How do mainstream Christians interpret the live-forever-on-Earth scriptures

by neverendingjourney 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Leolaia

    The Society's notion of the earth being converted into a "paradise earth" without being destroyed runs against texts in the proto-apocalyptic and apocalyptic traditions that describe the present earth and/or heavens as being destroyed in the future (e.g. Psalm 102:25-26, Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35, 2 Peter 3:5-7, 10-12, Revelation 20:11), to be replaced by a "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). These are the kind of scriptures that belong to a genre of eschatological expectation.

    The favorite scriptures that the Society cites do not belong to eschatological expectation, and they are often read out of context and made to say more than they really state. 1 Chronicles 16:30 says that God created the earth to be "firm" and "unshakable" but this says nothing about it existing forever or that God cannot "shake" it or devastate it if he so wishes (cf. Job 9:6 "He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble", Joel 2:10 refers to the earth shaking on the Day of Yahweh, Isaiah 24:19 says "The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken", Nahum 1:5 refers to the hills quaking and the mountains melting away, etc.). As it is, the psalm in 1 Chronicles 16 is a thanksgiving and stresses the blessings of God to the world; it would be a mistake to read a thanksgiving psalm as if it had eschatological reference. Psalm 104 also is a thanksgiving psalm for the glories of creation and the reference to the earth being "unshakeable forever and ever" also has little to do with the eschatological "Day of Yahweh" or "Day of Judgment" scenarios the prophets (and later apocalypsists) entertained. This is just another example of different writers (writing for different purposes) expressing different points of view. The author of Psalm 104 just had no concept of God destroying the earth and creating a new one, although Trito-Isaiah, the author of 2 Peter, and the author of Revelation certainly did. The Society thus picks and chooses which scriptures they want to privilege in constructing their own apocalyptic scenario of the End, just as others pick and choose other texts. But it is quite clear that the destruction of the earth is a scenario entertained in the OT and NT.

    As for Psalm 37, this text also is interpreted to mean something different than it says. It contrasts the wicked with the righteous, and declares that the wicked will perish while the righteous will be blessed: "Trust in Yahweh and do what is good, make your home in the land and live in peace; make Yahweh your only joy and he will give you what your heart desires ... Those he blesses will have a land for their own, those he curses will be expelled" (Psalm 37:3-4, 22). This passage has no eschatological orientation (just like the thanksgiving psalms) and no concept of an individual "earthly hope" in which the meek will be given the planet earth to dwell for eternity. It simply says that in the here and now "Yahweh takes care of good men's lives, and their heritage will last forever" (37:18). This is no concept of an earthly paradise, for famines still come and "times of disaster" still come (v. 19). Interesting that the Society never notices this fact. Rather than inheriting a paradise earth, the text simply states that "the humble shall have a land for their own to enjoy untroubled peace" (v. 11), and rather than referring to individuals living forever, the text plainly refers to the posterity and descendents of the righteous who will prosper and not "be wiped out" (v. 28, 37-38). If anything it has the conquest of Canaan by the "righteous" followers of Yahweh in view, who have inherited the "promised land" which Yahweh promised to Abraham would be theirs to possess forever (cf. Genesis 12:7, 15:18). Compare Psalm 25:10-13, 78:55, 105:10-11, 125:3 which express the same thought and which also have the conquest of Canaan in view. The Society has put a spin on the passage to make it into a prophecy of a future paradise earth, but that is reading into the text what is not there.

    The same thing goes for one of the most favorite scriptures the Society cites for a "paradise earth": Isaiah 65:17-25. This text does not say people will live forever, in fact it states the opposite, it says man will fulfill his days and die: "No more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man who does not fulfill his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young and the one who fails to live to be a hundred would be thought accursed" (65:20). The thought is that people would once again have very long lifespans like the antediluvian patriarchs in Genesis before "completing" one's days; this is an OT idiom that refers to dying (peacefully) after living a full, complete life (cf. Exodus 23:26, 2 Samuel 7:12, 1 Chronicles 17:11, Job 36:11). Failing to live to a hundred, presently the upper limit in a lifespan, would be considered dying prematurely in the prophecy. The idea is still that one does complete one's days (even as some do still die before the age of 100) and this is perfectly in accord with OT concepts of death which was viewed as a natural part of life, even welcomed at times as earned rest (cf. Job 3:13-22, Psalm 13:3), occurring at its proper time (Job 5:26, Ecclesiastes 3:2, 7:17; cf. also Job 14:5, Psalm 139:16 in which the length of one's life is already predetermined) as the peaceful conclusion to a long life (cf. Genesis 15:15, 25:8; Judges 8:32; 1 Chronicles 29:28). The NWT however misinterprets hchwt' "one who fails/misses the mark" as "sinner" (with the KJV), and the Society bases on this a highly eisegetical interpretation of the verse that imposes on it their unique interpretation of Revelation 20:7-8, i.e. those who will "die" in the paradise earth will be those who are in "rebellion" with God when Satan is released after the millennium. There is nothing whatsoever about rebellion in the passage in Trito-Isaiah which refers in general to old people fulfilling their days.

