It should be no surprise that the preoccupation with materialism that is characteristic of humanity has spilled over into religion. Some are so enamored with earth and its carnality, they long to remain here eternally.
It is a cardinal doctrine of the Watch Tower Society (“Jehovah’s Witnesses”) that only 144,000 will go to heaven, while the remainder of the righteous will live on “God’s glorified earth.”
“This earth, "they claim, “was created, not to be destroyed, but to be inhabited forever by righteous, perfect men and women.” (Let God Be True, p. 264)
This assertion is totally untrue.
The Watchtower disciples contend that the Bible teaches that the earth is everlasting. They cite Psalm 78:69; 104:5; Eccl. 1:4, “the earth abideth for ever,” to this end.
Within these verses, however, the Hebrew term olam is used. It simply means “age-lasting.” It suggests that the subject under consideration will last as long as the age for which it is designed.
The same word is used of the Jewish Passover (Ex. 12:14) and the Levitical priesthood (Num. 25:13), both of which passed away with the abrogation of the Mosaic system. Thus, the earth will last as long as it was designed to last, i.e., until time ends, but not into eternity.
But note these passages which speak of the earth’s end.
Immediately after the flood, Jehovah alluded to the temporary status of the earth when he said, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:22)
Jesus emphatically said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away ....” (Mt. 24:35) The Hebrews writer, in stressing the eternity of Christ, contrasts him with the heavens and earth, which are waxing old, hence, will be “changed” as a garment and thus “perish.” (Heb. 1:11, 12).
And Peter forever settles the question when he says, “the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire ....” He declares:
“[The] heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet.3:10-12).
The word “dissolved” is used three times within this context. Arndt and Gingrich comment regarding the term, “Of the parts of the universe, as it is broken up and destroyed in the final conflagration” (Greek Lexicon, p. 485).
The Bible is clear as to the fate of this earth.
But what of the Christian’s hope? Are there two, i.e., either heaven or earth?
No, there is “ONE hope” (Eph. 4:4). That hope is laid up for us “in the heavens,” (Col. 1:5). Indeed, this is our inheritance which is for us “reserved in heaven.” (1 Pet. 1:4).
Jesus would have us rejoice when persecuted, for great is our reward in heaven (Mt. 5:12). We are taught to lay up treasures in heaven (not on earth). (Mt. 6:19, 20). Those who forsake all and follow Christ are promised treasure in heaven (Mt. 19:21).
When our earthly tabernacle is dissolved, we will have a new abiding place, “in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). The obedient have their names written in heaven, which means they are “enrolled” there (Lk. 10:20; Heb. 12:23).
Then consider this. When Jesus ascended, he went to heaven (Mk. 16:19). But he went as a forerunner for us (Heb. 6:19). The way to heaven Christ “dedicated for us” (Heb. 10:20). But he will come again and receive us that we may be there also (Jn. 14:3).
The promise of heaven is a comprehensive promise to all faithful children of God.
What About the New Heavens and New Earth?
But will there not be a “new heavens and a new earth”?
Indeed there will, “But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). The question is, what does the expression “new heavens and a new earth” mean?
The same phraseology is used by the prophet Isaiah.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (65:17).
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain” (66:22).
The context reveals that the usage is figurative. It refers primarily to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity and hence denotes for them a new state of existence.
When Peter thus speaks of the “new heavens and a new earth,” he too figuratively alludes to our future and blessed state of being, i.e., heaven itself. The new earth cannot be this present earth, for it will pass away, hence, it must be a symbolic reference to heaven itself (See Rev. 21:1)
Here’s one final point. The adjective “new” describing our future state is the Greek word kainos. It does not mean “new” with reference to time, but it denotes quality, “the new, as set over against that which has seen service, the outworn, the effete or marred through age” (Richard Trench, New Testament Synonyms, p. 220). Thus, heaven, our new abode, is contrasted with our former abode, a worn out and dissolved earth.