Think of the last time you heard a sermon about the kingdom of heaven. Better yet, think of the last conversation you discussed the kingdom of heaven. If you’re like most Christians, you may not have an answer. Sadly, most rarely think about the kingdom, much less speak about it. This, however, was not the case for Jesus. For Him, the kingdom of heaven was the predominate topic of His ministry. His message about the kingdom was more than a reminder to obtain your ticket to the great Disney World in the Sky—something it would seem many Christians are hoping and waiting for.
Is our obsession with leaving this world and transporting to heaven the same message Jesus taught on the kingdom in the Gospels? Are we talking about the same concept? I believe we may have a kingdom conundrum on our hands and don’t know it.
Let’s answer a simpler question first: Why did Jesus come to Earth? You might respond, “To show people how to avoid hell and enter heaven.” While this was a subset of His earthly agenda, we undervalue the thrust of Jesus’ ministry message when we focus on the future at the expense of the present. When Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven in the Gospels, He envisioned God’s kingdom rule and reign in the present day on Earth, not just a day when believers would be ejected into the spiritual realm. Sadly, this misunderstanding has plagued and paralyzed believers from experiencing the “abundant life” that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
By focusing on one aspect of our salvation, we, whether knowingly or unknowingly, minimize other aspects of our Christian Life. If justification is the entirety of our salvation experience, believers miss out on the joy and purpose of sanctification. Dallas Willard summarizes it this way:
The background assumption is that justification is the entirety of salvation. If you are justified—your sins forgiven—then you are saved and you will be “OK” after your death. I submit to you that this is what is offered, in still more specific forms, by current efforts (“evangelism”) to convert people to Christianity, and it is what people generally understand to be essential to the transaction.
If the purpose of Christianity is just to enter heaven, Jesus wouldn’t have left us on Earth after He saved us. We’d be raptured without a second to spare to enjoy eternity with Him. Surely the purpose of the kingdom of heaven is greater than just achieving eternal life.
In fact, our obsession with getting to heaven could be paralyzing, even problematic. I heard someone say once, “When you’re so heavenly minded, you can become no earthly good.” When believers are self-absorbed, only focused on their own eternal rewards in heaven, we lose sight of our calling on Earth. Jesus gave us a Commission to make reproducible followers of Him. It’s called the Great Co-Mission for a reason: God expects our involvement. The reason He didn’t eject us into the elysian fields of paradise the moment we were born again is because there’s work to be done. You were saved not just from the world, but for the world.
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Source: Church Leaders