I grew up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church world and we were taught a lot about going to Heaven and what we had to “do” to get there. Many of our songs were about going to Heaven and it seemed like all of the joy and fun was “over yonder” or somewhere in the “sweet bye and bye.” I do not remember hearing about the Kingdom of God being within us or that the apostles in the book of Acts preached around 18 or so sermons and not one of them was about the afterlife or going to Heaven or hell. Now, that does not mean there is not an afterlife or a place called Heaven and one called hell, but just that it was NOT their message.
As a matter of fact, Paul tells us in Acts 20:26-27,” I testify to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” The interesting thing about this statement is that in all of Paul’s writings we have no mention of hell and only one or two of Heaven, because that was NOT their message. Paul’s message is seen in Acts 28:31, “Paul boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught things pertaining to Jesus Christ, with all openness, no man hindering him.” Paul’s main message was the gospel of the Kingdom and how it pertains to Jesus Christ and this is what he was sharing at the end of his life, and what someone tells you at the end tells you what they have deemed as the most important.
What is the Gospel of The Kingdom? Well, first of all it was the Gospel that Jesus preached. Nearly all of His parables and analogies were about the Kingdom of God, “the Kingdom of God is like a man, like a seed, like leaven,” etc. His main message, focus, and prayers were about the Kingdom being “at hand” or a very present reality right in front of them for the King was now here. What has confused the Church for many years is that in Matthew’s gospel it is called the Kingdom of Heaven and in the rest of the New Testament it is called the Kingdom of God, even though these terms are interchangeable and have the same meaning. The reason for that is because Matthew’s message was aimed at reaching the Jewish people and they could not say the name God, which is why you will see them even write g*d for it was forbidden to say. This has caused people to think that Jesus was talking about how to go to Heaven when that was not His point. He was talking about a new King and a new government that was manifested through love and service and not like the Kingdoms of this world whose genesis was fear, violence, domination, and control.
For Jesus taught us all about the Kingdom of God, but never actually told us what it was. Jesus did tell His disciples,” I have a lot more for you that you are not yet ready for, but when the Spirit of Truth comes He will lead you into all truth. So Jesus let them know that more understanding of what He taught was coming once the Holy Spirit was indwelling them. There is no verse in the Bible that says go to Heaven, but there are many that talk of receiving eternal life and entering and inheriting the Kingdom. It is the Apostle Paul that tells us “what” the Kingdom of God actually is in Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, the day I realized that, I started putting righteousness, peace, and joy everywhere I saw the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven and it finally became clear. We are to seek first, righteousness, peace, and joy in every area of our lives, and righteousness, peace, and joy by the Holy Spirit is within us.
The Kingdom of God (Greek=basileia) is God’s rule, authority, Kingship, and foundation of power within us by the Holy Spirit. This is a present reality and not something off in some millennium, for it is within and all around us, and Jesus prayed that Heaven would be on Earth and not that Earth would be in Heaven. This does not mean that when we physically die we do not go there, but that the gospel of the Kingdom is about bringing “there” here right now. I believe that what has confused us are the verses that say things like, “they that do these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God, such as liars, fornicators, thieves, perverse, wrong doers, fearful, heretics,” etc. The problem is that our behavior is not what got us in Heaven as citizens, but Jesus’s behavior. We cannot save ourselves by good works and we cannot disqualify ourselves by bad works. It is by grace through faith we are saved and NOT by works, period. So we do not get ourselves “THERE,” that is Jesus’s work alone – all we do is agree with it by faith.
If we interpret the Kingdom as just going to Heaven by doing or not doing certain things then it disqualifies most people from ever going, but when we understand that you do NOT get an inheritance after you die, but while you are still living because someone else died, then that changes everything. Inheriting the Kingdom is a present reality right now and not an afterlife perk. Now our behavior is still important but not to get us “THERE,” since Jesus took care of that in His finished work for those who are reconciled, but our behavior does determine how much of “THERE” flows through us here, which is what “inheriting” the Kingdom looks like. An example would be that God wants to flow through me to my neighbor to bring the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy to his life, but I have stolen from him and lied to him and fornicated with his sister. This behavior would disqualify me from inheriting righteousness, peace, and joy in those areas of my own life and that would affect what I can release to him because it would disqualify me in his eyes also.
The Gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom encompasses all of the other things called the Gospel. There are several things referred to as the gospel in the new testament, such as the gospel of God, of the Son, of grace, of Paul, and of Jesus Christ. These are all a part of the Kingdom of God and all of them are good news, but the main message of Jesus and the apostles was the good news of the Kingdom of God. Many teach that the Kingdom of God is something that is only manifested after a World wide war and preceded by a mass exodus of the righteous from the planet. Yet Jesus taught that their generation would see the coming of the Kingdom age clearly in Matthew 16:28, “Truly I tell you that there are some of you standing here that will not taste death till you see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom.” This could NOT be speaking of anyone 2,000 years in the future unless you believe that there are some 2,000 year old people walking around on the planet, which sounds more like the “Highlander” or “Underworld” movies and you believe in vampires, werewolves, and immortals. This already happened for Jesus rose from the dead and went to Heaven and poured His blood on the mercy seat and then “came back” and breathed the Kingdom into His disciples in the person of the Holy Spirit. They saw Him come to them and establish His Kingdom in their hearts for His Kingdom is not from this world but it is for this world.
The Kingdom is like candy, it is now and later, for the Kingdom has to be now for it is within us, and yet it is also later for when the King returns at the resurrection, there will be the full manifestation of Heaven on Earth. This has always been God’s desire from the garden of Eden and now we get to be a co-laborer in the universe’s greatest renovation project, for Jesus is the Savior of the world and not from the world. The Jews believe that when their Messiah comes to the Earth, which He did by the way, that He would transform the Earth in what they call the “tikkun olam.” This is what we are here for, to be agents of change and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here and has come among you. So I want to encourage all who read this blog to spend time studying the Kingdom of God and to make up your mind to be an active participant in our Father’s World and realize that you are here to make a difference and release the life and essence of the Kingdom everywhere you go.
Written by: Jamie Englehart