Part 1: What did God originally promise man? And from what did Jesus save us?
In Genesis chapter 3, Adam was promised a blessed life on earth. However, God also promised disobedience would bring death to Adam (and us, through Adam). When Adam disobeyed, he began the process of dying. Life became extremely difficult with many troubles. All Adam’s children inherited the consequences of his sin. We were a doomed and dying race. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12.
Later, Jesus came to earth to redeem man from this disaster! He willingly gave his earthly life up for us. John 10:18, “No one has taken it (life) away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative.” He was sinless (“the Word made flesh,” John 1:14) and was not one of Adam’s descendants born in sin. Therefore, he could have lived for as long as he was obedient. Instead, he gave it up in exchange for our lives.
Since justice requires a life for a life, when Jesus died for Adam, justice was satisfied. Mankind was freed from the sentence of eternal death. I Corinthians 15:22, “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
God intended perfect human life for mankind, here. Because Adam and Eve did not appreciate the horrible results of sin, they chose to disobey. However, all of Adam's children are now learning about the destructiveness of sin in this present life. When people are resurrected on earth, they will be presented with the same choices as Adam had. Obedience will bring perfect, eternal life on earth. Disobedience will result in the second death.
A Heavenly Reward for the Little Flock
God’s plan also permits certain “called ones” to strive for an even greater type of salvation: a heavenly calling! Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The New Testament was written to guide those striving for this reward, and these true Christians are referred to as Christ’s body, or as his church, the new creation, the saints, etc.
But why does God leave saved Christians on earth? Why doesn't He take them to heaven immediately? Because they need to develop the fruit of the spirit and to become obedient through suffering. Jesus, Himself, was perfected by His suffering experiences. Hebrews 5:8, 9, “Although he (Jesus) was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Christ’s body members follow in His footsteps. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” 2 Timothy 2:12.
Therefore let us, Christians, be faithful unto death in order to receive the crown of life. Revelation 2:10.