Jesus' teaching is often misunderstood by modern Christians because it is divorced from the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus frequently spoke of the "Kingdom of Heaven" in His parables. And many assume that this refers to a kingdom IN heaven. From such statements Christians often suppose that He meant believers would fly away to heaven to live in this "kingdom." This thinking is the result of imposing presuppositions onto Jesus. When His words are understood from a Jewish perspective, compared with other statements He made, and compared with some of the Old Testament prophecies that He cited, it is quite evident that the "Kingdom" is not IN heaven, but FROM heaven.
The phrase "Kingdom of heaven" was used by Matthew only, and it refers to the dominion of heaven being imposed on the earth, when Christ reigns in Jerusalem. The places where Matthew records Jesus referring to the "Kingdom of heaven" have "Kingdom of God" in the parallel passages in Mark and Luke. And the "Kingdom" referred to is the one prophesied by Daniel. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."
The Sermon on the Mount
The very first sermon recorded that Jesus preached was the Sermon on the Mount. If we approach that sermon assuming that the destiny of believers is heaven, it becomes very confusing. In Matt. 5:3, Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Does this mean that the "poor in spirit" will go to heaven? Look at what He said in verse 5. "Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth." This is a direct quote from Psalm 37:11, which states repeatedly that the righteous will inherit the earth [Land] and dwell in it forever, when the wicked are cut off. Was Jesus promising different destinies for these? Were the "poor in spirit" promised an eternal inheritance in heaven, and the "meek" promised an eternal inheritance on earth according to Psalm 37? What exactly is the difference between being "poor in spirit" and being "meek" which warrents such a vastly different destiny?
The clause "poor in spirit" comes from Isaiah 66. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word." Yet, this passage goes on to describe the inheritance of the "poor in spirit" in restored Jerusalem. "Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; ... Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." This is also obviously the prophecy Jesus had in mind in the same passage when He said: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." In the Beatitudes, Jesus promised His followers the same inheritance outlined in the Old Testament prophecies. And that inheritance is not heaven, but the Land God promised to Abraham and to his 'Seed,' who is Christ, when the earth is renovated. Obviously, the inheritance is the same throughout the Sermon on the Mount, and the "Kingdom of heaven" will be on earth, just as Daniel prophesied.
Some are confused by Jesus' statement in verse 12, "great is your reward in heaven." Yet, to the disciples whom Jesus was teaching, going to heaven to receive rewards was as foreign as Santa Clause! They were fully aware that the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would bring rewards with Him (from heaven) when He came to set up His Kingdom.
Isa 40:10-11 NKJV
10 Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.
11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.
11 Indeed the LORD has proclaimed To the end of the world: "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.'"
12 And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
This is of course what Jesus had in mind in His last words to the churches in Revelation:
Rev 22:12 KJV
12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
To suppose that believers must go to heaven to receive their rewards reflects an ignorance of Old Testament prophecy. It is also an inference that is not at all required by the statement. If a man tells his children that their Christmas presents are stored up in the attic until Christmas, would the children suppose that when Christmas arrives, they will all go to live in the attic? It is simply not a proper inference from these passages to suppose that Christians must go to heaven eternally to receive their rewards.
Jesus' parables almost always concerned the end of the age and "the Kingdom of God/heaven." In virtually all of them, it is evident that the righteous remain on the earth. Probably the best example is Jesus' parable of the 10 Minas in Luke 19:11-27. In this parable, the Master gives to three servants 10 minas, with instructions to invest them until He returns. The parable is obviously about His followers, and their bearing fruit in His absence. Yet, the parable concludes with the Master's return, "having received the Kingdom," and calling his servants to account. The first servant who invested wisely, was given as his reward "authority over 10 cities." The second was given authority over 5 cities.
In the parable of the Tares, at the end of the age the angels are dispatched to "gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend". This is clearly parallel to Psalm 37's statements about the righteous inheriting the earth forever when the wicked are cut off. Jesus went on to say that the righteous will continue on in the Kingdom. All of Jesus' parables about the Kingdom are consistent with the inheritance being the Land. None suggest transportation to heaven.
The Olivet Discourse
The Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24) completely overturns dispensational theology. One of the disastrous consequences of dispensationalism is the overthrowing of Jesus' own commandments in order to maintain the pretribulation rapture. The Olivet Discourse contains warnings and instructions for Jesus' followers to watch for the signs which will occur during and immediately after the tribulation, which will announce Jesus' return for "His elect." Dispensationalists maintain a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, with separate destinies for these (Israel being God's "earthly people" destined for the Kingdom, and the "Church" allegedly being God's "heavenly people" destined for heaven). In order to maintain this alleged distinct destiny for the "Church," dispensationalists divide the prophetic Scriptures into what pertains to "Israel" and what pertains to the "Church." Jesus' own teaching in the Gospels ends up on dispensationalism's chopping block. Dispensationalists claim to be followers of Paul's teaching, and they discard much of Jesus' teaching as applicable to "Israel" and not to the "Church." Dispensationalists typically claim that Jesus’ teaching prior to Pentecost was for “Israel.” Therefore, they look exclusively to post-Pentecost New Testament writings for “Church doctrine.” Jesus' teaching in such passages as The Sermon on the Mount and The Olivet Discourse are completely disregarded.
