But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
2 Peter 3:10-14
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Recently I attended a spiritual retreat held at a Jesuit retreat center. The centerpiece of the chapel where we held one of our extended prayer experiences was a beautiful, custom-design crucifix, which served as both a liturgical icon as well as contemplative artwork. As one of the retreat hosts, a Jesuit priest, oriented us to the space, proudly showing off his beautiful home and inviting us to find comfort and sacredness in it. He spent time reflecting on the crucifix and its importance in his religious tradition.
While evangelicals tend to focus on the empty cross—the risen Jesus—Catholics (of which Jesuits are included) tend to spend time reflecting on the cross with Christ still present. As the priest reflected on his perspective, he reminded us what this crucified-yet-present Christ represents: the complex reality that we live in an in-between time of the now and the not-yet. Christ has risen, and we have access to the presence of God through the Holy Spirit now. We do not have to wait for the promise of a redeemer Messiah to be fulfilled. But we do not yet experience the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth as it will be in the second coming of Christ.
This is the tension. The now. The not yet. Us, right smack somewhere in between, celebrating new births alongside loss, forgiveness in tandem with heartbreak, generosity side-by-side with injustice.
But when Jesus talked about heaven, it wasn’t just in the not yet of Revelation. It was in the now. “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” This declaration occurs amidst his healing and storytelling, his interactions with the everyday people of Israel. Why? Because, to Jesus, the kingdom of God, heaven, was something that could be experienced now. He looked around and saw an opportunity to invite everyone he encountered into the kingdom.
For some, like the rich man (Luke 16), it was about living generously. For others, it was about advocating for justice (Luke 18:1-8). Repeatedly, Jesus brought healing to the sick, hope for the grieving, justice for the oppressed, and rebuke to those abusing power. Jesus’ imagination for heaven wasn’t limited to what will be, but what was possible in the here and now. That’s the call—to bring heaven, the kingdom of God, to the here and now. To make the now feel more like the not-yet.
Where is one place you can be a part of bringing heaven to the here and now? Is there a person in your life that could use comfort? Perhaps a situation that could use grace, or an injustice that needs insight? Spend time reflecting and then praying specifically for that person or situation.