Just a few minutes ago, my wife greeted me an advanced Happy Birthday coming up in the next few days. If you are like me, I feel like the years are speeding up as I get older. I thought of my life in the past years and one person came to mind. He and I grew up together and we were born in the same year. I remember when we were in our mid-thirties, my friend was found to have an advanced cancer of the brain. I remember at that time how my heart sank hearing the news. We were still so young and now this friend of mine is just waiting for the inevitable moment.
I will not forget talking to him while he was crying. He was afraid to die in the prime of his life and leave behind a family with little children that needed him. Yes, we had many tearful talks. He cried, “I want to see my daughter graduate from college and to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. I want to see my grandchildren grow up. I don’t want my wife to be alone.”
As a young pastor at that time, it was tough talking to a very close friend of the same age. I remember him asking me what happens to him when he dies. With the little that I know, we talked about heaven and God’s promise that it is the best place to be. I read the scriptures to him and it seemed that it comforted him a lot. We prayed, cried and even laughed a little. He died a few days after that.
We always see heaven (or the Kingdom of God or Paradise) as some place a far off and way much later. It seemed so separate from life today — yet when we meditate on Colossians 3:1-3, we see a different reality.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The good news is not just about the future. It is about present reality, too. Even today, the scriptures tell us that our life is now hidden with Christ in God. We can take hold of the hand of Christ and step into the heavenly realm of the Kingdom of God right now. Wow. That is great news.
The standard way we present the Gospel is Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins so we could go to heaven when we die. Of course, this is essential. That is by itself an amazing truth!
In this perspective we say that Christ forgave our sins, redeeming us by paying off the impossible to pay debt that we owed to God, and he justified us by giving us his righteousness. We say that Christ absorbed the wrath of our sin and experienced the hell of alienation so that we can be reconciled with God. Christ’s liberation of us transferred us from darkness and death into light and life.
The other manner we present the Gospel is to highlight that Jesus came to set the oppressed free. God has come to care for the poor and needy, the wounded and struggling, the left out and lost. In some way, it is a message of social justice. This is very important too.
But the gospel is so much more than “Jesus died for our sins.” There is much more to it than forgiveness of sins or getting into heaven when we die. Even when we learn of its social gospel perspective that “Jesus came to set people free” it still isn’t large enough. The gospel of Jesus Christ is so much more. It happened. It is happening. It will continue to happen. The Kingdom of God has eternal consequence: past, present and future.
The teaching of the Bible about the gospel of the kingdom of God — not just in Matthew’s Gospel, but in all four Gospels and throughout the New Testament, even in the Old Testament — is that the sovereignty, realm and love of God is eternally past, present and future. It is available to those who seek it, trusting in God’s mercy through Christ.
Redemption is about being moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God. It is about being moved from being alone to having an intimate relationship with our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, we probably limit our concept of heaven as a far off and a way later. Heaven for us tend to be a place available in the future. Yet, Jesus is available now. He lives his life in us today (Galatians 2:20). In His Kingdom there is joy, peace, love, goodness and all that which is good embodied by Jesus himself.
Paul the apostle tells us that when we put our confidence in the person of Jesus, we live with him in “the heavenly realms” today and there we have “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). I find this really amazing.
The good news is you and I are included in Christ. You and I are invited to embrace this reality where we can be in heaven even right now in Christ. Perhaps this is a bold statement to say. But I believe Jesus is my heaven. Since we all know that we can be in heaven when we are in Christ, therefore God sees us with Him in the heavenly realms. Now that is good news. We don’t have to wait for some far off future reality. Heaven has its present reality in Christ.