Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.—Jesus (Matthew 5.5, emphasis added.)This week, I want to look at an emphasis in the teachings of Jesus that many miss today. Today, those who bear Christ’s name (Christians) are known largely (Praise God for the few exceptions.) as being focused on getting their ticket to heaven so that they can “get out of here.” They sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” What we have to realize, however, is that this mindset is strangely absent from the
Jesus story itself and the Jesus that we find in that story. We must allow this absence to confront us.
Ponder the following three passages and notice their emphasis.
“You are the salt of THE EARTH. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” —Matthew 5.13
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” —Matthew 6.10
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit THE EARTH.”—Matthew 5.5 (In modern preaching, we find ministers bellowing from their pulpits, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit Heaven. This is a subtle departure from the early church that began with the introduction of Gnosticism, what some call, “Christian history’s first heresy to burn through the church.” Gnosticism, for those who have studied this early phenomenon, is an unhealthy preoccupation with escaping Earth and getting to heaven.)
What we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is that Jesus was not focused on getting people out of this place to some far distant heaven. Instead, Jesus was focused on bringing the far distant Heaven (in the mind’s eye of people) very close, bringing it to Earth. In other words, Jesus wasn’t focused on getting people to heaven, but instead on bringing heaven to people.
This traces back to the ancient Hebrew Genesis narrative itself.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” —Genesis 1.26
God, according to the Hebrew narrative, made this Earth and gave it to us as our original home, which we lost to God’s enemy:
“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me [by humanity in the beginning], and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” —Luke 4.5-7
Jesus also repeatedly refers to God’s enemy as the “ruler of this world.” — (John 12.31; John 14.30; John 16.11) Jesus saw his mission as being to save us and our home here from the enemy’s oppressive reign. He sought to restore us and our home, once again, to the original Kingship of Christ (see Colossians 1.13).
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All AUTHORITY in heaven and on earth has been GIVEN to ME. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .” —Matthew 28.18-19 (Notice that Jesus is quoting the devil from the wilderness, saying that through his death and resurrection all that the enemy claimed as his own Jesus had won back and given back to us. See also Luke 11.21, 22)
John too ends his climax of canonical prophecy with God, not taking us to some Heaven to spend eternity with Him, but rather the breathtaking picture of God coming HERE to spend eternity WITH US!
“I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’.” —Revelation 21.2-3
Again, Jesus, contrary to many who bear his name today, lived in the headspace of bringing Heaven to Earth, not getting those from Earth to some Heaven beyond.
Now, I also want to address a rumor that is circulating about myself personally and RHM. It is usually not my policy to track down and correct every rumor that circulates about me. Typically, I simply let rumors and those who spread them run their course and let honest thinking people think things through with the hope that they would talk with me (rather than about me) if they have questions. Some today are saying, “Herb doesn’t believe in Heaven!” Nothing could be further from the truth. I absolutely believe in Heaven. However, I do not believe that Jesus teaches us to call Heaven our home. Being a Jesus follower, if we are actually going to follow the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, this means being about restoration rather than relocation.
Now, some Christians today believe that we will spend some time in Heaven at some stage of the process of our transition from this present evil age to the age to come (Galatians 1.4; Ephesians 1.21). Also, it must be noted, that there are followers of Jesus who hold to an eschatology that doesn’t even include ever going to Heaven, but that when Jesus returns here to this earth, it will be to reign here, and for his followers to reign with him. Nevertheless, for this week, I want to address those who believe that we will spend some time in Heaven at some point. There are some differences among the beliefs in modern Christianity about our potential time in “Heaven.”
1) Some believe we go to Heaven at death, and when Jesus returns, he is only to coming back to pick everyone up down here still living and take them to heaven also so that we all together can spend eternity there, in heaven, with him. This is the headspace of
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through” that finds absolutely no resonating notes in the Jesus story itself, in my opinion.
2) Some of them believe that the time we spend in Heaven will be between death and His return, BUT that when Jesus returns, we will all spend eternity, ultimately here on Earth in an Earth made new.
3) Others believe that death is a sort of “sleep,” waiting on a future resurrection (Martin Luther as well as some Anabaptists, such as Michael Sattler, believed this in the sixteenth century.) at Jesus return. We will then spend a temporary time in Heaven (not everyone believed this part in the sixteenth century) until a third return of Jesus to this Earth to spend eternity on this Earth in an Earth made new.
I want to address the second and third view above. Regardless of which of the two views you hold to above, in regards to my point this week, it’s mute (again, I will add, that for option 1, I can’t find any evidence for this view, in it’s entirety, anywhere in the New Testament). In BOTH 2 and 3, whichever of those two some may hold, I want those who believe this to notice; our potential time in Heaven, even if we do go there at some point, is ONLY TEMPORARY. Stop and think about this. Your time here on EARTH is not temporary. THIS is your home. We lost it to God’s enemy, and Jesus rescued it back for us. (Revelation 12.10, 11.15) Even if we do, at some point, spend some portion of time in Heaven, our time IN HEAVEN is TEMPORARY. There, we will sing in Heaven (for those who believe we will spent some portion there), “This place [heaven] is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” We are going to be spending eternity HERE! (Revelation 21.2-3)
So, as a follower of Jesus, we should not be living as if “this world is not my home.” We can begin by simply no longer saying the statement, “we are just passing through.” This world IS our home. We have a lot of work to do yet. God’s will is not being done ON EARTH as it’s done in heaven, yet. We are called to put on display what life on this Earth, under the Kingship of Jesus does look like. It is the Bar Enasha (new humanity founded in Jesus) that we talked about last week. It is what Jesus called “the Kingdom”, which Jesus commands us to proclaim, “has come!”
1. This week I want you to ponder the following two texts:
“And he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and TO HEAL THE SICK.”—Luke 9.2
We live in a SICK world, and as a Jesus follower, our first concern should not be to leave this world behind, but to bring healing to our sick world around us. Jesus gave us a way to be conduits of healing to this world, and we are to be about setting in motion that healing. We must be about restoration, not relocation.
In addition, this verse:
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”—Philippians 1.23-26
Some view this verse as saying Paul was faced with dying and going to Heaven or that Paul was offered translation like the Hebrew Patriarch Enoch or the Hebrew Prophet Elijah. Regardless, I want you to notice Paul’s headspace, 1) To relocate and be with Jesus or 2) to remain here and continue in the ministry of restoration. Which did Paul choose?
2) Write down any perceptions, thoughts, feelings, or paradigm shifts Jesus gives you during your time meditating on these texts.
3) Be prepared to share and discuss openly and respectfully any of your insights this coming week with your HeartGroup together.
In short, this world IS our home. We are NOT just passing through. We are here to stay. Even if we do spend some time in the future elsewhere, it will be that location that we will “just be passing through.” We are spending eternity here. Eternity starts now! The Kingdom has come! This Kingdom, which is a radical new way of doing life, is based on a radical new way of seeing God (His character), ourselves, and others. We are called to put on display what the “age to come” (Ephesians 1.21) looks like in the here and now! We are called to be like weeds (We’ll talk more about this later.) in a garden, subversively crowding out, with one heart at a time, this “present evil age.” (Luke 13.19; Galatians 1.4)
Much to think about for sure.
Keep living in love and loving like Christ. Now go enlarge the Kingdom.
I love you guys. See you next week.