. Moreover, they are just as easily understood in the context of living forever on earth as briefly shown here:

  • The context of Colossians 3:1-4 is contrasting the spiritual [good] things with the earthly [wicked] things. The earthly things are sexual immorality, covetousness, and evil desire according to verse 5, not a desire to live forever on earth.
  • 1 John 3:1-3 is talking about the time when Jesus is made manifest, that we shall be like him, but in what way we will be like him is complete conjecture. As the end of verse 2 says “as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be”, but it is not talking about “where we shall be”. When mankind shows compassion, exercises justice, and other qualities they are like God. Yet we know that we are to be made perfect once again. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image (likeness) according to Genesis 1:26-27.
  • Philippians 1:22-24 talks about “the being with Christ”. This may be a reference to Matthew 24:30-31, and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, but in both instances, Jesus is in the sky, the earth’s atmosphere, not in God’s presence. Also, where is Jesus? Currently, he is in heaven, but a number of scriptures tell us he is returning to earth in the future.
  • 2 Peter 1:12-15 shows Peter saying that “the putting off of my tabernacle is soon to be”. This was referring to Peter dying. It says nothing else. (see discussion on 1 Corinthians 5 above)
  • 2 Timothy 2:11-15 talks about ruling with Christ as kings. This links with Revelation 5:10 which says, “they are to rule as kings upon the earth”, again not in heaven.
  • Romans 8:28-30. This series of articles does not deny that we can become sons of God and brothers of Christ, so how does Romans 8:28-30 prove the hope of a life in heaven? After all, Adam was a son of God as well and he did not go to heaven. (see Luke 3:38)
  • Likewise, Ephesians 4:1-6 says that there is “one body, one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called: one Lord, one faith one baptism, one God and Father”. There is one hope, but what evidence does that provide as to where that hope is to be enjoyed?
  • 2 Corinthians 12:1-7. A closer examination of the text reveals that we cannot equate the third heaven with paradise, but rather they are separate entities. Verse 2 says “was caught away to the third heaven”. The Greek word translated “to” is “heos” and means “until, as far as, up to, as much as”. Therefore, the phrase here is better rendered, “was caught away, as far as the start of the third heaven”. This contrasts with verse 4 which says: “that he was caught away into paradise” where “into” “eis” means “in, upon, among indicating the point reached or entered”. This would indicate that in his vision he was taken to the edge of Jehovah’s presence and, also, to a vision of the paradise to come on earth. Remember that also “Paradise” is an ancient Persian word meaning “enclosure, garden, park”.

A comment on 2 Corinthians 4:10 – 5:6

This portion of scripture discusses bodies in the sense of a soul, an individual with everything that makes that person a personality, and how we should view it, both currently and for the future.

2 Corinthians 4:10-11 contrasts the physical body or person facing death, with the life-giving hope from Jesus being absorbed by the spiritual person within. It says in part,

we endure everywhere in our body the death-dealing treatment given to Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be made manifest in our body”.

2 Corinthians 4:16 similarly contrasts the physical body/person wasting away with the spiritual body/person being renewed saying,

even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day”.

This leads to the conclusion in 2 Corinthians 4:18 “For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting”, again contrasting the physical with the spiritual. This contrasting of the physical and the spiritual is a common theme of the apostle Paul. (See also 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, 1 Corinthians 15).

It is in this context we find 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1 Paul talks about the physical body/tent as finishing I.e. temporary and then a body from God in the future that would be everlasting. The temporary imperfect body (a tent) will be replaced by a permanent everlasting body (a solid building instead of a tent). This body will not be man-made on earth, but rather made by God in the heavens (hence not subject to decay and death, rather eternal). The Greek text translated literally states:” We know that for if the earthly house of us, the tent (the body) should be destroyed, a building we have from God, we have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (Taken from Biblehub Interlinear)

2 Corinthians 5:2 further qualifies this by stating that this body would come from heaven and was to be earnestly desired “earnestly desiring to put on the one [body] for us from heaven”. It does not say “put on the one body for us in heaven”. The Greek word translated “from” is “ex” which carries the meaning of “from out of to” I.e. with its origin in heaven and its destination outside of heaven. The New Living Translation reads closely to this in Verses 1-2 as follows “1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house [made] in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies [bodies from the heavens as the origin] like new clothing.” [ours].

2 Corinthians 5:3 appears to allude to what happened to Adam and Eve after they sinned and ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 6:3-11). As they disobeyed God, they became sinful and imperfect and, in that moment, began to die. They also realized they were naked and were ashamed. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that Paul is suggesting that a perfect body from heaven (the exact nature of which is not clear), as opposed to the imperfect one we are born with, would be something of which they would not be ashamed. He says:”so that, having really put it on, we shall not be found naked.”

So, when in 2 Corinthians 5:4 he says “because we want, not to put it off, but to put on the other, that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” he is referring to the wish not to die but rather gain everlasting life (Galatians 6:8), to get the permanent body rather than the temporary body.

2 Corinthians 5:6 says “We are therefore always of good courage and know that, while we have our home in the body, we are absent from the Lord”. The New Living Translation captures the meaning of the Greek better when it says, “So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.”

Yes, Paul was confident, and we can be too.

Why? Because as 2 Corinthians 5:5 tells us, “Now he that produced us for this very thing is God, who gave us the token of what is to come, that is the spirit”. The Holy spirit was a reminder that even though we have imperfect bodies and have not yet have been joined to Christ as his brothers (and sisters), we have that unbreakable promise that one day it will happen (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

In conclusion the whole thrust of this passage is to encourage us to reach out for everlasting life, the same message as Jesus encouraged us all to reach out for, and not worry unduly about the fact that currently all humans are subject to death.

Clearly therefore, in context it can be seen that there is no statement contained in 2 Corinthians 5:1-6 that the hope for faithful Christians was to be life in heaven, in the spirit realm.

Rather the hope is as 1 John 2:25 states “Furthermore, this is the promised thing that he himself promised us, the life everlasting.”

Perhaps we can give the NLT the last word. Its rendering of 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 reads:

4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.”

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