In Part 1, we discovered that the kingdom of heaven “at hand” can be defined as the range of God’s effective will; and the Greek term tou ouranou means “air” or “atmosphere.” Heaven is the presence of God in our immediate surroundings.
In Part 2, we learned that heaven has “compartments” and that heaven and Earth are distinct, but connected. The kingdom isn’t strictly a dwelling place; it’s a dwelling community and system—on this side of death’s door and beyond.
“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luk. 17:20-21) Again, Jesus means “in your midst,” among you.
As Jesus illustrated in one parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Mat. 13:33) The kingdom is progressively expanding—not larger or stronger, but fuller of citizens as it works its way through mankind. But it isn’t literal yeast, just as its opposite “yeast of the Pharisees” also isn’t literal yeast.
Likewise, heaven isn’t merely a literal, far-off city with streets of gold located on the re-made Earth. Yet it isn’t strictly an ethereal, non-physical thing, either. Neither is heaven just a symbol, or an eternal, boring church service, or a limited place of sinless perfection.
Solid Hope and Assistance
We need hope and a glorious hereafter to look forward to, of course. But Jesus knows we also need a present hope and solid solutions for today. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mat. 6:34)
How can we be free of troubling life-styles or difficult relationships of anger, disappointment, guilt, worry, and exhausting commitments? How can we not only tolerate neighbors, but love them sincerely as Jesus did without being rattled to the core?
We know that God invites us into partnership with Him in a kingdom we can put our weight on, but we first have to know it’s there for us. Otherwise, we rely on ourselves to figure it all out rather than count on God’s help; and that only makes things worse.
So it’s important to think in kingdom terms, as Jesus certainly did, because it keeps at the forefront the richest context of heaven’s sheer scope. When the very word “kingdom” vanishes from everyday thought, the breadth and reach of God’s world vanishes. We then lose contact with it in almost every aspect of human life. Instead of heaven touching us, we’re out of touch. Heaven becomes strictly other-worldly, and our world wonders where God is in all our troubles.
Heaven is Hands-On
As recorded throughout the Bible, God and His kingdom are so present in the world that Spirit energy routinely condenses into physical substance out of seemingly nowhere.
Examples include edible manna from heaven, a guiding pillar of fire by night, a pillar of cloud by day. Chariots of fire or the heavenly “host.” A descending dove at the Jordan. Water molecules changed to fine wine. Fish and bread for five thousand people on a remote hillside. “Tongues” of fire on the day of Pentecost.
God is not only at hand, He’s hands-on because heaven touches and interacts with us right from thin air. I think Mary is the most astounding example of a person physically affected by Spirit from the immediate surroundings. Jesus is the obvious result.
Other common manifestations include bright light or audible sound, often when a spirit speaks with or touches a person to restore him, as with Ezekiel. Daniel had several encounters with an angel who touched him. Paul was temporarily blinded by kingdom light. Peter was freed from prison by an angel from heaven around him.
Close Encounters of the God Kind
We read biblical accounts of the sound of “rushing waters like a raging waterfall,” or rushing winds, and voices singing in or speaking from heaven all around. Shepherds in distant fields on the night of Jesus’ birth heard them. And what was the guiding star of Bethlehem if not another bright, kingdom light?
Even in this modern day, claims of heavenly interactions and God’s immediate presence continue all over the world. Many people are open about their experiences, but others say nothing for fear they’ll be declared delusional.
When I was sixteen, I had a fascinating encounter that ended with an inexplicable silvery flash of light. It was marvelous and strange, but I never told anyone. Years later, I found out that my sister had experienced the very same phenomenon, though we weren’t together. She had never told anyone, either. We figured it happened the same night.
My grown daughter felt God touch her face as she sobbed after a particularly ugly day in a rough relationship. He told her she was beautiful, and tears and heartache evaporated in an instant. Another time, she felt an invisible, reassuring arm around her as she jogged alone.
Many people have heard “the Voice” as clearly as they hear anything. “…his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (Jhn. 10:4)
These shouldn’t be summarily dismissed as hallucinations or remote projections from a far-away realm. They are here in God’s big house; and maybe you’ve experienced one or more heavenly encounters yourself. I hope so!
Kingdom living isn’t a matter of where we’ll go when we die; it’s a matter of citizenship where we live now! Spiritual “A-listers” didn’t get it, but Jesus’ down-to-earth gospel of the kingdom was the great news of immediate access to God’s rich world for the troubled world He loves so dearly.
What about you? If you’ve had a supernatural experience, feel free to share here if you like. If you’d rather not, that’s okay, too. At least you know now that you haven’t lost your mind!