What Is The Kingdom of Heaven Like?

Salvadora_persicaJesus never actually gave a detailed description of the Kingdom of Heaven that was recorded in the Gospels. Instead He explained the Kingdom of Heaven in similes, metaphors and parables:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,  but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’  But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”[Matthew 13:24-30]

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” [Matthew 13:31-33]

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. [Matthew 13:44]

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. [Matthew 13:45-46]

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 13:47-50]

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,  and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’  So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.  And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’  And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So othe last will be first, and the first last.”  [Matthew 20:1-16]

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,  and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Matthew 22:1-14]

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. [Matthew 25:1-13]

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”  [Mark 4:26-29]

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” [Mark 4:30-32]

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” [Luke 13:18-21]

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. [Luke 21:27-31]

Apparently, Jesus spoke more frankly and openly with his inner circle about the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven but we are not privy to that information because unfortunately none of them wrote any of it down. We are told:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. [Matthew 13:10-17]

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” [Mark 4:10-12]

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ [Luke 8:9-10]

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Public Prayer: Yea or Nay?

5445613926_85169104aa_bJesus said,

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [Matthew 6:5-6 ESV]

At first blush, this seems like an open and shut case against public prayer of any kind. But is it really? What did Jesus do? Did he ever pray in public?

*And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone [Matthew 14:23 ESV]

*In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. [Luke 6:12 ESV]

*And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. [Mark 6:46 ESV]

*Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. [Mark 1:35]

In these verses, It seems Jesus practiced what He preached. Whenever Jesus prayed, He did so privately whenever possible. It was a one on one communion with God.

But what of the Lord’s Prayer [Matthew 6:9-13]? Didn’t He pray this in front of His disciples? Absolutely not. This was not a prayer to God. He was merely giving His disciples an example of how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer was never actually meant to be a communication with God at the time it was spoken.

So as far as public prayer is concerned, I vote, “nay”. Even in church or around like-minded individuals. “Synagogues” and “street corners” could just as easily be “churches” and “ballparks”. But if you must pray in public, do so as if no one else but God is listening.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [Matthew 6:7]

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Was Jesus the Only Incarnation of God?

052161_ba396c18c4ee46f2b10b2fcc78717910In the Bible we are told that God created man in His own image [Genesis 1:27] and later walks in the garden [Genesis 3:8]. He speaks to Moses face to face as with a friend [Exodus 33:11], wrestles physically with Jacob [Genesis 32:22-32], and appears to Ezekiel as a man [Ezekiel 1:26]. These manifestations of God are called theophanies. There are many more manifestations of God in the Bible (such as Exod 3:3–12, Exod 13:21–22, Exodus 19:16–25, Psalm 18:8–16) but in these specifically, God appears in human form.

An incarnation is simply a person who embodies a deity, spirit, or abstract quality. Certainly these manifestations qualify. Wasn’t this God the Father made flesh? He was not human, per se, He merely assumed the form of a human being. Even so, weren’t these literal incarnations? “Person” does not necessarily mean “human”. Remember we call the triune godhead “God in three persons“.

Jesus, on the other hand, was both fully human and fully divine. He was the only truly human incarnation of God. Jesus often called himself the “Son of Man”. Another translation of this is the “Human One”.

And so, while there may have been other personal incarnations of God, they were definitely not true human beings like Jesus. Inasmuch as this is concerned, Jesus was unique.

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Religion vs. Science: Will There Ever Be a Compromise?

CMB_Timeline300_no_WMAPWill religion and science ever be compatible? Religion accepts authority as truth while science accepts truth as authority. While religion and science may sometimes agree isn’t this just a matter of mere coincidence?

If science contradicts some of the specific “facts” in the Bible, does that mean the Bible is wrong or science? More often than not, it is religion which eventually concedes to overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. There are notable exceptions such as the Big Bang Theory which proves the universe has a beginning as maintained by religions such as Christianity. Prior to that, the prevailing scientific opinion was that the universe was eternal. But this sudden paradigm shift had nothing to do with any religious influence. It was a theory based on observable facts. All similarities were purely coincidental as far as science is concerned.

My point is that while religious belief often succumbs to science, science never succumbs to religion. For science, there is absolutely no concession.

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Why Was God So Angry?

Rubens: Adam och Eva.If Adam and Eve didn’t know the difference between good and evil why was God so miffed at them when they ate the fruit? To be sure, they disobeyed a direct order but they could not have known it was wrong to do so. After all, God himself made them that way. In the modern justice system they would have undoubtedly got off for mental incompetency. Are we to lax or was God too strict?

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Religious Testimony

If atheists ask theists for scientific evidence of God’s existence
wouldn’t it be just as fair for theists to ask atheists for religious testimony of God’s non-existence? Turn about is fair play, after all.

