In the last post, I introduced the topic of the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus preached “the kingdom”, He was not usually talking about the after-life. The Kingdom of God does not specifically refer to the actual location of Heaven, which Scripture refers to as “the third Heaven” (1 Cor. 12). It refers to the realm where God’s rule is established. This is why we are told to pray that His kingdom will come in Earth as it is in Heaven.
In the end, Heaven and Earth will actually become one again. I say again based on what we see in the book of Genesis.
In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth (Gen. 1:1).
For most of my life, I thought that in the beginning God created Heaven. Then about a trillion years later (give or take), He created Earth. This is not what we see in the first verse of the Bible. It seems to imply that they were created at the same time.
We also see that sin caused a disharmony in the Heaven/Earth connection. Jesus came to restore the connection; to bring the kingdom of Heaven down to Earth. We read in 2 Cor. 5:19, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (the word for world is “cosmos” in Greek).
We see in Rom. 8:23 that we born again believers have “the firstfruits of the Spirit (a foretaste of the blissful things to come)”. The oneness that will eventually be completed between Heaven and Earth is first seen in those who have been united with Christ through his death and resurrection.
All that being said, our life here on Earth is important. I think we should move away from a survival mentality that says our only mission here is to get people to Heaven (the after-life) and suffer it out till we get there ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, it is about God and people rather than material things, but we need to keep in mind that, as the Scripture says, “the Earth will remain forever”. We are to be experiencing and ushering in “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 4:6). I guess that makes us “new agers”.
We should not think that the only valid work for the kingdom involves being a missionary in the jungles or being a professional minister of some sort. We must not fail to see the importance of seemingly “temporary” work. For years (really, years) I was trapped by a lie that what I did in my “secular job” was insignificant. I did not invest effort in developing in the atmosphere where God had placed me as I waited for Him to bring me “into my calling”. Although I was often complimented as a hard worker, I thought God was only really interested in my “spiritual ” work. I failed to see that as a believer, everything takes on a kingdom aspect. There is a kingdom plan in the outer wheel of eternity that encompasses the inner wheel of this present temporary age.
A good friend of mine had a similar scenario. He was working at a restaurant and was growing in his role there. But he thought he would need to quit his job and live in a 24×7 prayer room for his calling to be fulfilled. God dealt with him about this by explaining how being a priest (one who prays and worships and accesses Heaven) was only half of his identity in Christ. He was also called to be a king (one who rules over the Earth). Shortly after that, he went for a management position at work and got it!
I will say that I am big into prayer, worship and missions, but I see that there is a deception that enters the church when we think that God is only pleased with us when we are locked away in a closet praying for His return or for Him to send revival to the dark world or participating in overt ministry work.
No matter what we do outwardly, fulfilling our calling must always center around:
1) Christ being formed in us
2) Displaying the fruit of the Holy Spirit
If we have these two things developing in our lives, what we do will be filled with the nature and power of Christ in us.
But if you attend some of the “revival” meetings these days, you may think that God is only pleased with outwardly radical displays of discipleship. You might feel guilty that you are not being martyred in the Middle East or shouting the gospel at the top of your lungs on the street corner. That is great if that is where God has you in your walk with Him. However, if you read through the New Testament, the instructions to the church are filled with instructions centered around to loving one another and living simple lives. Paul told the Thessalonians:
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
Living a quiet life of faith, love, and rest is a great example of kingdom living. We are to enjoy and steward this life as a gift from our Father. As Jesus said, we should not look for outward signs of the kingdom but discover the kingdom within (see Luke 17:20-21).
Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God (Ecc 5:18-19).
In my next post, I plan on reconciling the concept of the kingdom of God coming to Earth and the significance of life in this world with the true biblical concept of “not loving this world”.