Since time began, the Kingdom of Heaven has been an interactive reality in man's destiny. God (and angels) spoke to man "from Heaven" (Genesis 21:17; 22:11; 22:15), the Lord gave man promises and blessings from Heaven (Genesis 24:7; 49:25), and when necessary brought judgments upon wicked men "out of Heaven" (Genesis 19:24).
Indeed, the revelation of God's Kingdom in the Sacred Writ is no incidental issue. The Bible records several hundred verses where Heaven or God's Kingdom is mentioned in its various phrasings. It is this Kingdom that I'd like us to consider, first as it is revealed in the Old Testament and then as it was manifest in power through Christ in the New Testament. Our focus will remain upon God, of course, yet we must also learn of that realm that surrounds the Most High: His eternal abode.
This realm called Heaven is not only "real," but it is "an everlasting Kingdom" that "endures throughout all generations" (Psalm 145:13). Nations rise and fall, men and cultures emerge in pride and vanity only to disappear, yet God's Kingdom abides forever.
The Time is Fulfilled
For all the references to Heaven in the Old Testament, with few exceptions, the actual life of Heaven remained remote and inaccessible to the common man. Israel had the Law and the Prophets; it had moments of glory and divine visitation. Yet, the Kingdom of God was greater than even Israel's standards of righteousness.
It was out of Israel that the Messiah came, yet His message was not a restoration of the Law. It was the proclamation of God's Kingdom. Both Jesus and His forerunner, John the Baptist, heralded the same incredible word:
"The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).
The time was fulfilled? Yes, a new dispensation had arrived! The Kingdom of God was at hand? Yes, Heaven was within the reach of men. The realm of God had come near! The message of the Kingdom was without precedent, yet it was so! Every manner of sickness was healed instantly at the touch of Jesus' hands, for Heaven was at hand! The demonically tormented were instantly set free, for Heaven empowered Jesus.
Yet, as the Holy Spirit empowered Christ, so He empowered and commissioned His disciples, and Heaven manifested through them as well! Through the battalion of His disciples, the authority and compassion of Heaven flowed. They had power to heal, to deliver, even to raise the dead.
"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 10:7).
Heaven, "at hand?" What did that mean, but that Heaven itself, once remote and inaccessible to common men, was now close enough to reach from where men were.
Beloved, this is what Jesus said Church should look like! Healing, deliverance, power: the Kingdom of Heaven manifested through the lives of surrendered, yet believing men and women. And this is what the Church will look like before Jesus returns.
This Gospel of the Kingdom
Jesus knew there would be a great falling away from God's Kingdom. He warned of false prophets and teachers arising to mislead many. Certainly, we have seen our share of watered-down, superficial Christianity. Yet in spite of our failings, Jesus made a remarkable prediction. He said,
"This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
In spite of a great falling away, there is a great gathering back to God's Kingdom. Let us hear Christ's words with faith. He said before the "end shall come" and He returns, the Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to all nations. He did not say that the whole world would be subdued before He returns, but that the whole world would witness the Kingdom of Heaven, preached with power, before His return.
Let me emphasize His reassuring point. He said, "This Gospel" – that is, His Gospel, His teaching, the "words in red." If we focus on becoming like Him in obedience to His words, He promises to increasingly accompany our preaching with His power to perform miracles, signs and wonders.
He said, "This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached." Not the Gospel only of salvation (as wonderful as it is!), but also the message of the Kingdom. The Gospel of salvation is free. We cannot access the Kingdom without experiencing salvation by faith in God's grace. Yet, many in the Church have been parked in the realm of salvation without ever seeing and believing the promise of God's Kingdom.
Beloved, our theology has been diluted by unbelief and dead traditions. We need to return to the words of Christ. We need to press into the reality of God's Kingdom. For as this age ends, certainly Heaven will be within reach.
Ministries of Francis Frangipane