HEAVENLY MANSION BEING A RELIGIOUS TERM
The term heavenly mansion is not found in the Bible. Rather, it is an expression that is used in religion. The Bible only uses the words heaven and heavens. In the Chinese translation of the Bible the translators borrowed the term heavenly mansion and used it because it had been widely adopted by religion at the time they were doing their translation. In the Chinese Union Version the term heavenly mansion is found in two places—in 1 Peter 3:22 and also in Hebrews 9:24. However, in the original text the word heaven is used in both places. It was to heaven that the Lord ascended after His death and resurrection (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11). In the Bible there is no thought of “going to a heavenly mansion,” and there is no verse telling us that the souls of Christians go to a heavenly mansion after they die. When a believer dies, his spirit and soul do not go to heaven but to Paradise in Hades (Luke 23:43).
It is correct to say that Christians will one day enter into the kingdom, but they must first be mature before they can do so. Perhaps someone may wonder, “Many of the brothers and sisters have truly received forgiveness of sins and the Lord’s life. However, since the time they were saved, they have not paid a price, lived an overcoming life, or faithfully followed the Lord. It is obvious that they do not have the maturity in life. What will their future be?” There was once a certain brother who was truly saved. However, after he was saved, he still loved the world, lived by his flesh, loved money, and did not love God. One day he died of a stroke after falling into a terrible rage. Then the brothers and sisters gathered together to sing some hymns on his behalf and to speak a word of consolation, saying, “Thank and praise the Lord that our brother has gone to heaven, to the heavenly home. He is really blessed!” Where can you find such a teaching in the holy Scriptures? The Bible says that it is not until the harvest is ripe that the crop will be reaped and brought into the eternal barn. In the Scriptures the destiny of the believers is decided according to maturity. Those who mature earlier will be gathered into the barn earlier while those who mature later will be brought into the barn later. This is clearly revealed in the Bible.
Then where did that brother go after his death if he did not go to heaven? This is not hard to understand. Do you remember the robber who repented on the cross? He said to the Lord, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The Lord replied immediately, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Furthermore, Matthew 12 and Acts 2 both tell us that after His death, the Lord was in Hades three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40; Acts 2:24-27). By studying these verses carefully, we can readily understand that Paradise is in Hades. This is also referred to in Luke 16. Abraham’s bosom—the place where Lazarus was, across from the place where the rich man was—was the Paradise in Hades (vv. 23-24).
PARADISE NOT HAVING BEEN TRANSFERRED FROM HADES TO HEAVEN
Most theologians in Christianity also acknowledge this fact. However, some believe that before the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, this Paradise was indeed in Hades and that after the Lord’s resurrection, Paradise was moved by the Lord from Hades to heaven. They say this based upon Ephesians 4:8, which says, “Having ascended to the height, He led captive those taken captive.” They quote this verse as the basis of the transfer of Paradise. However, the phrase He led captive those taken captive means that prior to the Lord’s resurrection, when men died they were taken captive to Hades by the power of death—the power of Satan. Then at the time of His resurrection, the Lord Jesus overcame the devil, who has the might of death, and broke through Hades, thereby leading captive those taken captive. Therefore, this verse does not mean that Hades was moved to heaven.
After the believers die, their spirits go to Hades, while their bodies are buried in graves. For example, after Peter and Paul died, their bodies were buried in the earth, but their spirits were disembodied. Disembodied spirits are abnormal because they still bear the sign of death. Although Peter and Paul were saved ones, death was still in them and had not been removed. At the Lord’s return their spirits will come out of Hades and their bodies will also come out of the graves to become glorious bodies. At that time their bodies and spirits will be joined together. When their spirits are clothed with their bodies again, then they will be able to enter into the presence of God. In the Bible disembodied spirits are naked spirits, which still bear the sign of death and therefore cannot enter into the presence of God. It is not until the time of rapture, when the spirits of the saved ones will come out of Hades and will put on their transfigured bodies, being fully dressed with proper attire, that they will be able to go to God.
THE IMMATURE ONES STILL NEEDING TO DEAL WITH THE MATTER OF MATURITY AFTER BEING RESURRECTED
The believers who die without being matured in life will be unable to go into the presence of God even after being clothed in resurrection. In Matthew 25 we are told that at the time of resurrection the saints who are ready and mature will attend the Lord’s wedding feast while the immature ones will still have to pay a price to reach maturity. In other words, if as a Christian you die without reaching maturity, then at the time of resurrection you will still have to complete the process of maturing. Do not expect to go to the Lord without completing the process of maturing.
Hence, whoever wants to attend the Lord’s wedding feast will have to be matured. There is only one kind of Christian in the heavens—Christians who are mature. If you have become mature in your lifetime, you are already prepared, and you can praise the Lord for this. Like the five prudent virgins, you can go in to the Lord’s wedding feast at His coming. However, if you have not prepared yourself and have not become mature in your lifetime, then if unfortunately you die, after your resurrection you will still have to deal with the issue of maturity. After you are resurrected, like the five foolish virgins, you will still need to pay the price to buy the oil.
Therefore, as Christians we must be matured. This is the goal we all must attain to. The Lord’s intention to mature in us is a matter that we cannot avoid. If we do not walk on this way and do not arrive at this goal, then we should not expect to one day go in to the Lord’s wedding feast. If you do not pay the price to arrive at maturity yet expect to enter into the kingdom, then one day your expectation will be proven to have been in vain.
We became Christians upon believing in the Lord, but has Christ become full-grown in us? We have been saved and have Christ’s life in us, but has this life become mature? We must remember that this life has to mature either now or in the future. If we settle this question of maturity while we are still alive today, we are the prudent virgins. If we are not matured, then at the time of resurrection we will still have to resolve this matter of maturity, because the Bible tells us that after we are saved, we need to grow unto maturity in life. This is God’s salvation.
(How to Be Useful to the Lord, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)