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Bible Insights

Do You Think Like an Exile? Do You Act Like a Foreigner?

If You Are a Citizen of the Kingdom of God, Then You Live Here as an Alien

Peter writes his first letter to Christians scattered about in pagan cities. He first calls them exiles (1 Peter 1:1). He also refers to them as foreigners (1 Peter 2:11). Though foreigner is accurate, I prefer the label of alien. It has an otherworldly connotation.

The point is that they don’t fit in where they are. They are outsiders subsisting in a society that doesn’t understand their thinking and their way of life. They live in a culture that is opposed to Jesus.

Peter doesn’t tell them they need to adapt and settle down. Instead he tells them to live careful lives, hold onto their awe of God, and refrain from immorality. They are to persist as foreigners, as if they are just passing through—because they are.

If you are a citizen of the kingdom of God, then you live here as a foreigner. Click To Tweet

Foreigner or Citizen?

They are citizens of the Kingdom of God, children of the King of kings. Their allegiance is to God. Their real domicile, their eternal home, is in heaven. Holding onto this perspective, they realize they are here for the short-term.

With eyes fixed on Jesus, they maintain their earthly status as foreigners, as exiles, and as aliens—both in an actual physical sense and with a faith-filled, future-focused, spiritual expectation.

I wonder how well I do to live like that.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 1:17.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God?

Kingdom of Heaven versus Kingdom of God

The phrase “the Kingdom of God” is synonymous with “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Some writers in the Bible simply prefer one over the other; it is not meant to designate two different concepts or kingdoms.  (Mark and Luke used “Kingdom of God,” whereas Matthew used “Kingdom of heaven.”)

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables. Click To Tweet

These phrases can perhaps be best understood by considering that Jesus desires to brings heaven’s rule to earth. Under his rule, there are benefits and responsibilities to his subjects—the church.

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables:

Consider how do these parables can change our view of God and our relationship to him.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What is the Kingdom of God?

Eternal Life Begins Today (Not When We Die)

Jesus often talks about the kingdom of God (the kingdom of heaven). He talks about how close the kingdom of God is, saying that it’s near and even that it’s here. How do we understand this immediacy of the kingdom of God in our life today? Is this just a euphemism for heaven? Does it mean eternal life?

If so, how could it have been near 2,000 years ago but now something we anticipate for our future?

The Kingdom of God is More Than Heaven

Though an aspect of the kingdom of God looks forward to our eternity with Jesus in heaven, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who follow Jesus, we must view eternal life as both a present and a future reality. But this is just the beginning.

The Kingdom of God is Jesus

When Jesus tells his disciples that the kingdom of God is nearby and even that it has arrived, he could have been talking about himself. After all, if Jesus personifies the kingdom of God, then he is in fact close by and present.

We will do well to consider Jesus as the kingdom of God, but we limit our understanding if we don’t expand our comprehension of it.

The Kingdom of God is Salvation

Jesus’s arrival on earth is good news. It’s still good news today. If we follow Jesus as his disciples, this good news is ours. It’s our salvation, both present and future. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and the salvation he provides, but there’s more.

The Kingdom of God is a Lifestyle

The kingdom of God is also about us. Just as Jesus and the salvation he offers is part of the kingdom of God, so too are we. However, this isn’t an intellectual standing for us to enjoy, it’s a lifestyle. To be part of the kingdom of God means living a life for Jesus, to honor him, glorify him, and point people to him.

The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today, not when we die and go to heaven. Click To Tweet

Embracing Eternal Life

Yes, the kingdom of God is about our eternity in heaven, but it’s also about our present reality on earth. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and his salvation, along with a life we lead in response to his free gift to us.

The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today, not when we die and go to heaven. Heaven is just phase two of eternal life.

We’re living in phase one today—at least we should be. Are you?

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What is Eternal Life?

When Does Eternal Life Begin

The phrase eternal life occurs forty-two times in the Bible. But what exactly does this mean? Do you know that eternal life begins now?

Some think that it is a synonym for heaven. If we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven when we die. That is what eternal life means. That’s a good start to our understanding of the phrase, but that’s not all there is to it. There’s more, much more.

As we read the Bible, we get a sense of our life eternal beginning now, here in this world. We learn this from the apostle John, whose references to eternal life are often present tense. This means that it begins now.

Eternal life begins here on earth through Jesus. Click To Tweet

When we follow Jesus, our life eternal with him, and through him, begins immediately. Right now. Today. It begins here on earth through Jesus and continues into heaven when our physical bodies die.

