THE KINGDOM FROM HEAVEN
THE KINGDOM FROM HEAVEN Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Kingdom that is at hand, the Kingdom we await with such great joy, is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom from Heaven. It is the Kingdom of God because God is the supreme Ruler of it. It is the Kingdom of Heaven because Heaven is the throne of God, although one day the throne of God will come to rest on the new earth in the new Jerusalem.
THE KINGDOM FROM HEAVEN
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:,2)
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)
Some believe that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two separate kingdoms. It seems obvious to us that such is not the case, for three reasons: (1) the same parables to which Matthew refers as parables of the Kingdom of Heaven are referred to by the other writers as parables of the Kingdom of God; (2) there is no evidence that either John or Jesus preached about two different kingdoms, speaking part of the time about the Kingdom of Heaven and the remainder of the time about the Kingdom of God; and (3) the Prophets of Israel announced the coming of but one Kingdom.
The parable of the sower may be the most important parable of the Kingdom. Matthew refers to this parable as a mystery of "the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11). Mark refers to the same parable as a mystery of "the kingdom of God" (Mark 4:11).
Daniel speaks of one kingdom.
But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. (Daniel 7:18)
"The kingdom" is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that is to descend from Heaven. It is the Kingdom of God because God is the supreme Ruler of it. It is the Kingdom of Heaven because Heaven is the Throne of God; although one day the Throne of God will come to rest on the new earth in the new Jerusalem.
Where is the Kingdom of Heaven—the Kingdom that is "at hand"? We understand from the teachings of the Lord Jesus that it is within us and also is in Heaven, and one day will descend from Heaven and govern the nations of the earth.
First of all, the Kingdom of Heaven is what we mean by "Heaven." It is the kingdom, the power, and the glory that today are in the spirit realm above us. It is the rule being obeyed in Heaven now and that will come down to the earth with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saints.
We are to pray for the rule of God and the Glory of God to descend from Heaven and fill the whole earth:
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
Heaven is a spirit realm. It is the Throne of God.
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: . . . (Acts 7:49)
Christ is in Heaven with His father, His saints, and the holy angels. The Holy Spirit was sent down from Heaven.
If Heaven is the Throne of God, then, in one sense of the word, wherever the Throne of God is, there is Heaven. If God’s throne is in the Lord Jesus Christ, then Heaven is in the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ is in us, then Heaven (the Throne of God) is in us. If the Throne of God and of the Lamb are in the new Jerusalem, then Heaven is in the new Jerusalem.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said:
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)
"Which is in heaven"!
Perhaps we need to clarify what we mean by "Heaven," for there are different applications of the term.
The word heaven often is used in the New Testament to mean the sky. The disciples saw Jesus ascend into heaven, meaning, no doubt, into the clouds rather than into the invisible spiritual Heaven (Acts 1:11).
Our personal belief is that the new heaven of Revelation 21:1 is speaking of a new sky.
Heaven sometimes means Paradise, which in turn is suggestive of the garden of Eden.
Heaven often is thought of as the new Jerusalem, with its street of gold and jasper wall.
A concept widely held by Christians is that Heaven is a spiritual place above us to which we will go when we die, if God deems us worthy. The true saint thinks with pleasure of going to Heaven. There is a pull on his spirit toward the glory and beauty of the spirit Paradise.
The wall of the new Jerusalem prevents us from seeing what goes on in that holy place. Our tradition of "mansions" is based on an unsound interpretation of John 14:2 (which actually is speaking of our dwelling in Christ and He in us).
Little is said in either the Old Testament or the New Testament concerning our state between physical death and the day of resurrection—the day of the coming of the Lord from Heaven. We Christians believe, however, that our stay in the spirit realm while we are awaiting the resurrection of our body is a time to look forward to with joy.
Paul wanted to go home to be with the Lord.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)
Heaven indeed is home to us because in the present hour our life is hidden with Christ in God. This world is not our home. We are looking for a city that has foundations. We are pilgrims and strangers here in the present world.
Notice that Paul always emphasized going to be with the Lord, not going to Heaven as to a place.
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (Philippians 1:23)
It is interesting to note that no writer of either the Old Testament or the New Testament even once spoke longingly of going to Heaven as to a place. At least, we cannot think of one such passage.
