What the Bible is all about: The Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven

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I’m going to make a statement that could get me kicked out of church: The Gospel is not about Jesus. Nor is it about salvation, nor eternal life, nor forgiveness, nor heaven, nor faith, nor a relationship with God. It certainly includes all of those things, but that’s not what it’s about. The Gospel is political.

It seems that, at least in America, people are getting constantly more divided when it comes to politics. People are passionate about their views because in them are the solutions to the problems that impact their lives. And they seem less and less willing to compromise because if one’s own views are the solution to the problems, the alternative view is the cause of the problem. That’s understandable, because most of the problems you and I face on a daily basis can frequently come down to politics.

Your job could have been saved if the government’s economic policy was better. That thief couldn’t have stolen your car if the police used their resources more effectively. Drugs couldn’t have ruined your family if the laws were different. You could have gotten into college if the public school system was improved. You wouldn’t have been the victim of racism if the government had given your family more opportunities. You wouldn’t have gotten a divorce if public policy placed more value on families. The list of tangible problems that could be solved by good government goes on and on. 

In some respects, the gospel isn’t a super spiritual, abstract belief system. It is about the practical solution to all of those real problems and more. It’s about a new kind of government. It’s about a whole new kingdom. The gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven. While he was in the flesh, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.” Notice that he wasn’t just preaching any gospel, He was specifically preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. That Kingdom gospel made up the basis of his message as well as the motivation for his actions. He was proclaiming it and demonstrating it with miracles. 

And that is the central theme of the Bible, from the first words which say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” to the last page that describes the heavenly capitol city coming down to earth. Nearly every page in between speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven. Some books tell of how the kingdom came to be, some tell of what will happen in the future, and others tell of how to get there. The Kingdom of Heaven permeates the scriptures. 

But the Kingdom of Heaven is easy to miss; if all we do is memorize little pieces of scripture, and study the fine details of a biblical statement taken out of context, we become blind to the big picture. In order to see it, we need to step back and look at the whole Bible, beginning to end. When we look at it this way, I think you’ll find a whole new perspective that will have a real result in your life. You’ll see that the Kingdom of Heaven can have a profound and supernatural impact on your daily life. Understanding this perspective is key to walking in daily relationship with God.

So let’s explore what the Bible really says about this heavenly kingdom from the beginning, when God created the two realms -- heaven and earth. The Bible says that God put lights in the heavens to govern the day and night. This is a clue that there is something deeper going on here. Heaven is more than just space, and stars are more than just inanimate clusters of hot gas. The stars are governing the light and dark. Compare this to Psalm 148:1-3: “Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His heavenly armies! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!” Throughout scripture, angels are likened to heavenly bodies.

This point is driven home when we read that God does exactly the same thing on earth. While these angels that populate the heavens are told to govern the light and dark, God populated earth with mankind, telling him to “Fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” So there are two realms, with two different rulers: angels in the heavens and humans on earth. 

God planted the garden of Eden with a river flowing out of it, and put a man in the garden. Why would there be so much detail about this river? The Bible Project put together an amazing series on Spiritual Beings that highlights a lot of this theology that I highly recommend if you want to dive deeper into these ideas. They point out an obvious fact: water always flows down. Therefore, if the river that watered everything around originated in Eden, the garden must have been the highest point in the area. So Eden is above the earth, but below the heavens. It’s as if the scriptures are trying to paint a picture that Eden is the middle ground between the two realms of heaven and earth that God created. Indeed, throughout scripture, high places are where God meets his people. Moses received the ten commandments on a mountain and Jesus being transfigured on a mountain. The prophet Ezekiel even refers to Eden as the mountain of God. The fact that Eden is no normal place seems to confirm this: it was a place where God takes strolls and a serpent talks!

This is obviously no ordinary serpent. You already know how this serpent turned things upside down when he tempted Eve to eat the fruit in disobedience of God. What is this serpent and where did he come from? We get some clues from elsewhere in scripture. Likening him to the king of Tyre, Ezekiel calls the serpent an “anointed cherub.” Isaiah says of him, “How you have fallen from heaven, you star of the morning, son of the dawn!” The serpent was an angel, one of those governing stars from heaven and seemed perfectly at home in the middle ground of Eden. But Isaiah goes on, “You have been cut down to the earth, You who defeated the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” It’s no wonder that God banished him to earth. And we see that in Genesis when God essentially took away his wings by commanding, “On your belly you shall go, And dust you shall eat All the days of your life.”

