Is Heaven Here or There?
Q. I've always thought that heaven is a place we're going to. But in the Lord's Prayer, we ask for the Lord's kingdom to come to earth. So, are we waiting for heaven to come to us or waiting to go someplace else?
A. You're asking about two different things that are easy to confuse. Heaven is the word used to describe the place God dwells. Matthew 6:9 says this is where God is: "Our Father, who is in heaven" (NIV). It's the place Jesus returned to sit "at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" (Hebrews 1:3, NIV). And it's where we go to be with God after we die.
But "the kingdom of God" is more than just heaven. God's kingdom is wherever he is recognized as King, wherever his authority is obeyed. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you," which means that if you give your loyalty to God, then he is your King. Wherever you are, his kingdom follows you because he's the One you're serving. Think of it like James Bond. He may be in foreign countries, but he's still in the service of Her Majesty the Queen. He's under Her Majesty's rule and authority, even though he's not in England.
Likewise, even though you're not in heaven right now, if you've pledged allegiance to Jesus as your Lord, you're serving God's kingdom here and now.
Jesus encouraged his followers to pray in the Lord's Prayer for God's authority and kingdom to be recognized on earth, just as it is in heaven. This means that believers should pray for God to bring peace and justice to the world we currently live in. We should pray that the world makes Jesus the Lord over the way things are run here so that people can experience abundant life. But God's people shouldn't just be praying. They should be working too. In addition to praying that God fixes earth's broken stuff so it's more like heaven, the church is also charged with bringing the kingdom to earth by the way they live. By doing God's work and living the way God intends us to live, God's kingdom is budding on earth, just as it is lived in full bloom in heaven.
So yes, you're right. If you've given yourself to Jesus, you will go to heaven one day and live with him there. And if you are following Jesus here and now by living out the values and commandments he taught, then you are living in God's kingdom now and bringing that kingdom to earth.
Marshall, a former pastor, is editor of Leadership, a magazine for pastors.
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Ignite Your Faith.