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When Heaven Comes to Earth

by Darris McNeely, Tom Robinson Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

The crowds around Jesus were buzzing with excitement. For days the talk among those following Him to Jerusalem had grown stronger in excitement and anticipation about what might occur. They thought the establishment of the Kingdom of God was imminent.

Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom had increased. When the Pharisees questioned Him about its appearing, His answer seemed to indicate it was near, even among them. His stating that societal conditions would resemble those of the days of Noah also made them think their day would see the coming of the Kingdom. After all, weren’t conditions in their time similar to those of Noah’s time?

Miracles had increased, and the power of Jesus’ message connected His ministry to the prophecies of the Messiah’s rule. Though He foretold His death and resurrection according to the prophets, people did not grasp what He was saying—not the crowds nor His closest disciples.

At last Christ gave one of His most impactful parables, a message meant to convey the real purpose for His disciples’ calling. They now faced a life of preparing to rule in Christ’s Kingdom. But again they missed what He was saying.

Christ’s message from this story, known as the Parable of the Pounds (or Minas), applies to us today.

We’ll look more at this parable shortly, but its message is basically this: The Kingdom of God is coming to the earth, and you have the opportunity now, in this life, to prepare to be with Christ when He establishes that Kingdom here.

Another way to say this is that “heaven,” the divine realm of God’s reign, will come to earth. When you die you are not going to live in heaven. God is going to bring heaven to earth! And your life today is meant as a time to prepare to reign with Christ as a co-heir in His coming Kingdom!

Today’s two views vs. the real future

Two views of our world and the perpetuation of human existence dominate today’s thinking.

One outlook is more material-based, seeking salvation through science and government intervention in ecological management. A common belief is that human activity is altering our planet’s environment to the point that life here could end or be severely changed. Some even make the claim that anthropogenic (manmade) climate change could render the earth uninhabitable within 10 to 12 years. Ideas like colonizing the moon or Mars have been put forward as a means of saving the human race. It’s a dire and stark view but sincerely taught through mainstream media and educational institutions.

The other perspective is the typical religious belief that human salvation comes through a disembodied afterlife. This common conception of people’s souls floating away to heaven to spend eternity there with God has little or no relevance to ongoing earthly existence. Many people of faith accept this future as a biblical teaching without really searching the Scriptures to determine whether it is actually valid.

The fact is, the popular teaching that at death one goes to heaven or hell for eternity cannot be found in the Bible. What the Bible shows is that at death people “sleep” with no conscious awareness, awaiting a resurrection. It is at Christ’s return that “the dead in Christ” will rise to meet Him in the air and be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ). (To learn more, read our study guide Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? ).

Zechariah the prophet foretold of that time, “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4 ), which is on the east side of Jerusalem. Jesus will come back to the earth, His resurrected followers with Him, and Jerusalem will become the center of His reign. People of all nations will come there to learn how to administer the authority of God throughout the world.

Revelation 20:4-6 sums up what lies ahead for mankind and the earth when Jesus returns in great power and glory: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls [physical lives] of those who had been beheaded [in martyrdom] for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast [a tyrannical end-time empire and its leader] or his image [a religious hierarchy patterned after that of the empire], and had not received his mark [sign of authority] on their foreheads or on their hands [that is, in their allegiance and practice]. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years …

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death [ultimate annihilation from existence] has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him for a thousand years.”

With these verses—and there are many more that could be added that reveal other details from Scripture—we conclude that the earth will be the place where Christ will dwell with His resurrected and transformed followers. With them He will begin a time of restoration and refreshing of the earth long foretold by the prophets of God (Acts 3:19-21 ).

You will not go to dwell in heaven at death, or to an everlasting hell. And you need not fear that the human race will be wiped out through human-caused environmental damage. However, as we’ve written about elsewhere, it is true that people have done and will continue to do great damage to the environment (Revelation 11:18 ), and cataclysmic disasters will devastate the planet as judgment on human sin and to motivate repentance. But this will not spell the end of mankind.

Instead of everything ending or people going away to live in heaven, with the earth forsaken, Christ will bring “heaven” to earth, with the ultimate sense of this to follow,

Using this time of preparation

Today God is preparing a people to help bring His Kingdom to replace the kingdoms of this world. That is what Jesus told His disciples in the days before His death, preparing them, and us, for the real purpose for our present life on earth. Let’s consider what He said.