But it gets worse from there. What happens next is not something they taught you about in Sunday school. Angels, the sons of God, joined the serpent in rebellion against God. They started impregnating human women! It’s possible that they were trying to reverse the curse of death on humans by having immortal offspring. But it didn’t work; Peter says, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, held for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.” Indeed, it was these relations between angels and humans that led to the flood that Noah and his family were saved from. And Jude refers to an ironic turn of events: “And angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper dwelling place, these He has kept in eternal restraints under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these angels indulged in sexual perversion and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” Jude is referring to what happens later in Genesis when the tables were turned. It tells of two angels who visited Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, and the local human residents wanted to have sex with the angels! Not long after, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 

You can see that the flood only partially purged the world of evil, and it kept getting worse and worse. Genesis says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of mankind, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Notice these Nephilim are called mighty men. And we see hints of these evil angelic offspring throughout the rest of scripture. For example, Nimrod is called a “mighty one on the earth.” He started a kingdom that consisted of several cities, including the infamous city of Babel. The inhabitants of this city said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.” Remember that humans had been banished from the high place of Eden for many generations at this point. They were trying to get back to heaven on their own terms! This building probably would have been quite high, but they weren’t literally trying to reach outer space. They were trying to spiritually reach heaven. It was a temple to false gods -- the fallen angels. The temple was in the city built to avoid being scattered, which was in direct disobedience to God’s command to “fill the earth, and subdue it.” That’s how mankind handed his authority over the earthly realm right over to the evil angels. Paul even calls the serpent the “god of this world.”

You may know the rest of the Babel story: God stopped their evil plan by confusing the languages of the people. Because they couldn’t communicate, they couldn’t finish the city, and they were forced to scatter. But some people stayed in the land, and Babel eventually became Babylon, the seat of the Babylonian empire. It grew to become the primary enemy of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. It was the Babylonians who took the entire nation of Israel captive. It attacked the capital city of Jerusalem and even destroyed the temple of God. Thus the stage has been set for the central conflict throughout the rest of the Bible. 

Nimrod wasn’t the only Nephilim who shows up in scripture. There were giant Nephilim in the promised land called Anakim that the Israelites had to drive out. There were also giants called Emim and Rephaim. Even after Israel drove them out, some giants remained. This very well could have included Goliath. There are many more hints toward these giant mighty warriors descended from evil spirits throughout the Old Testament. And idols were a constant reminder of the origin of these evil giants. Deuteronomy says, “They sacrificed to demons, who were not God, To gods whom they have not known.” Psalms says, “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons.” Idol worship is demon worship. With so many demonic offspring throughout the nations on earth, it’s no wonder that every nation turned to worshiping demons through idolatry.

By understanding this history, we can see that there’s more to Babylon than what first meets the eye. It was literally started by a descendant of a demon, created to worship false gods and disobey the one, true God. It began as the first evil kingdom on earth. And it grew to become the ultimate evil kingdom. It represents all evil on earth. It is not just an ancient physical kingdom -- it is a spiritual kingdom. Remember that the earth was created together with heaven, and mankind was supposed to rule. But the rulers in the heavens rebelled and were cast down to earth. They enticed mankind to rebel also. And so God gave earth over to the evil spirits that had fallen from heaven. They started their own kingdom on earth. Ever since then, both humans and spirits have been trying to get back to heaven. The evil spirits were kicked out of heaven for trying to go above heaven. The humans were kicked out of Eden, the middle ground between heaven and earth. So they teamed up: they tried to regain immortality by having improper sexual relations and building a tower to get back to the high place. But they all failed, and evil continued to spread.

Things for humanity were hopeless. The kingdom of darkness seemed impossible to overcome. But the nation of Israel held on to hope. God sent them prophets to remind them that the Kingdom of Heaven was still there. They promised that one day, God would set up a new kingdom on earth:

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You will multiply the nation, You will increase their joy; They will rejoice in Your presence As with the joy of harvest, As people rejoice when they divide the spoils. For You will break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the marching warrior in the roar of battle, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of armies will accomplish this.”

The Israelites were looking forward to their worldly enemies like the Babylonians being defeated. But the prophets were already hinting at a greater victory, not over earthly kingdoms, like Babylon, but over everything Babylon represents -- the evil kingdom itself. The Psalmist wrote, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, And fall like one of the princes. Arise, God, judge the earth! For You possess all the nations.” Isaiah wrote, “So it will happen on that day, That the Lord will punish the rebellious angels of heaven on high, And the kings of the earth on earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners in the dungeon, And will be confined in prison.” Notice that God is promising earthly victory as well as spiritual victory. God promises the evil spiritual rulers will be rounded up with the evil earthly rulers and receive the same fate.

