In Part 1, we discovered that the kingdom of heaven is more than a location, more than somewhere we go when we die. The kingdom is the range of God’s effective will; and a consistent translation of the Greek term tou ouranou means “air” or “atmosphere.”
Thus, Jesus’ good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand means that God’s heavenly kingdom is available to anyone who seeks to live within it—not just after they die, but while they live everyday life.
The idea that heaven is a multi-faceted system and that at least some of it is familiar rather than completely foreign brings an awesome new perspective. Heaven, or, “the heavens,” has something like compartments, regions, or dimensions—call them what you will. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” We enter by being “born” into it, i.e., choosing to step in.
This perspective is crucial because most people, religious or not, see heaven as a solitary thing, and accessible only in the afterlife. We’ve singled out perhaps the “seventh heaven” to define a place of flawless perfection where evil doesn’t exist, where God dwells, and where His will is instantly carried out. While that’s true, it’s the only aspect of heaven we’re familiar with today.
But, Paul, for example, describes being caught up to the “third heaven” where he heard things he’s not allowed to tell (2Cor. 12:2-4). He says twice that he’s not sure if he was there bodily or spiritually. He doesn’t explain what the third heaven is, perhaps because his early readers already understood it. And the environment must have been familiar enough or Paul wouldn’t have been confused as to whether he was there physically or spiritually.
The “first heaven” is as near as the air we breathe. It’s where God mingles with man and Earth in our region of His beloved creation. We perceive Him with our physical senses—sight, hearing, and touch—precisely because He wants us to perceive Him. So He shares His kingdom right where we are so we can interact with Him in the land of the living.
A Vast Realm of Spiritual Riches and Treasure
From the farthest reaches of outer space down to the sub-atomic levels of quarks and strings, all of life—physical and spiritual, matter and energy—lives and exists through God. This was Paul’s point when he taught the Greek philosophical crowds of Athens. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as many of your own poets have said, we are also his children.” (Act. 17:28)
For all practical purposes, heaven and the kingdom of heaven are synonymous. As the source and sustainer of life, both are roughly synonymous with God because heaven is the natural extension of His being and will.
The kingdom of the heavens has no time boundaries, no physical boundaries. God rules because He has say-so. If He says that the kingdom of heaven is the inheritance that anyone receives upon re-birth—that we have a part to share in its vast fortunes rather than live earthly life empty-handed—that’s how it is. He’s the Ruler. Sharing His kingdom with us is His will; and that’s the news that Jesus proclaims.
In My Father’s House
The Father’s “house” is full of mansions. Jacob saw it in a dream—a stairway or ladder between heaven and Earth where angels actively come and go. He awoke amazed, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it…How awesome is this place! I’ve stumbled into God’s home; this is the gate of heaven.” (Gen. 28:16-17)
The kingdom of heaven is in our world, but not of our world. It’s like the electricity in your home—in your house, but not of your house. Though it’s close at hand feeding all your household tasks and treasures, it originates and flows from a more plentiful supply.
The biblical context is that heaven and Earth are distinct, but connected. They overlap and correspond. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mat. 16:19)
However, unlike the power company, in the kingdom of heaven no one needs to deal with power outages, even in storms. When we hook up with Jesus, we connect with God’s electrifying kingdom and everything in it.
Jesus’ message brought a renewed sense of hope to lost, blind crowds who had long been trampled by spiritual elitists. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” is his great news of access to kingdom power and riches, bringing it into the here and now, not just the hereafter.
If we adopt his grander view of heaven, it will revolutionize our faith—certainly one reason he proclaimed and manifested it to the world. The kingdom of heaven, like God Himself, is right here under our noses, as real and at-hand as the air in which we live and move and have our being, regardless who we are or where we happen to live.
The full, future, completed kingdom of heaven centers on a fully restored physical Earth. It’s populated by people reunited with their physical bodies, trained in Christ-like love, able to withstand life face-to-face with pure, intense joy and Love. If you’re not spiritually buff or accustomed to being with God, in His house, in this life, think how jolting it’ll be then!
We’ll continue in Part 3. Until then, I welcome your thoughts and comments.