The masses following Jesus to Jerusalem thought the Kingdom of God would appear immediately. To correct this misimpression He spoke a parable that showed they had a time of preparation ahead. Today this parable teaches us the same thing. We are in a time of preparation for living and reigning with Christ in His Kingdom. That is the purpose of our life now—if we will accept it.

Jesus described this reality in Luke 19, using the story of “a certain nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke 19:12 ). The nobleman represents Christ, and the far country is heaven, where He went to remain a long time, starting 40 days after His resurrection. The receiving of the Kingdom here is Jesus being granted the power and authority to reign by the Father.

Notice further that the departing nobleman entrusted others with certain responsibilities. “Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver [or 10 minas, each mina about three months’ wages], saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king’” (Luke 19:13-14 , New Living Translation).

Christ is saying this just days before His crucifixion. His people, the Jewish nation, had rejected Him as Messiah and His message. All this was according to what the prophets had foretold.

Jesus then fast-forwards to His future appearance in glory as King of Kings. As He states of the nobleman—representing Himself—this involves a calling to account of His servants: “After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’

“‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward’” (Luke 19:15-17 , NLT).

By the ingenious use of a parable about financial stewardship of a nobleman’s money, Jesus is explaining that He expects His servants—His true followers—to be busy increasing the gifts of spiritual knowledge and ability He has committed to them, symbolized here by money. The first servant used what was placed in his care wisely, increasing it 10 times.

Now the next servant gives account for what he was given: “The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’

“‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities’” (Luke 19:18-19 , NLT).

Both servants did what they were told and returned an increase several times the original amount. They are rewarded accordingly. Their reward is to be leaders over cities and people, in line with what is stated in Revelation—that Christ’s followers will be given rule as “priest-kings” with Him in His Kingdom (Revelation 5:10 ). This is what God intends to bring to the earth—His government, His Kingdom.

When we talk about the Kingdom of God on earth or heaven coming to earth, we are speaking about something real. This is not a spiritual allegory or symbolic concept. A real ruling Kingdom is coming, a government by which God will teach all nations His law and way.

The prophet Daniel saw Jesus receiving this Kingdom in vision in Daniel 7:14 (NLT): “He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (emphasis added throughout).

God will use those who experience a foretaste of the godly way of life today to help in bringing this new way of life to the earth tomorrow!

Preparation for this future has been going on for a long time. From every era of human history, God has called and chosen those who will take part in establishing and overseeing His Kingdom. He intended our human lifetime today to be one of learning important lessons, with faithful disciples coming to live productive, godly lives, developing character and a state of mind God can use to teach others.

It’s stunning to realize the great truth that this life now is meant as a time of preparation to rule with Christ. Put yourself in this parable and envision what can be your future—a part of the group God uses to bring heaven to earth!

A warning about failing to use this time

Christ speaks in this parable about one other category of people—those who will not heed God’s calling, refusing to obey in making use of what they’re given. Notice how this is described.

“But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe [in a cloth or napkin, other versions note, so not really that safe]. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’

“‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it’” (Luke 19:20-23 , NLT).

This servant addresses the king as master, but he refused to do what he’d been told. He expresses that he was fearful over making the wrong investment choices in the face of the supposed severity of the master. And, along with the master’s expectation of a return on his investment, a certain resentment is evident over being put in this difficult position.

But what we really see here is an accusatory spirit and a total distortion of the truth. A person like this will not yield and allow Christ to work in him. At the very least, what was given could have been put out to others in some way, represented here by earning nominal interest in a bank rather than taking the money completely out of circulation. That might have indicated a cooperative spirit despite a concern over making a misstep. Instead, a hard and bitter spirit is shown by an outright refusal to serve, accompanied by defamatory blaming of the master. Christ cannot work with or use this type of person.

The hard stance taken by the last disciple merits a hard judgment by Jesus Christ:

“Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’

“‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’

“‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me’” (Luke 19:24-27 , NLT).

Christ here shows us the infinitely better reward that comes for those who accept the calling from the Father and yield to allow His Spirit to work in them, producing the fruit of righteousness. This is a warning to take seriously the calling of God and not neglect it.

Your purpose, your life

Christ’s mission at His first coming was not to establish His reign over the nations. His work then was to be the Lamb of God who would die to take away the sins of the world and to found His Church—His spiritual people, the children of God, as His collective body of believers. This parable in Luke 19 shows there would follow a long period of time when He would then prepare His people to reign with Him.