It’s into this cosmic conflict that Jesus is born. And he goes straight to battle. Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” And cast out the enemy he did! Jesus became famous for powerfully casting out demons. Paul wrote of Jesus, “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”

You would have expected the Jews to welcome its savior, Jesus. This was the guy they were waiting for, the mighty warrior who would increase his government, bring peace and deliver them from their enemies! But those who were waiting for their savior didn’t want to be delivered from evil. They wanted to be delivered from Rome. Israel didn’t want the Kingdom of Heaven, they wanted the Kingdom of Israel. And so, Jesus became their enemy and they put him to death! To be fair, Jesus wasn’t kind to them. He went looking for a fight. 

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking Jesus and Israel were on the same team. Israel was supposed to be God’s chosen people. Jesus was Jewish, after all. But John the Baptist warned them that Jesus would not be on their side of the battle. After calling their leaders “offspring of vipers,” John warned them about Jesus burning them up in judgement: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

With that in mind, read through Matthew 23-25. Jesus was visiting the temple which had been rebuilt after the Babylonians destroyed it. He had just created quite a scene by overturning the tables of those profiting off of temple worship and not surprisingly, he was then questioned by the temple leaders. You can almost hear the anger in Jesus’ voice as he speaks words of hatred against the Jewish leaders for an entire chapter: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in front of people… Woe to you, blind guides… You fools and blind men!... you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You snakes, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” Jesus was clear that the Jewish leaders were not his friends, but his enemies. This is a shocking twist: the Jewish leaders were shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in front of people. Jesus identified the enemy of the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s no longer Babylon working against Heaven. It is the Jewish leaders!

Jesus’ disciples still didn’t get it. As they were leaving the temple, maybe trying to smooth things over with the Jewish leaders, the disciples pointed out the temple buildings. Jesus’ response took them aback: “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” Not only has Jesus pronounced judgement on the Jews, but he’s told them their Temple is coming down! I think the disciples figured out they should just let Jesus cool off for a while, because they waited until later before questioning him further in private. “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Notice the details of this question. “These things” refer to the temple being destroyed. They associated the destruction of the temple with Jesus’ coming and the end of the age. They understood Jesus’ coming, the end, and the destruction of the temple would happen at the same time, and they wondered when it would be. In understanding this question, we have to remember that at this time, Jesus’ disciples had no idea that he was going to die, rise from the dead, and ascend to heaven. So to the disciples, “coming” clearly couldn’t mean Jesus’ return because they had no idea he would leave. They must have meant something else. 

Jesus’ answer sheds some light on this question. He said, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet blast, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

Jesus was referring to a prophecy about him from Daniel: “Behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, honor, and a kingdom, so that all the peoples, nations, and populations of all languages might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” This prophecy refers to Jesus being given his kingdom and everlasting dominion as Jesus coming with the clouds of heaven. This image is not unique to this passage. Throughout scripture, coming on the clouds symbolically refers to God’s judgement against a nation. For instance, consider Isaiah’s prophecy against Egypt: “The pronouncement concerning Egypt: Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt.” And the Psalmist says, “He makes the clouds His chariot.” 

Just as we would expect, Jesus associates the prophecy of his kingdom with heavenly bodies falling from the sky and the powers of the heavens being shaken. We already know that Jesus is not literally talking about stars and moons -- he’s borrowing the language used throughout scripture, talking about overcoming the spiritual rulers from heaven. It’s quite profound that Jesus is associating the coming of the spiritual kingdom with the destruction of the Jewish temple. And this gets to the core of what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to bring a new covenant. Jeremiah predicted:

“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord: ‘I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.’”

But this new covenant cannot fully take effect until the old covenant is gone. Hebrews says, “After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and offerings for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” Jesus had to take away the first covenant in order to establish the second covenant. Taking that away means putting an end to burnt offerings and sin offerings. The easiest way to do that is to tear down the temple where offerings were made! These offerings were the requirement of the Jewish Law which is also the enemy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul makes this abundantly clear: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Jesus went on, “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Jesus went through all that to receive the Kingdom of Heaven, and what does he do? He makes his disciples co-heirs in the kingdom right along with him! Earlier, Jesus had told Peter, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Paul told Timothy, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” And Daniel prophesied, “the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and take possession of the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.” The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t just about Jesus ruling. His people get to rule right along with him! That is incredible!

