Heaven Vs The Kingdom of Heaven/God

The average Christian today does not seem to realize it, but there is a fundamental difference between the concept of Heaven preached today and the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God that Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Church preached! The concept of Heaven, as it is presented in most Gospel messages today, is primary about a glorious place where believers go after death. It is presented as the ultimate and eternal reward of the righteous. Now, while that is indeed ‘good news,’ IT IS NOT the good news or the gospel that Jesus preached!

When we preached about Heaven, we’re talking about a place of reward in the future, but when Jesus preached about the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God, he was primarily talking about a realm of existence or a way of life in the present! If we would carefully study the preaching and teachings of Jesus as they are related in the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we might be shocked to discover that Jesus really didn’t say much about the ‘Heaven’ we preach so much about today! But rather, Jesus was obsessed and consumed with the message about the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God!

We read of the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry in Matthew 4:12-17: “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:12-17 ESV) Notice what the Bible says that Jesus began to preach: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ Jesus didn’t preach: ‘Repent, so that you might go to Heaven when you die!’ No! He preached: Repent (the Greek word that is translated as ‘repent’ literally means; ‘to change one’s mind or to change the way one thinks!) for the Kingdom of Heaven (primarily, a reference not to the ‘place’ called Heaven, but rather to the rule or authority of Heaven/God) is at hand (near, present). Jesus was calling for his listeners to submit to the rule or the authority of Heaven/God in their lives! It was a call for them to change their thinking or their way of thinking (which would subsequently cause a change in their actions) in light of the presence of the Kingdom that was being manifested in his (Jesus’) life and ministry. The Kingdom of Heaven was at hand because it was present in the life and ministry of Jesus. The main message of Jesus was for his followers to submit to the rule and authority of God in and over their lives!

Now, if you were to look up the Greek word that is translated as ‘kingdom’ in the phrase; ‘kingdom of God’ or ‘kingdom of heaven’ in the Strong’s Dictionary, you would find the following: ‘royal power, kingship, dominion, rule 1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom 1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah.’ In the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains commonly known by biblical scholars and students as; Louw-Nida, we find this notation: ‘It is generally a serious mistake to translate the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ‘the kingdom of God’ as referring to a particular area in which God rules. The meaning of this phrase in the NT involves not a particular place or special period of time but the fact of ruling. An expression such as ‘to enter the kingdom of God’ thus does not refer to ‘going to heaven’ but should be understood as ‘accepting God’s rule’ or ‘welcoming God to rule over.’ [Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 479.] As an aside, the term ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is used in Matthew’s account whereas in parallel passages in Mark and Luke, we encounter the term; ‘Kingdom of God.’ This is because of Matthew’s Jewish tendency to avoid the direct use of the term ‘God.’ Hence the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are both references to the same concept.

But, not only was the message of the Kingdom of Heaven/God the message or the gospel that Jesus preached, it was the only message he commanded his disciples to preach! In Luke 9:1-2, we read: “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (KJV) When a would-be disciple wanted to delay following Jesus until after his father died, Jesus said to him: “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:60 KJV) Luke’s last record of the Apostle Paul at the end of the book of Acts says: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” (Acts 28:30-31 KJV)

Jesus said that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God (the rule and authority of God in and over our lives) and his righteousness (God’s way and God’s standards) and all these things (the things we need in life, that the world is so stressed over) will be added to us. The Kingdom of God is the answer to stress and anxiety! The Kingdom of God should be our first and ultimate priority and concern! It was for Jesus! So much so, that even after his resurrection, we read in Acts 1:3: “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3 ESV) His first words were about the Kingdom of God and his last words were about the Kingdom of God! If the Kingdom of God was of such importance to Jesus, then surely it should be of importance to us!

