Hierarchy in Heaven

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    Will William Branham rule over people in heaven? Will message pastors rule over their congregations in heaven?

    Related article: Is being saved or born again two different things?

    What William Branham taught

    William Branham believed that his followers would not get into heaven unless he did and that, in heaven, his followers would be his subjects. Some message churches now teach that this also applies to a church's pastor.

    This message concept comes from a fairly innocuous phrase in the Old Testament. Referring to Abraham, the Bible states that when he died "he was gathered to his people.”

    What message churches teach

    There is a doctrine in the Message that those who go to heaven will be presented to the Lord by the Angel of their age. At this time, they will be represented in groups under their pastor. The hierarchy of the earthly church will become the hierarchy of the heavenly church, and those that rule on earth will rule in heaven. Because of this doctrine, some message pastors teach that attending a church is like a marriage, and attending another church is like spiritual adultery.

    Tom Rae, pastor of Cloverdale Bibleway in a sermon preached in Surrey, BC on March 9, 2014 stated that "we will be standing at the gate of heaven under our headship, Brother Byskal, who will be standing under the headship of William Branham."

    What the Bible teaches

    What does it mean when the Bible refers someone being "gathered to their people"? Is there a hierarchy in heaven?

    Being gathered to your people

    The Bible refers a person being gathered to his people in the following passages:

    Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people...[1]
    “Altogether Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people...”[2]
    “Then he [Isaac] breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him”[3]
    “When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people”[4]
    “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites”[5]

    “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was”[6]

    Many Old Testament scholars regard the phrase “and he was gathered to his people” as being nothing more than a conventional way of saying that he died. It is to be explained, so they say, by the thought that the individual was being placed in the same graveyard as those who had died before him. But this is hardly satisfactory in the case of the Bible stories involved. When Abraham died he was buried in a cave at Machpelah in the land that was to become Israel, but it was not the burial place of his ancestors. They had been buried back in Ur of the Chaldees, and his father had been buried at Haran. Moreover, in reading the account of his death, it is hard to overlook the fact that Abraham is said to have been gathered to his ancestors in verse 8 of Genesis, but to have been buried only in verse 9.

    Consequently, the phrase “gathered to his people” cannot refer to the burial but must refer to the death itself as a result of which Abraham joined those who had gone before him.[7]

    What does the Bible say about the hierarchy in heaven?

    Jesus said that anyone who is “least in the kingdom of God” will be greater than Elijah the Prophet (Luke 7:28). Paul wrote that in Christ Jesus, there is “neither Jew nor Greek…bond nor free…male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) so in heaven there will be no hierarchy or divisions like we have here on earth.

    For those who teach that attending a church is like a marriage, who will lead their flock into heaven if a church changes pastors, or a family moves between churches? Who will lead an individual into heaven if they live in two different ages? If churches really are like marriages, and people belong to the headship of one pastor on earth, heaven will be a confusing place. Thankfully, Jesus was asked about what happens to people in heaven who have lived in multiple marriages on earth, and his response is also appropriate to this doctrine.

    “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)

    Quotes of WMB

    I've got to leave here. You've got to leave here. And if I go as a false prophet, I'll lose my own soul and lose yours with me.[8]

    And I set there, and then a voice said, "You've been gathered to your people like Jacob was gathered to his people." I said, "All these my people? Are all these Branhams?" He said, "No, they're your converts to Christ."

    And I looked around, and there was a real pretty woman run up. She looked real... They was all about the same. She threw her arm around me, and she said, "Oh, my precious brother." She looked at me.

    I thought, "My, she looked like an angel." And she passed by, and that voice said, "Didn't you recognize her?" I said, "No, I didn't recognize..."

    Said, "You led her to Christ when she was past ninety." Said, "You know why she thinks so much of you?"

    I said, "That pretty girl was past ninety?"

    "Yeah," said, "She can never change no more now." Said, "That's the reason she's saying, "precious brother."

    I thought, "Oh, my, and I was afraid of this. Why, these people are real." They--they wasn't going anywhere. They wasn't tired being there. And I said, "Well, why can't I see Jesus?"

    He said, "Well now, He will--He will come someday, and He will come to you first, and then you'll be judged." Said, "These people are your converts that you've led."

    And I said, "You mean by being a leader, that I--that--that He will judge me?" He said, "Yes."

    And I said, "Does every leader have to be judged like that?" Said, "Yes."

    I said, "What about Paul?" He said, "He will have to be judged with his."

    "Well," I said, "if his group goes in, so will mine, 'cause I've preached exactly the same Word." I said, "Where he baptized in Jesus' Name, I did too. I preached..."

    And the millions screamed out, all at once, said, "We're resting on that."

    And I thought, "My, if I only knew this before I come here, I'd make people come here. They can't afford to miss this. Why, looky here..."

    And then, and he said, "Someday He will come, and then... Now, in here we neither eat, drink, or sleep; we're just all one."[9]

    He said, "No, they are your converts." He then pointed to one lady and said, "See that young lady that you were admiring a moment ago. She was 90 years old when you won her to the Lord."

    I said, "Oh my, and to think this is what I was afraid of."

    The man said, "We are resting here while waiting for the coming of the Lord."

    I replied, "I want to see Him."

    He said, "You can't see Him just yet; but He is coming soon, and when He does He will come to you first, and you will be judged according to the Gospel you have preached, and we will be your subjects."

    I said, "Do you mean I am responsible for all these?"

    He said, "Every one. You were born a leader."

    I asked him, "Will every one be responsible? What about Saint Paul?"

    He answered me, "He will be responsible for his day."

    "Well," I said, "I've preached the same Gospel that Paul preached." And multitude cried, "We're resting on that."[10]


    1. Gen. 25:8
    2. Gen. 25:17
    3. Gen. 35:29
    4. Gen. 49:33
    5. Num. 20:24
    6. Num. 27:12–13
    7. James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 1071.