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Yes, Heaven Has Already Started

Yes, Heaven Has Already Started October 25, 2021

Whatever the Christ-follower’s conception of Heaven is, it typically includes the idea that Heaven is “somewhere else” – it’s the place we go when we die, it’s where God lives, it exists in another realm, it is a world beyond our physical world, etc.

Heaven, Clouds, Cloud Shape, Swelling Cloud, Weather

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These thoughts are not wrong.

But, at the same time, these thoughts are just plain wrong.

Now, to be fair, it’s not so much that they are wrong, they are just woefully incomplete.

The Kingdom of Heaven is found anywhere that God reigns (Mt 6.10; Rev 11.15), it is where He dwells and has His throne (Ps 103.19; Heb 1.8), and yes, it is where the believer goes when they die, and also yes, in part it exists in another realm (2Tim 4.18; 2Pet 1.11).

But Anabaptists, always focusing intently on the words and ways of Jesus, have always emphasized another element of the Kingdom of Heaven:

When Jesus arrived on the earth, the Kingdom of Heaven came down with Him.

This was precisely what He taught when His ministry began: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” (Mt 4.17)

Not, “You’ll get there one day!” No, rather it was “Heaven has arrived, right now.” It has already started. We only see it and experience it partially, to be sure. There is much more to come than what we have yet seen, but it has already started in the here and now.

What followed (particularly in Matthew’s Gospel) was a lot of teaching from Jesus about what this Kingdom of Heaven is like. It’s like a pearl so precious that a person would give up everything to own it, or it’s like a little bit of yeast that slowly works its way through a mound of dough, or it’s like a net being spread to catch as many fish as possible (see Matthew 13).

Amongst the many other things that Jesus taught about the Kingdom of Heaven, He taught us that it has a King, and subjects, and everyone is invited to be a part of it, although not everyone will respond to the invitation (Mt 22.1-14).

Put simply, when Jesus arrived here on earth, He began building His Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. And one day, the fullness of the Kingdom will fully arrive here on earth (Rev 21.1-4).

But it is crucial for us to understand that Heaven doesn’t come later – for the Christ-follower, we are a citizen of Heaven already (Phil 3.20), and therefore, Heaven has already started for us, and we start participating in the Kingdom of Heaven now.

We don’t wait to get there one day; we start living Heaven today.

The Kingdom of Heaven has a King, so we start following and submitting to the King now. The Kingdom has rules, ethics, and laws, and so we start living out that code now. The Kingdom is marked by divine qualities like love, joy, peace, and holiness, and so we embrace these qualities now. The Kingdom calls for loyalty and commitment, and so we commit ourselves now, giving our loyalty first to His Kingdom over any other earthly kingdom. The Kingdom involves an invitation for others to join this Kingdom, and so we are the ones who give out that invitation now.

This understanding has the ability to dramatically affect how we live our lives.

Is there separation from God in Heaven? No, there is reconciliation with Him in His presence, and so we get to seek and enjoy His presence now.

Is there violence in Heaven? No, there is only peace, and so we start living out the way of peace now.

Is there poverty in Heaven? No, there is only provision, and so we seek to model that and use our resources to provide for those in need now.

Is there division in Heaven? No, there is only unity before God, so we start living out that unity now.

Is there hatred in Heaven? No, there is only the fullness of the love of God, so we start loving that way now, even loving our enemies.

Is there sin in Heaven? No, there is only holiness, so we start choosing the way of holiness now.

For the Christ-follower, Heaven has already started, and so we start living as citizens of Heaven now, not later, not “one day,” not “somewhere else,” but here on the earth, right now.

And as we live out the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven now, we become the yeast that slowly works its way through the dough (Mt 13.33), sharing the good news throughout the world, spreading the fragrance of the Kingdom everywhere we go (2Cor 2.14-15), and letting the people of the world see what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, introducing them to its King.

And of course, the fullness of all of this will come to us later, either when we go to be with Him (2Co 5.8) or when He returns to us at the end (1Th 4.16-17).  Even what we perceive of the Kingdom now is limited, and occurs amongst sinful people in a broken world. The glimpse that we get now is just a glimpse, and there is much, much more to come.

But we get to taste a little bit of Heaven on earth now. We get to know the King now, to understand His will now, to experience His Presence now, to come before His throne and petition Him now. We get to show the world what Heaven is like, and teach it what the King is like, through the way in which we live and speak and act.

Where Heaven is a place of peace, comfort, love, holiness, unity, provision, communion with God, etc., we start experiencing these things now, living out these things now, pointing others towards it now.

When Jesus arrived on earth, so did the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven has already started for us. The role of the Christ-follower is to follow the King and follow the ways of His Kingdom, and in so doing, show the rest of the world what this King and Kingdom are like.

 

 

 


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