So when is all this supposed to happen? It’s an important question that’s important to ask. Jesus went on to say, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near; so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” Just like we can recognize the coming of summer by observing the signs, Jesus expected his disciples to know when these events were close to occurring by looking for the signs Jesus told them. Jesus gave a number of signs to follow: “when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place—let the reader understand— then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” This is a reference to Daniel’s prophecy: “Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.” Luke confirms that, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.” Another clue, Jesus said that “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” And Jesus’ next statement was a very clear sign: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” A generation is considered 40 years in Jewish culture. These words were spoken in 30 A.D.

It should come as no surprise that all of Jesus’ prophecies were fulfilled exactly as he said they would. It’s a matter of historical fact that the Jewish temple was destroyed in the year 70 A.D. -- exactly 40 years after Jesus predicted the temple would be torn down. When Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem, Christians fled to the mountains as Jesus instructed, and they were spared, while the Jews of the city were completely desiccated. But was the gospel preached in the whole world? This is a translation challenge because there are different Greek words for the word world. The word Jesus used literally means the “inhabited earth.” But regardless of how you translate the word, scripture confirms that the gospel was preached around the world within 40 years.  

You’ll recall that this was not the first time the Jewish Temple had been destroyed. The Babylonians destroyed it hundreds of years prior. And there are a lot of parallels between those two events. The Jews got a prophetic warning the first time the Temple was torn down as well. That warning came from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel also prophesied that the temple would be rebuilt in incredible detail. Ezekiel even had to measure it. The temple was rebuilt, but it was not the temple that Ezekiel prophesied. In fact, while many were celebrating the foundation of the rebuilt temple, those who were old enough to remember the first temple were so disappointed that they wept loudly. So the temple that Ezekiel prophesied was never built on the earth. That’s because what Ezekiel was describing was something completely different. He was looking ahead to the Christian assembly, because we are the temple of the living God. In Revelation, John records a similar prophetic experience of measuring the temple. But then, later in the book, he’s told to measure something else: the New Jerusalem which is the wife of Jesus. The wife of Jesus is the church -- you and I! 

That’s not the only parallel between Ezekiel and Revelation. For example, both describe the same four creatures, the sound of mighty waters, the throne, a storm, a rainbow, eating a prophetic book, standing on a mountain, and the river of life, to name just a few. This is no accident. The author of Revelation was very intentionally drawing his readers’ attention to the fact that he used much of the same imagery. There’s meaning to that. If the purpose of Ezekiel was to warn about the destruction of the first temple, it’s a pretty safe bet that the purpose of Revelation was to warn about the destruction of the rebuilt temple.

Revelation details the grand finale of this epic war between the kingdoms of heaven and earth. It tells of Jesus’ victory over evil and the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven. The stage is set with details of a story you already know: how the Satan swept away a third of the stars of heaven and hurled them to the earth. Michael and his angels prevailed against the Satan and his angels were thrown down to earth. So he tried to kill Jesus, but having failed, instead pursued Jesus’ brothers and sister who hold to the testimony of Jesus. And at the center of the whole book is -- you guessed it -- the kingdom of Babylon. Babylon and all the evil it harbors is finally, once and for all, destroyed. “I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated from his glory. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.”

The fact that it specifically mentions demons and unclean spirits that dwell in Babylon makes it clear that it’s not speaking of the earthly kingdom of Babylon, but the spiritual kingdom of the evil serpent that it represents. But by the time Revelation was written, the kingdom of Babylon was long gone from the earth. But there was a new earthly manifestation of Babylon. Remembering that the Jewish leaders at the Temple were the unlikely enemy of Jesus while he was on earth and that Revelation draws inspiration from Ezekiel which was about the destruction of the Temple, a clear picture emerges: The destruction of Babylon is the figurative warning about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple within! And Revelation makes no secret of this. Babylon is pictured as a woman known as the “great city.” Earlier in the book, it plainly says that the great city is where the Lord was crucified. Jesus was crucified just outside of Jerusalem.

