The words eternity and heaven are seldom
mentioned in association with the birth of Jesus. One reason for that
failure is that we mistakenly make eternity a far off time and heaven a far off place. They are distant – something coming later in time and space.
These two messages point out that Jesus, by his birth, brought both
of them into our lives to be experienced HERE and NOW. Not in their
entirety because both eternity and heaven are infinite. But that
infinity includes everything we call past-present and future in our
earthly time frameworks – everything we call up, down and around in our
earthly orientations for space. Eternity exists beyond our time concepts
of past, present and future. Heaven exists beyond our three-dimensions
of length, width and height.
My scripture this morning is Matthew 6:9-11. It is a bit strange for a
Christmas message, but I hope you will see its significance because
this prayer talks about heaven in a special way and that’s what we want
to take note of this morning.
Heaven – Our Usual Knowledge
We are familiar with many things about heaven. The common scripture
is Revelation 21:4-23. There are many things that will be absent from
heaven: no pain, sorrow, tears, hunger, thirst, bad people, impure
things, temptation, sin, sickness, and death ( ).
There will be no darkness but no sun or moon either. There are other
things that we expect: the very light of God, a city with houses (John
14:1-3), people who are numbered in the Book of Life ( ), our loved ones (1 Thess. 4:13-17), new bodies (1 Cor. 15:50-54), great food – a feast ( ),
Bible characters with whom we can talk – Moses, etc., awesome worship
(Rev.5:11-14, 7:9-12, 19:1-8), and most of all God Himself whom we will
Not so well-known to us is the size of the city described in
Revelation 21:16. An angel measured it and when the measurements are
translated into our more familiar measurements of today, we see a city
that is roughly 2,500 kilometers long and wide – almost the distance
north from Nairobi to Cairo, and west from Nairobi to Nigeria. That is a
city covering all of North Africa. Then, the even more startling
measurement: the city is also 2,500 kilometers high. The volume of this
cube is over 15 times the combined surface of the entire earth,
including both land and water area.
All of this makes us realize how hard it is to picture heaven. It is
mysterious to the human mind because we can only think in three
dimensions (length, width and depth) while heaven has no such limits.
That was John’s challenge when he wrote what he saw in the Revelation.
He had no vocabulary and no experience from which to write. Heaven
defied John’s imagination. It defies ours. In 1 Corinthians 2:9, God
tells us that “… no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has
conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” So, whatever we
can imagine heaven to be like, it is more! It is vastly superior to
anything our minds can dream up.
Now, it’s this ‘moreness’ of heaven that I want to call your attention to.
Heaven – HERE and NOW
Heaven is about many dimensions beyond our three. One man said,
“Since God exists in a world with other dimensions, then heaven is
closer than many would like to think. It could be all around us and we
would have no way of knowing it.” I am interested in the ‘moreness’ of
heaven and want to talk about Heaven HERE and NOW, not about heaven
THERE and THEN.
We are not prepared to recognize the nearness of heaven. As children
we learn that we can go to heaven, but we are seldom taught that heaven
can come to us. We can somehow go there but heaven doesn’t come here. A
popular tool for evangelism asks, “If you die today, will you go to
heaven?” Why not ask, “Do you know how to live today so that heaven
begins HERE and NOW? Why can’t our gospel be about heaven HERE and NOW
as well as THERE and THEN?
My main point is that in Christ’s birth, heaven came to us. Heaven on
earth began at that time. Heaven is HERE and NOW for believers. I
remember a song we used to sing – “Heaven came down and glory filled my
soul. When at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed
away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down and glory filled
my soul.” These words did not sink into my heart very well 45 years ago.
Today, they have gotten to me. Heaven came down — came near — came HERE
— came NOW. Elizabeth Browning wrote: “Earth is crammed with heaven,
but only they who see, take off their shoes and worship.” I
want to take my shoes off and worship at heaven HERE and NOW. Henry
David Thoreau wrote: “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” I want to keep looking up but I also want to be looking around for a little bit of heaven HERE and NOW.
