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Hereafter (2)

#4 --- We need to see the here in the hereafter. In Revelation 4, John gives us a glimpse of heaven --- and what a scene it is! There is a throne with "someone sitting on it," (v. 2). There is a glass-like sea, four creatures, twenty-four elders, a rainbow, thunder, lightning, and seven lamps (got all that?). Two things should be kept in mind.  First, John has already told his readers at the very beginning of the letter that the truths he has received have been communicated to him through signs (1:1 ASV --- you can read more about this here).  Therefore, we make a mistake if we try to understand this as a literal picture of what heaven looks like.  Rather we are to  ask, "What truths are being communicated through these images?"  And that brings us to the second point:  everything that is spoken of is described in relationship to the throne --- because in heaven God’s rule is central to everything.

The twenty-four elders are seated on thrones with golden crowns on their heads. These are elders. Both the Old and New Testaments know of them. They are the wise, the experienced, those who have been around. The four creatures around the throne speak of the One who inhabits the throne. They say of him: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come," (v. 8). The response of the twenty-four is to get off their thrones, get on their knees, and lay their crowns before God. They are wise indeed!


In a picture, that is what it means for the kingdom to come. The kingdom comes when we get off our thrones, get on our knees, and lay our crowns before God. This is also what heaven is --- heaven is where everything exists in glorious submission to God. When you put the two of these together, we have what Jesus is talking about in the model prayer Matthew 6:10.

What Mark and Luke refer to as the kingdom of God in their accounts, Matthew speaks of as the kingdom of heaven (4:13). He uses this phrase more than thirty times. It is surely employed in a metonymical sense, where "heaven" is a substitute for "the God of heaven" (just as in "where are you parked?"  --- is a substitute for "where is your car parked"). But I think there is something more to the usage of this phrase.

Speaking to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells them that "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms," (Ephesians 2:6). He says very much the same sort of thing in Colossians 3:1-3. To the disciples at Philippi he says, "Our citizenship is in heaven," (3:21). What are we to make of all of this? I think we are to understand that when we submit to Christ, we enter into not just the kingdom (John 3:5), but we take our first step into heaven as well.  John employs this in Revelation where  people who aren’t disciples are spoken of as “the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 3:10,6:10, 8:13, 11:10, etc.), while those who belong to Christ are said to dwell in heaven (12:12, 13:6).  They have been “redeemed from the earth,”  (14:3).

The idea is that though we still live on earth, but we have also entered the realm of heaven. Think of it like being in a plane above the clouds.  Technically, we’re still on earth in the sense that we’re part of the earth’s atmosphere, still subject to gravity, etc., but we’re also experiencing things from a much different perspective than when we were on the ground.  Christians live at the intersection of heaven and earth. We’re still bound by earth but we no longer belong to it.  Christ has us headed in another direction. Heaven begins on earth in this life or it doesn’t begin at all!
More here.

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