Paul did long for the redemption of his body, that is, for his bodily resurrection:
And not only they [the material creation], 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. (Romans 8:23)
Paul appeared to welcome his approaching martyrdom:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (II Timothy 4:6)
The word "offered" may be translated released. The time of Paul’s release had come. We can imagine what release from the bondage of the flesh meant to this man who had suffered so much for the Gospel of the Kingdom. From pain to perfect comfort. From sorrow to joy. From imprisonment to wonderful liberty. From hatred to love. From fighting to peace. From the grim surroundings of the Roman prison to the beauty of the Lord’s Paradise. "The time of my release is at hand."
The true saint always is ready to go to Heaven—and with reason. It is his home. It is his home because his life is there, hidden with Christ in God. It is his home because his treasures are there. It may be true also that his loved ones are there. The godliness that he cherishes is there. He is through with the sin and death that reign on the earth.
All of these things are true. But we have come to the point in God’s plan where He wants us to understand that going to the place termed "Heaven" is not the goal of the Christian redemption. Redemption is the restoration to the rightful owner of that which he had lost. Originally, to man was given Paradise on the earth, a perfect environment in which to live. Our Redeemer has come in order to restore to us what was lost—and to add to this much more of the marvels of God.
Heaven, as we have stated, is the home of the saint in the present hour. But one day Jesus is going to return to the earth. His feet once again will stand on the Mount of Olives of this planet. When He does, Heaven—at least the best part of Heaven—will have descended to the earth. The Lord Jesus is coming to restore the blessings of God to mankind (except to those who reject His salvation and His lordship). And where Jesus is, there we shall be also—we who love and serve Him.
It is true also that one day the present earth and sky will vanish with great heat and noise. After that there will be a new sky and a new earth. Then the new Jerusalem, which is the Kingdom of God, the Wife of the Lamb, the place of the Throne of God, will descend from the sky and be established on the new earth.
Heaven is coming down to the earth: first, in the Lord Jesus and His saints at their appearing; second, after the thousand-year period, in the holy city as it descends from God out of Heaven.
If Heaven indeed is coming down from its present location to dwell on the earth, then all we desire is coming into the earth. The "city which has foundations" is coming to the earth. If this is true we must enlarge our understanding of the Christian salvation until it includes not only our sojourn in the spirit Paradise after we die physically but also the glorious entrance of Heaven into the earth when Jesus returns—and then on a total scale when the new Jerusalem descends from God out of Heaven.
It is not that we are going to the wondrous city, it is that it is coming to us.
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
The point is, our eternal home indeed is Heaven, but not in terms of another place located in the spirit realm. Our eternal home is the Kingdom of God—the Presence and Glory of God in Christ. The Scriptures teach, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, that the Kingdom of Heaven is destined to come to the earth. This is what the Hebrew Prophets announced, as did also John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus.
"Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
This is the Gospel of the Kingdom, the good news of the coming of God’s throne to the earth.
It is important the believers come to understand that the goal of the Christian salvation is not to bring us to a place called "Heaven" but is rather the total transformation of what we are so we can dwell in untroubled rest in Christ in God.
Passing into the spirit realm, as into a place, is not what our heart yearns for. We are longing for love, joy, peace and perfect righteousness. The spirit realm in and of itself cannot produce love, joy, peace, or righteousness.
Sin, rebellion, and war originated in the spirit realm.
What we are longing for, perhaps without realizing it, is the "Heaven" that is in Jesus, that Jesus Himself is. The love, joy, peace, and righteousness for which we yearn are not found in the spirit realm as such. They are found only in God, and God has placed everything of value in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is Christ for which we are longing, not to die and pass into the spirit realm. Anyone who has experienced the Presence of the Lord Jesus knows well that what we are longing for is not the area of disembodied spirits, it is Christ himself. His Presence is so startlingly joyous and marvelous that we thirst no more. We have found all we have ever desired.
To understand the difference between "Heaven" and the spirit realm, between "Paradise" and the area of disembodied spirits, is helpful to our thinking.
