Q Will Gentile believers come back from heaven and live on earth?
ANSWER: God’s plan for the earth began with its creation. Within the entire universe, the Scriptures tell us “God himself that formed the earth and made it; He established it, He created it not in vain, He created it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18).
Soon after creation, we read that the first created inhabitants (Adam and Eve) brought perversion to God’s creative intents by sinning and bringing death (Gen. 3:1-19; Rom. 5:12). Today, Satan has been allowed to hold influence on earth as the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Most of the Bible focuses on a person’s obedience on earth and the restoration of the earth to God’s eternal purpose.
God’s Plan for the Redemption of the Earth
Israel became the vessel through which God would redeem the earth back to Himself. When the Lord appeared to Abram to ratify His everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7) part of the promise was to give “the land… all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:8). This covenant was later passed down to Isaac (Gen. 26:3) and then to Jacob (Gen. 28:3) whose name was changed to Israel.
After captivity in Egypt, Moses was chosen to lead the people of Israel to the land given to the fathers (Deut. 1:8), and Joshua was responsible for leading the people in to possess it (Josh. 23:5). The land in which Israel was to dwell was reaffirmed with David, and the covenant progressed to include an eternal kingdom (II Sam. 7:10-13).
Often unrecognized, the Psalms have much to say regarding dwelling in the land of promise (e.g., Psa. 2:6-8; 22:27-28; 37:11; 47:1-11; 47:1-9; 96:13; 72:11; 98:3,9; 126:1-3; 128:5). The prophets focused on the hope of eternally inheriting the land (e.g., Isa. 11:10-12; 14:1; 27:13; 60:1-3,21; Jer. 16:14-16; 30:3; Ezek. 11:17; 20:42; Zech. 14:9).
The redemption of the earth progresses in the New Testament when the Redeemer arrives. Jesus Christ speaks concerning the restoration of the earth (Matt. 4:17; 5:5; 16:28; 18:18-19; 24:14; 25:34; 26:29; Mark 9:1; 13:27; Luke 1:32-33; 11:2; 12:31-32; 13:29; 18:8; 22:16,18,30; Acts 1:8). The Hebrew apostles of our Lord also reminded their readers of their hope of earth’s restoration (II Pet. 3:10-13 cf. Isa. 65:17; Rev. 1-22).
A Heavenly Hope
Grace believers understand that—although the Kingdom apostles use the adjective “heavenly” (e.g, Jn. 3:12) and the preposition “of heaven” (e.g., Matt. 7:21)—only the Apostle Paul speaks of going to Heaven as an eternal Hope (II Cor. 5:8; Eph. 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1-5a; I Thes. 4:17; 5:10).
It is a drastically different thing to have a hope of heavenly things like the Kingdom believers have as opposed to the hope of Heaven like believers today possess. It is equally different to go to be with the Lord in Heaven as revealed in the Mystery versus having Him come to dwell with you in the heavenly Kingdom.
Yes, Revelation speaks of the martyrs who followed the Christ as dwelling under the altar in Heaven (Rev. 6:9-11), but they are looking for the Lord to avenge their deaths so they can eternally dwell in the land (their “rest” is only for a season, [v.11], meaning they await their eternal rest). It is for these reasons that I believe the distinction between Prophecy and Mystery remains throughout eternity.
The Millennial Reign
First, regarding the Millennial reign, when Christ returns to earth for the second time, there will still be the potential for sin and rebellion. It would seem that we, who are eternally delivered from sin by this time and quite happy in Heaven, would be going backward if we were to return to earth to reign with Christ at this time. Sin and death have not received their final judgment yet; this happens AFTER the thousand years. I am quite comfortable saying that if the Body of Christ comes to earth it will not be with the Lord at His Second Coming. We will remain in Heaven throughout this thousand-year period, while Israel is serving as mediators to the nations.
After the Great White Throne
Next, considering the time after the Great White Throne, when sin and death have been cast into the Lake of Fire forever, good men disagree. My understanding is that God had two branches of His eternal purpose: one was for the earth while the other was for the heavens.
God’s plan for the earth is completed through His Prophetic program with Israel serving as priests of the Lord. His plan for Heaven was not known until revealed to the Apostle Paul and in- volves the Body of Christ. While both locales will fall under the authority of Christ, I think the distinction between Israel and the Gentiles will remain forever, and we, members of the Body of Christ, will always be citizens of Heaven (Phil. 3:20-21).
The subjects of the kingdom on earth will have a purpose, and the Body of Christ will have a purpose in Heaven. HOWEVER, I do not think that there is going to be a wall of partition separating Earth from Heaven, for all things will be summed up (recollected; united; gathered together) in Christ (I Cor. 15:24-28 cf. Eph. 1:10). Everything is going to be restored fully back to the direct authority of God in His perfect timing.
Questions of Eternity
Even with a duty in Heaven, will we be able to “visit” those on earth? Will we be sent on a mission as emissaries? What will our “duties” be? How will we spend our “time”? Will we be able to tour the New Jerusalem? Will we have already seen it? Will earth become part of Heaven in that day? There are so many questions that no one can possibly answer them this side of eternity.
Keep in mind, in eternity our biggest concern will not be sitting down with David to interview him on what it was like to defeat Goliath or to catch up with your cousin who died at a young age. Our desire is going to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever eternity specifically entails, I am sure there will be no complaints.
Can I just take a moment to remind you that, however the Lord works out eternity, we can appreciate our direct anticipation of Heaven while also longing for the day when all creation, including the earth, will be subdued to His direct will. Grace believers should care about the authority of the Lord encompassing all matter, time, and space.
by Pastor Matt Ritchey
Take me to Question Two of this BABQ edition: Who are the “saints” who return with the Lord at His Second Coming as written in Jude 1:14?