This vision of the kingdom is where Jesus started and where we must also start. He came announcing, manifesting, and teaching the availability and nature of the kingdom of the heavens. “For I was sent for this purpose,” he said (Luke 4:43).
The kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will, where what God wants done is done.3 Earth and its immediate surroundings seem to be the only place in creation where God permits his will to not be done. Therefore we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, KJV) and hope for the time when that kingdom will be completely fulfilled even here on earth, where, in fact, it is already present (see Luke 17:21) and available to those who seek it with all their heart (see Matthew 6:33; 11:12; Luke 16:16). For those who seek it, it is true even now that all things work together for their good and that nothing can cut them off from God’s inseparable love and effective care (see Romans 8:28, 35–39).
The vision that underlies spiritual transformation into Christlikeness is, then, the vision of life now and forever in the range of God’s effective will, that is, partaking of the divine nature through a birth “from above” and participating by our actions in what God is doing now in our lifetime on earth (see 2 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:1–2). Therefore, we can say, “Whatever we do, speaking or acting, we do all on behalf of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, PAR). In everything we do, we are permitted to do his work. What we are aiming for in this vision is to live fully in the kingdom of God, as fully as possible now and here, not just hereafter.
One of the benefits of reading the Gospels over and over is how they give us a picture of life in the kingdom of God. Because Jesus operated out of that kingdom, he was so full of compassion and justice that he temporarily suspended his own arrest to lean over and heal the wound of his captor’s servant (see Luke 22:51). (Imagine—he could have made his captors disappear.) Out of that kingdom Jesus understood the necessary manipulation of matter, so that walking on water was possible not only for himself but also for a disciple he wished to teach. In many intriguing conversations with him, others saw that he lived out of a place completely different from this planet.
The idea that the kingdom of God is within us, that it is present and available to all who seek it, is one of the most exciting truths of Scripture. Life in this kingdom is possible today as I do mundane things that could bore me, as I work at projects that seem beyond my skills, as I deal with people whose presence reveals my pride or impatience. With this vision of the kingdom, I am released from these earthly shackles and freed to live another kind of life.
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 57–58.
We have just released a new Bible Study on the topic Heaven on Earth
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.