Consider the Possibility That This Might Be True

Our life group has just completed the study of a book by James Paul, physician and currently director of English L’Abri.  The book opens with this quote: “I was a Christian. I was going to heaven. The only problem was I didn’t want to go there…” The occasion for this thought:  James Paul, medical student, was sitting on a plane, awaiting the takeoff on a flight from London to Warsaw.  He didn’t like to fly, imagined a plane crash, contemplated death and what comes after death, only to come to realize that he didn’t want to go to heaven.  He had images of chubby babies sitting on puffy clouds, and those images were not fulfilling to a young man who loved life and the earth and all that living on earth meant to him. He asked God to help him understand heaven and to long for heaven.  So in a sense, this book is twenty five years in the making and a response to that prayer.

What On Earth Is Heaven? by James Paul

The book, What On Earth is Heaven? begins in the garden of Eden, after creation, where God lives, not apart from His creation.  Heaven and earth are one as God delights in all that He has made, as He interacts with Adam and Eve, teaching them, instructing them in their assigned task of tending the earth.  How long this arrangement lasted, we don’t know.  What we do know is that one fateful day, heaven and earth were no longer one, and a huge gulf, a fracture came between God and all that He had created.  God’s creation came under the dark rule of God’s enemy.

I don’t want to go into the meat of the book here.  I’m going to give you a spoiler alert because I’m going to take you straight to the end of the book.  Before I go there, I want to give a very brief context to get us to the best part.  Briefly, heaven and earth were one.  With Satan’s intervention, they were divided.  When Jesus came, He brought a bit of heaven to earth and with His death, reclaimed the enemy territory as His own.  At His death He sent His Holy Spirit to reside in all who believed in Him as their Redeemer, Savior, and Lord.  Hence, wherever those who had the Holy Spirit in them went, they carried heaven with them.  James Paul defines heaven as the dimension of reality where God’s will is done.  What might that look like?

Chapter 12 is entitled An Earth-Dweller’s Guide to Participating in Heaven On Earth.  It begins with a quote from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:10: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.   Paul’s contention is that “Heaven is not some faraway place but a dimension that is present on earth right here and right now, wherever God’s will is done by those filled with His love and empowered by His Spirit to live lives characterized by relationships of love.  The gospel is an invitation to each of us to participate in the dimension of heaven and to play our unique part in the story of heaven coming to earth.”

  • Bridgeheads of heaven on earth – a military term to describe a secure area in enemy-occupied territory, from which an invasion can begin.  This means much more than telling the good news of Jesus; it means living out that good news in every aspect of our lives on earth, to ‘bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.’ (Ephesians 1:10).
  • Opening our eyes to the dimension of heaven on earth – in Colossians 3:1-4, Paul tells us that we are to set our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things.  This is not to say that we are to think about heaven only and not pay attention to earthly things, but rather it is an encouragement to see what our earthly life would look like if it were transformed by the dimension of heaven – to be heavenly minded.  Remember when Jesus healed a man born blind and all the Pharisees could see was that Jesus had broken the law by healing on the Sabbath.  What if Jesus were to heal our blind eyes so that we begin thinking about the square inch of the world in front of each of us as if it were transformed by the power of heaven.  Think about what Jesus was saying to us through the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and following.  
  • Trusting in the power of heaven not in earthly power alone – the story of redemption is not the story of how human cleverness and ingenuity brought heaven and earth back together. Rather, redemption is the story of how God opened doorways between dimensions so that the power of heaven could restore the sin-infected earth.  We need help from heaven, from the Holy Spirit, to take part in the new creation.  We must trust with humility, pray, wait, and be obedient to be a part of the coming kingdom of heaven on earth.
  • Heaven is in the ordinary things of the earth – if heaven is the dimension where God’s will is done, then even the ordinary everyday things of our earthly lives can be suffused with the glory of heaven when they are done within the will of God.  We see this in the New Testament where we are given instructions for relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children; about the way we use words and speak to one another, about sex, about our attitude to money, and about those in authority.  The kingdom of heaven is present when we offer a cup of tea, a comforting arm around a shoulder, acts of kindness and care, humility to ask for forgiveness, patience to listen, praying for those who hate us, using creativity to make things beautiful, caring for God’s world and His creatures.  It is bringing the loving order of heaven into all the ordinary things of everyday life.  It is bringing heaven into every area of life.
  • Bringing heaven to every aspect of earthly life – we are each to use the gifts, opportunities and passions that we have been given, to bring heaven to every area of earthly life in which we are involved – one square inch at a time.
  • Being part of heaven on earth is a struggle – the earth is still a battleground between good and evil as there are still forces of chaos at work that would frustrate and derail God’s loving plan for His creation.
  • Our hope of heaven on earth is not in vain – our heavenly Father sees the small everyday acts of love that no-one else notices but are a part of the kingdom of heaven and He values how we occupy our territory until He returns.  Knowing this, we can stand firm and give ourselves fully and faithfully to the work that He has for us to do.

What if ….