What it would be like living in the kingdom of heaven right now?
Last week I was chatting with a new listener to The Bible Speaks to You Podcast, Luis. We were talking about what it means to live with and in Jesus’s promise that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Is it possible to be living in the kingdom of heaven here on earth?
If you’ve been listening to the podcast for very long, you know I talk a lot about this from a variety of different angles. I am more and more convinced that this awareness of the presence of heaven on earth is one of the most important components of what I call the mindset of Jesus.
Jesus was completely aware that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And this was the foundation of his ministry.
My hope for you as a listener and for myself as the producer of this podcast, is for us to embrace this mindset of Jesus, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, as our own.
Sometimes I talk to Christians who still have doubts about their worthiness or ability to live with the mindset of Jesus. Or they think it’s not even possible in this world.
But Paul says emphatically in his first letter to the church in Corinth,
…we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT
What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?
Luis and I talked about the fact that since we have the mind of Christ, we can think, act, speak, and pray with the mind or mindset of Christ.
And then we came back to the idea that the kingdom of heaven is at hand as the basis for the way Jesus thought about and perceived everything around him.
There are numerous episodes of The Bible Speaks to You Podcast where I talk about this. If you’d like to go back and listen to them, here are the links:
Episode 2: The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand
Episode 34: Windows into Heaven
Episode 46: Are You Working to Establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth or Are You Bearing Witness to the Fact that it’s Already Here?
Luis and I talked about how to live in the kingdom of heaven right now, in other words, how to become aware of the presence of heaven and consciously dwell there.
It’s about looking at things from the perspective of what’s true in heaven and what’s going on there right now and bearing witness to that here on earth.
Living in the kingdom of heaven today
Naturally Luis wanted to hear some examples from where I had experienced living in the kingdom of heaven.
Here’s what I shared with him.
Once I was at a church meeting that was very divisive. The people on the two sides of the discussion were accusing those who disagreed with them of being deceived and trying to deceive everyone else. And it was not a trivial issue, like what color to paint the walls.
One side, which included people with positions of authority in the church, had withheld important information from an outside source and only distributed information they agreed with. When I pointed this, someone said that they had not done it intentionally. The tone of his voice was syrupy sweet and did not sound sincere. They didn’t give out this other information which was important in hearing both sides of the issue.
It may have not actually been intentional. But it was nevertheless an oversight and contributed to the negative atmosphere in the meeting. I was trying to be objective and listen to both sides, but one side in particular refused to listen to the other side at all, was very judgmental and self-righteous, all the while putting on a great show of innocence.
I was angry
I was upset by this and by the time I got home that night I was very angry. I was fuming. Within the next couple of days a small growth appeared on my side. Over the next few weeks it grew bigger. I felt this was a manifestation of the bitterness I felt toward those folks at church, or more specifically, toward their attitude. They were nice people. I just strongly disagreed with them and their accusatory attitude. And that’s putting it mildly.
Over the next month or so, the growth on my side got as big as a walnut. There was not any pain, but I was worried about it. I asked a friend and a very mature Christian to pray for me.
I explained everything that happened. He told me, first and foremost, I needed to see the unspotted nature of God and then bear witness to myself and all the folks at church as God’s image and likeness.
He said if God didn’t have any spots, then we, as His image and likeness did not have any spots as part of who we really are spiritually. Whatever spots of self-righteousness or deceit appeared to be on us were just like mud that wasn’t part of us which God would wash away.
I realized that in the kingdom of heaven I had no “spots,” no sins, no self-righteousness, no hypocrisy, no ability to deceive or be deceived, and I finally got to the point where I could see that neither did anyone else at church.
I prayed this way for a couple of weeks or so. And I got to where I completely forgave those folks at church for what I thought they had done wrong, because I could see in the kingdom of heaven there is no deception, and no one can be deceived or deceive others, or judge falsely.
