The Kingdom of Heaven approaches at such speed as to be incomprehensible to the human consciousness. It is advancing at such rate that we cannot afford to waste another second in indecision about Jesus, we cannot afford to squander another moment in spiritual apathy and torpor, we cannot afford to casually dismiss the astounding gift of life freely given by the Son of God to all who would believe in his redemptive, salvific power. Jesus speaks repeatedly of two aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven – to whom it belongs and of its hastening advance. And the urgency with which his disciples plead for us to repent of our sins rests largely on their other-worldly awareness of the velocity at which the coming Kingdom advances.
The Nature of the Kingdom: The Kingdom – like the Trinity being three distinct persons in the one God – has three distinct existences: it lives within every follower of Christ, it is the place to which faithful souls redeemed by grace go through the gateway of death after sloughing off their mortal coil, and it coexists in real-time and space (even now it exists and is populated with the saints and angels) with the universe and all that is in it, indivisible from it and yet entirely separate, for the Kingdom always was because God is eternal and has always been, and it will never end. ‘And he will reign over forever; his Kingdom will never end!”’. (Luke 1:33) The Kingdom of Heaven begins in us but is not fully realized until Jesus comes again.
The Mystery of the Kingdom: The nature of the Kingdom of Heaven is unknowable to us. It is often explained in terms of its mysteries and secrets, none of which are revealed even in the Bible because they cannot be fathomed by Man while we are ingrained in this world and in the enslaving condition of original sin. ‘One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs.’ (Luke 17:20). It is clear that Jesus revealed many mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to the disciples before sending them out into the world to continue His work so that they may preach with authority and bring innumerable souls to the Father. ‘He [Jesus] replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (Matthew 13:11).
Preaching the Kingdom: So how do you preach about a Kingdom whose mysteries and secrets we cannot know? By listening to Jesus’ words. The nature of those to whom He says the Kingdom belongs (the poor, the neglected, the merciful and compassionate, little children, those who lay down their life for another, the martyrs, the witnesses, etc, in short, those outlined in the Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-12) is an indication of the condition of the Kingdom – it is holy for it receives only those redeemed and made worthy by grace. ‘Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?’ (James 2:5). There is no sun, moon or need for lamp of any kind. Revelations 21:23-26; 22:1-5). It is a place where pain, sorrow, sin and decay will exist no more.
Explaining the Kingdom: Jesus uses parables time and again to explain the Kingdom of Heaven for two reasons. Firstly, the Kingdom is governed entirely by standards and edicts anathema to those of the world, for it is a place wholly holy and regulated by God’s perfect and infallible law, not the flawed and hedonistic laws of Mankind. A spiritually unchartered geography, it cannot be grasped by intellects grounded in worldly facts, values and laws. Secondly, in this life the Kingdom constitutes a state of being – of Christians being the vessels that house it – one of perpetuating it, preaching it, praying for its speedy advancement, glorifying it, pondering it, and allowing it to achieve fullness in the spirits of believers. ‘For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’. (Romans 14:17). ‘For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. (1 Corinthians 4:20). Always it is explained in parables in terms of growth, sustenance, nurturing, nourishment, a harvest, a gathering of the choicest spirits (spirits for Christ) – terms that ever hark towards one of Jesus’ most profound declarations – ‘I am the vine; you are the branches’ (John 15:5) – only to be followed by his most impassioned, vehement commission to believers – ‘My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his fellow man’ (John 15:12-13). The use of terms that relate to nature – growth, harvest, sustenance – indicates that the Kingdom is exclusively and absolutely pure and natural according to God’s holy edict, a place we can understand conceptually (whilst we remain on this side of heaven) but not definitively or comprehensively until world order is turned over by the coming of the Son to claim all believers and take them home to their eternal Kingdom with Him.
Obtaining entry into the Kingdom: the Kingdom can only be inherited, thus alluding to our origins and natural state of being – that of God’s children; but we are estranged from God’s holiness and therefore his presence because He cannot abide the presence of sin. Only through redemption can we enter into God’s presence and thus the Kingdom. It is an inheritance from the Father, passed down through the Son, to the Children of God. The bible is as specific in its outline of those who shall inherit the Kingdom - ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven ’ (Matthew 5:3); ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven ’. (Matthew 5:10) – as it is about those who will be barred – ‘…nor are thieves, nor greedy people, nor slanderers, nor swindlers—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God .’ (1 Corinthians 6:10).
The point of collision: There are two points in history at which time the Kingdom will come – it is all just a matter of which comes first. Firstly, there is death – the terminus of our individual lives – at which point we shall arrive at the Kingdom. But secondly, and most profoundly, is the point in time in which the coming Kingdom actually impacts with human history. This is more popularly known as the Rapture, when Christ will come and literally take in human form directly to Heaven those within whose hearts He finds Himself. ‘”And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”’ (Matthew 16:28). ‘I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.’ (Luke 17:34-35). Virtually the whole of humanity throughout its history will experience the hastening of the Kingdom upon death and since the time of our death is unknown to us then the Kingdom may come at any time. In our decaying mortal existence we are hurtling towards death – and thus the Kingdom – with every breath we take. But since we do not know the hour of our death, the Kingdom could be as far away as decades or – even more startling – as close as a few minutes away. Of these two points of collision – death or the Rapture – death is most likely to claim us. But are you truly willing to risk that the Rapture won’t occur a week from now? A day? One hour? Before you draw your next breath?
