For some reason this question just keeps circling through my head: How does one explain the kingdom of heaven? Of course to answer, one has to define that term, also referred to as the kingdom of God.
A simple starting point needed to be found, so I turned to my Life Application Study Bible. The kingdom of heavenis not defined per se, only kingdom: rule or realm; dominion of a king.
I admit that was not a very satisfying result. I wanted more information and that pushed me to another resource, HarperCollins’ Bible Dictionary. No simple answer here, but I did find some clues.
- In the Old Testament, the kingdom of heavenkingdom of heavenkingdom of heavenwas considered to be a political kingdom. Ancient rulers were identified as a king who dominated a specific geographical area. The kingdom of heavenwas only a vague concept.
- In the New Testament (NT), the first book of the gospel is Matthew and he refers to the kingdom of Godnot kingdom of heaven. Apparently Matthew, whose audience were the Israelites/Jews, wanted to make it clear that God was the king. The other three gospels and other NT books use the term kingdom of heaven. According to the dictionary, the definition and/or references throughout the NT, some references tend to imply that the kingdom of heavenis an earthly realm (geographical area); yet in other references, the kingdom is a celestial location—a place outside of the earthly world we humanly know.
Finally, another statement details the understanding of the concept more definitively and I had footnoted it previously as a “post-modern view”:
“. . . new era of peace and blessing for all creation: humans and other animate beings will enjoy life together without hurting or destroying one another in that transformed world sometimes known as ‘the peaceable kingdom’.” [p. 568]
Admittedly all these formal definitions or descriptors is not helping put together a better understanding of what the kingdom of heavenmeans in today’s common language.
Therefore, let me present my own perception:
The kingdom of heaven opens up to each one who accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, the son of God and son of Man, who came to teach how to live the Christian lifestyle following just two rules:
(1) Love God.
(2) Love one another.
Living in the kingdom of heaven is living out those two rules day in and day out regardless of the physical location in which one lives—while our bodies are alive on the earth and after our bodies die our spirit continues living with God in a mysterious existence upon which we can only speculate.
Following those two simple rules transforms our mental state regardless of the environmental circumstances of our lives. Making the disciplined decision to join in the Christian lifestyle removes all the angst of factors that we really cannot control.
Think about how differently one can even perceive the weather events that affect our daily lives. We make decisions about where we live, but we cannot make a difference on the weather that effects our address. We live in four seasons, we know that we will have rain, snow, wind, drought, cold and hot conditions. We know that at times there will be major weather events such as tornadoes, hail storms, or floods.
We cannot change the weather, we can only change our mental management of the weather. I know that the weather is outside of my control, but that does not mean I ignore it. Rather I embrace it.
I am a weather nerd, so to speak. I love a good summer thunderstorm, even though I do not like the mud that it creates. I get excited when the alerts go off that we are under a tornado watch. And who does not love a snowstorm as it comes in and blankets our world.
Yes, I know there can be very negative results from major storms, but by letting go and letting God be in charge means I am free to experience the positive and disregard the negatives—even if I am doing the snow shoveling.
For me, the kingdom of heavenis a marvelous mental state that comes with believing and living my faith in God. I can see the world so differently when I use the lens of Jesus Christ. I can see the values even in the negatives. I can live in the kingdom now while looking forward to the kingdom yet to come when I leave this earthly life.
My disappointment is that so many I know have not come to a conscious awareness of the kingdom of heavenas a real concept that is attainable right now, right here.
When I stop and evaluate the individuals I have known within my own lifetime, I can see how living in the kingdom of heavenis real. I can see it in their eyes, their smiles, their actions, and their love.
Despite all the trials and tribulations that they experience, there is an internal joy and enthusiasm for life that transcends the negatives.
These are the very ones who do not ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
These are the ones who accept their own limitations and flaws and do all that they can to live differently within the context of Christ-like living.
These are the very Christians that I want to surround myself with as I look for any way that I can to do all that I can for anyone I can.
Yes, I want to live like John Wesley wants us to live. I want to live in the kingdom of heavennow and on into infinity! I love God. I love life. I love one another. Amen.
Please join me in a prayer:
Dear loving, infinite God,
What a thrill it is to discover your kingdom.
What joy fills our hearts to live knowing
your unending love.
What relief we experience knowing the freedom
our faith provides.
And, Lord, we know we are likely
to make mistakes along our journey;
But we know you are with us
patiently waiting for us to call.
For those times we slip, thank you for forgiving us
and keeping the door always open.
Guide us to share the wonderment of life with you.
Guide us to demonstrate the joy in living with you.
Guide us to invite others to life in your kingdom.
Thank you for all that your creation provides.
Thank you for all that you teach us
through your son Jesus Christ.
Thank you for sending us the Holy Spirit
so we can know your presence within us.