THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS ON EARTH - NOT IN HEAVEN !
Would you like to see a world free of war, disease, starvation, and death? Free of natural and man made catastrophes causing massive death and destruction?
A world without evildoers, criminals and mass murderers? Did you know that the Bible promises such a world?
God oversees the affairs of the world. He is deeply involved in the politics, economics and history of this world. This message comes through strongly, particularly in the Old Testament. He is especially involved with the nation of Israel, whom he chose to be his special representative nation on earth. God intends to clean up this present evil world according to his prophetical / historical timetable.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH
Did you know that the Bible teaches that the true reward of the saved is eternal life in a new phase of world history called the ‘Kingdom of God’?
This Kingdom represents the rule of God himself over a restored world.
The Bible is full of descriptions of a renewed earth where most of the evils of human existence have been eliminated, or greatly lessened. Many of these prophecies take place against the background of a restored nation of Israel.
"the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his Kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for ever more. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Most people assume that when we die we wind up either in heaven or hell. But is this what scripture really teaches?
In fact the word "hell" in the New Testament is translated from the Hebrew word "Gehenna" and signifies an all-consuming fire, not a place of ‘eternal torment’. Did you know that there is no scripture anywhere in the Bible which says that "unrepentant sinners will be tormented forever in Hell"?
Is it possible that people could be presently suffering eternal torment in hell in view of the following scripture?:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
The alternatives here are that we either have eternal life as believers in Christ or no life at all!
Consider the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11). Here was a man brought back from the dead. Now according to traditional teaching Lazarus was either reposing in heaven or being punished in hell. But does this picture hold up logically when we look at this episode? To begin with, consider that Christ expressly stated that ‘our friend Lazarus is asleep’(John 11:11). No, not alive and consciously dwelling in either Heaven or Hell - but ASLEEP!
If Lazarus was in hell, it should not have been possible for him to escape. On the other hand, if he was in heaven, would there logically have been any point in bringing him back to the travails of earthly existence? Is there anything in scripture or secular history to indicate that Lazarus ever went about relating his experiences while in heaven or hell?
Lazarus was asleep just as surely as King David, of whom it is said in the Book of Acts, "the patriarch David ... both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." (Acts 2:29) and in v.34 "David did not ascend into Heaven." And yet we know from Ezek.37:24 that King David will be among the saved in God’s Kingdom.
The assumption many people make on the issue of ‘heaven and hell’ is that man has an immortal soul. Yet this belief seems to be contradicted by the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. After discovering the sin of Adam and Eve in eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God declares in Gen. 3:22 (NIV):
The man ... must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
GOSPEL = GOOD NEWS
Christ taught that his mission was to establish the Kingdom of God. He portrayed this as the reign of God on earth - a world ruling Kingdom which would be centred on Jerusalem - the capital of Israel.
In Mark 1:15, he says "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."
In Luke 4:43 he says "I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." Notice that Christ does not say he was sent primarily to preach his crucifixion or his messiahship or any other aspect of his ministry - but to preach THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
Luke records that Christ "went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God." (Luke 8:1)
If Christ was teaching about going to heaven when you die, where do you find this ‘good news’ in his sayings? Would there not be an extensive description of exactly what it would be like to go to heaven; what people would be doing there; and what the goal of going to heaven is?
In saying the Kingdom of God is at hand he cannot be talking about heaven, as heaven is always in existence. Moreover, in the Lord’s prayer Christ says "Thy Kingdom come". If the Kingdom of God is heaven, why then does it need to "come" anywhere?
When we read about the "Kingdom of heaven" in the New Testament as the reward of the saved, it should be borne in mind that this term is used only in the gospel of Matthew. As is the custom with observant Jews, Matthew tended to avoid using the word "God" in his writings. By contrast, the other gospels use the term "Kingdom of God". This is the Kingdom which is bequeathed to us by heaven. The Kingdom of heaven is no more in heaven than the Kingdom of God is "in God"!
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
Christ also related the establishment of this Kingdom to the resurrection of the dead. How is it possible to reconcile teachings about the resurrection with the idea of going to heaven or hell when we die? These are mutually exclusive ideas.
In the following passage Christ speaks of people rising from their graves to judgement at a specific time in the future. There is nothing here to suggest that people have spent some intermediary period of time in heaven or hell.
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgement. John 5:28-29
This resurrection coincides with the establishment of God’s rule over this world at the coming of the Messiah. When he comes he will reward his servants with earthly power.
Consider the following passages:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth Mat.5:5
He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him power over the nations Rev.2:26
[You have] made them a Kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth. Rev.5:10
"Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities". And the second came, saying, ‘Lord your pound has made five pounds.’ And he said to him, "And you are to be over five cities." Luke 19:17-19
Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Mat.19:28
In the last passage, note the reference to the ‘new world’. Again, this cannot be a reference to heaven, as heaven exists already.