If you follow Jesus, you can begin enjoying his eternal life today.

[See verses about eternal life in the NIV Bible, John 5:24, John 3:14-21, John 5:39-40, John 3:34-36.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Third Heaven

Paul Spent Time with God in the Spiritual Realm and So Can We

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he makes a cryptic statement about going to the third heaven. He doesn’t know if it’s an out of body experience or not (2 Corinthians 12:2).

This is the only verse in the Bible that uses the phrase third heaven. What does it mean? By looking at other uses of heaven in the Bible, we find three applications.

  1. Sometimes heaven refers to the sky. This is the first use of heaven.
  2. Other times heaven refers to the sun, moon, and stars. This is the second use of heaven.
  3. Another instance refers to God’s dwelling place. This is the third use of heaven.

This means that Paul went to heaven for a time—whether in body or in spirit, he’s not sure—and then returned to earth. It seems too fantastic to be true.

I’ve not told this to too many people, but I believe I’ve also been to the third heaven. Several times. Like Paul I’m not sure if this was in my body or out of it. Though a few times I did have a physical form when I was there.

At first, I only had a fleeting awareness of my presence in heaven before returning to earth. Sometimes I’d bow at the foot of Father God’s throne, stretching out my hand to touch his foot in reverence. Occasionally I’d succeed, but usually my straining to reach the Almighty fell just a bit short.

Heaven will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend. Click To Tweet

After that I had a couple of longer experiences in the third heaven. I can’t describe them other than to say they were glorious and euphoric. I didn’t want to leave. These occurred when I was fasting and praying.

Then one day—again while fasting and praying—I desired to visit heaven, but God said no. He explained that if he allowed me to return, I’d want to spend too much time there, which would detract from what he wants me to do here on earth. I get that. He was right, of course.

One day—when my work here is done—I will return to heaven and stay there forever. It will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Does Silence Scare You?

Does Silence Scare You?

We need to learn to worship God in silence, doing nothing but standing in awe of him

The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. However, I fear that many people miss the point of it. The intent of Revelation isn’t to give us a detailed map of the future. Instead, Revelation provides us with a grand overview of God’s ultimate power and amazing plan for the future, our future.

The goal in reading Revelation isn’t to formulate a timeline, detail the future, or argue about the end times. The grand revelation of Revelation is to comprehend the power, the grandeur, and the glory of God.

So it is with today’s text. John writes that when the angel opens the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for half an hour.

Silence.

Total quiet.

Nothing.

How do you deal with silence? How much silence can you withstand before you go crazy? If you’re like most people, your answer is only a few seconds.

Imagine being in the presence of God. The setting overwhelms. God sits on his throne surrounded by his people and spiritual beings. An angel brakes a seal to open a sacred scroll. Silence fills the space in awe over God’s presence, power, and plan.

The only response is to do nothing, to stand quietly, and to not say a thing. To bask in God’s essence.

Nothing happens for thirty minutes. That’s 1,800 seconds.

Tick, tick, tick. That’s three seconds. Can you stand the silence? Do you feel the pressure to say something or for someone else to break the quiet?

Now wait 1,797 seconds more. That’s a lot of quiet. That’s a quiet that honors God. It’s a quiet that God deserves. It’s one way we can worship God. 

By sitting in silence, in the presence of his glory, we can worship God. Click To Tweet

No music, no song, and no singing. Just silence. By doing nothing we can worship God. By sitting in silence in the presence of his glory, we honor him.

Does silence scare you? It shouldn’t. When done right, it shows God our adoration.

Maybe we should worship God in our silence more often. We can start right now.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 4-8, and today’s post is on Revelation 8:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Is Jesus Waiting for You?

The Son of Man Stands to Welcome Stephen Into Heaven

Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin. His testimony becomes a sermon, which smartly recaps the story arc of the Old Testament, starting with father Abraham and spilling over into the New Testament, ending with a sacrificial death of Jesus.

Though I would never suggest someone skip reading the Old Testament, if you want a quick understanding of its essential elements, study this passage.

Though Stephen’s historical recitation is accurate, it offends the Jewish leaders. They plug their ears, scream loudly, and rush toward Stephen. They drag him outside the city and begin throwing rocks at him. Stephen’s getting stoned.

As he dies, he prays. First he asks Jesus to get ready for him. Then he prays for the people pelting him with rocks, that they’ll receive forgiveness for their murderous act. Then Stephen dies.

