Friday, July 5, 2013

Heaven Now

“I do not have to know why everything happens since I know God is good, He loves me, and life on earth is not the whole story.”

That quote is from a graphic floating around the web.  I wish it included a name so I could credit the author, but I guess that’s part of not having to know everything.  But it does point to my thoughts on God and heaven.

Genesis 1:1 (KJV)  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The very first verse of the Bible mentions heaven and starts a spiritual journey that ends in the here and now.  We’ve determined that this verse speaks of the sky, with heaven somewhere past that.  But is it? John 14:2 speaks of mansions or residences.  Heaven is described in Hebrews 11 and 12 as a heavenly city.  But I wonder how important all that is?
What’s the most essential part of defining or describing heaven?  It’s where God resides, His home.  The word is used 551 times in the King James Bible, so it is important to God.  But, if I were to put all we’ve talked about in order, going least to most important, it’d be mansions, city, heaven, God.  The most important thing about heaven is not how wonderful it will be, although that’s true.  The key feature is being with God.

If we go back to the quote that begins this post, the last part suggests that we’re going someplace else after we die.  Where we go depends on our decisions.  The only one thing wrong with that is it misses something.  Not having rejected God’s plan, I can’t vouch for an extension to that if we decide against God.  But I will suggest that a child of God can experience a little bit of heaven, here on earth.

Matthew 6:33 (KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Luke 11:20 (KJV)  But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
In those two passages, Jesus says we need to seek the kingdom of God, then that He is the earthly embodiment of it.  Galatians 1 and 2 have a number of verses that speak of Christ being in Paul and, by extension, in us as believers.  So, what we are to seek is the mind of Christ.  And, as believers, we have no further to look than He who is in us.
Many of us are familiar with the Voice of the Martyrs organization.  Its founder, Richard Wurmbrand was jailed and tortured in then communist Romania.  Several decades ago, he visited the church and Bible college I attended.  Somehow, there was a little extra time between class and lunch.  And I got some alone time with him to converse and ask questions.  I don’t recall the actual conversation, but what I took away was a recognition of the peace and closeness to God that he had.  And seeking that for myself is still an ongoing goal.  I just have a shorter distance to go to completion than I did back then.
If we think of a kingdom as an area that a king rules over and lives in, then heaven and kingdom of God could be interchangeable terms.  And if we think of it as incorporating Christ in us and the mind of Christ, we get a very special picture.  Richard Wurmbrand could found an organization that, among other places, sent people back to the very communist guards that tortured him, to bring them Christ.  Jesus went through three trials, mockery, torture, and crucifixion.  And His response wasn’t blowing them all to smithereens with lightening bolts.  It was “Father, forgive them.  They know not what they do.”.  Knowing what was coming, before that, Jesus still gave the disciples the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

So, by thinking with God, we may not visually see the spires of the heavenly city.  We may not fully be rid of physical or emotional pain, but we have God’s wherewithal to go far past it into His peace and joy.  We don’t have to live in what we perceive as the things others have done to us.  We’re too busy seeking ways to draw them closer to God, to experience the love and joy we know.  When our focus is elsewhere, we get to experience a corner of heaven.  Because God is there.  That makes it heaven.

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