Summary: To receive a heavenly resurrection, a person must accept Christ as his Savior, deny his own will to obey God’s will, and be faithful to the heavenly calling.
Discussion: The Old Testament offered a promise of earthly, eternal life to anyone who could perfectly keep the Law. Leviticus 18:5 (CSB), “Keep my statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the LORD.” Of course, no sinful man could ever keep the law…
Jesus opened the door to heaven. Jesus “brought life and immortality to light,” 2 Timothy 1:10. And “so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord,” Hebrews 2:3. Thus, no one before Jesus’s first advent could enter heaven.
Christians are the “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, (who) consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus,” Hebrews 3:1. Jesus’s message to those who respond to the heavenly call is, “to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34. Cross-bearing involves suffering. “If we should suffer with Him, we should also reign with Him.” 2 Timothy 2:12.
To receive a heavenly resurrection, people “present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”, Romans 12:1. They are adopted into God’s family. Galatians 3:26, “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
Every epistle in the New Testament is addressed to this church class, not to the world in general. These books help faithful Christians to fulfill their covenant of sacrifice, and to be transformed into Christ-likeness. The faithful “are the sons of God, and…when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is,” 1 John 3:12. When resurrected, the faithful will be “partakers of the divine nature” in heaven. (2 Peter 1:4)
So, what about everyone else, those living before Jesus and since? We know that there is “none other Name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The great majority of mankind will receive an earthly resurrection and will have the opportunity to live in perfection on earth. “The hour is coming in which all that are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth. They that have done good (true Christians) unto the resurrection of life. They that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment (the 1,000 year judgment day).” John 5:28, 29. During the Millennial Age, the Christ (Jesus and His church) will reign over earth and teach the world righteousness.
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