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Why do many Christians believe that heaven is the eternal home of the righteous; but in Matt 5:5 Christ stated that the meek will inherit the earth.

And in 2 Peter 3:13, apostle Peter made mention of "a new heaven and a new earth". Now, if all faithful worshippers of God go to heaven, who will be on the new earth?

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    The answer will depend on the denomination. There are differing interpretations. Jehovahs witnesses believe the righteous inherit the earth in a paradisical state, and only 144,000 go to "actual heaven". LDS believe the earth will be renewed and then be part of heaven, in a sense. I'm sure others yet believe other variants of interpretation.
    – kutschkem
    Nov 2, 2023 at 8:40
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  • Largely the same as What is the Biblical Basis for saying that we "go to heaven"?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 5, 2023 at 2:51

2 Answers 2

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Jesus promised his followers that he would give them eternal life (John 17:2-3). He also said that he was going to leave them in order to prepare a place for them.

There is no question in the minds of believers as to being given the gift of eternal life. But the question is whether heaven will be their eternal home. It is certainly included in Jesus' statements about eternal life, yet does it follow that there can be no other location included? Limitless life in a limited location? A good idea is to look at what Jesus promised on the matter.

"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." John 14:2 A.V.

One unclear thing about that promise to his followers when he first gave it was Jesus saying they knew the way to that place, when they said they did not know the place Jesus was going to, so how could they know the way? (verses 4-5) This indicates that some of them back then did not know where his Father's house was. Maybe they were used to thinking of the Father's house as the Temple in Jerusalem but the text gives no hint. A little later they understood. From mount Olivet, they saw the resurrected Christ ascend bodily up into the sky, till a cloud hid him from their view. Then two angels came and said that, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11 A.V.)

Once they knew where Jesus had gone to, and where he would be coming from to receive them, there was no question but that heaven would have a place prepared for them. (See also 1 Peter 3:22 & Hebrews 9:24.) That is why, later on, the apostles could say things like this:

"...now as always Christ shall be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain... Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two; I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far" Phil. 1:21-23 N.I.V.

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands... we wish to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling... We are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord... and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." 2 Cor. 5:1-8 N.I.V.

This shows that the house prepared for them is "an eternal house in heaven". It also shows that they shall be with Christ the Lord, who is in heaven: "...and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17). However, Jesus also said things about the earth (Mat.5:5), and Peter spoke of this still future event:

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what matter of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2 Peter 3:10-13 A.V.

This shows that the existing heaven and earth will "melt with fervent heat", to be replaced with a new heaven and earth, which will display God's righteousness. There are few details given about that future time, so who can say how it will work out, with regard to some people inhabiting the new earth? Sadly, some groups try to make prophecies fit in with their doctrines. For example, there is one group that says only a tiny number of faithful follower of Jesus will be with him forever in heaven, while billions will live on a paradise earth forever. That is how they combine this new heaven and earth into their theology of only a select few ever getting a chance to live forever in heaven, ruling over this new earth. Others believe that Jewish people will inhabit this new earth, with Gentile nations too.

Nobody can dispute, however, that Jesus promised eternal life in an eternal home prepared for followers, in heaven. Yet that in no way prevents eternal purposes for a new earth also being carried out! Why should anyone think it has to be one or the other? Why not both? Why get into debates about such future events? Is it because lots of people have no desire to be in heaven, and would much rather prefer living on a cleaned-up earth? If so, I would end with a reminder of what the apostle Paul said, quoted above in Philippians 1:21-23 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-8.

If a person does not share Paul's heart-felt longing to be in heaven with Christ, is he or she truly following Christ as the apostles did? There is only one calling in one hope - Ephesians 4:4. All the faithful followers of Christ in that first century had that one calling, in one - shared - hope: the hope of eternal life in an eternal house in heaven, with their Lord. Whatever the Lord has in store for the new earth, that remains the sure promise for Christ's faithful followers.

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The Bible makes it clear that the resurrection of believers has not yet occurred, meaning that the bodies of deceased believers are still in the grave (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). The first-century Christians longed to be with the Lord – who is in heaven:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Philippians 1:23

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

We get a glimpse into the state of the Christian saints who have died. Their bodies are in the grave but their souls are in heaven, under the altar:

Revelation 6:9

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.

They are waiting for the resurrection when all who have died faithful to Christ Jesus are given new, glorified bodies, bodies fit for eternity. They will be with the Lord forever when the heavenly Jerusalem descends onto the new earth and God will dwell with man. This is the eternal state.

Revelation 21:1-5

1 Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' 5 He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'

To be with the Lord is what all Christians desire. Therefore, wherever the Lord is will be our eternal destination. We only get a glimpse of what it will be like, but we know that it will be new. This earth will be replaced. The new heavens and the new earth are where God will dwell with those who belong to Him.

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