Experiencing Heaven Here on Earth
The Kingdom of Heaven is here, among us.
As Christians, we find ourselves as strangers in a foreign land. We do not belong to this earth, we belong to Heaven. It is the “normal” Christian experience (or it should be), that we walk this earth more aware of heaven than of the world around us. What does that mean, what keeps us from having that experience and what does heaven feel like?
THE CHRISTIAN WALK
We were all born into this world with its norms which govern us without our ever even realising it. Our thinking patterns are so imbedded, and so perfectly natural to our nature that we never question them. But when we read the Bible something peculiar happens. Take this passage for example:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” – Matthew 5:38-40
Words like these clash against our entire sense of intellectual reason. So we ignore those bits of the Bible and adopt a generally Christian approach to life, and it all goes pretty well until someone ‘slaps us on the right cheek’. In that moment, the idea of offering a second cheek borders on the ridiculous. Instead we do what any normal, rational person would do – we defend ourselves. This is human nature, a nature that cannot agree with words like:
“love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
We know these words are impossible to keep, so we simply do our best to be good people. If that really was all the Christian life amounted to, it would be very sad indeed. Are we just like the rest of the world except that we try harder and have a few extra rules to live by? Absolutely not! What we are born into, what we are given when God redeems us is infinitely beyond that. Paul describes it as:
“the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and... the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.” – Ephesians 1:18b-19a
We have been redeemed to “taste the heavenly gift” and “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4, 5). And if that is true, where are these in our experience?
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Heaven is the seat of God’s throne. It is the place where He dwells and the realm where His glory, His righteousness and His will, permeate all things. Nothing is tainted, nothing is corrupted by evil or decay. It is a place where light infuses everything, life flows through everything, hope never fades, and love is the nature of all its creatures. All God upholds finds its perfect expression there, without limit, without challenge and without end. This is the realm where the infinitude of God’s power is on full display. This is also the realm that God will welcome His children into at the end of all days.
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." – Revelation 21:7
We do not have to wait until we get there to taste the goodness of heaven, we can “taste the heavenly gift” now. We do not have to wait until we die to know “the powers of the age to come”. Nor do we have to wait till then to experience God’s presence, He is calling us to enter it now.
God is the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven. God’s presence there is what makes it all it is. He is why it is glorious, why it is beautiful beyond description. But the mystery of the New Testament is that God comes to us. He comes and makes His home within us – He is here! If we could even begin to comprehend the meaning of that one statement our entire lives would be changed forever.
When we become children of God, we have access to the kingdom of heaven. In that place the only economy is the will of God. All things are done according to His pattern of perfection, of love and of righteousness. Everything functions differently there to how it does on earth. In short, the kingdom which God has called us into looks absolutely nothing like the kingdom which God has called us out of.
The world is the domain of Satan. His character is what governs its norms because all are under the power of sin and therefore under his influence.
“the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” – 1 John 5:19b
For that reason he is called the ‘god’ of this world because all men follow him and all will worship him:
“ the god of this world has blinded the minds of them who believe not” – 2 Corinthians 4:4
“and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon... that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan” – Revelation 13:3a-4b, 20:2
We were born into this domain of Satan. We were children of this world. We adopted the norms, the belief systems and the habits of this world – because they were already imbedded in our human nature. By ‘human nature’ we mean the carnal nature we inherited through Adam that always gravitates towards sin.
“through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” – Romans 5:12b
The trouble we find then comes when we are called to God. Suddenly all that was normal and acceptable to us in this world, is confronted by the norms and nature of an entirely different kingdom. These two kingdoms are opposite poles, at war with each other. So when we seek to enter God's kingdom, we soon discover that a part of us also wants to resist it.
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God.” – Romans 8:7a
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.” – Galatians 5:17
God does not want to redeem our carnal nature. He does not want to fix it, polish it up or make it better. That old nature is fallen, it is “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14), it hates God.