Personally, I think the church has missed it! We’ve been preaching the wrong message! We’ve been preaching about Heaven as a ‘place’ of rest AFTER death, when the message Jesus wanted and wants us to preach is about the Kingdom of God as the ‘power’ for life BEFORE death! In all of my years, I have discovered a fundamental truth that is often over-looked! There is one thing everyone must do before they die! They must live! The church has done a good job of preparing people for life after death, but it has traditionally and historically done a poor job of preparing people for life BEFORE death! We’ve gotten the ‘later’ aspect down pretty good, but the Kingdom of God is about NOW and LATER! When we get the ‘now’ right, the later will take care of itself!

I encourage you to do the research and read the Bible for yourself! If you would take off the lenses of religious traditions, you just might discover the Bible contains, not out of date principles for another world, but dynamic principles for living life on earth today! The message of Jesus has not changed! The need of mankind is still the same! The answer to the world’s stress and anxieties is still the same! It is the message of Jesus! It is the message Jesus commanded us to preach: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven/God is at hand!” If we get the message of the Kingdom right and apply its principles and teachings in our daily lives, we will not only experience the eternal life that Jesus promised for us later, but we will also experience the abundant life that Jesus promised for us now!

Earning Wings?

As I write this, first of all, I don’t want to come across as being flippant, disrespectful, or insensitive to those who have died or to those they left behind. My aim is not to agitate but rather to educate. With that being said, let me get into what stimulated me to write this post.

I was perusing my Facebook page the other day when I ran across this post of someone commenting about a person who had recently died. I was particularly arrested by their suggestion that the person who had died had; ‘earned their wings!’ Now, this was not the first time I had seen that comment, for across the years, I had read it too many times for me to count! Perhaps, this time for me was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back! At any rate, I felt the need to write this post to address this erroneous idea.

There are basically three errors that are inherent in the notion that when a person dies they have ‘earned their wings.’ First of all, the idea of ‘earning’ is completely opposite of biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that salvation cannot be earned, but rather is the result of God’s unmerited divine favor, known as grace! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church; “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJ) Therefore, there is nothing we can ‘earn’ because everything we receive from God is by God’s grace! The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah wrote: “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. .”  (Isa. 64:6 NKJ) [in the Hebrew text, ‘filthy rags’ is a reference to a woman’s menstrual cloth!] The best we have to offer in regard to earning merit with God is utterly repugnant!

Secondly, where did this idea that we will get ‘wings’ when we die come from? (I wrote about this false notion more extensively in another post: Forever Human). Perhaps it comes from a misunderstanding of a statement Jesus made to the Sadducees in regard to marriage after death. Jesus said: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30 NKJ) Men will be ‘like angel’ in that there will be no marriages, not like angel as in being of the same class of being as angels. And where did we get the idea that angels have wings? The only biblical reference to angelic creatures having wings is in Isaiah 6. If you read carefully, you will note that these creatures were not ordinary angels, but are specifically named as: Serephim. There is no record in the Bible of ordinary angels having wings! In addition to that, a careful and correct reading of the Bible will reveal that the function of angels is to minister to the heirs of salvation. (Hebrews 1:13-14) Therefore, for humans to become angels at death is a demotion rather than a promotion! In God’s hierarchy, angels are beneath us, not above us!

Lastly, I also talked about this more extensively in another post (All Dogs ‘Don’t’ Go To Heaven), but it does not matter how much suffering a person went through on earth, that does not qualify them for Heaven! I know we would like to think that all of our loved-ones and friends are at peace in Heaven, but the biblical truth of the matter is all of them are not! Everybody who has died is not resting in peace! The only thing that qualifies a person for Heaven is a correct relationship with God through Jesus Christ!

I know we say things like this in an effort to comfort the bereaved, but I think it does more harm than good when the comfort is based on false hope! Therefore, as we seek to comfort those who are bereaved, let us be careful to give them real comfort from the Word of God and not false comfort from worldly ideas or Facebook theology!