How can it happen? Because of Christ – his birth, life, death and
resurrection. Because the Bible says we are citizens of heaven now
(Ephesians 2:19-20, Phil.3:20-21, Colossians 3:1-2).
Relating heaven to the birth of Jesus changes our thinking in four
ways and all these ways are prompted by the prayer Jesus gave us in
Matthew 6. “Our Father . . . “. especially vs. 10 – “Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s intent has always
been that there would be evidence of heaven on earth.
Four Lessons from Matthew 6:10
First, Matthew 6:10 teaches us that heaven is always
first. It is not to be the last thing, the final destination as we often
think. It is not the end of things; it is actually the origin of
everything because God is there. Life and blessing to not proceed from
earth to heaven, but they proceed from heaven to earth.
This relates to the birth of Christ. Heaven was first for Jesus. Heaven
defined what Jesus would be on earth at his birth – “on earth as it is
in heaven.” He did not become holy, pure, good and loving because of
what he did on earth. He was all this because of who he was from heaven.
The first cell of his life in the womb of Mary bore heaven first.
The same is true of us – should be. When we are born again, we are
born like Jesus – with divine LIFE in us. Heaven becomes first for us.
The only way we can become holy is to live from the Holy – from heaven, God, God’s LIFE. The only way to become pure is to live from the Pure – heaven, God, God’s LIFE. The only way to become good is to live from the Good – heaven. The only way to become loving is to live from Love – heaven. The only way to become truly giving is to live from the source of all giving – heaven. And the only way to become godly is to live from God.
So, heaven is first and the birth of Christ demonstrates the reality of that priority. Keep that in mind.
Secondly, Matthew 6:10 reverses things in our thinking about heaven. In regard to heaven we usually wonder how we can get from here to there.
Most of us live this way. We try to ensure we can get from earth to
heaven – to become holier, more spiritual, more godly, more pure,
righteous, loving, more heavenly – more religious. We seek to rise
But another way to consider heaven is getting from there to here.
That’s what Jesus did at his birth. He started from heaven, not the
earth. And that’s what should happen when we become believers. We start
from the finish line – heaven. You say, but that’s backwards. Yes, and
that’s a reversal of our thinking.
Relate this to our athletes and runners. The winners are those who
don’t concentrate on the starting line when they are about to begin.
They picture in their minds their victory at the end of the event. A
good coach teaches them to do that. Too many of us struggle at the
starting line of our Christian lives because we have not looked up to
the finishing line. Like good runners and athletes we need to run with
that end IN our minds, hearts and souls. We need to begin our Christian
lives with the end in mind.
Jesus challenged us to reverse our thinking when he taught us how to
pray in Matthew 6:10: “On earth as it is in heaven”. Not from earth to
heaven but from heaven to earth. The prayer he taught us was based on a
heaven to earth principle not an earth to heaven principle. So to live
from heaven to earth, we must learn the secret of living, not from the
past, present, or even the future – but in heaven’s time that is HERE
and NOW. Jesus came into the world to live this way. From heaven to
earth, from there to here. He lived in heaven’s time while he walked in
earth’s time. We, too, can live in heaven’s time as we walk our own
earthly time. We can live from there to here.
How does that work? A Korean preacher taught his people to pray that
way. He instructed them to visibly picture the answer to their prayers,
the results, the outcomes. While at Daystar, I once met with a graduate
student from Rwanda. He wanted to pray. He was about to graduate but
his wife and three daughters were still in Rwanda and in much danger. He
was Hutu by tribe but his wife was Tutsi. We prayed by visibly
picturing them safe and well. A few days later, he snuck back into
Rwanda and brought them out himself. He stepped into heaven’s time. He
is now a Methodist preacher in Canada.
