In the scripture today, Apostle Paul shared his experience about entering into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus claimed to have come from heaven, where is heaven? Heaven is a spiritual place. We all want to believe the kingdom of heaven exist, we hope in the future we will enter into the kingdom of heaven and that is why we lead a life of faith. Heaven is where God is. The Bible tells us heaven is also called the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven.
1. Definition of heaven
There are 2 concepts of heaven in the Bible:
(i) Sky, a part of God’s creation, which is also both material and physical area.
(ii) The spiritual realm or place where God is.
The Bible distinguishes between the 2 concepts, the physical sky and where our Father God is. The Bible refers to heaven as the dwelling place of God. What image do we think of when we talk about heaven or even the sky? Big, all-encompassing, high, something we ourselves with our own strength or physical bodies cannot reach. It is just the right concept in our understanding to explain where God is, spiritually. Heaven is not in the physical realm.
2. Definition of kingdom/nation
The Bible compares heaven to a kingdom (Matthew 10:7). Jesus told His disciples to preach that the Messiah is here, by saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 22:2). Jesus gave these parables of the kingdom of heaven as a wedding feast, most of these parables are not about a location but the relationship. The kingdom of heaven is compared in this parable to a king who gave a wedding feast for His son. So the kingdom of heaven is about the king and His Son (Matthew 25:1).
In order to have a kingdom, there has to be sovereignty, land and people. During the time of Jesus, among these 3 principles, the most important was sovereignty. In reality, Rome had sovereign power over Judea, over the people of God. Their understanding was, we are under the wrong sovereignty because Adam gave up the sovereignty of God in his life. Therefore the Israelites were looking forward to the true sovereignty of God coming back and taking control. The understanding of the kingdom is the extent of the king’s influence and sovereignty. The influence of the king determines the boundaries of the kingdom. The boundary of the kingdom of God is determined by the extent of His sovereignty. Is Zion Church in the kingdom of God? Because we are people who consider Him as king.
That is the entire History of Redemption, when Adam rejected God as his sovereign king and rejected God’s sovereign Word, he was kicked out of the boundary of God’s reign/God’s kingdom. The History of Redemption is the history in which God is trying to bring His people back into the boundary of His reign.
What Adam was supposed to do is to expand that boundary. We too are supposed to do that, by evangelizing, bringing more people under the reign of God’s Word. The kingdom of God will be fulfilled when the Lord comes, but God’s kingdom is already in our hearts and lives when we live within the boundaries of His reign and He is sovereign over us. But the problem is we are not under God’s reign 100% of the time. Heaven is not a certain location but where God is, it is where I am under God’s rule. Heaven is when I am with God.
Whether we are outside in the world, in different countries, or at our workplace, we are in the kingdom of God as long as we are under God’s sovereignty. May God lead us, as long as we are walking with God. God will turn our church, our homes, and our lives into the kingdom of heaven. Hell is a place where God is absent. Where there is no God, that is hell.
3. Heaven and heavens
The Bible also talks about heaven and heavens (singular and plural). Heaven is not a physical space or location but a spiritual realm where God’s presence is.
Let’s look at the bible verses that mention heaven (singular), and heavens (plural). May this clarify what heaven and heavens are.
i. Heaven (singular): 1 Kings 8:39, Isaiah 66:1, Daniel 2:28, Daniel 2:44.
Heaven is a place describing where God is, where God dwells, and where the throne of God is.
ii. Heavens (plural): Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 4:10, 2 Peter 3:10-13, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 57:5, Psalm 68:33.
There is heaven, where God is and there are heavens. It sounds like there is a heaven of heavens, and God is lifted up above the heavens. It seems like the singular form is not often used, to refer to the actual place, the kingdom of heaven, the throne of God. There are heavens but God’s heaven is above the heavens.
In today’s passage, Apostle Paul speaks about the third heaven. Apostle Paul equates the third heaven to Paradise, a place where God’s dwelling is.
The biblical concept of heavens and heaven:
There are different aspects of heaven. Third heaven implies there are 3 levels. Third heaven implies there are 3 levels, so some people think the sky is level 1, the universe is level 2 and where God is level 3. Instead, let us think more spiritually and biblically about this.
i. Visible sky, heavens, inclusive of universe
ii. Individual heaven, something that describes something outstanding, or extraordinary. Or it can refer to individual faith. Everyone has a different faith and different understanding of what heaven is like, that would be the highest peak of your understanding of the Word. So everyone’s heaven is probably different. We need to adjust our understanding of heaven to where God is.
iii. Concept of expanse / air
The air or expanse is described as a spiritual realm where warfare is taking place (Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 6:12, Isaiah 14:12-14). Satan fell from heaven, in the air, so there are heavens with wars and battles, and a heaven of peace where God is. May our Lord Jesus Christ give us victory in our warfare against Satan.
There are 3 levels: Heaven, earth, and sea. There are also 3 stages to the tabernacle.
And there are 3 parts of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is at the heavenly level, we are earthly, the beast from the sea (Revelation 12:12).
If we cannot experience God’s kingdom today, we have to be worried about whether we can enter the kingdom of God in the end. Let us adjust the real perspective of heaven from my level to God’s level where He is.
Jesus speaks about ascension and going up in a different concept (John 16:9-10). Before Jesus was revealed, John the Baptist said this: Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What was John the Baptist referring to? He referred to Jesus Christ as the kingdom of heaven. He is saying: Receive the kingdom of heaven, receive Jesus Christ.
After John the Baptist was killed, Jesus took the same message upon Himself and said:
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Because people were not yet believing in Him.
Is the kingdom of heaven at your hand, within your reach, is it here? Are you confidently telling others that the kingdom of heaven is here? John the Baptist is referring to the Messiah. Jesus is saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand because I am here now. Is the kingdom of heaven at your hand today? Have you received Jesus?
The thief who was hanged on the cross next to Jesus confessed his faith to Jesus “When You go into Your kingdom, remember me.” Jesus replied, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus went down to hell to the prison of souls. Even in hell, if you are with Jesus, you are in Paradise. You might say, my life is hell, but if you are with Jesus, that hell will become Paradise. May we all enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever comes through the Zion Church door, may they enter through to the kingdom of heaven. Whoever comes into your life, and ecounter you, may they enter the kingdom of heaven through you.