During the holiday seasons, many of us return to our childhood homes to visit family. Depending on our experiences as a child, it may be a pleasant reconnection with loved ones and shared memories or it might be a painful reminder of disappointment and abuse.
Regardless, after such a journey, it is often refreshing to return to our own homes with familiar surroundings filled with the things and people that we enjoy. Home is generally that place that helps us to refocus our minds and provide a sense of calm and peace. It gives us a sense of where we belong so that we can find direction about where our energies can best be focused going forward.
In the church, we are taught to think of heaven as our home. It is where the Lord is storing up rewards for a life lived faithfully here. (1 Peter 1:3; Colossians 1:5) Yet, to our earth bound minds, heaven is not a familiar place to us…it is ‘somewhere beyond the blue’.
During our sojourn here on earth, heaven is not so much a place as it is a person who dwells there. We are taught by the Holy Spirit to anticipate what it will be to dwell there.
The hymn writer addresses it this way:
What will it be to dwell above and with the Lord of Glory reign?
Since the blest knowledge of His love So brightens all this dreary plain.
To hear His voice and See His Face and know the wonders of His Grace!
The Apostle Paul taught that he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) where he was shown things that cannot be spoken about. This ‘third heaven’ appears to be the realm of God Himself along with His Holy angels. It is a realm that Solomon referred to as the heaven of heavens which cannot contain an infinite God (1 Kings 8:27).
Then there is the realm of the stars and the universe and finally the realm of earth’s atmosphere where Satan exercises his authority over the world. An authority that was usurped from Adam and Eve when they were deceived by him into disobeying God.
The Apostle Paul taught the church about an event that we refer to as the rapture (from the latin raptio meaning caught up) wherein both the living and the dead members of His body, the church will ascend together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51,52). This is a distinct event from His prophesied return to the earth. (Zechariah 14:4)
It is interesting that the word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is not heaven, but the air. This is the realm also known to be the seat of evil spiritual activity (Ephesians 2:2) It appears this is only the place of meeting, it is not necessarily the place where we will stay with Christ until His bodily return to the earth.
There are many references to the believer entering the kingdom of heaven and even sitting down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that kingdom (Matthew 8:11). We learn from John 14:2 that it is an expansive space where the believer will physically dwell/abide/be with Christ even as He, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit are indwelling the believer now (John 14:17,23).
What is Heaven?
While this is not an exhaustive list of every reference to heaven, it does present an example of what the New Testament teaches about heaven.
- The dwelling place of God on His throne along with those who dwell with Him (Acts 7:49; Hebrews 8:1; 9:24; Revelation 4:2; 13:6😉
- The realm of the angels and fallen spirits (1 Corinthians 8:5; Ephesians 2:2)
- The realm of the clouds and atmospheric phenomena (Hebrews 11:12; James 5:18)
- The source from which the New Jerusalem will come. (Revelation 21:2,10)
- The realm that takes account of the rewards of believers, the names of families (Ephesians 3:15; 1 Peter 1:4)
- The realm of God’s authority that we can sin against (Luke 15:18-21)
- The realm from which God’s judgment descends (Revelation 11:13,15,19)
- The realm that expresses joy over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7)
- The realm from which we receive everything (John 3:27)
- The realm to which Christ ascended and from which He returns (Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:47; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; )
- The realm from which the Holy Spirit came upon the church (Acts 2:2)
- The source of revelation (Acts 7:55; 9:3; 11:5-10; 22:6; Hebrews 12:25; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:18; Revelations 12; 14:2;
- The realm from which the believer holds citizenship and now holds a seat (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:23; Ephesians 2:2)
Heaven is where Christ has ascended until He returns again to claim His throne (Acts 3:21). By implication then, when we die we will be with Christ where He is (Phil 1:23; John 14:3,4; 17:24) but it is never said that heaven is our final destination after we die. Whatever places Christ will be, we are in Him and with Him. Whatever seat of authority is given Christ (Ephesians 1:20) the church age believer is given to sit together with Him (Ephesian 2:6)
So how are we to understand the kingdom that is referred to in Matthew 13?
A Logical Fallacy
There is an argument from silence that assumes silence negates a previously stated truth. There are a large number of Christians that are taught to believe that we are in the Kingdom now. Many kingdom Now adherents argue that the earthly kingdom is not taught in the NT. Instead, the kingdom covenant has been replaced by the new covenant.
Is it really true that the earthly kingdom is not taught in the NT? Jesus taught (in the NT) that the Gentile dominance over Israel has a predicted end.
“They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Luke 21:24 ESV
The prophet Daniel described the period of Gentile dominance over Israel beginning with their captivity in Babylon. His interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream showed that Babylon was the pre-eminent Gentile power that began the times of the Gentiles. At the end of this period, Gentile dominance over the Jews will be reversed by a destructive invasion of a King coming from heaven. (Daniel 2;34,35)
After this reversal, the twelve will be designated to have a specific rule in the full extent of the land promised to Israel.
“Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne (David’s throne), you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Matthew 19:28 ESV
This reversal will begin when Israel repents of their initial rejection of Messiah:
“See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.“
Matthew 23:38-39 ESV
His return will be unmistakable and will initiate His righteous rule over whatever unbelievers remain after the cataclysm of those days.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Matthew 24:29-31 ESV
Again, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that there will be a national deliverance of Israel that will be the fulfillment of three covenants that God has made with them.
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial (i.e. not permanent) hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,…
“The Deliverer will come from Zion”, (Refers to Isaiah 59:20 looking back to the Davidic Covenant)
“He will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them (Refers to Isaiah 59:21 looking back to the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant)
“when I take away their sins.” (This refers back to Jeremiah 31:31 who points forward to a New Covenant between God and Israel)
Romans 11:25-27 ESV
These passages reaffirm the Covenantal structure revealed in the OT that will be fulfilled in the return of Christ to the earth to reign. In addition, the NT provides us with specific numbers of Israelites that will be preserved through the tribulation to be the seed population of this Coming Kingdom.
“And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.”
Revelation 7:4-8 ESV
Threats to this Kingdom will be dealt with very differently from what we see in the land of Israel today.
“And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, (Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Millennial Kingdom) but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,”
Revelation 20:9 ESV
So it is pretty clear that the New Testament does speak of a coming earthly kingdom. Therefore, there is no basis to assert that the new covenant made for the church, has abrogated or replaced the Old Covenant that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If it had, how can we be certain that our sin will not also cause God to go back on His promise to the church?
I know that God’s promises to Abraham, to David and to the remnant in Israel will all be fulfilled on the earth in that coming Kingdom. Our hope as believers in this church age is that we are promised to be co-regent with Christ during His thousand year reign (Revelation 20:6) from a New Jerusalem.
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Revelation 21:2 KJV
It would seem puzzling why the gospel writers sometimes use the terms ‘Kingdom of heaven’ and ‘Kingdom of God’ interchangeably. This verse (and Revelation 3:12) appear to confirm that New Jerusalem belongs to God and its source is out of heaven. It appears to share a co-regency with the earthly Jerusalem and it will be the ultimate home of the church.
So brethren, we are not going to be bored in heaven. We will be getting ready to reign with the King.
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I have included Blue Letter Bible links to the scriptures cited. When you click on them, it will open a new window to that reference.
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