Heaven and Earth
God’s kingdom is a major focus for Christ Church North Bay. The kingdom of God, is a major theme throughout the Bible, especially in the synoptic Gospels. We believe it is as important to know about the kingdom now as it was then.
The kingdom of God was called the kingdom of heaven by the Israelites, who did not use God's name. Heaven was the word for skies, as a symbol of God’s infinite space and reign that is vast and over the earth, like the skies. To them, heaven was where God’s imminent presence existed, so kingdom of heaven was an adequate replacement to the term kingdom of God.
In Genesis, the Garden of Eden is depicted as a paradise where God and humans existed in the same space and heaven and earth existed together; it was the ideal world where God and humans could co-work in harmony in an atmosphere of love. The purpose of humanity was clear, to be image bearers and take dominion over and care for the earth and animals. However, humans rebelled and were removed from the garden, and sent into a heaven-less earth. Mankind’s choice to sin prevented them from being in a perfect place, like heaven. God’s imminent presence was no longer with humans, and they could die physically and spiritually as heaven was distanced. Fortunately, God had a solution to bring heaven and earth together.
Gen 2:8-15; 3:6-7, 14-24
Sin is a virus that entered the earth, but God appointed specific places that would be free from the “virus”. Jewish temples and the ark of the covenant were places the kingdom of heaven could be present on earth and God could dwell with Israel. Animals had to be sacrificed in order to create a clean space where heaven could be present. However, only the priests could enter the holy place where God dwelt. This solution was limited, but God had a greater plan to bring humanity back to his original intention.
Ex 20-31; 35-40; Lev 1-17; Num 6-10; 2 Chr 7:2; Hag 2:9
Matthew 3 begins with John the Baptist declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He prepared the way for Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Son in human form. Jesus was without sin, and in him, the kingdom of heaven was present. As he traveled, prophesied, taught, and performed miracles, Jesus revealed the kingdom of heaven everywhere he traveled, creating "hotspots" of heaven on earth. Jesus said himself in Luke 4, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” In Christ’s death, as the final sacrifice, a point of overlap between heaven and earth was made. His death sanctifies humanity so that their relationship with God is restored and they can now access heaven here. This is the Gospel.. His death has made us heirs to the kingdom and children of God. So, heaven and earth are united already, but also not yet.
Matt 3:1-3; 4:17; 6:9-13; 16:19; Luke 4:43; 10:9; Rom 6:8-10;
1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 5:15; 2 Pet 1:10-11
The Day of the Lord
Paul taught that physical death is not the end, and that there will be bodily resurrection of the dead upon Jesus’ return, at a time we cannot know. This return will mark the completion of the reunion between heaven and earth, and the kingdom of heaven will be restored here, just as Jesus says to pray, “…on earth as it is in heaven.” Humanity will be restored, the cosmos will be made new, the virus of sin will be permanently eradicated from the universe, and God and humans can co-work in a new creation. It will be a creation that is once again motivated by love, and where the earth and God's kingdom are one.
Is 2:12-22; Matt 24:36; 1 Cor 15:12-58; Rev 22
The Already and Not Yet
Today, we exist in the tension of heaven and earth being reunited already but also not yet. We are told by Peter to anticipate the kingdom, but this does not mean to just wait. Anticipate is an active verb. Now, God’s Spirit can dwell inside us and we, as Paul puts it, can be building blocks in God’s kingdom. Our bodies are now the temples where he may dwell. We must grow in Christ-likeness in order to spread God’s kingdom on the earth. In this way, we can participate in the reunion. We can grow by being in a Christ-centered community, and obeying Jesus’ commissions at the end of the book of Matthew: making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them. Living life like Jesus, revealing the kingdom, means spreading truth in love, as he did. We can only do this in community, as the kingdom will be the ultimate community. In acts of truth and acts of love, we can see the kingdom of heaven grow on the earth until Jesus’ return where he can finish the reunion and we can once again live in paradise.
Acts 14:22; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 3; 2 Pet 3:12