This preparation is what the Church of God is to be engaged in. Christ is its founding Head. His Church’s reason for being is to carry on the work He began in His earthly ministry. Its core purpose is to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God and prepare a people to assist Him when He returns.

This is the real purpose for responding to the message of the gospel and changing your life today. The Father and Jesus Christ are right now preparing a spiritual body of disciples who will be raised to divine immortality at Christ’s return, many of whom are already prepared and now “sleep” in the grave—awaiting the moment when Christ will call them forth to a new life in a glorified, resurrected body. This is the group He will use to teach the world of His ways.

You can be a part of that body if God is drawing you to understanding. The choice is before you. Will you accept God’s calling?

There is much work to be done. If we have the fundamental mindset that heaven is coming to earth and we are to prepare to assist in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, then we must begin today—seeking God’s help in focusing our lives on His Kingdom and way of life (Matthew 6:33 ).

It starts with the prayer “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ). This simple yet direct prayer we’ve all heard many times is really packing in the profound message that in the coming of the Kingdom, heaven is going to come to earth, with God’s will carried out here as it now is there by His angels. With that focus, we who are God’s servants should be leading the way in that now, doing the will of God in our life today.

We must put God first, serving Him and our fellow human beings. We should honor, respect and care for each other. God tells us to love one another as we should love Him. These are fundamental principles of behavior that set the pattern for realizing God’s purpose in our life.

Living a “10-city life”

What we do reflects how we feel about God and our fellow man. Our manner of life should reflect a deeply held conviction that there is a God and that He has revealed His will for mankind. Yes, God can be known—and we can live His way with profound positive consequences for our lives.

The fully realized life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is one where we truly live what we believe. It is not a halfway effort. To live as a halfway Christian is a subtle form of atheism, where we show by our actions that we do not really believe God means what He says. That is, we say we believe God, but parts of our lives are lived without a deeply held belief influencing our thoughts and conduct.

In my years of working with people in pastoral ministry, I have observed that people are often sincere in their profession of belief but fall short in the proof. That’s human, but it can be a flaw that keeps us from living what we might call, based on Christ’s parable, a “10-city life.” Remember from the story that one is given rule over 10 cities and another over five cities, while one receives nothing, instead having everything taken away. Who among these would you want to be? We should all strive to do the most we can with what we’ve been given!

Christ offers a reward for how we live this life. You may not have thought about your relationship with God in this way, but it’s what the parable says. Christ expects no less than a full commitment to Him and His teachings and tells us we will receive a reward commensurate with our effort. Salvation is a free gift by grace, but we are rewarded in this coming Kingdom according to our works (Matthew 16:27 ; Revelation 22:12 ). Our reward comes from how yielded we are to God working in us.

If the idea of heaven coming to earth is not what you believe, then you should dig deeper into the topic by requesting or downloading a free copy of our study guide The Gospel of the Kingdom . You need to understand what the Bible says about this vital subject!

You were born to live a life Jesus Christ can use when He returns to earth with the Kingdom He receives from the Father. Are you using your time now to prepare for your future role? It is the reason you were born!


The Coming of Heaven to Earth—in Stages

As our main article here shows, Jesus will soon return to establish the Kingdom of God over the nations, bringing “heaven”—its rule and ways and conditions—to earth.

But a further coming of heaven to earth will remain in store. Revelation 21-22 shows that after Christ’s 1,000-year reign there will be a new heaven and new earth, with the heavenly city of New Jerusalem descending from heaven to a transformed earth. God the Father will at that time come to dwell on the earth as well—our planet will then serve as the home of the Father and Christ and all of the saved forever.

Thus we see heaven coming to earth in stages. It began with God’s work among people in the Old Testament period. It grew with Christ coming to the earth as a man and God dwelling in people through His Spirit. Now we are poised for the final stages. A vast change of the world system will come when Jesus returns to set up the Kingdom of God over the nations. The rule of the Kingdom will begin at Jerusalem and soon spread over the whole earth.

And finally, beyond those days, the Father and Christ will in the end both dwell here, with humanity then perfected, all at last doing God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ). There will be no more sin and no more misery—only everlasting joy and peace and life to the full. Truly, heaven will have then come to earth in an ultimate and complete sense!

—Tom Robinson

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