Often the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when they think of the word “heaven” is a place up in the clouds, where people wear wings and play harps. And if you were to ask most Christians what heaven is, they would probably say it is a place where Christians go when they die physically. But the first concept of heaven is unbiblical and the second is incomplete. We will not turn into angels, wear wings and play harps (thank God!) And though it is true that we see the reality of heaven more clearly when we pass on from this life, the teachings of Jesus point to heaven as a realm that is opened up to us at the very moment we follow Him. It is a realm whose resources are available to us here and now; not when we die. When we understand the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, things like inside-out transformation, experiencing Jesus 24/7, and Whole Life Worship make even more sense.
When Jesus started His earthly ministry, He proclaimed: “The time has come. The Kingdom of Heaven is near (literally “at hand” or “within our grasp”). Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) Jesus constantly preached what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Most of His parables were about the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, his Sermon on the Mount was about life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Now why would Jesus talk about “loving our enemies” (Matt 5:44) or “praying to God in secret” (Matt 6:6) as something we only do in the “after-life?” The answer is that He wasn’t explaining the afterlife at all – He was explaining what the NOW-life can be under the reign of God.
The Kingdom of Heaven happens wherever God is reigning. The Kingdom of Heaven surrounds those who follow God’s rule (through Christ). It’s really quite simple: if God is truly reigning in your life, you are operating in the Kingdom of Heaven. When you act upon Jesus’ Kingdom instructions (like turning your cheek, choosing to die to yourself or surrendering your will to His), you are living in the Kingdom of Heaven. That also means that God’s resources are now available to you to accomplish God’s will within you and through you. Likewise, if God is not reigning in our lives, we operate outside of the realm of the Kingdom and our access to God’s resources our limited due to our lack of following Christ.
I see this principle of the Kingdom of Heaven in my life all the time. When I am actively following God’s rule and reign in my life, when I surrender all things to Him, my life experiences so much more fruitfulness, blessing and fulfillment. I see God at work. However, when I deny God the rule over certain aspects of my life, I find my efforts futile, tiring and wasted. I feel much like Adam after his fall: my work produces nothing but thorns and thistles (Gen 3:18).
So it is important to get back into the “heavenly flow.” All we need to do is to simply allow God to rule again. Yield to the Lordship of Christ. Seek His Kingdom first.
Don’t wait until death to experience heaven! Heaven can’t wait. The Kingdom of Heaven is for you, for now, for ever!