Yet, Jesus sent His disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus taught and commanded His disciples many things which are recorded in the Gospels. You can begin with everything He taught and commanded them in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). In his notes on this passage, dispensationalist C. I. Scofield wrote that the Sermon on the Mount “gives neither the duty or the privilege of the Church.” Yet, this sermon contains many commandments delivered by Jesus to His disciples. It is indisputable that the Sermon on the Mount is part of "all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Jesus said that the Great Commission was to extend from Pentecost until the “end of the age.” Therefore, Jesus expected His Apostles to teach new converts to obey all of His prior commandments given to them, including the Sermon on the Mount. Dispensationalists are directly contradicting Jesus’ own command in the Great Commission.
Jesus’ instructions and commands to His disciples also included His commands to watch for the signs of His posttribulation coming in the Olivet Discourse. In fact, after giving His disciples a series of signs to watch for, including the “abomination of desolation” and the cosmic signs at the very end of the tribulation, He ended (Mark’s account) by saying, “What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!” Who is the “all” in this statement if not “all” those whom these disciples would baptize and teach (that is Christians from all the nations)?
It is true that some of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels was for “Israel” under the Law during the transition between the Old and New Covenants. An example of this is what He told the rich young ruler, that he must keep all the commandments. He also said similar things to the scribes and Pharisees. The division between “old” and “new” covenant teaching by Jesus is NOT a particular date (Pentecost), but rather the particular audience to whom Jesus spoke. Whenever Jesus was instructing His disciples throughout His ministry, He was training them for their mission to make disciples of the nations until the end of the age. Whenever He was speaking to the crowds, or to those antagonistic towards Him, His teaching often pointed to their own failure to keep the Law of Moses and what that Law required of them, since the Law was still in effect, and they were condemned by it.
This distinction between Jesus' New Covenant teaching and His Old Covenant teaching is also seen clearly in the 4th chapter of Mark. When Jesus was asked by His disciples why He always spoke to the crowds in parables, He quoted Isaiah, about Israel being blinded. He said to His followers, “to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to those outside it is given in parables so that 'seeing they may see and not understand'...” Mark goes on to say that Jesus only spoke to the crowds in parables, but that when He was alone with His disciples, He explained the plain meaning of the parables only to them. From these passages it is clear that Jesus was both concealing the message of the New Covenant (from the crowds) and at the same time revealing it to His chosen disciples, training them for their future mission. Therefore, the rule of thumb for distinguishing Jesus' Old Covenant teaching from His New Covenant teaching ought to be what Jesus said in the Great Commission: Everything Jesus taught to His disciples is for Christians, period. Whatever else He may have said was intended for that particular audience, which was still under the Law of Moses.
Dispensationalism has blindfolded Christians to Jesus' own commandments, and the consequences will be disastrous. Consider Jesus' own warning about keeping His commandments found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.
Matt 7:21-27 NKJV
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
The "will of My Father in heaven" was expressed in Jesus' own teachings. Listen to Him:
John 12:48-50 NKJV
48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.
50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."
Therefore, those who say to Him "Lord, Lord," but who dismiss His teaching (which is really the Father's teaching) will NOT inherit the Kingdom. When the storm comes, their house will fall flat because it is not founded on the foundation of Jesus' own commandments.
The Upper Room Discourse
While dispensationalists frequently disregard Jesus' teaching to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse, many of them claim His teaching in the Upper Room discourse is for the 'Church.' Let's set aside for the moment the enormous problem created by picking and choosing some of Jesus' teaching to His disciples and rejecting the rest as "Jewish." Jesus' statement in the upper room is probably the most often quoted passage in support of the "heavenly destiny" concept, both by amillennialists and dispensationalists. Yet, just as the phrase "Kingdom of heaven" is misunderstood and alien concepts imposed, so also is the critical phrase in this passage.
John 14:1-3 NKJV
1 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 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.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
The critical question that must be answers is, "What is 'My Father's house'?" And the proper answer can only be gleaned from Scripture. It cannot be gleaned from presuppositions imposed on the Scriptures.
John 2:13-17 NKJV
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.
15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables.
16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"
17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."
"My Father's House" is the Temple. In the Old Testament, the Temple is virtually always called "the House of the Lord." Nowhere in the Bible is heaven ever referred to as God's house. A good example is the description of the construction of Solomon's Temple.
1 Kings 6:1-4 NKJV
1 And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.
2 Now the house which King Solomon built for the LORD, its length was sixty cubits, its width twenty, and its height thirty cubits.
3 The vestibule in front of the sanctuary of the house was twenty cubits long across the width of the house, and the width of the vestibule extended ten cubits from the front of the house.
4 And he made for the house windows with beveled frames.
Solomon's Temple had "many mansions" attached to it. These were apartments for the priests to occupy in their week of service at the Temple.
1 Kings 6:5,10 NKJV
5 Against the wall of the temple he built chambers all around, against the walls of the temple, all around the sanctuary and the inner sanctuary. Thus he made side chambers all around it. ...