Healing was taking place
I deeply felt this and knew it my heart. Then, one day as I was changing the bandage, I literally stomped my foot on the floor and said, “Thus far, and no farther.” (see Job 38:11 below) I felt an amazing sense of peace and freedom.
Within a day or so I could tell the growth was getting smaller. In a week or two it was completely gone. It just melted away. That was a number of years ago and the growth has never come back.
This is just one example of what I call bearing witness to the kingdom of heaven at hand. When we do that, it changes what we see and how we see, because it changes the perspective we’re looking from and the lens we look through.
You can do this in your own life
Looking from the perspective of what is true in the kingdom of heaven right now, ask yourself: What is true right now in the kingdom of heaven about the person you’re having a problem with, a challenge at home, a problem at work, a divisive issue at church, or how you see yourself?
It takes some practice and discipline to do this. And it’s not just a one-time prayer. But I want to encourage you to give it a try and keep at it.
Jesus gives some pretty good advice to help us in this process:
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. John 7:24 NKJV
Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. John 7:24 NLT
That night at church, the appearance was there were two different perspectives on what the issues were. On the surface of things, there were disagreements and accusations flying fast and furious.
When I took a step back from the outward, surface appearances of what was going on and looked at things from the perspective of what is true in heaven, it brought healing, to my mind and my body.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hey James, that sounds great but I’m not so sure I can do what you’re talking about. I just can’t see what’s going on in heaven right now. And heaven sure doesn’t seem like it’s here, like Jesus said it is.”
Well, I know exactly what you mean. I have felt that way many times.
What is true in heaven?
As I said, this process of seeing what’s true in heaven and bearing witness to the fact that the kingdom of heaven is at hand is not always easy. It’s hard work sometimes. But what I’ve learned is that you’ll never “see” these things with your eyes or hear them with your ears. Even the human mind will never figure it out.
Paul points this out. He says,
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10 NIV
When we try to see what God is doing in our lives through the five material senses, and understand it, or make sense of it, through the human mind, we’re just dealing with the appearance of things on the surface, which Jesus says is impossible to figure things out that way.
So what’s the solution?
It’s the fact that Paul brings out in that quote from 1 Corinthians, that God reveals truth to us through the Spirit.
The only way to actually discern that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and become aware of what is true there, comes from the Spirit of God revealing it to you.
You can’t just listen to me or anyone else saying these words and decide you’re going to believe it. We all need to, and we all have the ability to, receive what God is revealing directly to us.
Now you may be wondering if there is any way to help this process along? Yes, there is. In fact there are lots of ways to become more receptive to what God is revealing about the kingdom of heaven.
Baby steps to living in the kingdom of heaven
The first things that come to mind are prayer and Bible study, an earnest sincere desire to be more spiritually minded, and an honest effort to follow Jesus more closely in your daily life.
Ask God in prayer to open your eyes to see that heaven is at hand and what that means in your life.
You could study everything Jesus says in the Bible about the kingdom of heaven. Ask God to help you connect the dots, so to speak. Ask for understanding.
And then take what Jesus says about heaven and the insights you’ve gotten from your Bible study and live them in your daily life.
Jesus’s parables give us a place to start
Jesus tells lots of parables describing what the kingdom of heaven is like. He uses everyday situations as metaphors to explain deep spiritual ideas.
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds [or about 27 kilograms] of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33 NIV
That’s a lot of flour. Think of all the bread this lady was making. I would imagine that most women hearing this parable would never had made that much bread dough at one time. Sixty pounds of flour is an overwhelming amount to deal with. Jesus was perhaps giving a larger perspective on life than just making a few loaves of bread at a time, and that the kingdom of heaven is immense.
How does this parable help you and me understand and see the kingdom heaven at hand? Well, is there anything in your life you need to put “yeast” into? Making bread dough in Jesus’s day was an ordinary task that was part of life. What are some of the daily tasks you do that you could put some yeast into?
What about doing the dishes, mopping the floor, mowing the yard? You get the idea. Or it could be something at work like filing papers, making copies, or some other routine task. What yeast can you put into those activities? What can you bring from heaven to these activities? How about a little joy, gratitude, and humility.
