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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Kingdom of Heaven: What is it and why should I want it?

   
Author Topic: The Kingdom of Heaven: What is it and why should I want it?
Jenny Gardener
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Recently, I reread the Gospels to see if I was missing anything. I kept finding myself wondering what, exactly, the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to be. I get the point that it is precious and rare. But there seems to be a lot missing that defines what it IS.

So I'm wondering what it is, and why should it be so precious and rare. Can anyone give me insight, scriptural or no?

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Dr Strangelove
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Street's of gold, pearly gates, mansions, really neat looking things, God ... stuff like that.

(At first I thought you were talking about the decrepit movie of the same name as your thread title, to which I would've responded "It's crap and you don't")

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jeniwren
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Jenny, I'm recommending this book without having read it...I've just heard it's excellent. And I like the author anyway. His books tend to be very thoughtful and he is usually very thorough about being able to back up his speculations.

I'm recommending Randy Alcorn's Heaven. I've read only the first chapter, then I got distracted with other things and haven't gotten back to it. But the point of the book is to explore what the Bible says about heaven and why it's worth going there. Hubby says it was great...a really good friend of mine just finished it and said it was great. She's a skeptic, but has a strong desire to believe in heaven specifically because she lost one of her children to drowning some years ago and it is near to her heart to know she'll see her again someday.

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ricree101
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What it is, I'm not entirely sure about. As for the why, I'd say that the alternative is not particularly pleasant sounding.
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Stephan
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If you spend too much of your life wondering what Heaven is, you'll probably miss a lot of opportunities in getting there.
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Will B
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If we can consider "kingdom of God" to be a synonym, we do have a sort of definition in Rom 14:17:

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

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Omega M.
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I've always assumed that Heaven is the most complete union with God that a human can attain; and, God being perfect from our perspective, Heaven is therefore what we all would want if we thought it existed. I just have a hard time convincing myself that Heaven is more than just a thought for people to console themselves with; and from the way most religions talk about Heaven (regardless of their official position on it), I don't think most of the things I like would have analogues there.
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SC Carver
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Omega pretty much got my understanding of it.

According to the theogy I've been taught, here on earth all of creation share some of God's grace. This is called common grace. Oncen we die you either go to heaven and get to perfectly share in all of God's grace, love ect. or you go to hell and are seperated completely from God, loosing the common grace as well as perfect grace.

I don't really know what heaven is or is like, but i would like to think it is so far beyond our understanding that we would never really be able to explain it fully.

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Ryan Hart
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Wait a second. The kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is not the same thing as "Heaven." Look at the Lord's prayer "Thy Kingdom come thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven."

The kingdom of God is the place God is shaping the earth into. A place without injustice, cruelty and evil. I suggest "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren who discusses the Kingdom of God extensively.

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johnsonweed
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If you think like Lord Azrael then you would have no need for the Kingdom of Heaven and would strive to establish the Republic of Heaven.
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Lalo
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Get the director's cut, it's way better.
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King of Men
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No disrespect to comrade Azrael, but has he considered the superior merits of the People's Democracy of Heaven?
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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I have a question. How about two. 1)Let's pretend that you don't want it. Would you be more reluctant to love your neighbor? And here is a secondary question, if you could attain heavenly bliss and still strategically omit some of the lesser commandments and moral lessons of Jesus' parables, what would keep you from ignoring those those lessons if it were in your advantage to do so?

[ March 29, 2006, 01:13 AM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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FlyingCow
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Keeping commandments? I couldn't tell you what they all are, quite honestly.

This reminds me of something a professor of mine once said. "You don't 'not kill' people because it's against the law, you don't kill people because it's not a very social thing to do."

So, the promise of heavenly bliss for obeying (or threat of eternal damnation for disobeying) a bunch of rules, imho, isn't what drives us to follow those rules. We follow them becuase they're good ideas and preserve the community.

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SenojRetep
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quote:
Let's pretend that you don't want it. Would you be more reluctant to love your neighbor? And here is a secondary question, if you could attain heavenly bliss and still strategically omit some of the lesser commandments and moral lessons of Jesus' parables, what would keep you from ignoring those those lessons if it were in your advantage to do so?

