Heaven on the half-shell

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46 NIV)

Growing up, one of the most popular hymns of many in our church was ‘When we all get to heaven’. The theology coming from the dusty pages of the hymnal promised shouts of great rejoicing and victory. They were (and still are) promises that encourage us to press on toward the goal.

While I understand the meaning behind it all, I also wonder if we have missed the boat in understanding victory and rejoicing in Christ.

Could we be expecting something that has already been given to us?

Jesus spent his three years of ministry preparing people for the kingdom of heaven. He spent many days explaining the meaning of the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 13, Jesus describes the kingdom in a variety of ways, each with its own distinct aspects. One finds a “pearl”, rounded in the shell of an oyster, another finds a “field”, and the possibilities that field can provide.

Both see it as gifts for the present…not just for the future.

Jesus is promising people peace, hope and power not for a future time, but for the present. In Luke 17, Jesus tries to convince some skeptical religious leaders that the kingdom was not going to show up in terms of a religious institution or event. No, it would come and live within in the person. That was some pretty strong medicine for a culture that centered around its traditions, position and standing. It still is today. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so awesome and mysterious; God’s kingdom within us providing a worldview that shakes the foundations of the universe.

There is an eternity. When we pass from this life we will spend that eternity in one state or the other. For the Christian, however, that eternity starts now. Heaven is not a place we go to filled with harps, angels, white clouds and robes. It is the state of eternal perfection, of endless light and eternal peace that will never be removed or shaken.

True heaven begins here and now. The passing of our earthly existence is the transition from this state of the physical to the state of complete understanding.

Instead of yearning for the day when we die, let’s experience the great joy and victory that comes from being a disciple of Christ. And that day in which we do die and go to our Master is simply the icing on the cake of our eternal existence.

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