But there’s one part of the story I left out—an important part. Between Stephen ending his overview of the Old Testament and his hearers becoming so incensed with his words, he looks up into heaven and tells the people what he sees.

He sees God in all his glory, with Jesus at his side. But Jesus isn’t sitting next to Father God, as the Bible usually describes. This time Jesus stands. It’s as though he has stood up, ready to welcome Stephen into heaven.

Even before Stephen prays for Jesus to get ready to receive his spirit when his body dies, Jesus is prepared. He rises, ready to welcome his faithful servant into eternal glory.

When our time comes to join Jesus in heaven, may we receive the same welcome as Stephen did. Click To Tweet

Though the Bible doesn’t mention it, I imagine Jesus with outstretched arms, a broad smile, and mouthing the words, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.” When our time comes to join Jesus in heaven, may we receive the same welcome.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 5-7, and today’s post is on Acts 7:56.]

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Do You Have Life?

Whoever has the Son has life

In the first of John’s three letters, he writes to the early followers of Jesus, reminding them of God’s essential message about Jesus, light, and life. Jesus, by the way, is the light and he gives life. So amid John’s poetic flare, his words all revolve around Jesus. And the Son has life.

As John winds down his letter, he writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” He makes it so simple.

We take this word life to mean eternal life, that is, our future life in heaven.

Yes, it is that. But this future begins today, not later after we die. The life Jesus gives us is physical life, too. And this might be just as important. Really.

Too many Christians plod through this life, placing all their hopes in a future life in heaven. Their exclusive future focus robs them of what God wants to give them today.

We need to make the most of this life that Jesus gives us. Live for him. Love others as he does. Point them to Jesus, the Son of God.

Seek Jesus and you will have him. It’s that simple. Click To Tweet

John makes it clear: Whoever has the Son has life.

Do you have the Son?

If so, the life he gives starts here, now.

If not, seek Jesus and you will have life. It’s that simple.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 John 5 to 3 John and today’s post is on 1 John 5:12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Are You Like the Criminal on the Cross Next to Jesus?

When Jesus is executed, two criminals are executed with him, one on either side. While we don’t know what these two men did to deserve the death penalty, we can assume it must have been something really bad, such as murder or insurrection.

Luke’s report of this event gives us a bit more detail than in Jesus’ other biographies. Luke notes that while one of the criminals insults Jesus, the other one sees things differently.

He says the punishment for him and the other lawbreaker is just, getting what their actions warrant, whereas Jesus is innocent. Then, in an amazing display of faith—since they will all soon be dead—he asks Jesus to remember him in his future kingdom. Jesus says it’s a done deal.

While this criminal on the cross did something bad to get the death penalty, anything wrong we do, whether major or minor, likewise earns us the punishment of death. Just as Jesus opens his arms to accept a hardened criminal, he can likewise accept us.

This criminal on the cross merely affirms Jesus and asks to spend eternity in heaven with him. We can do the same thing, too.

Discover more about the criminal on the cross in Luke 23:32-33, 39-43.

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

A Criminal Makes a Deathbed Confession

Don’t Put Off Following Jesus

While we shouldn’t wait to follow Jesus, it’s nice to know that he’ll give us up to the last minute to make a decision

In Luke’s biography of Jesus, the author sometimes shares details not found in the Bible’s other three accounts of Jesus’s life. One such example is about the two criminals who are executed with Jesus.

One of them mocks Jesus, but the other one doesn’t. Instead this second criminal rebukes the first. He says knock it off. We’re guilty and getting what we deserve, but Jesus is innocent.

Then the man makes a simple request of Jesus: remember me in your kingdom. What a simple statement, one filled with faith. This man, whose life is about to end because of a serious wrong he has committed, knows there is something more awaiting him after death.

Yet through no merit of his own and with nothing he can do to earn it, he asks Jesus to be part of Jesus’s future kingdom. It’s bold, and it’s sincere.

Jesus could have said, “Sorry man, but you messed up.” But no. Instead Jesus lovingly says “Yes!” And not only is the answer affirmative, but it is also timely. Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

How cool is that? Follow Jesus today to live for him in this life and live with him in the next. Click To Tweet

While we can wait until the last minute and make a deathbed conversion with full confidence that Jesus will say yes, the risk is too great. We don’t know when our last breath will come and if we’ll have time to ask Jesus to remember us.

So don’t put it off. Follow Jesus today so you can live for him in this life and live with him in paradise in the next.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 22-24, and today’s post is on Luke 23:32-43.]

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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