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." – Romans 8:7
God does not fix the carnal nature, He condemns it to death. He buries it with Christ and gives us a brand new nature in its place, a righteous one. This is where water baptism helps us, for a deeper dive into that subject we offer another page:
For more on baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit in us, please click here:
Baptism & the Holy Spirit – (link not active yet)
THE SPIRITUAL REALM
The fact however, is that even if the old nature could be redeemed, it would still be useless to us in our pursuit of God and His kingdom. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom, and our old nature is carnal – it is of the earth – and therefore bound to the physical world. It cannot access the spiritual realm.
The best way we can describe what we mean is through the illustration of sound waves. There are sounds that our human ears can hear. And then there are sounds that go higher than our ear drums can receive. We have equipment that can read their presence, but we cannot hear them with our human ears. They are no less real than the ones we can perceive, the only difference is that our receivers (our ears) cannot recognise those sounds. There are also sounds lower than we can hear. Elephants and whales communicate this way, we could be in their company and not even know they are communicating since our ears can only receive a certain band of frequencies within a much broader spectrum of possible sound.
This is much like it is with the spiritual realm. Things that exist in spiritual form are just as real and as tangible as the physical ones are – except that they are only manifest to those who can receive the spiritual spectrum of experience.
“All flesh is not the same flesh, but there... are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies... There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:39-40a, 44b
Our human bodies are created to interact with the physical world through our five senses. And our soul interacts with the physical world through its 3 faculties: our intellect (designed to comprehend the world), our emotions (to connect with it) and our will (to affect it). Our carnal nature is the sum of body and soul, and it is perfectly designed to function in the natural world. But that same nature is useless to the spiritual realm.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God... nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14
In order to discern spiritual things, we need spiritual faculties. So for us to interact with the kingdom of heaven (which is a spiritual kingdom), we need a new spiritual nature - one perfectly designed for that task. That is why God’s solution in redeeming us from our carnal nature is a new, better nature. Therefore we need to have a spiritual birth, as Jesus says:
“unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5b
Just as we were born into a physical body, able to experience the world around us, so we must be born of the Spirit to experience the kingdom.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” – John 3:6
“God is Spirit.” – John 4:24a
When God places us in Jesus, we are transformed from earthly (or carnal) creatures, into heavenly (or spiritual) ones.
“The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit... The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” – 1 Corinthians 15:45b,47-49
In Christ, His nature is imputed to us and we become heavenly creatures. We call this process being born of the Spirit, and only after we have this spiritual nature can we worship God “in spirit”.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:24
This new birth is not something that gradually happens while we are raised in a Christian home. It is a spiritual transaction that happens in the blink of an eye. One moment we are creatures of this world, the next we are creatures of another world. If it were not instant then there would be a period of time when we belonged to both God and Satan – but that is not possible.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12
“Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” – Romans 8:9b
Our old, carnal nature cannot taste or touch heavenly things because it has no faculties suited to the task. God hides Himself in the heavenly realm, so once we have a new nature that is able to search for Him there, we very soon discover how sweet His words and His presence truly are. God's Spirit can now communicate with our spirit and show us the things of God.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
So then it becomes critical for us to know if we have truly been re-born or else we are searching for God's presence in vain. If there is even the slightest doubt in your heart, we strongly encourage you to follow the link below to our page dedicated to explaining the new birth, and discerning if you have experienced it already:
For more on this new spiritual birth, please click here:
How to be Re-born – (link not active yet)
DEATH AND RESURRECTION
No one comes into the kingdom of God without making a personal choice to be God’s. This freedom of choice is critical because it also means that each of us have inherently made a choice to reject the world (whether we thought of it that way or not). We can only be in one kingdom. To enter the kingdom of light means to escape the kingdom of darkness. We must die to one life so that we can live to the other.
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." – James 4:4b
“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – John 12:25
Therefore – and here is the most important thing we want to leave with you – in order to experience the heavenly riches, we have to be loosed from our earthly entanglements. Think of a man raised in his parents’ home. When he marries, he must leave the old life behind so he can make a new life and become one with his wife. The two cannot be fully joined if they do not leave their old lives behind. This is an image of our union with Christ, we must leave so that we can cleave.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31-32
To the extent that we are willing to forsake our old nature, our old kingdom, our old desires, and our old ways – to that extent we will be free and able to enter a living experience of the kingdom of God. The two are indirectly proportional. As one increases the other decreases.
