Heaven and Earth
God’s kingdom is a primary 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. The word kingdom, in Greek, is more accurately translated to reign, or the active rule of a King. The kingdom of God would be a place where God's will is done. Heaven, in Hebrew, was the word for skies. It was a symbol of God’s infinite space and reign that is vast and beyond the earth. Heaven is where God’s imminent presence exists, 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 an ideal world of potential, 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, 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 they were removed from the kingdom of heaven. However, hope was not lost.
Gen 2:8-15; 3:6-7, 14-24
Sin and death entered the earth, but God appointed specific places that would be free from this separation caused by sin. 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 were sacrificed as atonement in part for their sins so they could enter these holy places. The tabernacle and temples were often decorated with garden imagery to reflect on a location where heaven and God's holiness, and earth, were one. But, only the priests could enter the temples or carry the ark. This solution was limited, but God had a greater plan to restore heaven and earth and humanity to a state of relationship with him.
Ex 20-31; 35-40; Lev 1-17; Num 6-10; 2 Chr 7:2; Hag 2:9
Matthew chapter 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. Completely human and completely God. Jesus was without sin, and in him, heaven was present, like a human temple. As he prophesied, taught, and performed miracles, Jesus revealed the kingdom of heaven everywhere he traveled, creating small locations of heaven on earth. Jesus said himself in Luke chapter 4, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God; 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 and resurrection established a power over death, cleansing humanity, so that creation's relationship with God is restored, allowing everyone to seek and preach heaven on earth. This is the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord and the kingdom is here. His death has made us heirs to the kingdom and children of God. This was God’s masterplan ever since the beginning in the garden, to bring us into a new kind of creation. 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
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 do not know. This return will mark the completion of the union between heaven and earth, the kingdom of heaven fully over the cosmos, just as Jesus says to pray, “…on earth as it is in heaven.” Humanity will be restored, the universe will be made new, sin and death will be permanently eradicated from the universe, and God and humans who choose him can co-work in a new creation. This kingdom on earth is described in the Bible as a new garden, a new multi-ethnic Jerusalem, and a new creation, where all receive new, resurrected bodies. It will be a creation that is once again motivated by love, and where God and his perfect love is with us again on the earth.
Is 2:12-22; 65; 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 have access to heaven now, but heaven and earth are not fully unified. We are told by Peter to anticipate the kingdom, but this does not mean to sit and 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 union. We can grow by being in a Christ-centered community, believing in the kingdom's paradigm-altering structure in the Beatitudes, and obeying the ultimate commandment, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Living life like Jesus and revealing the kingdom mean spreading truth in love, as he did. We can do this with the support of a Christian community, in acts of truth, and acts of love. Then we can see the kingdom of heaven grow on the earth until Jesus’ return, where he can use these works and finish the great union and we can once again live and reign with God in paradise.
Matt 22:36-40; 28:16-20; Acts 14:22;
Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 3; 2 Pet 3:12