Revelation describes what this kingdom is like: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’”

Wow! No longer does humanity need to try to build towers and climb mountains to get back to God in heaven. Heaven has come down to earth! There is a new Jerusalem with a new Temple (tabernacle). The Temple is us, and God is among us! We have no reason for tears and mourning. There is no longer death. The first things have passed away, we’re under a new covenant! Revelation goes on to describe this new Jerusalem. It has no need for a sun or moon -- because we’re not long subject to angelic rule. Coming from the throne of God and Jesus is the river of the water of life. Along the sides of the river are trees of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The inhabitants will reign forever and ever and see the face of Jesus. A river, the Tree of Life, God among his people, eternal life, humans ruling -- this is a return to the Garden of Eden! But there is one important difference: in this kingdom, there is no longer any curse. It’s a new heaven and a new earth.

Before this amazing place is described, the enemy must be put away, and that’s exactly what happens: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he took hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.” This thousand year period probably doesn’t literally mean a thousand years. A thousand probably just refers to a very large number, in the same way that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere, and David killed his tens of thousands. Revelation and other end-times biblical prophecies usually refer to specific time periods not directly, but by using metaphors, as in “they will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time,” and days referring to years. This thousand year period is most likely also a metaphor for a very long period of time. The Satan will be bound up for a very long time so that Jesus can rule in his heavenly kingdom on earth.

This all sounds pretty amazing. But if this Kingdom of Heaven actually is here with us now, where is it? Why can’t we see it? There’s still plenty of disease and death. Evil influence is everywhere. Nations are still fighting wars. Poverty and selfishness is rampant. There are still billions of people around the world who sin and do not honor God. On top of all that, we still have to deal with traffic, financial problems, family drama, and terrible bosses. This doesn’t feel like the Kingdom of Heaven!

It’s important to understand that scripture is describing what things are like inside the Kingdom of Heaven. But the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t everywhere. Revelation says, “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The kingdom has gates, and those whose names are written in the book of life can enter and exit. There are still other nations, and there are still kings on earth. The influence of the Kingdom of Heaven is felt everywhere, but it doesn’t include the whole earth.

But the Kingdom of Heaven is growing. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a person took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all the other seeds, but when it is fully grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.” Isaiah prophesied, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.” The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t everywhere, but it is eternally growing.

There are many Christians who, just like the Jews, are waiting for Jesus to set up a worldly kingdom. They are expecting a theocracy, which is an earthly government based on religion. This expectation influences everything from voting to international relations. Many Christians are fighting for influence in worldly realms like family, education, media, arts and entertainment, finance and business. But that’s not the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” If you’re focused on earthly things, your expectations are far too low. Remember that heaven is a completely different realm than earth. This kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. It is the influence and power that goes beyond what we can see. It is the hidden cause behind the earthly events that we can see. Jesus isn’t trying to bring earth to heaven. He’s brought heaven to earth!

As long as the Kingdom of Heaven is growing, there are places where God’s will is not done. The Satan’s evil influence is still with us on earth. He has been bound and his authority has been taken away. But his final judgement won’t occur until after Jesus’ 1,000 year reign: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Paul was well acquainted with this adversary, writing, “Because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” And if even the Apostle Paul can be tormented by a demon, any Christian can be tormented by a demon!

Paul was no stranger to spiritual warfare. He wrote, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Whatever you think your struggle is against, you’re probably wrong. Whether it be disease, another person, the government, lack of finances -- those things are all flesh and blood. They are just symptoms of the true problem. The true problem is in the heavenly realm, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. When you learn to fight that, you’ll start to see all the fleshly problems fall into place.

Paul is telling his readers to put on armor for battle. But Paul wrote that while the war was still going on. Babylon was still standing. Sacrifices were still being made at the Temple. The earth still belonged to the Satan. Christians had not yet inherited the kingdom. But today, things are different. We’re not at war because the war has been won. We’re under the new covenant of God’s grace. We are reigning with Jesus. You see, we are not putting on military armor to overcome our enemy because that’s already been accomplished. Today, we are putting on armor as the police so that we can enforce the will of the King!

The way any kingdom works is very simple to understand. A kingdom is simply every place where the king reigns. Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is every place where God’s heavenly will is done on earth. As servants of God, our job is to execute the will of the King. Jesus’ authority has been established. Now we need to put down any spiritual rebellion that gets in His way. When you start to wrap your head around this, you’ll be walking in some very serious spiritual authority.

As long as you believe this, you have with you right now all the authority of Jesus. Every time you speak in Jesus’ name, you are helping to enforce the will of God. You are helping to grow the Kingdom of Heaven. As long as your words are in agreement with the will of Jesus, every order that you make in the name of Jesus carries the full force of Jesus’ authority behind it. You have a heavenly mandate to enforce Jesus’ will against all forms of evil left on earth.


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