“I don’t want to go to heaven.” These are the words of Michael Whittmer. Mr. Whittmer serves as an associate professor of systematic theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of the book, Heaven Is A Place On Earth. In his theological treatise, Mr. Whittmer unfolds his belief that mankind was not meant to spend an eternity in heaven, but rather here on earth. He confirms, “This planet is more than just a stopover on your way to heaven. It is your final destination.”
He refers to heaven as a temporary home for those who have died. In fact, he believes that God never intended man to be in heaven. To him, Adam and Eve really messed things up for the rest of humanity. Concerning Adam, Whittmer writes, “Indeed, the only reason anyone ever goes to heaven is sin. If Adam and Eve had never sinned, they would have continued to live on this planet.” Since sin brought death and decay, he concludes we must have a resting place after death, thus heaven. But again, to Mr. Whittmer heaven is merely a temporary stop for the soul. He continues, “But even those of us who make it to heaven have not yet achieved our perfect state…yet even the saints who are there long for something more. They long to be whole again, not merely to bow before God as a disembodied soul, but to praise him as a fully restored person, possessing both a renewed spirit and body.”
He continues to wrest scripture by bringing 1 Corinthians 15 into his belief system. While the inspired words of Paul bring encouragement to the faithful soul, Mr. Whittmer’s theology warps them to fit his erroneous worldview. Concerning the new body he supposes, “And where do bodies live? Not in heaven: That’s more suitable for spiritual beings like angels and human souls. Bodies are meant to live on earth, on this planet.”
This doctrine is what this writer likes to call a “swiss cheese doctrine,” in that it is full of holes. Mr. Whittmer is not a member of the Lord’s church. It is, of course, expected to have false doctrines come out denominationalism. The saddest part of this deviation is that our own brethren have adopted this erroneous worldview. This doctrine is a direct denial of the doctrine of Christ. John presented the seriousness of such when he wrote, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11). Clearly, if we deny the doctrine of Christ we “have not God.” If it is the case that this belief denies any part of the doctrine of Christ, then those who believe such “have not God.” Consider the ways the renovated earth doctrine denies the doctrine of Christ…
A Renovated Earth Denies The Doctrine Of Heaven
In John 14 the apostle of love records some of the most comforting words ever spoken by our Lord: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:1-4). Here Jesus lays out the plans He has for His faithful followers. Jesus spoke of heaven, not as a stopover, but as a place of rest. He is clear on the fact that He had to leave this earth to prepare that place. Thus, that prepared place can not be this earth. In fact, much of the Bible’s discussion regarding heaven makes an outright distinction between the two places. Jesus taught, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. 6:19-20). Jesus, teaching against covetousness, shows the futility of laying up treasures here on earth. Here Jesus proves that earth is temporary, but heaven is eternal.
Additionally, the Bible is clear that we are merely travelers on this planet and that it is not our final destination. In writing concerning the faithful patriarchs, the Hebrews writer confirmed, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). They were in fact looking for a better home apart from this earth: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). Peter appealed to this truth when he discouraged worldly living. He wrote, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Evidently, we are only temporary travelers in this world. The use of the terms “strangers” and “pilgrims” is a death knell to this doctrine that claims the earth is the eternal realm.
A Renovated Earth Denies The Doctrine Of The Resurrection
The Savior explained His doctrine of the resurrection when he proclaimed, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29). Years later, when asked specifically about the resurrection, the inspired Paul would add:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Notice especially verse 17 and the order of events. We that are still alive will meet the Lord in the clouds. Then we shall forever be with the Lord. If heaven was intended to be a renovated earth then here would have been the perfect place for the Holy Spirit to have told us such. Instead, there is no mention of us returning to live on a renovated earth.
A Renovated Earth Denies The Doctrine Of Earth’s Destruction
The doctrine of earth’s temporariness is finalized by Peter’s discussion of the matter. Inspiration reads:
“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.”
(2 Peter 3:5-12)
Consider the number of times that it is mentioned that the earth will be destroyed. For one to believe that the earth will be our heavenly home, then this entire passage must be mutilated. Heaven can not be here on earth because there will be no earth here.
Passages Used To Defend This Error
In discussing the inspired writings of Paul, Peter informed, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16). This was not a practice limited to the first century. Sadly, some brethren today continue to twist, misapply, and take Scripture out of context. This is truly how the renovated earth proponents have come to their conclusions. What passages do they rend to justify their beliefs?
Romans 8. Romans 8 is a thrilling chapter that has brought joy and encouragement to the hearts of the faithful since it was penned by Paul nearly two thousand years ago. The chapter is one of hope and expectation. Consider this portion of the text that is often misapplied:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
From this passage they take that creation itself is waiting for the day that it will be redeemed (renovated). The problem with that belief is that it contradicts clear cut teaching on the destruction of this earth (1 Pet. 3:5-12; Matt. 24:35). Moreover, the word translated as creation, ktisis, can mean the physical creation or be used to describe mankind (cf. Mark 16:15). Context, as always, is key. Here, in discussion of the glory that awaits the child of God, the creation that is anticipating a redemption is mankind itself. One day our bodies will be redeemed (Rom. 8:23) and we will forever be with the Lord in heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. It is argued that the phrase “new heavens and new earth” are proof enough that the earth will be renovated and not destroyed. Consider again the context of 2 Peter 3. It is made abundantly clear that the earth will cease to exist. Therefore, whatever the meaning of the phrase, it can not mean that the earth will remain. The phrase itself is used four times in Scripture (Is. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Every use of the phrase is figurative. Regarding Isaiah’s use of the phrase, Wayne Jackson writes, “In this instance, this is a symbolic description of the Messiah’s reign during the Christian age. As man lives upon the earth and partakes of the blessings of the heavens, so these expressions become figures signifying his environment. Hence, the “new heavens and a new earth” is merely descriptive of the new realm that will replace the Mosaic period.”
The New Testament use of the phrase is just as figurative as Isaiah’s use of the term. The new heavens and new earth are simply God’s way of explaining that He has a new dwelling place for us. When we combine these passages with others regarding heaven (John 14:1-4: Mat. 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:4; Mat. 24:35) we can apply proper hermeneutics to determine that the new heaven and new earth is heaven, and not the earthly variety.
A Renovated Earth Propagates Worldliness
Herein lies the heart of this doctrine. John commands, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). We are commanded to not fall in love with physical things because one day they will all perish (Matt. 6:19-20; 2 Pet. 3:5-12). Yet, this very doctrine states that you can and should cling to these temporary things.
Michael Whittmer writes, “Open your eyes to a faith that encompasses all of life—baseball games, stock reports, church activities, prayer, lovemaking, work, hobbies, everything that lies within the sphere of human activity. To be fully Christian is to be fully human, alive and responsive to the kingdom of God in all that you are and all that you do. Discover the freedom and impact God created you for.” To the person ignorant of God’s Book this may sound delightful. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying this life, Jesus wants us to know that it is not the be all end all.
This world may have glorious sights, but they pale in comparison of the sights that our new bodies will see over there in that new realm that Jesus has prepared for us (John 14:2).
The renovated earth doctrine is denial of Christ’s doctrine. Beloved, this cannot be taken lightly. To deny a clear-cut teaching of the Master is a serious thing. The glories that await us are so grand that they need no additions to make them worthy.
Jon is the preacher for the Atlanta Church of Christ in Atlanta, TX. He and his wife Holly are the parents of three children.
Whittmer, Michael E., Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God, Grand Rapids: Zondervan (2004).
Jackson, Wayne. “Will Heaven Be On Earth?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: May 3, 2020. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1353-will-heaven-be-on-earth.