So, as Christians, we live not from the answer to our prayer, but we live before
the answer. That’s why Jesus said, “whatever you ask for in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24) We
don’t just wait for the answer; we live IN the answer – HERE and NOW –
heaven on earth. We not from our problems now, but from the problems
solved – in heavens time. We live not from our present crisis, but from
its future resolution – heaven’s time. We live not from our present
obstacles but from our victory over those obstacles – heaven HERE and
NOW. When we follow Christ, we begin at his birth where heaven came
down. We live from that heaven HERE and NOW. We can even see ourselves,
not as we are but as we are yet to be.
Our thinking about heaven needs to be changed. We need to think
heaven first and then reverse our thinking from there to here, not from
here to there.
Thirdly, Matthew 6:10 helps us see that our salvation is about
heaven HERE and NOW. The birth of Jesus fulfilled God desire that the
heavenly would be found in the earthly, that his LIFE would dwell in
human life. God didn’t depend on religious stuff to accomplish this. He
did it himself. All the so-called religious ways to be saved are earthly
hands reaching up to heaven. But the heavenly way is radically
different. It’s a hand reaching down to earth. The earthly can never
attain the heavenly. But the heavenly can attain the earthly –and it has in Christ’s birth.
Now our common talk is that we must be saved to get to heaven. But our salvation doesn’t begin from earth so that we can get to heaven. Our salvation begins from heaven and it permits us to be IN heaven HERE and NOW. We are not saved just so we can end up in heaven someday; we are saved so that we can begin
with heaven HERE and NOW. In Christ, heaven comes down to us (John
6:51). In Christ, the heavenly visits the earthly. In Christ, the
heavenly One becomes earthly, so that we, the earthly ones, might become
heavenly. Where does this happen? – HERE . When? – NOW.
We don’t achieve heaven but heaven can achieve us. We don’t gain it
or get into it. We let heaven gain us, get into us when we accept Christ
and the Holy Spirit into our lives. We start living a
heaven-to-earth-life, where everything we do begins first from
heaven and proceeds to earth. “We let heaven, through our life, touch
the earth, touch every part of our world… On earth as it is in heaven.”
(Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries 2016,p.213).
- Finally, the prayer of Matthew 6 ends with the words, “For
Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.” We think of
heaven as a place of wonderful glory. It is. But God’s will is to come
down to earth to dwell with us NOW in his glory.”
Sinai (Exodus 25:80). But it was also on that mountain that God told
Moses to go down to the plains and build a tabernacle for his glory.
God’s glory that appeared on the mountaintop now descended to the plain.
Heaven came down. Everywhere they went, God’s glory was with them.
In John 1:1-3, 14 it says that the God became flesh and dwelt among us. In the Greek it says that the God tabernacled with us, he dwelt among us. The birth of Jesus brought heaven’s glory to earth. We look at the cross and sing, “Heaven came down.” We need to look at the birth
of Christ and sing that song. Because of Christ’s birth we can dwell in
the glory of God every day of our lives. The mountaintop has come down
to the plains. The tabernacle and temple, the former dwelling places of
God, have been replaced by our hearts. In our earthly experience, life
is a series of ups and downs, the ups and downs of circumstances, and
the ups and downs of emotion. But in God, the up has come down. Heaven
has come to earth. Even in the lowest places of our life, we can still
dwell on the heights of God’s glory.
I would change the lyrics of the song: “Heaven came down…” Not, “When at the cross, the Savior made me whole,” BUT. “When at his birth, Christ came to make me whole.”
Not as one of the verses says: “Now I’ve a home up in heaven above,
there in those mansions sublime” but, “Now I’m a citizen of heaven right
now, here in my earthly home.”
Let the four points I have extracted from Matthew 6:10 raise four questions in your life:
- Is heaven first in your life like it was for Jesus? Jesus was born from heaven; have you been born again from heaven?
- Are you living in heaven’s time HERE and NOW or are you bogged down with your past, present and future?
- Is your salvation about how heaven has gained you HERE and NOW or how you think you will gain heaven THERE and THEN?
- Has heaven come down into your life and filled you with the glory of God?
Think about your answers and repeat the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-11.