A question has been bouncing around in my mind lately. I don’t quite remember what even made me think about it but it was something completely unrelated. (As usual.) So ya’ll get to come along for the ride while I sort out my thoughts. 🙂

When we read our Bibles and we read people talking about the Kingdom of God/Heaven, what do we usually think they’re talking about? What have so many pastors and speakers taught that they are talking about? Heaven. The big shiny place that’s floating over earth somewhere with gold streets and white mansions, right? (Okay, maybe there was a little sarcasm in that last sentence. 😉 ) But what if that isn’t what these people (usually Jesus) were talking about? What if He meant the Kingdom of Heaven that is here on earth right now?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)

“…..I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 10:24)

“…..Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14)

“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.'” (Luke 10:9)

“…..Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

“In reply, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:5)

These verses don’t say anything about “after you die, you’ll see the kingdom of God”. These verses sound like they can be applied today. What if Jesus meant “unless you begin to see the world through a child’s eyes, without hate and greed and lust, you will not see the kingdom of God that is right here in front of you”? Or, “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God because he is so caught up in his worldly possessions that he can’t see the wonder around him.”

Then I started reading Brian McLaren’s new book, ‘The Secret Message of Jesus’, and came across this:

“Interestingly, John almost never uses the term “kingdom of God” (which is at the heart of Jesus’ message for Matthew, Mark and Luke.” There are two exceptions, both of which occur in this unique conversation [Nicodemus and Jesus’ talk]. Instead, John normally translates “kingdom of God” into another phrase that is notoriously hard to render in English. Most commonly, John’s translation of Jesus’ original phrase is rendered “enternal life” in English. Unfortunately, the phrase eternal life is often misinterpreted to mean “life in heaven after you die” – as are kingdom of God and its synonym, kingdom of heaven – so I think we need to find a better rendering.
If “eternal life” doesn’t mean “life after death”, what does it mean? Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus reduces the phrase simply to “life”, or “life to the full.” Near the end of John’s account, Jesus makes a particularly fascinating statement in a prayer, and it is as close as we get to a definition: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [God has] sent” (John 17:3). So here, “eternal life” means knowing, and knowing means an interactive relationship…….The Greek phrase John uses for “eternal life” literally means “life of the ages,” as opposed, I think we could say, to “life as people are living it these days.” So John’s related phrases – eternal life, life to the full, and simply life – give us a unique angle of what Jesus meant by “kingdon of God”: a life that is radically different from the way people are living these days, a life that is full and overflowing, a higher life that is centered on an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that heaven doesn’t exist or that everyone has a get out of jail free card now. But this is a good reminder that we have to be careful in how we “translate” the scriptures. I always believed that all those verses meant “heaven after you die” because that’s what I was taught. But how much more exciting is it to think that the kingdom of God is here now? We don’t have to wait who knows how many years before we can experience this. It’s right here, right now. All we have to do is become like a child and be willing to have eyes that see.