In LDS scripture, the Kingdom of Heaven (or Zion) is identified like this:
"And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."

Notice that it's because they are united in following God's will that they collectively form Zion. I believe salvation is the state that results from a desire to live by God's laws. The Kingdom is the group of people who collectively have that unified desire. I view obeying commandments as necessary not because it's some sort of test (Do you love your neighbor? Circle y/n), but because it is inherent in the nature of salvation.

So, to answer Irami's questions, (1) if I didn't want "it" (ie salvation), it would be because I didn't love God (and all that He is), and since loving your neighbor is part of godliness, I think I would, by definition, be less inclined to love my neighbor. And (2) I don't believe, even hypothetically, that you could obtain heavenly bliss while omitting commandments, because heaven is what it is precisely because everyone desires to obey all the commandments.

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Occasional
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The Kingdom of God is the unification of our desires with God's desires. That is why it is inside us and outside of us at the same time. It can be either abstract (our personal connection with God and his Laws) or concrete (the usual idea of Theocracy where a community is governed by God's laws). The Kingdom of Heaven is always in existance for it is where God resides. To do a little speculating; When Christ comes to usher in the Millenium, The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God will become One.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
I don't believe, even hypothetically, that you could obtain heavenly bliss while omitting commandments, because heaven is what it is precisely because everyone desires to obey all the commandments.
Do you think that circumstances could align such that following one commandment entails breaking another?

Honoring thy father and mother may include bearing false witness against your neighbor, it may even including stealing.

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SenojRetep
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quote:
Do you think that circumstances could align such that following one commandment entails breaking another?

Honoring thy father and mother may include bearing false witness against your neighbor, it may even including stealing.

That's not precisely the view of "commandment" I generally take. Perhaps a more explicative phrase would be "will of God." I'm know there are circumstances (I've experienced them) when two stated commandments come into conflict, but in that circumstance there is one course of action that is the will of God. Following that course is what I would term "following the commandments."
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pooka
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I believe it is the surrender of our will to God's. Eternal life includes the present.
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aspectre
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Twas a nice place to visit, until it got overrun by SNAKES ON A PLANE !!!
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
I'm know there are circumstances (I've experienced them) when two stated commandments come into conflict, but in that circumstance there is one course of action that is the will of God.
So the course of action that is the will of God negates the evil incumbent in ignoring the other course of action?

Let's take Afghanistan, for example. Iraq is too heated. It's said that overthrowing the Taliban and fostering a democratic state and allieving the aggregious travails endured by the women of Afghanistan was the will of God, even if it meant killing enemy soldiers and by-standers, and even if it means bolstering a state which produces large quantities of heroin. Presumably, God doesn't appreciate the killing of soldiers, by-standers, nor the countenancing of heroin production, are these endeavors any less sinful, such that they would preclude entrance to heaven, because they were the result of following God's will?

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SenojRetep
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quote:
Originally posted by Irami Osei-Frimpong:
So the course of action that is the will of God negates the evil incumbent in ignoring the other course of action?

If God, by definition, is good, then how could something he desires be evil in any degree? I don't believe there is "evil incumbent" in any action other than the action of rejecting God (disclaimer: this statement might be too absolute, I'll have to think on it awhile).
quote:
It's said that overthrowing the Taliban and fostering a democratic state and allieving the aggregious travails endured by the women of Afghanistan was the will of God, even if it meant killing enemy soldiers and by-standers, and even if it means bolstering a state which produces large quantities of heroin. Presumably, God doesn't appreciate the killing of soldiers, by-standers, nor the countenancing of heroin production, are these endeavors any less sinful, such that they would preclude entrance to heaven, because they were the result of following God's will?
There's a leap here from personal responsibility to social and political responsibility that I'm uncomfortable with. I don't know what the "will of God" is with respect to nations, armies, etc. I don't know that a nation's actions, or an army's actions, can be considered sinful. Furthermore, I don't know how the will of God exhibits itself in the aggregate (eg wage war), rather than the singular choice (shoot or don't shoot). If you can rephrase the hypothetical in terms of individual responsibility for a singular action I might be able to answer more completely.
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Jim-Me
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What is the kingdom of heaven and why do I want it?

