Kingdom of Heaven
You are a living, walking miracle!
By Jim Allen
You've heard and read stories about people going to heaven to experience extraordinary things. You've seen the movies, read the books, and listened to testimonies from those claiming they received a glimpse of glory. Upon returning, their stories about heaven seem real. You are persuaded, and perhaps even convinced it's true.
But these heavenly testimonies barely agree with Scripture and we are left to wonder why.
Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy's story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up. (Source)Aside from Malarkey's confession, a Got Questions article reminds everyone to examine these stories with discernment and commitment to what the Bible says. More to the point, "While we do not doubt the honesty of the authors in sharing what they saw and experienced, there is no way to verify the claims or prove that they were from God and not simply very vivid dreams." (Source) Aside from these supernatural claims, heaven is real and people do experience extraordinary things.
Though the apostle Paul spoke about his visit to heaven, he provided no details about the experience other than to say he heard (and saw) marvelous things that he was forbidden to speak of (2 Corinthians 12:1–4). If these things are to be hidden, then why are some believers now being allowed to speak freely about heaven?
What has changed? Are the visits to heaven a new type of deception? Why was Paul told not to speak about what he saw? Was it for the same reason Jesus spoke so little about heaven? What divine principle is in play to keep these heavenly things veiled in mystery?
About the mystery of heaven Julian Freeman writes,
It's almost like if you asked Jesus, "What is heaven like?" he'd answer, "You're asking the wrong question." He would correct us, "Don't think about heaven as some ethereal future hope — ask whether or not you have reason to believe that it is your hope." And then he would add, "Heaven isn't an ethereal future hope — it is a present reality that begins when you live under my kingly reign now and you begin to experience my blessings now." (Source)Yes, heaven is real and our future hope. But then, so too is earth real and our present quandary. Jesus is talking about the need to prayerfully seek truth leading to the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Throughout the Bible are kingdom miracles too numerous to mention. One notable miracle is Jesus' transfiguration before Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor. The face of Jesus shone like the sun and his clothes become like white light. The Father spoke, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:1-5).
What did Jesus say that all should hear? He said that the kingdom of heaven was "within" their midst and that they should repent and believe the Gospel (Matthew 3:2; Luke 17:21).
The word "within" in the Greek is entos, which is accurately translated "in the midst of." So it really should be understood as Jesus saying the Kingdom of God is within your midst, or among you. In other words, wherever Jesus is, it accompanies him. What it does NOT mean is that it resides in everyone. (Source)Jesus' transfiguration before the apostles was a visible sign revealing his inner glory amidst three reliable witnesses. It was a powerful display of the kingdom of heaven within Christ. To experience Christ is a heavenly experience.
Sometimes we too need a glimpse of glory to keep going. Sometimes this glimpse is no more than a sense of incredible peace and joy that passes all understanding. Perhaps it is an embrace from a dear friend reminding us we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Or, perhaps it is the still small voice whispering, "Go this way."
We've seen the movies, read the books, and listened carefully to testimonies from those claiming a trip to heaven. Were any of these alleged trips to heaven approved by Jesus? If so, what changed between the first century and now? Why is it okay now to talk about heaven when Jesus and Paul discouraged the discussion in the New Testament?
If we can believe anything it is that the Word of God does not change (Isaiah 46:10; Hebrews 13:8). Jesus wanted believers then as today to adopt kingdom principles that transform the heart, resulting in the new birth (John 3:3). Heaven is a real place but it cannot precede the transformative work needed within every believer.
Of this truth and remembering God's kindness towards us John Piper writes:
The fact that many believers do not know this, and do not feel as if it were true, does not surprise us, because Paul prayed for believers that we may know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:18–19)...It may seem strange, but we have to be taught that we are walking miracles...(Ephesians 2:1, 5). You may not feel like a walking resurrection, but you are. (Source)In closing, Jesus downplayed heaven because every believer needs to see another truth first, which is his kingly rule (in the heart) that is to be lived now in order to be blessed now (Matthew 6:33).
As a new creation you may not feel the kingdom of heaven within but then faith is not a feeling. You may not see the kingdom of heaven within but then faith is not by sight. The kingdom of heaven within is God's immeasurable gift of a person we know by faith. He is here, he is now, and he is within.
The kingdom of heaven is Christ in us, the hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27).
Image Credit: coribri; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Controversial-Issues | False-Teaching
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