Our choices, every day, in even the tiniest of decisions, feed either our spirits or our flesh. How do we spend our time? Where do we direct our thoughts? What do we elevate in our hearts? It all matters because all of these are constantly feeding one of our natures.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace... So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:5-6,8
If we struggle to let go of the world, it is because we place too high a value on it and too little value on the heavenly kingdom. So then, to enjoy God’s nearness we need to put to death the things of the flesh.
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." – James 4:8-10
The kingdom of heaven cannot be seen, but it can be entered into in the heart. It can feel so real and so near that we are more aware of our spiritual surroundings than our physical ones. God is in us, therefore with us wherever we are. And as much as we are willing to cleanse our hearts and draw near to Him, He will respond by drawing near to us. This is not a moment in prayer, but a life lived in surrender to God's will. This is called abiding in God. It is possible to be aware of His love and His nearness every moment of the day.
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.” – John 15:10
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.’ – 1 John 4:16b
In this place of abiding, we see and experience the physical world through a heavenly looking glass. This means that our interpretation of things, our emotional response to things, the value of things to us all changes completely. Everything is understood and measured by its eternal value, not its earthy value. And while our bodies are here, interacting with this world, our hearts are infused with the love, the power, the joy, the peace and the hope of heaven.
Possibly our lives will look very much the same as they did before, yet inwardly everything has changed. The presence of God sweetens everything. Then slowly His presence untangles the mess around us one piece at a time, because our view of everything has changed, so our choices change too. We let go of things that have no eternal value, we forgive old wounds and do the things God desires. Before we make any new turn we ask the Lord His will, and He guides us into greener pastures of rest. The end result is that our lives become easier, simpler and more meaningful.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." – Matthew 6:33
When we walk through life with God this way, seeking first His will and His kingdom, even the impossible becomes possible through prayer.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” – John 15:7
THE SECRET PLACE
And while this abiding life with God is fully satisfying, there is still a deeper and richer experience of the kingdom of heaven. It is found in what is called the Secret Place.
“Secret Place of His tabernacle” – from Psalm 27:5
“the secret place of thunder” – from Psalm 81:7
“the secret place of Your presence” – from Psalm 31:20
“the secret place of the Most High” – from Psalm 91:1
This does not happen while we are out in the world going about our lives. This is reserved for the prayer closet, the times when everything else is shut away and the only thing we know is us and God. Then Jesus said, we should “pray to your Father who is in the secret place” ( Matthew 6:6).
These encounters are far more rare and substantially more intense. But the casually curious will never experience them. We must pursue God relentlessly and we must strip away our carnal ways if we want to know this place. This is what Jesus meant when He said:
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” – Matthew 11:12
John the Baptist completely cast off the love of this world that He could gain the kingdom. Nothing else was dear to him. He did not care what he wore or what he ate, he cared only to know his God. And for that reason Jesus said of him “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
Those who are willing to pay a price, to suffer loss, to abandon the world that they may gain God – they know the treasure of His intimate presence.
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” – Philippians 3:7-9a
These men understand Jesus’s parable and the value of the kingdom of heaven.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:45-46
This Secret Place is the rich reward of the faithful. What they experience is the very throne-room of heaven, the true Holy of Holies that the earthly tabernacle was only a picture of. This is the place where God's presence is manifest. Just as Moses communed with God's presence, we have entrance into it through the blood of Jesus.
Those who press into the Secret Place have had a taste of the glories of the next life. They know the love of God and it fuels their entire existence. They walk amongst men with the authority of heaven but they will never abuse that power, because having witnessed God's majesty they have a reverent fear of Him. But the most exquisite of the many wonders they find in God cannot be spoken of. God keeps the deepest treasures of His beautiful heart tucked away, reserved for those who have proven their faithfulness.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” – 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
This life of experiencing the glories of heaven, all the while walking the earth, is there for any who dare to pursue it. Come to God in surrender and hunger for Him relentlessly until you find the way into the Secret Place – He is there waiting. And may God then make us able to comprehend:
“what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory.” – Ephesians 3:16-21a