We talk about the kingdom of God as if it were heaven–but, is it?
7 The righteous care about justice [righteousness and mercy] for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
If the kingdom of God is heaven, then Jesus would not have referred to it as “here and now.” Matthew refers to the Kingdom of God as the kingdom of heaven. Most scholars believe that it is because the Jews revered the name, “God,” or “Yahweh,” and would not speak it. In order to reach his audience (fellow Jews), he modified the term to make it palatable. Mark and Luke quoted Jesus in the same passages saying the kingdom of God, such as this one,
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1-2 as opposed to,
15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
Matthew also uses the term, kingdom of God, interchangeably in his Gospel, poignant passages such as,
28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Matthew 21:43
How shall we define the kingdom of heaven/God? As the place where God dwells. Jesus is Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” Wherever Jesus stepped, that was heaven, the kingdom of God. Jesus lives in our hearts, therefore, the kingdom of God is within us.
Here’s the point: Instead of telling someone to accept Christ and asking Him to come into their heart and life so that they can go to heaven when they die, let’s put the emphasis on heaven coming to them! Why? So that He can fellowship with them even as He leads us through this world to His world. We can’t make it without Him–that’s the point! Having them focus on a future heaven puts the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-A-ble.
Tomorrow, we will look at what happens when a person “accepts Christ,” but never follows Him.
Abba, thank You for not making me wait for heaven. I have You in my heart and life, and Your love, joy and peace are available to me all the time. I’ve heard it described as a waterfall from Your throne in which I can walk every time I turn to You. Teach me to turn to You more and more each day. Amen.