When I was growing up in the Evangelical church there was a large focus on asking Jesus into your heart. The promised result? A ticket to heaven. Because of that, I grew up with the idea that heaven was this far off place that we would go to when we died. When I pictured it, I pictured angels with harps floating around on clouds. I thought that when I died, I would see this gold staircase leading up into the clouds where Jesus would be waiting for me with open arms.
Did you know that that was actually not Jesus’ main message to the world about heaven? I’m not saying that it’s unbiblical. I understand its roots, it’s practical and easy to understand. I deeply believe that it is paramount for all of us to have a moment (or two, or three) when we surrender our lives to Jesus. Although surrender is an essential step in our faith, Jesus’ main focus was never on giving out tickets to Heaven. It was to reveal and unveil what we have access to Heaven today.
People have dedicated their whole lives to studying what heaven is like. There is a lot of speculation, but there is actually not a lot that we can be sure of. But we do know two things for sure: 1.God is there and we will get to experience the fullness of who he is and his glory. 2.There will be no sin, pain nor shame. As a result, we will be able to walk out in the fullness of who God intended for us to be.
Matthew 4:17 tells us “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
It is significant that Matthew tells us that the first thing Jesus does when he starts his ministry is that he tells us two things 1. Repent (that surrender piece we were talking about). 2.That the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Not, repent and then you will get to go to heaven someday. He is saying, repent – Heaven is here.
The kingdom of Heaven is here.
The kingdom of Heaven that Jesus is speaking of is not a physical space. It is the realm in which God dwells and reigns. It is the space where there is no sin, shame or pain. And when Jesus took on the body of a human, entered the world as a baby and dwelt amongst us – He brought heaven down with Him. He embodied the fullness of who God is and through him we can be rid of sin, shame and pain.
He brought heaven down with Him and He asks us to do the same.
You see, when you surrender your life to Jesus, He takes your sins and buries them at the cross. As a result, we have full access to God. That’s not to say we will never sin again, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we will sin less and become more of the person God created us to be. And as we do that, we carry a little bit more of heaven with us.
We carry the Kingdom of Heaven with us.
We carry the Kingdom of Heaven with us as we hate less and love more. We bring heaven down with us as we confess our pride and listen with humility. We advance the kingdom when we become less and He becomes more.
I share this for two reasons.
1. More now than ever we need to rally to advance the Kingdom of Heaven.
The king of this world, Satan, has been very busy building his kingdom. I must say, he has had a good amount of success. His kingdom is known for its injustice and hate. It is full of division and pride. It is marked by greed and selfish gain. And behind it all is a spirit of fear.
And I don’t know about you, but sometimes, especially lately, I have looked at his kingdom and felt a sense of hopelessness. Why is he gaining ground so fast? Has he won?
I think that one of the reasons the kingdom of this world is advancing so fast is that some of us (myself included) at times have forgotten what side we are on. Without knowing it we have fought to advance enemy territory.
In the name of justice, we have caused division.
We have battled against hate with a weapon of judgement.
We have fought for our rights with our hearts full of pride.
Our words declare one thing, when our hearts are aligned with greed and self preservation.
You see the kingdom of this world is advanced by sin. Even if your words sound pure, if your heart isn’t aligned – without knowing it you are fighting on the wrong side.
We need to stop helping the enemy advance.
2. I also share this with you to give you hope. I don’t know about you but I could really use some hope right now.
Knowing the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand should fill our hearts with hope. Because not only when we follow Jesus do we get to spend eternity in heaven – we have access to heaven now. We don’t have to wait until we die to encounter heaven – that is good news! Through the power of the Holy Spirit we have access to peace that passes all understanding, regardless of the turmoil around us. Now. Because of Jesus, we are able to have joy when we experience trials of many kinds. Now. Because of the cross, we can love and be loved without bounds. Now. We have the ability to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, now.
I don’t know about you, but that brings me a lot of hope.
So let’s examine our hearts and make sure we are fighting on the right team. And as we fight, let’s cling to hope.
Because the Kingdom of Heaven is here.
Because there is more,