Conflict Sources and Resolution Principles

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I must say that our world is filled with conflict! But conflict is nothing new to the human experience. In the Bible, the Apostle James presents an interesting point about the source of conflicts in James 4:1-3. James writes: “Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.” (NET: New English Translation)

James suggests (and I agree!) that the source of many conflicts and disputes are internal! In other words, many of the problems that people have with other people stem from problems they have within themselves! Now, if a person is conflicted within themselves, they will naturally have conflicts with other people. If a person can’t get along with themselves; they certainly won’t be able to get along with others! James suggests a big problem is that people ask (God), but they do not receive because they ask with the wrong motivation. That is the one of the main issues I have with the proponents and followers of the so-called ‘prosperity-gospel.’ It seems to me that the main reasons and motivations for faith, prayer, blessings, and prosperity for those who espouse the prosperity gospel is for personal consumption and comfort; not so that the will of God might be done! But at any rate, I digress, let me get back to my main point: conflict sources and resolution principles.

In addition to what the Apostle James says, conflicts are also caused by ‘false beliefs.’ Two of the main false beliefs that cause conflicts are the belief in limitation and the belief in separateness. The belief in limitation is the belief that there is not enough to go around or that there is not enough for everybody. Ironically in some cases, it is the belief in limitation that causes limitations! When people believe there is not enough, they will hoard and stockpile resources, which may in some cases, limits other people’s access to those resources. In turn, the other people, who feel unjustly deprived, might be motivated to rob, steal, or otherwise, get those resources away from the hoarders!

But the truth of the matter is; there really are no limitations, excepts for the limitations we entertain in our own minds! My wife and I recently took a trip to the mountains. As we looked at the vast display of God’s glory in nature, we were amazed by the fact that with so many people in the world, there is still an abundance of open space and land practically untouched by man! We observed an abundance of trees, water, air, and nature! There truly is enough to go around! In fact, there is more than enough! But limitations occur because of the false belief in limitation, which in turn, causes people to hoard resources, which in turn, causes some people to seek to rob, steal, kill, and otherwise take what others have because they think others having is the reason they don’t have! The false belief of limitations sponsors the idea that life is a competition for resources. Therefore, we all are competing, and in all competition, there are winners and losers! Consequently, in order for me to win in life, it is necessary that you lose or vice versa! The results of this false belief is naturally; conflict!

The other false belief that is a main source of conflict is the belief in separateness. Simply put, this is the belief that every person is ‘distinctly separate’ from every other individual. Now in a sense, there is a certain degree of separateness, that’s why we are called; ‘individuals.’ But at the core of our existence; we are all ‘one!’ When all the racial, ethnic, cultural, social, and skin-color layers are removed; we are all one! We all came from the same Source!

Racial conflicts stem from the false belief of separateness! But biologically and spiritually, every human is one with every other human! Doctors will confirm that blood and other essential body parts from African-Americans are easily transplantable into a compatible Anglo-Saxon Caucasian recipient! I wonder how many avowed White racists would refuse a heart transplant and die just because the donor was a Black person?

In the Bible, in Jeremiah 13:23, the proverbial questions are asked: “Can the Cushite change his skin, or a leopard his spots?” Of course, the answer to both questions is; ‘no!” But then other questions arise: Why should or why would the Cushite and the leopard want to change their skin and their spots? It is foolish to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin on several fronts! Number one: No person has any control over the color of their skin! No one chooses their racial ethnicity. Therefore, no person can rightfully boast or be ashamed of their racial ethnicity! Secondly, as the Temptations (the singing group) sang years ago: “Beauty is only skin-deep!” The color of a person’s skin says nothing about their character or personality! Therefore, when all of the layers are removed, we are all the same and to mistreat one another is to mistreat ourselves! Not only that, but to mistreat one another is to mistreat the Source from whence we all came! Or, as the Apostle John put it in the Bible: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 Jn. 4:20-5:1 KJV) We are all brothers in a sense because we all came from God!

