Rev. Gibson Joy Serves as the youth pastor with the Assembly of God Church in Lucknow. His wife Janet serves as a counselor.
Both Janet and Gibson have committed themselves to a life of knowing and serving the Lord and His people.
My son Caleb is four years old now. He’s an inquisitive little fellow. Asking questions about anything that he sees happening. His questions range from the scientific ones like “why doesn’t the rain go back up after it falls?”, “How does wind blow?”, “What causes night and day?”, “what causes thunder and lightning”? to more biological ones like “Dada, how can I make babies?” (This one really stumped us). But he’s also been asking the odd theological questions too like “who made God”, “Does Jesus know everything?”, “Is Jesus everywhere?” and the like. He’s a curious one that little fellow.
The other day he asked me, “Where is heaven?” Wanting to be as true to my theological knowledge as possible I said, “We don’t know”. But I did add that Heaven is wherever Jesus is. And for us who hold to the Christian worldview, it is true that that geo-location of heaven doesn’t matter as much as the reality of being with Jesus. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “ Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor 5:8)
While this future existence with Christ is the hope delved out in the gospel, there is another assurance that has to do with our present existence and that is the presence of Christ with us – a glimpse of heaven on earth. Coming back to the question Caleb asked me about whether Jesus is everywhere, I responded in the affirmative. And he shot back, “But Jesus is only one. How can he be everywhere?” Showing all signs of being a thinker, that one. I responded by correcting myself and saying, “Yes he is with us by His Spirit.”
One cannot deny the perplexing nature of Jesus’ comments when he said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) The disciples surely would have tried to respond by saying, “We can think of a million reasons why it is better for you to stay here. Influence society, the political situation, rule over us.” But the disciples still had not gotten a grip of Jesus’ modus operandi. Jesus had not come to set up a political empire, to over throw rulers and coerce everyone into submission by a show of strength. All that he surely could have done, and none would question him for it. But Jesus is more interested in the state of theheart than where our political affiliations lie. The love, humility and value that he places on us ensures that he respects our free will.
The cross was meant to be the threshold that would make it possible for the Spirit of God himself to take residence in everyone who believe. He would lead them into all truth, translate the work of the cross into effecting a spiritual resurrection for all those who put their faith in Jesus (Eph 2:1-10). This enables all those who believe to experience forgiveness, and be ushered into a living and vibrant relationship with Jesus through His Spirit. The dwelling of the Spirit in those who believed is the birthing of His Kingdom in us and in this world.
Through Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, it is clear that after the Medo-Persian Empires and with the dividing of the Kingdom into smaller segments, there would come a “rock not cut by human hands” that would strike at the heel of all these kingdoms and slowly but surely surpass them all in expanse as well as endurance (Dan 2:44-48). It is interesting is how the Kingdom started. It started as a rock not cut by human hands, but soon became a mountain that covered the whole earth. This pointed to the mode in which God would establish his Kingdom. A kingdom that began with the coming of Jesus through the virgin birth, a Kingdom that is God’s doing from first to last.
When Jesus came and proclaimed those historic words, “The Kingdom of God has come upon you”, it was the rock striking against the foot of the statue; the rock that would ultimately span the entire world as the Kingdom of God. “The Kingdom of God is like yeast”, Jesus said, “that works through the entire dough”. Again, “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants…” (Matt 13:31-33). The Kingdom of God is slowly working through the cultures, and kingdoms of this world to bring transformation from a worldly pattern to a pattern after the Kingdom of God.
For the early church, the hope delved out in the gospel was unmistakable. With the coming of the Messiah, God had irreversibly set into motion the future. The Kingdom had come with the arrival of Jesus. Now with his death and resurrection, God had switched gears so to speak. The world was now moving steadily, quickly and surely towards the New Heaven and New Earth. The future is here. For the believer living in this “in between” time when the Kingdom has already come but the consummation has not yet come, there is much to rejoice in. Firstly forgiveness has been offered and applied to us through the cross of Christ (Col 1:14), we have been adopted as Children of God (Eph 1:3-6), sealed as his own through the promised Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13), given the position of being justified, having peace with God, reconciled to Him and called his own righteousness (Rom 5:1; 2 Cor 5:21), all by the grace of God (Eph 2:8).
The coming of the Holy Spirit has absolutely set us free from the power of sin (Rom 6:13) and now we live every day in the power of the Spirit (Rom 8:2). Salvation came to us when by the power of the Spirit, God raised us up spiritually and gave us a relationship with Him. We are alive to him (Eph 2:4-6; Rom 6:11). The only way for us to be able to live this Christian life is in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what has been given to us. “Christ in you! The Hope of Glory!”, Paul wrote emphatically (Col 1:27).
It is much like a house that has been built with all the electrical wiring done but no power from the Electricity department yet. There are lights and fans in the building but it can’t function at all because there isn’t a connection. And that’s what life was like for us before Christ. We were in the dark, not able to function as the image-bearers of God. But once the electricity is supplied, the house can be seen fully for all its glory. And that’s what happens when by His Spirit, Christ enters our lives. The old song writer wrote, “Heaven came down and Glory filled my soul”. That’s what happens when Christ comes in. Heaven is here because Christ is.
The implications for us is that our homes, relationships and work will more closely reflect heaven and it’s culture because of the working of the Spirit of God in us as we yield ourselves to him daily. In his letter to the Ephesians, just before Paul is about to write about how our new life in Christ affects every relationships – spousal, children and work, he writes these lines,
7 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5:17-21)
Notice the emphasis he puts on the infilling of the Spirit and how that can be sustained in believer’s life. These verses form the shift in the book of Ephesians when Paul moves from new birth and its affects to how it plays out in earthly relationships. In other words, our life in the Spirit is imperative when it comes to living out the life that Christ has for us. This transformation through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is inevitable. The Holy Spirit through his intimate work in the lives of those who believe moves them steadily towards Christ-likeness (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).
Christian life can be heaven on earth as much as we are able to receive the grace for that living in our knowledge of Him through his Spirit. So, in my continued conversations with Caleb, my son, my hope and prayer is that I can continually reflect the culture of heaven in my words and deeds through my relationships with Christ by His Spirit. And I do hope both of us will catch a glimpse of heaven on earth incrementally – an answer to the prayer of Jesus when he prayed, “Kingdom Come! Your will be done on earth, just as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10).