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Atheism vs. Existential Nihilism

Atheism_symbol_syreeni.svgPersonally, I fail to see the difference. Existential nihilists believe that life is without objective meaning. For me, only God or a Higher Power lends objective meaning to life. Objective meaning can only come from a Power greater than myself. Without God, I could certainly find meaning in the things that I do but I would have to concede that this meaning is purely subjective.

Atheists believe that there is no god or gods. From this, I must conclude that objective meaning is absent from their belief system. If not, I am certainly at a loss to understand how they rationalize this objectivism.

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Choosing Faith

3158677447_35880f6b7cFor some, choosing to believe in the Christian God is as foreign a concept as choosing to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. It just doesn’t seem possible to radically change your way of thinking right on the spot. Believe me, finding faith is usually a much more gradual process.

First, you need to really want to have faith. That is essential. Without the desire for faith, it will probably never come. The desire for faith usually manifests when you perceive that the faithful are more happy, well-adjusted and generally better off psychologically and emotionally than you are. Listen to testimonies. Visit with the truly faithful. If you want to be more like these people, you will find your desire for faith growing inside of you.

You’ve got to pray. That’s right, get down on your knees and pray. No one has to see you. Just do it. Ask God to give you faith and remove the doubts and hindrances which block you from accepting Him. Have an open mind. That makes it so much easier.

Read apologetics literature, not just the Bible. Chances are, your lack of faith stems, in part, from logical difficulties you have with certain aspects of the Christian belief. Trust me, we all have those. Good apologetics addresses most of those issues and while it may not completely convince you, it may start you thinking in new directions. You will come to see that not all things are as black and white as you once believed. After all, billions of people have contemplated Christianity for thousands of years on both sides of the fence. Chances are practically nil that any of your objections are absolutely original. Every objection you may have has likely already been addressed.

Go to church. Begin immersing yourself in the Christian lifestyle. One of the simplest things you can do is attend a church service. Here Christians are usually on their best behavior, anyway. So you are more likely to be desirous of emulating them. Also, you may begin to feel a pressing human desire to belong. In this case, peer-pressure is a good thing. It may also be advantageous to get to know the pastor. Make an appointment with him or her to discuss your faith issues. That’s one of the things they are there for.

Walk the walk. This means to emulate that which the most faithful do. Volunteer. Serve. Love thy neighbor. This is admittedly difficult but it may be just the push you need to kickstart your faith. You often hear of a “leap of faith” but sometimes you need to “leap for faith”.

If you continue do all of these things, you should be well on your way to an honest to goodness communion with God. You have chosen faith.

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The Ark: A problem With Logistics

7477d8234fe90652f68c0b4688e2219dHow did Noah stuff at least 4 million creatures into the ark?

By the most conservative estimates, there are at least 2 million different species. The dimensions of the ark given in the Bible (converted from cubits) were 450′ x 75′ x 45′ or 1,518,750 cubic feet. That means that each creature only got an average of 0.38 cubic feet of space for itself and almost one year’s worth of food. (Smaller species such as hummingbirds and insects often consume up to their body weight per day. Which means even a hummingbird would require over 1 cubic foot of space just for itself and it’s food. Never mind the elephants.) How would this have been physically possible? Scientifically speaking, it wouldn’t.

Those who believe the Noah’s ark story sometimes attempt to reduce the number of species to “kinds” but that doesn’t explain the unprecedented evolutionary “explosion” which necessarily had to follow immediately after the flood. There is zero scientific evidence of this ever actually occurring.

Another commonly espoused “theory” is that all of the animals went into hibernation for over a year and didn’t need to eat. While some animals other than the well-known bears can enter a hibernation-like state when food is scarce, few, if any, can sustain it for a year or more. Even so, many insects have a life-span of much less than a year. They would have to have been awake to reproduce, wouldn’t they?

There are countless other logistical problems which fly in the face of science when attempting to consider the Biblical account of Noah and the Great Flood literally: How did Noah gather and redistribute the animals from Australia – was there only one continent in 2348 BC? Where did all the water come from and where did it go? Was the Earth nearly flat in those days? How did saltwater fish survive for so long in fresh water – assuming the ark did not contain a massive saltwater aquarium? How was it even possible to engineer and construct a functional wooden ship of that unprecedented size (arguably the largest ever built) in the late stone age/early bronze age. The list of scientific impossibilities goes on and on.

Conclusion: The flood story is probably just that, a story. It is an allegorical account which is probably not meant to be taken literally. There may have been a massive local flood on which the story is based but it did not/could not have covered the whole Earth. There would at least be some scientific evidence left behind. Ocean fossils on the tops of mountains don’t count. They may have inspired the story to some degree but they are more than adequately explained by tectonic action.

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