  • Pubsinger

    My PERSONAL belief is that upon Christ's return the earth will be transformed and that human life will forever begin here, in better conditions - with heaven and God being the final destination.

  • james_woods

    The witness theology must truly be the king & master of taking up a pre-conceived idea, and then cherry-picking random chopped up verses to support it.

    I think that this whole idea came about in part from the general hatred that Russell had for all conventional Christian religions and how he instilled that into his followers. Then the fire was fanned by Rutherford and his need to explain away the embarrassing literal 144,000.

    Hatred of "immortal soul", and rejection of "hellfire" are somewhat theologically similar to "paradise earth"...kind of an iconoclastic rejection of heaven as the goal of the christian. One irony of JW scripture interpretation is that you can make probably a better case for hellfire-like destruction (symbolic or not) than for a literal paradise earth.

    And, of course, for anybody that understands cosmology or the sun's hydrogen/helium cycle - a truly everlasting paradise earth is completely outside the realm of physical possibility - not to mention all the other day-to-day practical absurdities of such an idea.

    I think that for the scientifically realistic (but still a Christian believer), you are pretty much left with some sort of spiritual reward just as a matter of practicality.

  • isaacaustin

    Basically I believe man will live forever on the presence of God. Essentially heaven and earth will be sin is what currently separates man from God. The WT tries to place a physical separation between heaven and earth whereas the difference is spiritual.

  • greendawn

    The early christians understood that their destination was heaven and their time on earth as humans was only a short transient phase to be followed by death, so they were expecting to receive a spiritual rather than a physical body at the first resurrection whenever that would be.

    The JWs tried to cloud the issue by creating a second class of believers as opposed to unbelievers who were destined to live for ever on earth but of course this has no biblical basis it's just one of those wild cultic, subversive beliefs one finds across all cults. There is no such thing as two classes of christians with two different destinations one going to heaven and one staying on earth.

    As to what will happen to the other resurrected at the second resurrection,(those who need to get an opportunity to hear the gospel something they never got in their first life), if they prove righteous there is nothing for us to go on perhaps they will also end up in heaven as will those Jews eg Abraham, Elijah etc and perhaps others eg Job, Melchizedek, that already proved righteous before Christ came on earth.

  • greendawn

    True what the JWs and others believe about the inerrancy of the Bible is simply wrong the Bible is not inerrant and harmonious just as one would expect since it was written by humans and many copies of it had to be made by scribes over the centuries and inevitably quite a few false verses were interpolated among the authentic ones to support certain beliefs or genuine mistakes were made. And when it comes to the resurrection and immortality things are very blurred and uncertain. Nonetheless I believe the fundamnental concepts of the very few surviving gospel and apostolic writings are correct even if many details are uncertain.

    Going to the very expansive heaven can not be bad and as someone said it need not exclude earthly existence ie there will be a frequent flipping between the spiritual and the earthly bodies so that one can participate and enjoy the best of both worlds until perhaps over many millenia the very limited earthly realm comes to feel very monotonous and boring, who knows?

    A lot of the early christian beliefs about the resurrection carried over from the old testament and other judaic scriptures made from when the OT ended and until the coming of Christ and the NT writings ie the inter-testamental period writings. They give a lot of the background to the revelation of John which contains the resurrection themes. This book barely made it into the canonical scriptures and still many view it with great suspicion and consider it to be another apocryphal jewish book.

  • jwfacts

    I don't want to go to heaven - I have no desire to - yet, if Paradise Earth is only spoken about using poetic licence what hope is there?

    I am not sure if you grew up a JW or not, but get the impression people get used to whatever location they are promised. My mother used to be a devoted Catholic and loved God and the heavenly reward. Then she became JW and heaven was no longer good enough.

