By: Khrystyne Kilgore
Guys, eating cereal with a fork is a game changer. It creates the perfect milk-to-cereal ratio. Another game changer is a biblical view of the Kingdom of God. Having the perfect present-to-future ratio in mind. Recently I’ve heard a lot of phrases alluding to the Kingdom of God. During prayers, I nod my head and even whisper a “Yes, Lord” to show I know and acknowledge the desire for the Kingdom of God to be made known among the earth. But I actually have a very small idea what that phrase means. Below is the beginning of this journey toward understanding a little more what the Kingdom of God is and why it matters right now.
Growing up, I was taught about Heaven, with its streets of gold, the crystal sea (where my grandfather said he would be fishing with Jesus), marvelous mansions (one for each person, but we would never want to retreat to them), a giant buffet table with the most magnificent food (but we would never want to eat any of the food), and there will also be the animals mentioned in Revelation, and of course the fish in the crystal sea. All we would do, and want to do, is sing praises to the King of kings forever and ever and ever. I love worshiping, but I just couldn’t imagine singing forever! I LOVE food, so I also couldn’t imagine not eating the most delicious food ever created. Fishing is okay, but why does my grandfather get to fish and I have to sing all the time? Are those the only two options, either you fish in the crystal sea or you sing?
Whenever my family and church told me about Heaven they also told me about Hell, that it was hot all the time, like being in an oven forever. I run my heater all year long, yes even in the summer. I’m going to go out on a limb here, I didn’t want to be away from God, but being in an oven for eternity didn’t sound that bad. Also, is that where all the animals go? Is this the hope to look forward to?
I’m sure you were told various things about what Heaven would be like as well. No wonder the world is confused about what the end looks like for Christians; we can’t even agree what we are looking forward to, nor can we articulate why people should become a Christian if all they will do for eternity is sing. “Gee, are you sure you want to risk returning as an elephant shrew? I mean you could always come with me and sing for…well…EVER.” What we believe about the future Kingdom of God affects how we live our lives now. Not just in missions and evangelism but also how we treat others, our bodies, and the created world around us.
N.T. Wright says this about heaven, “…the word heaven to denote the ultimate goal of the redeemed, though of course hugely popularized by medieval and subsequent piety, is severely misleading and does not begin to do justice to the Christian hope.” This is exactly where I find myself today. Is the hope we as Christians have to look forward to found in another world, one we commonly refer to as “Heaven”? Be prepared to have your mind blown: The ultimate destination is not heaven. Before I get kicked out of the Church, consider this: The ultimate destination is not heaven, but being resurrected, which is life after life after death. The hope is being bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus as we come to fully reflect God’s image for His glory. What happened to Jesus after His death on the cross? He was resurrected! He was the first of the new creation, meaning others will follow in this bodily resurrection. One of the great surprises in the Christian hope is that heaven and hell are not what the whole game is about. The New and Old Testament regularly insist that “the major, central, framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos” (N.T. Wright).
Understanding this view of the Kingdom of God I can see now why the whole created world is waiting on tiptoe. The world is waiting to be redeemed. This present world that is full of injustices, broken relationships, and natural disasters. As Christians, we do not agree with Plato’s position of escaping this world and transcending to another one, a perfect world. This present world is the real one, it’s in bad shape but it is expecting to be repaired with the coming Kingdom of God. This is a far more “exciting” promise of what is to come. It is also extremely convicting and changes every aspect of how I live my life now. When I question the injustice of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and then go and buy something from one of the big companies, is it any wonder at all? I have fallen deep into the consumerist-American ideals and it is a deep pit to try and crawl out of. I am trying to have the right mindset as I seek to live in a way that does not benefit me thru the efforts of the oppressed. It’s so very difficult and it also needs to have the perfect balance of the present-to-future ratio and not falling into the trap of over-glorifying or under-valuing the present world. I see this tension as one similar to the one of social justice and missions.
However, I also need to recognize that this is a monstrous task and one not to be done alone. God created us to be in relationship with one another. God tasked His Church to demonstrate to the world His great love and redemption for all creation. Those who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of the work to eliminate hunger and famine. Those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for the damaged, bruised, and shamed. Live into this today, pray and ask the Spirit to help you be faithful today to the work of the Kingdom of God.