DOES ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK HAVE A HOPE IN HEAVEN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
As Pauline dispensationalists, we understand that we the Church the Body of Christ are God’s heavenly people whereas the nation Israel is God’s earthly people. Yet, some verses seem to challenge that position. Our critics in denominational circles appeal to these passages to argue against us, claiming the Bible says Israel also has a hope in heaven. We will carefully consider the case they have built against us, comparing verses with verses, and we will see what God’s Word actually says. “For what saith the Scriptures?”
We must consider the following:
- Luke 10:20: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
- Hebrews 3:1: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;….”
- Hebrews 10:34: “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.”
- Hebrews 11:16: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
- Hebrews 12:22-23: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,….”
- 1 Peter 1:4: “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,….”
Perhaps you are shocked to learn Israel is connected to “heaven” in Scripture. However, these verses really should not surprise us. After all, we are quite familiar with John the Baptist’s message, are we not? Matthew chapter 3: “ In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Israel’s Gospel message is certainly related to “heaven.” As you can read, “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 9:35) involves the preaching of “the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Matthew 4:17). None of this should actually astonish us because John’s message links to Daniel 2:44-45, verses written six centuries prior.
Daniel chapter 2 says: “ Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth….  And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.”
If you read this chapter in its entirety, you will see how the Bible enumerates the Gentile empires that will rule over Israel (the Middle East—Earth!) until Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming. At that Second Coming, the Lord Jesus Christ will establish an earthly kingdom to replace the pagan Gentile governments that went before. Pay attention to verse 44: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Who will set up this kingdom? The Bible says “the God of heaven” will inaugurate that kingdom; therefore, it is titled “the kingdom of heaven.”
When John the Baptist, or even the Lord Jesus Himself (Matthew 4:17), preached, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” we know they are referring to Heaven coming on the Earth. It is not that believers here are going up to live in Heaven forever but rather Heaven is coming down to them on Earth and they living on Earth forever. “Our Father which art in heaven… Thy kingdom come,” the Israeli saint prays according to the petition of Matthew 6:9-10. Even Moses, 15 centuries before Christ, understood it would one day be “as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). Therefore, the Apostle John wrote of Israel’s Little Flock in Revelation 3:12: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
It is important to notice that the Israeli saints do not have a lasting presence in Heaven. That is true of us, however. Israel does not judge or rule over angels. That is true of us, however (1 Corinthians 6:3). We as members of the Church the Body of Christ are not promised the Earth. In stark contrast, the nation Israel is promised the Earth: “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:9,11). Our glorified bodies are “eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). This is not true of Israel. We members of the Body of Christ share in Christ’s authority in the heavenly places: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7). This is not true of Israel. We could continue the comparisons (see Colossians 1:5,16-20), but these should suffice in addressing our critics’ claims.
We close this section by quoting Ephesians 1:20-23 to highlight the location of the Body of Christ’s eternal inheritance: “ Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
The Old Testament saints (although physically dead) are currently in the New Jerusalem, in the third heaven, as per Hebrews 12:22-23: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just [righteous] men made perfect,….” However, the Heavenly Jerusalem is not permanently in Heaven, so those Old Testament saints living in it are not perpetually in Heaven. New Jerusalem comes down to Earth in Revelation chapters 21–22. Ultimately, though, even with all this said, we still recognize the hope of the Old Testament saints remains the same: the God of heaven setting up an earthly kingdom that lasts forever (Daniel 2:35,44-45).
Revelation chapter 21: “ And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God….  And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,….”
Israel’s eternal hope, while an earthly kingdom, is called “the kingdom of heaven” for three reasons. Firstly, it is Heaven on Earth (Deuteronomy 11:21). Secondly, the God of Heaven establishes it (Daniel 2:44-45). Finally, it currently exists in the third Heaven until it descends to Earth where it remains forever (Revelation 21:1-3,10).
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