What if you expressed love while doing these things instead of complaining that you had to do them?
Adding spiritual “yeast” to daily activities
Once our children were grown and not living at home any more, my wife and I re-assigned certain household duties, since we were the only ones here to get everything done. We decided my wife would do the cooking. I would wash the dishes.
When we first started this new arrangement, I wasn’t too happy about having to clean the dishes and scrub the pots and pans after every meal. I really had no reason to complain. We do have a dishwasher and the job was never that hard.
But I grumbled about it anyway. After a while, I realized this attitude was not helping me feel closer to God or experience the presence of heaven in my life.
So instead of grumbling, I made a conscious choice to be grateful for the opportunity to wash the dishes. It was an expression of love for my wife, and gratitude for all she did.
I began to look forward to washing the dishes. It’s no longer a chore I don’t want to do.
In a small way, to use the metaphor of the yeast, I put some yeast of the kingdom of heaven into washing the dishes and I got, and still get, a little taste of heaven now because of the love and gratitude I feel while cleaning up.
Again I ask you, where can you add some yeast of the Spirit into your daily activities to bring a more spiritual perspective to your life? This is living in the kingdom of heaven. At least it’s taking little baby steps there.
What is your pearl of great value?
What about the parable of the pearl of great price?
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it! Matthew 13:44, 45 NLT
Is there anything in your business or hobby or school work, a pearl of great value, so to speak, that you need to focus on? Is there a more spiritual aspect of your work you can find in your heart and bring to your activities?
When you do this, each day, day after day, finding the pearl of God’s love, protection, and purpose for your life and let that shine through everything you do, you are living in and experiencing to some degree the kingdom of heaven at hand.
The more you do this the more you’ll see and experience the kingdom of heaven in your life.
Learning to wait on God’s timing
Let’s look at one more parable, the parable of the tares and the wheat.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’
The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’
“But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” Matthew 13:24-30 NKJV
What’s the lesson here? Well, there are lots of lessons in this parable, but think about the patience required to wait for God’s timing.
How can you apply that idea to your life on a daily basis? So often we want to jump in and try to solve a problem without waiting for God to do His work.
Every time you defer to God’s schedule of events, you are living in the kingdom of heaven.
Now these three parables just give a tiny hint of what it means to live in heaven here and now. Jesus is using these everyday vignettes from life as metaphors for the kingdom of heaven.
And I think he’s saying we need to let the kingdom of heaven permeate every little detail of our daily lives.
Living in the kingdom of heaven comes a little at a time
A lot of folks think that the kingdom of heaven should appear in some grandiose and dramatic way with angels flying around blowing trumpets, but more often heaven appears following the model in Isaiah:
precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little. Isaiah 28:10 NKJV
When you notice and are faithful over the little ways the kingdom of heaven appears, you’ll be ready to receive more of it in the future.
Think of something or someone in your life right now that’s giving you a bit of a challenge. Just from the three parables I’ve mentioned above, is there an aspect of heaven you can bring to your situation? Of you can use an idea from any of Jesus’s parables.
Can you add just a little bit of spiritual yeast to the situation like the lady in the parable? What do you need to focus on that is of great spiritual value? Where in your life do you need to wait on God’s timing of events?
The kingdom of heaven is here. It is at hand. And you can experience its presence now.
Patrick Fore unsplash.com
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT
16 …we have the mind of Christ.
Job 38:11 RSV
11 Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?
John 7:24 NKJV
24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
John 7:24 NLT
24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.
1 Corinthians 2:9, 10 NIV
9 What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
Matthew 13:33 NIV
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds [or about 27 kilograms] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Matthew 13:44, 45 NLT
44 Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.
45 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!
Matthew 13:24-30 NKJV
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
25 “but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
26 “But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
27 “So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
28 “He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’
29 “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
30 ‘Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Isaiah 28:10 NKJV
10 precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.