There is an oldtime hymn that goes like this:
“This world is not my home. I’m just a-passin’ through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the Blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
This hymn depicts us longing for the day when we can begin our life in our real home – Heaven. The promise of heaven is sometimes the only thing that sustains us in this life when pain and suffering surround us. We carry a picture of the promise of eternal life like a photo in our wallets and take it out and gaze at it longingly when the going gets tough.
But Jesus stated very clearly at the onset of his earthly ministry that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. It is not some far off dream, a future reward. It is now. Thirty-two times in Matthew, Jesus repeats those words. What does that mean? What difference does it make? How do we experience this nearby kingdom that is now?
Living in the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now requires a spiritual mindset, that as followers of Christ, we live in two parallel worlds. We have our earthly, temporal world, where we have a physical body and are limited by time and space. But we also have already set foot in the spiritual realm where we are not limited by time and space. We are given spiritual eyes that enable us to see, though dimly, a world beyond death where we live in holy communion with God. There is but a thin veil that separates these two worlds – that heaven is as close as the air we breathe. That should give you goose bumps!
How do we access this other world? Richard Rohr describes it as learning the secret of dying before dying. The sooner we face our own mortality and die to our small, temporal self, the sooner we can step into the reality of heaven and embrace the freedom and largeness of life granted to us as children of God. And we can do and experience that right now! We don’t have to wait until we actually die.
I love this quote and have it on a plaque in my living room: “I am a child of God, one in whom Christ dwells, and I am living in the unshakeable kingdom of God.” When God’s kingdom is already our home, the perils of life have no lasting effect on us. We do not live in fear of anything. We are free to love and give freely of ourselves to advance his kingdom, to live with a broad understanding and purpose that is bigger than our own small, limited perspectives.
We can go on longing for heaven and seeing it as a future place “somewhere beyond the blue”, or we can begin now to live the resurrection, to walk in the reality that the kingdom of heaven is here and now, because we know the One who died and rose again and he invites us to spend the rest of our earthly days enjoying the reality of eternal life with him right now. That is our choice every day. We may be just “a-passin’ through”, but we don’t have to wait to experience the treasures of heaven. They are as close as the air we breathe. Breathe deeply of the promise of eternity. Let it change how you see this world today.