In the day in which we live, the Christian salvation is understood to be a plan for moving us from the earth to another place. The resurrection from the dead, which we now term the "rapture," is preached as Christ’s plan to remove us from the earth and take us to Heaven to live forever. This is completely false. Will the Lord’s trumpet sound retreat? The purpose of the resurrection from the dead is not to enable us to escape Antichrist, or the great tribulation, or to live in the spirit realm; it is to enable us to live once more on the earth.
The resurrection from the dead is the conquering of the last enemy, not an escape from his hands while he continues to occupy the earth. If Satan is to occupy the earth, where is the work of redemption that the Scriptures promise?
The goal of the Christian redemption is not to bring us to another place, there to live forever in idleness. The goal of the Christian redemption is to transform us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ so God in Christ can dwell in us. When God in Christ is reigning in us in untroubled splendor, then we bring Heaven wherever we go.
If Heaven is in us, why, then, is the earth not filled with love, joy, peace, and righteousness? It is because we have this treasure in earthen vessels. Why do we have this treasure in earthen vessels? So the extraordinarily great power may be of God and not of us.
What does this mean? It means God is interested in our total transformation. At any time of His choosing God can surround us with such love, peace, joy, and beauty of environment that we would be speechless with delight.
But something more immediately important is taking place in us. We are being redeemed. We are being transformed into the image of Christ. The love of the world, of Satan, of sin, of self, is being purged from us. The ways of Heaven are being created in us. When we have been thus transformed we will be able to bring our environment into the likeness of the will of God.
As soon as the Lord Jesus has an army of such re-created saints He will descend from Heaven. This is the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven to the earth. Jesus is not coming to hurry us off to the spirit realm. He is coming to rule the nations of the earth. The Day of the Lord is the triumph of the army of Heaven, not the evacuation of a weak, defeated bride.
Isn’t the place called Heaven our eternal home? Isn’t that why we are saved, so we can go to Heaven? Aren’t we laying up treasures in Heaven so when we go there we can enjoy pearls, and rubies, and diamonds?
If we stop to think about it, the desire of our heart is not pearls, or rubies, or diamonds. The people who possess these on the earth are not always happy; they often are bitter and mean. The same holds true for those who dwell in mansions.
What we are longing for is loving, joyous, peaceful relationships with God, the Lord Jesus, and people. Also, we yearn to be released from our fleshly body so we never again will experience pain, weariness, dread, insecurity. We hope to see beauty, and places and things of never-ending wonder and interest. And we shall!
What sort of treasures are we laying up? Joyous relationships with God and people, eternal life, freedom from sin, authority in the Kingdom, power, abilities that we do not have now, opportunities for service, and rest in Christ in God. These are our eternal treasures.
But does not the Bible speak of a street of gold, and of a wall whose foundations are ornamented with precious stones? Yes, it does. There well may be such minerals in the spirit realm. But human happiness never abides in mineral wealth. Human happiness is found first in relationships, and after that in peaceful, joyous surroundings.
There is a land that is fairer than the tongue of man can tell or the mind of man can imagine. There is a city being constructed in the present hour. It is the city that has foundations that the patriarchs sought.
But it is not enough to have a city composed of beautiful buildings, for the worth of a city is judged by the inhabitants of that city. The new Jerusalem will reflect in its every detail the perfections that are being wrought in those who will be its eternal inhabitants.
The perfections are being created now. The Lord’s jewels are being formed through tremendous heat, pressure, and patience. The holy Jerusalem is in the spirit realm today. It will remain in the spirit realm until the thousand-year period has ended, for much reconciliation to God is to be accomplished during the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
Some have stated, and we believe it is true, that the holy city, the new Jerusalem, our "Heaven," is constructed in levels. The more we grow in Christ the higher we can go in the city. It is not that we are attempting to outdo our brothers, it is that Christ has called us to His throne.
If we attain the first rank of the saints, to the place of the overcomer, then we will be in total union with God and with others, as God appoints. We will be filled with eternal life, with authority, with power, with status in the Kingdom, with the most marvelous and gratifying opportunities for service. We will be installed by the Lord as pillars of His eternal Temple. We lay up these treasures today by our conduct in the Lord Jesus.