Without realizing it, I’ve spent the last few years of my life studying exactly that question.

First off, I’m going to agree with a couple of other posters that when Jesus was talking about the “kingdom of heaven”, I don’t think He meant the afterlife, but a state of grace here on earth—something akin to what Buddhists mean when they talk about “enlightenment” and what Curly meant in “City Slickers” when he said the secret to life was “just one thing.” And now is as good a time as any to say that I don’t intend to support any of this… I’m just giving my thoughts on the matter. The “why” part I am still figuring out. I spend a little while each day, usually in the shower, trying to put the arguments together, but I find that it’s just too big... I can’t manage it. So, like my thoughts, this post is going to be disjointed and unsupported. Read at your peril. If it resonates, that’s great. If not, ignore it. Oh, it’s also really long, which makes sense because it’s not an easy question with a one word answer.

I think the kingdom of heaven is the state of recognizing, deep down so that you know it in your bones, that you are loved, and, therefore, loveable. Simple, yes, but simple does not mean easy. Reaching that state took years (and thousands of dollars) of therapy and some very hard internal and external work. Nonetheless, all that complex and difficult work went towards learning the simple proposition that I was loved and lovable.

The idea of “love” permeates the New Testament…”love your neighbor as yourself”, “love one another as I have loved you”, “God is Love”, “the greatest [virtue] is Love”, and the football fan's friend, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.” Billy Graham said this was Christianity in a nutshell. I think he is right.

I knew all about how Christianity was supposed to work, how Christ died and we were supposed to take up our crosses and follow him and how love meant action. Had you asked me if I loved myself I would have said yes, because I knew enough to know that I was supposed to-- that it was a blasphemy not to do so. But that was the only distance I had achieved in understanding love (for a variety of reasons detailed elsewhere)-- to do what I was supposed to and then maybe people would love me.

I didn’t love myself. In fact, I hated myself and thought that creation would have been better without me. In my most honest, painful, intimate moments, I’d admit this... but never for long enough to realize I should change it.

So I kept trying to be better—- to do what I was supposed to do. If could be good enough, if I could accomplish enough, if I could just overcome my faults, then people would love, admire, and respect me... and then everything would be ok. Psych majors recognize the disaster coming, I’m sure. The thing is, Christians should, too. Evangelicals talk much about “works-based salvation” and how you can’t earn your way into heaven. Well, that’s right where I was, though I was unconscious of it and thought I knew better. I was trying to earn love... to make people love me. Even Aladdin’s Genie couldn’t do that if he were giving me wishes. It was destined to fail.

And fail it did. Spectacularly, sometimes-- in little ways, others. Each new failure left me more convinced of my own worthlessness and the spiral continued. Looking back, it went on for decades. There was only one way out: to realize that I was loved, and loveable and to learn to love myself. When I did so my life was transformed, as the verse goes, “in the twinkling of an eye.” Each new revelation and realization washed over me and left me breathlessly aware of myself and of something I had long forgotten-- joy. Especially the joy of being loved, which was now available to me. I could be loved for who I was, not for who or what I could be or for how I behaved. I think this is a key point of Christianity. Paul says the important thing is that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. I tie that in by asking “what’s important about Jesus’ death?” Jesus himself answers “greater love has no man than this-- that he lays down his life for his friends.” This means Jesus loves us right as we are... right here, right now, without any earning it, without any extra effort on our parts... he just chooses to do so.

And that ties in so many of those transforming revelations I spoke of before. The realization that I could be loved, the realization that love was a gift-- that it was a choice, the realization that I cannot make someone do it, but that some people choose to, the realization that saying “I can’t help how I feel” was wrong-- that I was, in fact, the only one who *could* help how I feel, that it was my *choice*. All of these things produced qualities I had always yearned for but never knew-- freedom, peace, joy, and love. My ability to love and be loved has grown exponentially with understanding and internalizing each of these truths. I want to emphasize here that it was not intellectual assent or knowledge-- I had that long before-- but belief, faith, heart-knowledge.

