Heaven in the Real World

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We all want to believe there's a place where all is good and right.

A place where there's no violence.

No hatred. No abuse. No divorce.

No in-group. No out-group.

No suffering. No Satan. No evil.

So we long, maybe desperately at times, for this place called heaven. Yet we imagine it as someplace we won't see for a very long time.

But what about the present? Why can't we experience heaven right here, right now?

Heaven on earth? Sounds kind of crazy, doesn't it? There's just so much wrong with the world. Yet 2,000 years ago, Jesus said this: "The kingdom of heaven is near!" (See Matthew 4:17.) Jesus himself claimed heaven was not very far away. So close you could reach out and touch it.

Just read John 1:14: "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" (from The Message paraphrase). God landed on this planet, took on the name of Jesus, and brought a touch of heaven with him. What an incredible, loving touch it was! He healed the sick. He gave sight to the blind. He fed the hungry. He raised people from the dead. He chased evil spirits from the possessed. And then he sent out his disciples to do similar things. Before his chosen twelve hit the streets, though, he told them: "Preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (See Matthew 10:1-7.)

"Get a clue, people!" Jesus seemed to be saying. "Look around. See what's happening! Heaven's so close, you can touch it."

This obviously doesn't mean everything was perfect during Jesus' lifetime. When he walked around in his well-worn sandals, there was still war and poverty and plenty of evil. And when Jesus sent out his disciples to tell others about the closeness of heaven, he warned them:

"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to local councils and flog you … " (Matthew 10:17). Life in early A.D. was far from perfect.

Even so, Jesus and his disciples brought a good dose of God's love and truth into the world. In doing so they gave everybody a glimpse of heaven.

This was all fine and good—when Jesus walked the earth. But what about now? Jesus is back in heaven. So that heavenly touch is gone, right?

Wrong. Before Jesus went back to heaven, he told his disciples: "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. … You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … " (Acts 1:5-8).

God lives inside every believer (2 Timothy 1:14). In fact, a Christian's body is called the very temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Our bodies are "churches" where the God of the universe makes his home! Wherever we go, we take a touch of heaven with us.

Yes, we still make mistakes. We still sin. But we don't have to be discouraged by everything that's wrong with us. We can straighten things out by confessing our sins to God and to each other. (See 1 John 1:9 and James 5:16.) And when we do live out our faith, we also experience some truly heavenly qualities, like these found in Galatians 5:22: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

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