One of the greatest mistakes that can be made by a believer in Christ is to view his salvation as a ticket to Heaven, and then just wait for the day he dies so he can "retire" in Heaven. To neglect the daily lessons of the Holy Spirit, to shun the life of cross-carrying obedience to the Lord Jesus in the hope we will be saved by "grace," is to miss the process of redemption. When we die we will be dealt with according to our folly.
There are no lazy, careless people in the Kingdom of Heaven. The least member of the Kingdom is greater than any of the Hebrew Prophets were in their day because he has been created a living stone, a room in the eternal Temple of God.
But the Prophets will enter the Kingdom of Heaven along with us.
The Kingdom of Heaven basically is not a place, it is a kingdom. It is the Presence of God in Christ dwelling in the saints, through whom God is made approachable to the peoples of the earth.
Neither the Prophets, nor John, nor Jesus, nor Jesus’ Apostles, ever preached dying and going to Heaven as being the objective of the plan of redemption. All of the witnesses of God have announced the coming of the Presence, the rule, the Glory of God to the earth.
The goal of redemption is the transformation of the human being such that every vestige of Satan is removed from his personality; he is created in the image of Christ; and he is brought into total, complete union with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The spiritual Heaven, the Paradise above, is not our eternal home. It is a place of waiting until the next great act of redemption takes place—the return of Christ to the earth and the redemption of the bodies of the victorious saints.
The new Jerusalem above, including the spirit Paradise, indeed must be a realm of surpassing beauty and joy. Our spirits long to be released from our physical bodies and go to the Jerusalem above. We yearn for the love, the joy, the peace, the righteousness of Heaven. But the rigors of life on this earth are producing spiritual values that will shine as stars for eternity. In fact, the very beauty of the new Jerusalem is being created, although hidden by a rough exterior, in the hearts of the victorious saints in the earth.
In the finest sense, Heaven, or the Kingdom of Heaven, is not merely a place to which we will go when we die. The Kingdom of Heaven has been planted in us now and the fruit is coming forth in our personalities. It is now that the all-important work is being performed.
If we wait to go to a retirement home in the sky, and meanwhile evade the re-creative work in our lives of the cross of Christ’s sufferings and the Spirit of His resurrection, then all we will accomplish by our physical death is the loss of our flesh, whether or not we name the name of Christ. This is the danger of viewing the goal of redemption as our movement from earth to Heaven rather than our exodus from the kingdom of darkness and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is no emphasis whatever, in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, placed on the desirability of going to Heaven as to a place. The Prophets spoke of the coming glory of Jerusalem. Christ and His Apostles stressed the judgment and wrath that are to come in the Day of Christ, and the resulting need for repentance and godly living on the part of the believers. Virtually nothing is said in the New Testament or the Old Testament about life in Heaven. Much is said, especially in the Gospel accounts, about what will take place when the Lord returns.
Everything in the Gospel accounts is directed toward our status when the Lord returns, not toward what will happen to us after we die.
For example, notice the situation of the incestuous Corinthian:
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)
Today we would speak of his dying and going to Hell, or else to Heaven if he is saved. But Paul is concerned with the Day of Christ.
"That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"!
And so throughout the New Testament writings.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the new Jerusalem. The holy city is the end of our quest for love, joy, peace, and righteousness.
The massive wall of the new Jerusalem prevents us from seeing the wonder and beauty of the Paradise within the gates of pearl.
God calls our attention to the wall. He does that because He wants us to understand that no sin or rebellion shall be permitted in His Kingdom. The inhabitants of the holy city are not sinners who are shielded from God’s judgment by the blood of atonement. They are new creatures, having been transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The following is addressed to Christians:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness [immorality], Idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
"Shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Does this mean after we have received Jesus we cannot practice these works and still inherit the Kingdom of God?
This is what the incorruptible, eternal Word states!
The grace of God in the Lord Jesus changes us so we begin to do the will of God. In this manner we are made candidates for citizenship in the new Jerusalem. Accepting Jesus as our Savior is the means by which we are forgiven and then learn to keep the laws of the Kingdom.
Our goal is to make our eternal home in the new Jerusalem, which is the Kingdom of Heaven. We attain this goal by taking up our cross and following Jesus everywhere He leads us. The resulting total transformation of all that we are makes us eligible for residence in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
Only those who serve the Lord from the heart are members of the Kingdom of Heaven.