The Kingdom of Heaven is more than meets the eye: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near you, it is here, it is within you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
I was struck by an idea presented in a recent church service: The Kingdom of Heaven is more than meets the eye: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near you, it is here, it is within you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is coming. We tend to think the Kingdom of Heaven as something in the future that we’re all waiting for, and that’s partly true, but it also carries other profound dimensions.
The phrases Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God refer to the same thing. Jesus used both phrases one right after the other in Matthew 19:23-24, explaining to His disciples how difficult it was for people to enter the Kingdom of God/Heaven.
The End is Near
When Jesus sent out the disciples ahead of Him to the places He would soon visit, he told them, “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:8-9)
Jesus had been teaching His disciples about the kingdom of Heaven and now the disciples were preparing the people to hear about it, as well.
You and I are those people and God has sent out his disciples to reach us. Will we welcome his servants? Or, will we reject them and have it said against us,
Say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. –Luke 10:10-11
A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. They reveal a pattern for the life of a Christ-follower.
A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. They’re not like some parts you might find in Proverbs, superficially a list of individual, wise sayings. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. Have a quick read through with that in mind and we’ll pick up after,
Jesus began to teach them,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The first thing that struck me was that these people were “blessed.” Blessed?! Blessed… Maybe they were blessed because each ‘bad thing’ was followed up by a comforting thing, like “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” but that’s a little morbid, isn’t?
Ever feel like God is silent? Jesus said the fateful words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“, Psalms 22:1, a prophetic picture of Jesus’ crucifixion, but the very next verse says this, “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…” Even the Son of God experienced the Silence of God. Take heart, then, because ‘we have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has been tempted in every way, just as we are and yet did not sin‘ (Hebrews 4:15b), and now, because of this and through the Cross, ‘Jesus lives forever and has a permanent priesthood – so He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them’ (Hebrews 7:24-25). Selah.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
This Good Friday remembers the day Jesus, God’s firstborn, was not spared and was sacrificed for your sins so that when Jesus’ blood covers your sins God can say again “when I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
In the beginning, God created on six different days. On the sixth day, it is written: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noted that “very good” isn’t “perfect.” Why didn’t He just say it was perfect? If it wasn’t perfect, it sounds like it needed some work. Seems like it needed some changing. A little more time. Sounds like a job for…evolution. As it turns out, though, He did say it was perfect, you just have to connect the dots. Don’t worry, there are only two dots and we’ve just discussed one of them.
The Gospels are probably more read than any other part of the bible and, surprise, surprise, it is here that Jesus, Himself, reveals the answer. In Luke 18:19, Jesus replies to a man, “(18) And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (19) And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.'” (emphasis added) Considered in modern times, our first question is, “God is merely ‘good’?” Think about it a moment. Can we really consider ourselves “good” next to God? Compared to the next human being, maybe, but to the God of the universe who is Perfection personified? If Jesus says no one is “good” except God, then that must mean something beyond what we consider merely good. And that is our answer to the Genesis dilemma.
If only God can be called good, as Jesus said, and God called His creation “good”, then a good creation must be perfect. A “very good” creation? We can only speculate what that means in the light of Jesus’ words.