Heaven is Among Us
As I am finishing up a year of reading and research for my next book, one topic that has stuck out, and that has surprised me, is heaven. In reviewing and revising my older material on Preparing for End Times, which should be self-published as a paperback and eBook soon, I came across my old, but still inspiring, notes on heaven. These were from classics by H.A. Baker titled Heaven and the Angels and Visions Beyond the Veil that provided a lot of detail about heaven from reliable sources over two centuries, which he calls the "cloud of witnesses." I also read a number of books in the past year or two that mentioned supernatural visits to heaven, the most recent one being Dr. Mary Neal's 7 Lessons from Heaven. It has a great chapter explaining how time is different from heaven's perspective. (But that's a post for another time.) Finally, I read an amazing analysis of the last book of the Bible, Revelation Unsealed, by Donald Salerno, that suggests chapters 21 and 22 occur at the beginning rather than at the end of the millennium.
What? The New Jerusalem comes down from the new heaven to the new, re-formed, earth? And this leads to the healing of the nations? And the saints with resurrection bodies can go back and forth between the holy city and the earth during the thousand years? Are you kidding me? I'm sure I've come across this idea before, but there are so many objections (the temple or lack thereof, for one), which Salerno addresses in a very creative way, that I never paid attention. But this time it jumped out at me. I'm still pondering it and asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom on how all this works, or even if we are supposed to be able to figure it out at this point. Maybe or maybe not. Regardless, just thinking about the possibility graphically reinforces and amplifies my view of how we understand the "kingdom of God--or heaven" in this life. And that is something we are supposed to do.
So here are some thoughts about life when heaven is among us. (By the way, this phrase is from one of my favorite worship songs, Our God Is Here, by Jeff Sparkman, my son-in-law. Jeff's songs are straight from heaven, in my unbiased opinion:)
- When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven being near, and God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven, I believe he was referring to more than just godly thoughts and behavior. As he demonstrated throughout the gospels, he made us aware of the heavenly, spiritual realm all around us. It is a supernatural complement to our natural walk on this earth. Spiritual beings, whether godly or demonic, are real and must be recognized and dealt with explicitly. It is a part of everyday life. We should pray for this awareness, specifically for the gift of discerning of spirits, and address them in silent or verbal, but biblical, prayers of thanksgiving, requests, or rebukes, as the type of spirit and situation demand.
- In Matthew 18:18, for example, Jesus gives instructions on binding (forbidding) and loosing (permitting) on earth so that it results in the same thing happening in heaven. The tense in heaven is future perfect passive "shall have been bound/loosed." It has already been done, because your Father knows what you need even before you ask it. That is how you can ask in faith. But you have to ask. This transaction shows the intimate connection/continuity between earth and heaven (the kingdom of heaven). And how do you ask? In faith, doubting nothing, as in James 1:6. But then you see that faith must be accompanied by works. Once you hear what God wants you to do, you must do it, James 1:22, or else you deceive yourself, thinking because you hear well that God is pleased with you. No, you must obey what you are hearing.
- Put another way, this is how you open up that two-way channel between the invisible kingdom of heaven and the visible earth. In the example of binding and loosing, you hear from heaven that there is a certain spirit at work, and then you bind and loose, acting on that word. That is why it is already answered in heaven. You have heard and obeyed. Some examples are to bind a spirit of fear and loose love; to bind a spirit of infirmity and loose healing; and to bind a spirit of death and loose life.
- In my all-time favorite devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, she says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "Learn to look steadily at Me in all your moments and all your circumstances. Though the world is unstable and in flux, you can experience continuity through your uninterrupted awareness of My Presence. Fix your gaze on what is unseen, even as the visible world parades before your eyes." I believe the continuity mentioned is between this world and heaven. This is how heaven can be among us and how God's will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Finally, I believe heavenly dreams, visions, and visits in the spirit are another way to experience the continuity between heaven and earth. Through these God allows us to glimpse how what we are doing today impacts the future, either to give us the courage and faith to make a difficult choice, or just to encourage us in what appears to be a difficult time that seems to have no resolution. A scriptural example is found in Matthew 17:1-13 of Jesus' experience with Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration. He was given a heavenly perspective to encourage Him through the trials that were coming
My wife and I recently told our story of the past year (see my post "The Best Smoothie in the World") at our church, Resonate Life, in Lucas, Texas. Many people were surprised at the candor and vulnerability we showed in revealing details of our experience. But I know that this is just one chapter in our lives that makes up the "book" of our time on earth. I truly believe that we will have all of eternity in heaven to read one another's "books" and, as with God's Holy Book, to explore the mysteries of how God has designed our lives to interact with others to demonstrate His glory and wisdom. So why should I be worried or embarrassed about telling what has happened? It will be an open book for all to see, through the redemptive perspective of Christ's death and resurrection.
But now we have no idea how the details of this day's activities and thoughts will impact eternity. Having a perspective of the continuity between this earthy life and our eternity in heaven, however, helps us have absolute trust in God's goodness so we can walk this earth by faith, one day at a time. I can't wait to see what God will do next as I walk with heaven among us. How about you?