THE MISTAKE OF PROTESTANTISM
Revelation 12 tells us about the man-child who, because he overcame, was caught up to God and to His throne before the great tribulation of three and a half years (v. 5). Then in chapter fourteen we see the hundred and forty-four thousand who, because they followed the Lamb, were raptured to Mount Zion in the heavens while the Antichrist was acting lawlessly on the earth (vv. 1-5). The words in the holy Scriptures are so clear that they allow no room for human doubt. Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us also that when the Lord descends from heaven, the dead believers who will be resurrected and the living believers who have been transformed will be brought together to meet Him in the air (vv. 15-17).
While the Lord Jesus was on the cross, the repentant robber asked a favor of Him, saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). If the Lord had answered the robber according to his request, He would have had to wait for a long, long time—the time that would pass before He came into His kingdom—before He could remember the robber. Yet He answered, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43). Where is the Paradise mentioned by the Lord? Is it in heaven? It is not, because we know that the Lord went to Hades as soon as He expired. This was the fulfillment of what He had said concerning the Son of Man being in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40). From this we can see that the Paradise which the Lord mentioned to the robber is in Hades. The Lord’s speaking is clear and accurate, and it leaves no room for doubt and conjecture. Hence, we must examine this matter according to the revelation of the Bible.
THE THOUGHT IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
The Bible never says that the soul of a person who has believed in Jesus and has been saved will go to a heavenly mansion when he dies. It is true that the Chinese Union Version has the term heavenly mansion, but this is because of the way this word was translated. The Greek word should be properly translated as heavens. This is the same word as the word that is translated heavens in the phrase the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). According to the biblical record, heavens refers to the third heaven, the habitation of God. In the Chinese Union Version, this word was translated as heavenly mansion in only two places in the entire New Testament—Hebrews 9:24 and 1 Peter 3:22. Heavenly mansion is a term used in Chinese Buddhism to refer to nirvana, a place of perfect bliss. However, heavens in these two portions of the Word refers to the third heaven where God dwells.
The Bible tells us that at the final age, at the coming of the new heavens and the new earth, the holy city New Jerusalem, the habitation of God, will come down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:2, 10). At that time all the saved ones will undoubtedly be there enjoying eternal blessings with God. Not only their souls will be there, but their entire being—spirit, soul, and body—will also be filled with the divine element, and they will be in the habitation of the God of glory, mingled with Him and living with Him eternally.
I hope we all can see that God’s salvation comes out of His plan and that God’s giving of grace to us comes out of His economy. Some English versions of the Bible use the word economy or dispensation, which means “arrangement” or “distribution.” These expressions show that God’s giving of grace involves His economy, administration, and dispensation. The Bible says that the God who works all things dispenses grace to us according to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ (Eph. 1:11; 3:8-11). This God who has an expectation, a purpose, a plan, and an economy, does not give grace to us according to His whim. Rather, His giving of grace is His distribution of grace according to His economy, His dispensation.
(How to Be Useful to the Lord, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)