    The Watchtower regularly states how we are designed for earth and that is our natural desire. JWs fantasize about all the perfect times they will have on earth. In the end they loose the desire for heaven. But Christians mull over how wonderful heaven will be and learn to look forward to that. Either way, it is good to enjoy life on earth whilst here, it is an important survival instinct. Regardless if it is heaven or earth afterwards does not matter, the promise is of eternal bliss either way.

  • LayingLow

    I don't know about basing doctrine off of the book of Revelation since it is so symbolic, but assuming that doing so could lead to an expectation about the earth, here goes:

    If we didn't look at Rev 20:5 with WT eyes and but we did from a pre-millenialist view: Rev 20 starts with Satan being abyssed. Following that there are thrones of judgment given to followers of and it says that they reign a thousand years and that the dead are not raised until the thousand years are over.

    This period ends around vs 8 or 9 with fire from heaven devouring those who come against the saints. Because visions in revelation end so abruptly and a new one begins I'm not sure that you can continue reading chronologically, but if you did vs. 11 seems to indicate heaven and earth are gone and that now the dead are raised and judged. This is followed by chapter 21 with mention of a new heaven and earth.

    I can definitely see how if you took this all chronologically and literally you could easily end up with:
    1. Satan bound for 1k years
    2. Saints resurrected to rule
    3. Nations of earth ruled by saints
    4. Satan let loose
    5. 1k years ends in fire and heaven and earth flee
    6. General resurrection and judgment
    7. New heaven and earth

    Looking at it from this perspective, what types of bodies do the saints have during this time?
    1 John 3:2-
    2 Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.

    The reason I mention this is that Jesus could manifest himself where ever he wanted post resurrection. He didn't seem constrained by matter, yet he could materialize at will. It is said in 1 Cor 15 that we shall be raised a spiritual body. I don't claim to fully understand that, but it seems that it would be basically like Jesus body. While mentioning the whole thing about a spiritual body, I don't believe Jesus body was "destroyed by gases" as C.T. Russel put it. He either resurrected his body and transformed it in some glorified way, or he lied in John Chapter 2 when he said that if they tore down his temple he would build it back up.

    John 2:19-
    19 Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21 But he spoke of the temple of his body.

    To sum it up, I basically agree with another poster who mentioned having resurrection bodies capable of materializing as well as not being constrained by matter. In that case, it is needed now to have a body during the 1k years but after that maybe the new heavens and earth will be "spiritual". I don't know.

    Leolia made some nice points about how they really expected a destruction of the earth. I can definitely see how it can be read out of this passage. But, like I said, I don't feel incredibly comfortable trying to discern doctrine from an intentionally symbolic book that has other methods of interpretation.

    I want to add another opinion as well. When we discuss the circumstances of a future life, is it really necessary to get all caught up in the specifics? It seems to me that it is the quality of life that is guaranteed and can be discerned with much less difficulty. And don't we all want the same thing anyways? We want people to be well(full of life), and we want to be in touch with others and God. These things are promised, anyways. As JW's we got all hung up on details and were assertive about things we could not be sure of (and now realize we may actually be rather sure they are not right), so I prefer to focus on the things that are much more clear from reading the scriptures. If life is amazing and you enjoy it with others and God, why would you care if you have a house you have to keep re-roofing and painting ad infinity.

  • myelaine

    dear greendawn...

    you said: "The early christians understood that their destination was heaven and their time on earth as humans was only a short transient phase to be followed by death, so they were expecting to receive a spiritual rather than a physical body at the first resurrection whenever that would be. "

    Job clearly expected to recieve a physical body at his resurrection as stated in Job 19:26...And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.(because...Job 19:25)

    Jesus had a body of flesh and bones after His resurrection...He could eat...

    the angels in genesis had bodies, they could eat...genesis 18:8

    the resurrection body is a physical is a supernatural to go in and out of heaven...given from the "spirit" realm...

    Romans 8:11..."But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who dwells in you"...the Scripture says the body goes from mortal to immortal...not mortal to immaterial...from corruptable(flesh) to incorruptable(flesh) MUST be given this supernatural body by God (as Jesus was given it) in order to enter in and out of heaven because the scripture says...

    "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 corinthians 15:51-54

    For we know that if our earthly house(physical body), this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation(dwelling) which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 2 corinthians 5:1-4

    ...mortal,corrupted flesh and blood cannot enter the eternal kingdom of God...

    love michelle

    p.s. galatians 6:6-8

  • myelaine

    For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no FLESH would be SAVED; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. matthew 24:21-22

    love michelle

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