The greatest resolution principle of all time is the Golden Rule! Jesus said: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NASB: New American Standard Bible) It’s so simple! Most conflicts can be resolved by just simply treating other people the way you want to be treated! It you don’t want to be abused; don’t abuse! If you don’t want to be discriminated against; don’t discriminate! If you don’t want to be killed; don’t kill! If you don’t want to be taken advantage of; don’t take advantage of others! Nothing overtly religious or even holy or spiritual about it! It’s just common sense and human decency! Most conflicts would be resolved or even avoided by simply following the Golden Rule!

Pride and Respect: More Valuable Than Life?

Just in a matter of hours before writing this post, I read of a young man who was killed in an argument with a group of five other individuals. This occurred only days after the tragic and senseless killing of rapper; Nipsey Hussle. It’s the same old story repeated and multiplied across the country: Someone is involved in an argument or a personal dispute, but their pride and the need to be respected will not allow them to just walk away! There must be some type of retaliation! After all, they don’t want to be perceived as being ‘soft’ or being a ‘doormat.’ And so, they retaliate! It is at that point that the situation escalates because usually the force of the retaliation is much greater than the initial perceived wrong!

There was an Old Testament biblical ruling that stipulated an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! The purpose of that law was to maintain an equal and even level of retaliation. In other words, it was designed to prevent much of what we are seeing today! Jesus would come along later and say: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV) But not only have we gotten to the point that it is seemingly impossible for most people today to ‘turn the other cheek,’ most people today cannot even abide by the old ‘eye for an eye’ standard! Instead of an eye for an eye, it seems that many have sunk to the standard of ‘a life for an eye! I can’t tell you the number of cases I have heard of people killed or shot, simply because the shooter ‘felt’ disrespected or wronged in some way! It seems as though, now-days; pride and respect are more important to some people than life itself! This attitude is utterly senseless and ridiculous! But what can we do?

When I was in school, I learned Math, Science, English, and some other subjects. But, the one thing I was not taught in school was conflict resolution! Whether it is taught in the schools or made a requirement before people can have children, we must find a way to re-instill the proper respect for the sanctity of human life within our culture and society! Too many of our young men and women are dying too soon! Too many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children are crying at the graves of the victims of senseless violence! It’s not the wall at the Mexican border! It’s not even health-care or any of the other political ‘hot-potatoes’ most politicians are talking about! The epidemic of violence and senseless death is the American national emergency!

But the politicians are too busy trying to get reelected! Many of the churches are too busy preaching prosperity and running after blessings! Dads are too busy trying to close the deal at the office or playing golf at the club! Moms are too busy, trying to be like Stella and get their grooves back! But in the words of the late Marvin Gaye; “There’s got to be a way, to get some unity here today! What’s going on?”

There is no use in waiting for the politicians to pass new laws! There is something all of us can do right now! Quit looking for others to start a new initiative! It has to start with you! It has to start with me! If we, that is, just you and I, resolve within ourselves that we are going to be part of the solution we seek; the resolution will not be far away! We must stop pointing the finger and blaming others and do what we can to be part of the solution and not part of the problem!

What can we do? The next time we are offended or wronged, count to ten before any type of response! Take a deep breath and ask questions: Is the response justified in light of the offense? In other words; ‘Am I about to shoot a fly with a shotgun?’ What will be the consequence of my response when the dust settles? In other words; If I shoot the fly with the shotgun, I may or may not kill the fly, but who’s going to fix the wall? Is my pride and need for respect causing me to write a check that I cannot afford to be cashed? Is it really worth it?

There is an old ancient proverb that says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!” Will you join me in taking a step today? Will you join me in doing whatever can be done to be a positive influence on those around us? It seems a bit overwhelming! The negativity and the violence seem enormous and gigantic! But it’s really no different than the journey of a thousand miles! The journey will only be completed and the senseless violence and death that has engulfed our culture will only subside to the light of life and sanity, one step and one person at a time!