CHRIST MAKES WAR AGAINST THE NATIONS
Before establishing his Kingdom, God must first destroy the evil nations of this world. God has allowed Satan to rule this world and he will soon be replaced by God’s faithful servants who have overcome and endured this world of evil and suffering.
This is pictured in Daniel’s vision of the four great worldly kingdoms which have dominated world affairs since the destruction of the Israelitish kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the 7th and 8th centuries BC (Dan.2). These kingdoms represent the rulership of man - not God - over world affairs. These worldly kingdoms in turn owe their authority to Satan himself (Luke 4:6). There is prophesied a culmination of world history which will involve a final great conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The books of Revelation and Zechariah identify this conflict as the battle of Armageddon, where the nations of the world gather to invade the land of Israel. At this time Christ himself will return and establish God’s Kingdom. But first it is necessary for Christ to defeat these ungodly kingdoms of the world.
Did you know that Christ’s first act will be to WAGE WAR against the nations of the world and slay men with the sword of his mouth (Rev.19:15 "From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.")? This is not the image of the gentle ‘Christ child’ the world is familiar with.
He will be accompanied in this quest by his faithful followers who have been resurrected to life and ‘gathered from the four winds’. They will meet Christ in the air (1 Thes.4:17) and follow him to Jerusalem where ‘his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives’. (Zech.14:3-4)
Thereafter Christ and the family of resurrected saints - literally God’s children - will institute the reign of God over the whole earth. This will constitute a new phase in world history - an era of peace and good will.
TOMORROW’S WORLD - WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE
Christianity in the past has been so preoccupied with ideas centred on the ‘person of Christ’, that his message about the soon coming rule of God on earth has been all but completely overlooked. Few people have ever stopped to consider just what a world ruled over by God might look like.
Imagine a world where there is no police force because crime has ceased to exist, where even sinful impulses are greatly lessened. There would be no armies as there would be no warfare between nations. Remember Christ and his saints will rule these nations of the future with a ‘rod of iron’. There will be no starvation because the ‘ploughman shall overtake the reaper ... the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it’ (Amos 9:13).
Our economic system will be completely overhauled as people’s values will be far more in tune with God’s word. People will live in small communities centred around the extended family in an agrarian setting, just as man was always intended to live. Because people will be largely self-sufficient they will not have to travel far from their homes to work. With self-sufficiency there will be no need for cars, transport systems and industrial mass production, all of which pollute the environment. Huge congested cities will be a thing of the past.
The whole basic nature of human existence will be fundamentally altered as fallible human beings live their lives with a completely different attitude, one which puts God’s ways and his Kingdom first in their lives. Just imagine a society where for example it is normal and not exceptional for people to be honest. Just think what incredible changes this would make for a society which has a vast apparatus for keeping human greed and covetousness in check. Locksmiths and security companies would immediately go out of business. With no theft taking place - and no desire to amass vast wealth through usury - the entire banking system would cease to exist. Buildings would undergo extensive re-design as there would be no need to make them burglar proof.
What about other aspects of personal morality?
With the emphasis on family life and conformity with God’s desire for stable family life, marriage breakdown would be a thing of the past. The entire welfare system would be dismantled as individuals express their concern for others not so well off. Old and disabled people would live out their days within an extended family setting, so expensive government care programmes and old people’s homes would become a thing of the past. Drug taking, alcoholism and venereal diseases would greatly decrease as people focus on the Kingdom of God as their goal and purpose in life. Self-centred pursuits would be replaced by out-going concern for others.
One could go on and on with these observations, but the world to come will be a radically different place to the one we presently inhabit.
‘REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOOD NEWS’
What must we do to become a part of this wonderful new world to come? We must be born again as spirit beings at the resurrection (‘flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom’ 1 Cor.15:50 this whole chapter is well worth reading!). To qualify for this resurrection we must repent, turn away from evil and endure the trials and tribulations of this present age ruled over by Satan and his angels. That one should repent and believe in the good news of God’s Kingdom were the first words of Christ’s ministry (Mk.14:15). To repent means to turn away from our present life of rebellion against God, and start to put the Kingdom first in our lives. When Christ was asked about now we may inherit eternal life Christ answered: ‘Keep the commandments!" (Mat.19:17) He also said we must live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mat.4:4). We must start to live according to God’s ways as outlined in the commandments of scripture, and by Christ’s illumination of these commandments in the sermon on the mount. If we do this we may be counted among those who have ‘overcome’ the world and rule with Christ as a child of God in his Kingdom (Rev.2:26).Back to DALE HESLIN-ARGIRAKIS'S HOMEPAGE