“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
“The kingdom of God” was the dominant theme of Jesus’s teachings. But he also preached about “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17). Are these two separate ideas? The world’s leading New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright says no: “‘God’s kingdom’ and ‘kingdom of heaven’ mean the same thing.”
Understanding that detail will be critical as we enter this series unpacking four half-truths about heaven. Here’s the first:
Half-Truth #1: Heaven is a place we go to in the future
Jesus did say that heaven is a place (see John 14:2). And Scripture also makes it clear that heaven is in the future (see Revelation 11:15). But heaven is so much more than a place in the future.
In Matthew 10:7-8, Jesus instructed his disciples: “proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
Here, Jesus isn’t referring to heaven as a physical place, leading theologian R. Paul Stevens to define the kingdom of heaven as “not a realm [or] territory, but the rule of God as King…essentially the spread of the goodness and shalom of God in the world and in human life.” Dallas Willard put it even more succinctly saying heaven is “where what God wants done is done.”
OK, so heaven is a place and a state of affairs. And not just in the future, but also in the present. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15) and “has come near” (Matthew 4:17). All of this helps us to replace our half-truth with this whole-truth:
Whole-Truth #1: Heaven is a place and a state of affairs where God rules as king both now and later
N.T. Wright summarized this idea well by saying that “‘Entering the kingdom of heaven’ does not mean ‘going to heaven after death’, but belonging in the present to the people who steer their earthly course by the standards and purposes of heaven…and who are assured of membership in the age to come.”
This means that you can make your place of work more like heaven today. Jesus told us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This morning, I’d encourage you to replace “on earth” with your place of work and begin the work of applying Jesus’s descriptions of the kingdom to your workplace today.