Nipsey Hussle and MWS


Before I start, let me just say; I am not a fan of hip-hop or rap music! It is not that I am opposed to that music genre; I’m just not a fan. But I write this article in response to the recent murder of rap-artist; Nipsey Hussle. Now, since I am not a fan of that type of music, I did not even know who Nipsey Hussle was until Nipsey Hussle was not! But from what I have read since his untimely and tragic death, it would seem he represented a positive force in his community and our world, which is why I felt compelled to write this post.

Nipsey Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot multiple times outside his South Los Angeles apparel store, The Marathon Clothing, around 3:20 p.m. PDT Sunday; March 31, 2019 and was pronounced dead at the hospital. As I am writing this post, the police have named a suspect who has yet to be apprehended. Hussle, a former gang member, was involved in community building and investment in local businesses, public schools, and in young adults learning coding and other tech skills. He provided shoes for children in schools and heavily invested in his local community by owning a clothing store and other business ventures.

It is the classic story of a young Black man who, because of his environment and the cards he was dealt, made choices that caused him to turn to gangs, drugs and violence. However, he survived, got out and thrived! In acts of redemption, he gave back to his community and used his influence and money in an effort to pull others out and up. But his efforts were violently cut short by the bullets of an assassin, ironically, just a day before a meeting he had requested with the Los Angeles Police Commission on how to stop gang violence!

Now by now, you are wondering about MWS. MWS is an acronym for: Mad World Syndrome. We are suffering from extreme cases of madness (craziness; insanity) in our world today! It’s crazy for a person to be murdered who was doing all the positive things Hussle was doing to help people and stop murders! It’s crazy for people to be so insensitive, cold, and heartless toward other people. We are living in a time and culture now, wherein people cannot disagree and be civil in their disagreements. There once was a time, when people disagreed, they still maintained a level of mutual respect. But today, disagreeing parties feel compelled to dishonor, disrespect and dehumanize by name-calling and inflicting violence. We have even redefined the idea of tolerance. There once was a time when tolerance meant; I don’t agree with you, but I respect your viewpoint, therefore, I respect your right to be wrong! But today, tolerance has been redefined to suggest that if a person disagrees with another person, that person is hateful and mean! Such an idea is ludicrous and crazy! That’s a symptom of MWS (Mad World Syndrome)!

MWS is further illustrated in our country’s (USA) political world. The Congress and the President seemingly have forgotten about what is best for the country and are more focused on what is best for their particular political party and the special interest groups that financially support their campaigns. They propagate obvious lies with the belief that if they speak their lies often enough, loud enough, and forcefully enough, people will eventually accept their lies as truth! The crazy thing about it is; it works; that’s MWS!

I could go on and on, but the only way to contain MWS is by reaching one person at a time! There is no cure for the madness except a radical transformation within the human spirit and soul! We all must come to the realization that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together! The killing of Nipsey Hussle reminds me of the craziness of a person shooting at another person on an airplane traveling at 30,000 feet in the air! Such an act could possibly hit the intended target, but the consequences do not justify the risk! For one thing, if the other person is indeed killed, the aggressors passion is satisfied, but his freedom is jeopardized because, in such a confined space, there is nowhere to run and hide! Secondly, the intended target might be missed and innocent lives (people who have nothing to do with the situation) could be lost! Thirdly, as my Daddy used to say; “A bullet don’t have no steering wheel!” Therefore a stray bullet could strike the hull of the plane, causing the cabin to depressurize and cause the plane to crash, killing all on board! Any way you look at it; such an attempt would be madness!

Now you might say that I just gave an extreme example, but similar scenarios are playing out everyday in our culture! The Nipsy Hussle incident is a prime example! Whether it was a gang-killing, or the result of a personal dispute; the results are the same. A young man, who had redeemed himself and was lifting up his fellowman is dead! The person who shot him will, be killed or lose their freedom in prison. Hussle lost his life! The assailant will lose his freedom or life! The families of both the victim and the assailant suffer loss! The community loses! The world loses! We all lose! That’s MWS!