KarlEd recently asked some pointed questions about faith. My answer is that *this* is what I mean by faith: taking a proposition that is intellectually assented to and internalizing it, “knowing it in my bones”, knowing it with my heart. Faith means, to me, a knowledge that transcends logic or reason, but not in spite of it or against it... just knowing it deeper.

My life used to be a daily struggle between what I wanted to do and what I should do. Now, by and large, there is no struggle. There are still temptations to be sure, and I still do wrong things, still operate out of fear and anger rather than love and peace at times, but those times are the exception rather than the rule, and instead of sustaining themselves and causing deep downward spirals, I have control over these episodes and end them, replacing them with more helpful and appropriate responses. I have control over my world and control over my self as a result of these new understandings.

Paul wrote “everything is permissible for me, but not everything is profitable.” This mystified me, especially coming from the man who made a laundry list of people whose actions would keep them from heaven and a religion whose founder suggested plucking out an eye rather than staring with lust (combining two different verses there, I know, but it fits, doesn't it?). Now, at last, I think I understand. Individual actions... the smallest of them... will eat us up alive if we let them. If we focus our salvation, that is to say, our self-worth, on how good we are, we are doomed. No one can do it. No one is perfect. My own response was to basically be unable to integrate myself. I viewed myself as heroic when being good and as horrific whenever I was less-than-perfect. Ultimately, each departure from perfection became a nail in the coffin I made for myself. But by releasing myself from that prison (by accepting that love for me was real, in spite of my failings) I have also released myself from the war, from the guilt, from the need to treat myself like my own worst enemy... and now my psyche, my soul, isn’t rebelling anymore, trying to be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Now I understand that morality isn’t about being loved or rewarded, it’s about doing what benefits everyone-- and more often than not, you *can* benefit everyone involved fairly easily.

Now, I see courses of action that are tempting, but instead of my primary response being a struggle between what I ought to do and what I desire to do, I can acknowledge my desire without hating myself for it, and my mind (no longer locked in a fight with itself) moves on to considering the action and its value in a sane and reasonable manner-- something I could not do before. My reaction to temptation has become “that’d be fun, but in the long run, it doesn’t help me, or anyone else. It’s not worth the trouble” and I can let it go, there-- another thing I could not do before. I think this is what it means to “walk in God’s will”-- to reach a point where you can accept reality as it is, including your own part in it, make choices that help most and hurt least, and move on-- all things I could not do before.

Now, I don’t think you have to be a Christian to reach this state, but I do think that it *is* something Christianity is designed to promote. I think the real recognition of an unconditional love, the recognition of our lovability as we are, and the recognition that we cannot earn this love, that it is merely granted, free for the taking, are essential points of Christianity and also of psychological health. Psychology and Christianity both teach us that we are enslaved by compulsive behaviors (neuroses on the one hand, sin on the other-- two aspects of the same thing, IMO) until we recognize these points, and that, when we do recognize them, morality becomes a matter of practical economics rather than behavioral constraints-- “everything is permissible, but not everything is profitable.” I don’t think this is a coincidence. I hope this has made sense and/or been worth the long ride to get here.

Again, if not, ignore me.

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dkw
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*doesn't ignore*
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SC Carver
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Jim-me

I am glad that you have figured out that you don't have to earn your salvation. It is an easy concept to learn in your head, but a hard one to realize in your heart. It's a struggle I still deal with on a regular basis.


I found this verse this morning during my quite time and thought it was interesting on the Kingdom of God.

quote:
Luke 17: 20-21
20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you. "

I really do think heaven is being surrounded by God's grace, and love. So to me here Christ is saying it is possible for us to realize heaven here on earth, that we already have it within us. And I think the way to show the kingdom of God is to share this love with others. Sharing love is a concept that everyone agrees with, but is not done nearly enough..
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