Last year at this time I thought that there was a good chance that the pandemic would be behind us. Maybe we are entering an endemic? Who knows what things will be like next Christmas. Just about everything on TV and what I find on social media reminds me of some of my favorite demotivational posters. I would like to share four of them with you:
What Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 12:32 is his encouragement that the experience of suffering, the fight against our own sin, and the perseverance through the uncertainties of life is worth it. What is the context of Jesus’ encouragement to his disciples? In Luke 12:1-3, Jesus warned how the hypocrisy of the Pharisees religious posturing would eventually be exposed. In verses 4-12, Jesus encouraged his disciples that death in this life is not the worst thing a person can experience and that what matters is not what people can do to you, but what God thinks of you. In verses 13-21, Jesus told a parable to show the folly of seeking bigger bank accounts in this life without considering the reality that eternity is forever. Then in verses 22-31, reminded his disciples that the God who loves them not only is aware of their circumstances but cares deeply for them and has their good at the center of his will.
Think especially about what Jesus said to his disciples in verses 22-31. Could there be any other passage that is more relevant than this for the days that we find ourselves in? Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (vv. 22-23). If God is able to take care of the rest of creation, don’t you think that he will take care of the pinnacle of his creation, that is the one creature that exclusively bears his image on the earth? Jesus warns us just before he encourages us: “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them” (vv. 29-30). In other words, do not lose sleep over the things you have no control over, but instead… look to the One who does have control over the circumstances of your life. One commentator said of these verses, “Our worries reveal the object of our worship…”
At the heart of what Jesus says in these verses is who it is we worship and who it is we ultimately trust. These verses do not exempt us from the responsibility of hard work but they do call us to trust the one who has numbered our days and gifted us another day. Peter Chrysologus, a bishop in the Church in the 400’s, said of Jesus’ words in Luke 12, “The flock is little in the eyes of the world, but great in the eyes of God.” The Church is little in the eyes of the world, but greatly loved by the God who created all things!
God in his generosity has given us himself, he has given us his Son, he has given us his Spirit, and he has given us to engage his mission in the world. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In what way has God given us the kingdom?
God Gives the Kingdom of Heaven
When we die, we immediately are judged and are either cast into a hell that Jesus describes as a place of utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matt. 13:50; 2 Cor. 5:8) or welcomed into heaven. There is no such thing as purgatory or an in-between time where you can get out of the punishment of hell on good conduct. Your faith and trust in Jesus, or the lack of, will result in the rest of your experience in an eternity on the other side of your short life. The Bible states quite clearly what happens right after we die: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). While in prison and unsure if he would be executed by the Roman Empire for his faith, the apostle Paul wrote in a letter to a group of Christians the following: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Phil. 1:21-24).
For the Christian, when we die, our soul is immediately ushered into heaven. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul described what I believe was his experience after he was stoned to death in a city called Lystra. Stoning was a form of capital punishment inflicted by the throwing of stones (not little rocks) until the person being stoned, was dead. We read about Paul’s stoning in Acts 14:19-23 where he was stoned for preaching the gospel and then his body was dragged outside of the city. In 2 Corinthians 12, I believe Paul describes in those verses what he experienced before he miraculously got up and walked back into the city to preach some more: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2–4, NIV).
What else are we told about heaven? We are given just enough information for our imagination to soar. There are a number of passages in the Bible that give us a vivid description of heaven (see Isaiah 6:1-9; Ezek. 1:4-28; Rev. 4; 5; 19:1-10). One particular passage that gives us a glimpse into heaven today and the experience of some Christians who died because of their faith is found in Revelation 7:9-17,
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9–17)
As beautiful and amazing as heaven is, it is temporary, for God’s intention for Heaven is to be on earth.
God Gives the Kingdom on Earth
We are told in the Bible that a day is coming when the heavens will be opened and the mountains will shake for God will make His dwelling place with mankind on earth. Earth will not be the earth as we know it today, for God will make it new. The New Earth will not be new in the way you trade in your used car so that you can afford a new one. The new earth will be new in the same way Jesus’ resurrected body was new because He was resurrected. The Bible tells us that, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Pet. 3:10). Jesus described the event leading up to his coming kingdom on earth in Luke 21:25-27,
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25–27).
When the kingdom of God is established on earth through the physical reign of Jesus, we are told that there will be no evil and only peace! During this time, we are told in Isaiah 11:6-10 that, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isa. 11:6-7). We are told that when the kingdom is given to the people of God, “The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (vv. 8-9).
When we inherit the kingdom of God on earth, we will experience the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:5 which states: “What is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” The kingdom of God will be a place where God will finally wipe away every tear from the eyes of his people, where death, mourning, crying, or pain will no longer be a part of the human experience (Rev. 21:4). The kingdom of God will be a place where we will know a joy unparalleled to anything ever experienced in this lifetime.
When the apostle John was exiled on the island of Patmos because the Roman Empire believed his message too dangerous for him to keep spreading, he recorded what God allowed him to see by writing the book of Revelation. Towards the end of the book of revelation, he described what the Father delights to give his redeemed people: “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:3–5)
The kingdom that God delights to give you and me is a place where the curse of sin is not permitted, goodbye is unnecessary, and boring is inconceivable. It is the reality all creation is longing to experience, the demons flee from, the angels flock too, and the place we were created for. On the day the kingdom of God is inherited by the people of God, we are told what that day will be like: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:10).
When Jesus told his disciples that it was God’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom, they did not know that what delighted the Father about giving the kingdom is that they would get what was lost in Eden and more. With the giving of the kingdom would also be the presence of God face to face with his people. With the giving of his kingdom is the rule and reign of Jesus Christ on earth. With the giving of the kingdom is the removal of everything that seeks to rob us of our joy today.
Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, writes: “The goal of getting to Heaven is worthy of greater advanced planning than we would give any other journey—yet some people spend far more time preparing for a trip to Disney World.”
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” If we believe Jesus’ words to be true, then our lives will reflect it. When we experience the kingdom, heaven and earth become the same! There will be trees, a river, animals, the people of God dwelling on earth for all eternity enjoying the presence of God and each other in the City of God. We will also enjoy a resurrected earth, which means adventures beyond your wildest dreams without the fear of evil… everything will be very good just like in Eden, but better!
This is why Jesus concludes: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33–34). For, when you know that what Jesus promised is waiting for you, you can hold everything else with an open hand.
 David W. Pao, NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible: “Luke” (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2015), p. 1852.
 Christian Standard Bible, The Ancient Faith Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers; 2019), p. 1253.
 Randy Alcorn. Heaven (Tundale House Publishers, Inc.; 2004) p.33.