As I was studying the Scriptures tonight about what I feel the Holy Spirit is calling me to write, God humbled and enlightened me. I wanted to write about the criminal on the cross who hung next to Jesus. Out of everyone who was with Jesus during His ministry, this man was the only one who got it.
Jesus’ disciples, the religious leaders and the current culture of the time were waiting for a new King David to free the Jewish people of their oppression. They were looking for a warrior king to establish their earthly kingdom. They didn’t realize that Jesus was establishing an eternal kingdom (Matthew 25.34 NIV), which came straight from the paradise of God (Revelation 2.7 NIV). This kingdom is far greater than the kingdom the people fervently desired. They just couldn’t see it…but the criminal did.
The criminal reached out to Jesus in the shortest salvation prayer that I’ve ever heard:
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23.42 NIV)
Jesus is so amazing because this man took one tiny step of faith toward Him, and Jesus made up the difference. Jesus confirmed this man’s timid request with a mighty promise:
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43 NIV).
I was going to write tonight that the reason this criminal hanging on his cross next to Jesus was able to get it — why He was able to understand that the new kingdom was not of this earth — was because he was on his deathbed. Nothing gives us more clarity about eternity then when we are about to enter it. However, the Holy Spirit told me otherwise.
For us to believe that we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven only after we die is extremely egocentric. It would be like saying the Kingdom of Heaven’s existence is dependent on us. But it is not. God gave Jesus the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus already opened it with His death and resurrection. The criminal on the cross knew the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand not because he was about to die, but because Jesus was about to die.
The Kingdom of Heaven was established and is in existence now. We are walking in it, breathing in it and living in it. We received our place in this kingdom when we prayed for Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins. Since our sinful flesh prohibits us from entering this kingdom physically, God placed the kingdom into all Christians (Luke 17.21). Our spirits are redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and are now resting on a hammock by the Shores of Paradise.
What does this mean for us? How do we conduct ourselves knowing that our spirit is already dwelling in the Kingdom of Heaven? The following verse gave me some clairty.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16.19 AMP).
Since Jesus’ death on the cross already established the Kingdom of Heaven and that kingdom — which comes from the core of God — has already been placed in each of us, shouldn’t we be living like it? I try to imagine that I’m always at the foot of the throne, even if I can’t see it with my human eyes. There are no secrets from God. He sees everything. God desires to love us, and He’s willing to pour out His grace on all of our mistakes so He can hold us near to Him. All we have to do is allow God to embrace us and not try to wiggle free from Him. When we draw close to God, we find ourselves in complete joy (Kingdom of Heaven), and we realize that the worldly happiness we begged God for was counterfeit (Earthly Kingdom).
My spirit at this very moment exist in God’s established Kingdom. I’m sitting on a swivel chair, typing on a computer smack-dab in the middle of Paradise. I just need to get my flesh to wake up to that fact. I want to yoke myself to Jesus every moment, so He will anchor my spirit-awareness in His Kingdom. I don’t want to wander off and realize that I’ve stumbled yet again into the Kingdom of this earth which is controlled by the Enemy.
I choose life. I choose joy. I choose paradise.
Because Jesus already gave them to me, I claim them now.