Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. (Matthew 13:24)
If one were to ask someone what heaven is like, they might talk about floating on the clouds or gold pavement or being among winged angels playing harps. We tend to talk about heaven as a place that we go to after we die, but Jesus (who should know what heaven is like since he is the Son of God who came down from heaven to become one of us) didn’t talk about heaven in that way.
In chapter 13 of his biography of Jesus, Matthew records for us several different stories that Jesus told to describe heaven. Jesus did not describe heaven directly, rather he used analogies to tell us what heaven is like.
The first thing to note from what Jesus said about heaven in this chapter is that he describes it as a kingdom. Because heaven is a kingdom, that means that is has a king, subjects and a realm. From elsewhere in Scripture, we know that Jesus is the king of heaven and everyone who trusts in him are subjects of the kingdom of heaven, but the territory of the kingdom of heaven is not geographic like other past or present kingdoms that we have seen on earth. In John 18:36 we read, Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom….. [M]y Kingdom is not of this world.”
Earthly kings, emperors and dictators (the most common form of kingship in modern times) rule from the outside in. They use power, manipulation and punishment to control their subjects (e.g. North Korea). What makes the Kingdom of Heaven so different from an earthly kingdom is that Jesus rules from the inside out and he rules, not by power, but by grace.
Jesus came into this world to bring heaven to us. By living a perfect human life for us and dying a sinner’s death on the cross for us, Jesus opened up the Kingdom of Heaven to anyone who looks to him in faith. When that seed of faith, which is planted in our hearts by hearing the Good News of what Jesus has done for us, takes root and grows within us, the result is an interior transformation which is so dramatic that it is described as a new birth, a birth that comes from God (see John 1:13). Our heart, mind, soul and totally change direction and become aligned with and directed toward Jesus. And all of this inner transformation is a totally free gift to us from our King.
Having entered the Kingdom of Heaven by faith, Jesus is our King and we are his subjects. Our King loves us, watches over us and keeps us safe. Our heart, mind, soul and will are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven and relishing the grace, peace, hope and life of Jesus. One day, in the new heaven and earth to come, we will see with our physical eyes what we now see with our eyes of faith. But in the meantime, we are never alone. Our King has promised never to leave us nor forsake us and all around us are fellow citizens of heaven.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, you do not have to wait until after you die to encounter heaven. The Good News of heaven is that it is already here within us. We represent the kingdom of heaven in this world, and though we live among those who oppose our King and his Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven continues to permeate throughout this world and Heaven will triumph over evil in the end.
So even when something happens that turns our world upside down leaving us helpless and in need of rescue, we can trust that our King still rules over all things and heaven is still within us. Jesus will carry you through whatever crisis you face.
Heaven is closer than you think.
Dear Jesus, help me to trust that you and your kingdom are always with me, especially when I find myself in times of great sorrow, struggle or challenge. Amen.