10 And he built side chambers against the entire temple, each five cubits high; they were attached to the temple with cedar beams.
Josephus described these priestly apartments attached to the Temple wall on the north, south, and west sides. They were three stories high.
"But the inmost part of the temple of all was of twenty cubits. This was also separated from the outer part by a veil. In this there was nothing at all. It was inaccessible and inviolable, and not to be seen by any; and was
called the Holy of Holies. Now, about the sides of the lower part of the temple, there were little houses, with passages out of one into another; there were a great many of them, and they were of three stories high;
there were also entrances on each side into them from the gate of the temple. But the superior part of the temple had no such little houses any further, because the temple was there narrower, and forty cubits higher,
and of a smaller body than the lower parts of it. Thus we collect that the whole height, including the sixty cubits from the floor, amounted to a hundred cubits."
The Temple, as the House of the Lord, is repeatedly mentioned in prophecies about Christ's coming Kingdom. For example:
Isaiah 2:2-4 NKJV
2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.
3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the
law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.
Ezekiel gives a thorough description of it in chapters 40-47. And this millennial Temple also includes the same "many mansions," the 3 story apartments attached to the Temple walls on three sides.
Ezek 41:5-11 NKJV
5 Next, he measured the wall of the temple, six cubits. The width of each side chamber all around the temple was four cubits on every side.
6 The side chambers were in three stories, one above the other, thirty chambers in each story; they rested on ledges which were for the side chambers all around, that they might be supported, but not fastened to the wall of the temple.
7 As one went up from story to story, the side chambers became wider all around, because their supporting ledges in the wall of the temple ascended like steps; therefore the width of the structure increased as one went up from the lowest story to the highest by way of the middle one.
8 I also saw an elevation all around the temple; it was the foundation of the side chambers, a full rod, that is, six cubits high.
9 The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits, and so also the remaining terrace by the place of the side chambers of the temple.
10 And between it and the wall chambers was a width of twenty cubits all around the temple on every side.
11 The doors of the side chambers opened on the terrace, one door toward the north and another toward the south; and the width of the terrace was five cubits all around.
These three story apartments that will be a part of the Millennial Temple are the "many mansions" to which Jesus refered. His disciples, and other faithful servants, will dwell in these apartments in Christ's Kingdom, close to the Messiah. That this was Jesus' meaning is evident from Luke's account of the Upper Room discourse. According to Luke, it is quite clear that Jesus was speaking of His Kingdom on earth, and not heaven.
Luke 22:15-18,28-30 NKJV
15 Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves;
18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." ...
28 "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.
29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,
30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
The Greek text of verse 29 literally says: "I am covenanting with you the Kingdom, just as my Father has covenanted with Me." This is clearly a reference to Psalm 2, where Jesus' words were given by David a millennium before He was born:
"But I have been made King by Him on Sion his holy mountain, declaring the ordinance of the Lord: the Lord said to me, 'You are my Son, today have I begotten You. Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the Land for Your possession.
You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron; you shall shatter them like a potter's vessel." Jesus referenced this same Psalm again, also claiming to share this very inheritance with His faithful followers.
"And the one being victorious, and keeping My works until the end, I will give him authority over the nations — 'He shall shepherd them with a rod of iron; As the vessels of pottery are crushed’ — as I also have received from My Father." Again, in the seven letters in Revelation, Jesus spoke of the inheritance being connected to this Temple. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more."
In John 14, Jesus comforted His disciples by informing them that they would be close to Him when He reigned in His Kingdom. So close, in fact, that they would occupy the side chambers of His Temple, which were attached to the walls surrounding the holy place and the holy of holies, the place of His throne. The disciples were sad because Jesus had said He was "going away." Where was He going? He was going to the cross to purchase their redemption, preparing a place for them in His Father's House. It is evident that Jesus' teaching conformed exactly to the literal interpretation of the prophets
regarding the destiny and hope of believers. To claim anything else is to twist His words, inject foreign meanings to His expressions, and divorce His teaching from the very prophets whom He quoted! Jesus' teaching placed the inheritance of His followers on earth, when the Land of Israel would be restored and given to those who follow Jesus Christ.
Matt 19:28-30 NKJV
28 So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Matt 8:11-12 NKJV
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
 cf. Matt. 4:17 & Mark 1:14-15; cf. Matt. 5:3 & Luke 6:20; cf. Matt. 10:7 & Luke 9:2; cf. Matt. 11:11 & Luke 7:28; cf. Matt. 13:11 & Mark 4:11; cf. Matt. 13:31 & Luke 13:18; etc.
 Dan. 2:44
 Col. 1:5; Heb. 10:34; 1 Pet. 1:4 all speak of "rewards" or "inheritance" being held in heaven for believers for the same reasons -- the OT speaks of the Messiah bringing His rewards with Him.
 Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Bk. V, ch. v
 LXX My Translation
 Rev. 2:26-27 LGV
 Rev. 3:12 NKJV
 Jer. 3:16-17; Ezek. 43:1-7
 "regeneration" is the Greek word "paliggenesia" from "palin" (again) and "genesis" (generate), meaning to restore to a pristine state.