The Velocity of the Kingdom: Of all the things which help to identify, quantify and explain the Kingdom, a single unifying thread connects them all – the imminence of the Kingdom. It is spoken of by the disciples with such urgency that its arrival would appear to be immediately impending. ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 3:2). This sentiment sees frequent repetition throughout the Gospels and it is in keeping with the Bible’s use of repetition to emphatically draw attention to certain singular points of paramount importance. Following His Resurrection, when Christ appeared among the disciples, He urged them to peace – ‘peace be with you’ (John 20:19-23); and again, when talking to Peter He asks ‘Do you love me?’ (John 21:15-17) to refine and hone the reader’s focus on the deeper meaning and ramifications of His message. Read on their own and without familiarity with the unique ‘melody’ of the Gospels, this kind of repetition appears at face value to be overkill. But it is only every employed when a sentiment or message requires specific attention drawn to it, particular focus, special attention. So the repetition of the ‘repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near’ message throughout the Gospels suggests that it is either coming at such velocity as to be imminent or else it is at the very cusp of realization – be that in the form of our earthly expiration or the coming Rapture. At any rate, it is about to occur. Time in Heaven is quantified differently to our experience and understanding of it – ‘With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day’ (2 Peter 3:8), so effectively, in Heaven, little more than 2 days have passed since Jesus gave Himself up as the sacrificial Lamb for our sins. But the very next statements explains why God has so generously expanded a mere two days in Heaven into more than 2000 on earth – ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). So when the disciples declare that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, they are not over-exaggerating or employing scare tactics – it is very much a matter of immediacy and therefore conveyed with pressing urgency.
How can we advance the Kingdom? Several aspects of our outward and inward lives can and will advance the Kingdom and its coming – both aspects of which are in complete harmony with one another. Loving one another and spreading the Word of God are first and foremost. Residing within and adoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus is essential. Prayer has untold and unforeseeable miraculous properties. Living by Jesus’ teachings and examples exemplifies His message and glorifies Him. Taking on the role of custodian and caretaker of the poor, the ill, the dispossessed, the marginalized and the abused addresses one of Christ’s most urgent calls to action: our responsibility to care for the needy. Humility and demonstrable compassion round out the spiritual condition and resultant actions necessary for increasing the velocity of the Kingdom and thus advancing it in the world and the lives of all living beings.
How can we prepare for the Kingdom? By accepting the counsel of the Holy Spirit, by allowing Jesus’ inexhaustible and all-consuming love for Mankind to move through us and out from us to those around us, to spend time in earnest and soulful prayer, and (most importantly) by accepting grace through faith and embracing the salvation that Christ freely offers. The Kingdom is truly at hand and it is more wonderful and incomprehensible than anything we can possibly imagine or predict. So priceless is it, in fact, that the worst travails, trials and sufferings we could ever endure in life are as nothing compared to the wonder and the splendor of Heaven. No earthly price is too high. No mortal cost too great.
Set your hearts towards the things of Heaven so that here on earth the Holy Spirit may find in you a useful instrument and make of you a resounding gong that you might call to Jesus throngs of sinners, doubters, seekers. As the living chalice of Christ, offer the water of salvation in His name to all who thirst – the lost, the bewildered, the unsatisfied, the resistant, the hard-hearted, the angry and the afflicted.
We as believers have a monumental responsibility not only to Christ to avail ourselves to His work and therefore surrender entirely our lives and hearts and goals to His divine and perfect plan, but also to those who have not found Him either because they have lost their way, lost their will, lost their faith, abandoned hope, by circumstance have been kept segregated from His influence or else have rejected or turned away from His healing, saving, fulfilling grace by way of the seductive, illusory, finite and empty promises of a world ruled by the Prince of Lies. The world is not merely a warzone in the earthly sense but more specifically a spiritual battlefield: we are the bounty. Make no mistake – Satan is engaged in a desperate campaign for all souls and will resort to fighting dirty, employing deception, promising all things (while delivering nothing) and manipulating our every weakness, shame and debility to his advantage. He will prey upon our most selfish predilections, our most crushing degradations, our most ruinous shortcomings to ensnare and entrap us. He cares nothing for us and we should be nothing short of righteously enraged at his transparent, barefaced molestation. Our singular and only defense is also our salvation – Jesus Christ.
Jesus alone can not only save us but heal us of all the guilt and shame and failings that Satan exploits to further pierce and puncture us with his barbs and snares. We can remain perforated by sin and ignominy, fearful to show our faces to Jesus for fear that He will reject and discard us for our transgressions, or we can seek His face and discover mercy and compassion of such untold depth and breadth that our wounds and injuries are healed by His engulfing love, leaving the Prince of Lies with no foot- or hand-hold in which to wedge his impaling talons.
It requires only a little faith and trust on the part of the unbeliever and the unfailing promise of salvation freely offered by the Son of God. But on our part, it requires a colossal effort in the commission of bringing all souls to Jesus through our resources, charism, patience and love. It requires us to make a sincere and earnest investment in the lives of others, in spending time with them, earning their trust, listening to their concerns and hopes, guiding them as per our own guidance from the Holy Spirit and gently leading them toward the only source of peace and fulfillment available and attainable to all.
It all comes back to Jesus.
He is the origin, source and ultimate destination of our earthly fulfillment and eternal salvation.
We need only trust in Him, trust in His ability to affect all things, trust that He will move through and compel us according to His divine authority, His holy will, His perfect plan and He will advance His kingdom through us beyond anything we could achieve on our own.
When we surrender our lives and ours heart to Christ, we become a part of His momentum and thus are swept along in the ever-accelerating velocity of the Kingdom of Heaven – a Kingdom that is closer at hand than any of us could ever possibly imagine.
Boldly evangelize – sing out His name and praise His greatness from the highest heights!
Trust God to move you!
The Kingdom of Heaven begins in each of us but is not fully realized until He comes again. Advance His Kingdom that He may come all the more swiftly, for the day of His coming heralds the commencement of unimaginable peace, an eternity of impossibly uncontainable love, and reconciliation with our Father in Heaven!
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