Note: J. Preston Eby, in order to continue to devote his full energy to writing, no longer works in the office and does not receive email. He does, however, respond to any urgent correspondence via snailmail.
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"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
TO BE THE LORD’S PRAYER
OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven..." (Mat. 6:9).
Now, as we are trying in these messages to realize the full significance of this model prayer, we must give our attention specially to this expression, "which art in heaven." There is perhaps no subject in the Bible about which there is such shallow thinking, such dullness of understanding, and so many distorted notions, as the subject of heaven. Where is heaven? What is heaven? Is it a place? Is it in another galaxy? Is it beyond the stars? Is it a condition of life? Is it a different dimension of living? If our very Father is in heaven, then we ought to know something about heaven, for it is the source of our life, the realm of our origin. We know this because the Father who begat us dwells in heaven; therefore we are out of heaven and from heaven. If He is our Father and heaven is His natural environment, His habitat, we should understand what that realm is really like.
The English word "heaven" is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon term "heave-on," meaning to be lifted up, up-lifted. It means to be "heaved-up" or "heav-en." As someone has written, "In the scriptures, heaven is used to describe three rather distinct and different realms. First, we find it used over and over with reference to the earth’s atmosphere. It is used to describe the envelope of air that surrounds the planet, conditions our climate, and sustains life. ‘And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament...and God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day’ (Gen. 1:6-8). The formation of clouds, the precipitation of rain or hail or snow, are regarded as coming from heaven. Also the birds fly in heaven. In other words, all that we normally associate with the atmosphere about the planet is said to be heaven. ‘For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater’ (Isa. 55:10).
"Second, there is a very much broader sense in which the word heaven or heavens is used to describe outer space. It specifically refers to the sun, moon, and stars, and the sky. It denotes the unmeasured immensity of numberless galaxies flung across infinite expanses. It is used for the unending realm of stellar constellations that circle through the night in majestic movements. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork’ (Ps. 19:1). Again and again the scriptures speak of the stars of heaven and the heavenly constellations."
But the heaven where God dwells is beyond all this. Not only is God our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. By saying God is in heaven, Jesus does not mean to localize or locate God. He is not telling us of a place where God is and where God lives apart from any other place in the universe. Those who think of heaven as a place, usually think of Him as being very distant. Somehow we have gotten the idea that heaven is a long way off. This error has crept into many songs sung by the church world. In the Pentecostal Church where I was raised as a boy two of the favorite songs were "When We All Get To Heaven" and "Won’t It Be Wonderful There." Another with which many who read these lines will be familiar says, "There is a happy land, far, far way." And even in that popular hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross," we sing, "He will call me some day to that home far away..." How did we get that conception? Certainly not from Jesus or the apostles! When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He said, "No man hath ascended up into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (Jn. 3:13). That is, Jesus claimed that while He was sitting and talking to this rabbi, He Himself was actually in heaven. This means, of course, that heaven is here and now.
Let us turn to the Word of God for the understanding of heaven, and forget all the perversions we have heard and all the nonsense of religion. We want no theories or guesses. We want truth and reality. We want nothing but the highest authority. And what better authority can we find than the One who made the heavens and who Himself dwells in the heavens. If anyone understands the facts of heaven, it is He. Let us see what He said. He had left His heavenly glory. He had humbled Himself, had taken upon Himself the form of sinful man; and becoming a man, was despised and rejected. He was of no reputation. And yet, while in humility and reproach, a man among men, He made this statement: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN." And still the unlearned and the ignorant and the unbelieving say that heaven is a place to which the redeemed go after death. Any fool can understand foolishness. But those blessed ones called to sonship to God have a higher heritage than these. We who are of the Day have been given the unfailing Word and understanding of the deep things of God.
The eternal Word of God left His glory, and descended to the depths of shame and reproach. He came and took our place of disgrace. He became a man among men in order that we might be raised and exalted and honored and, under Him, be given a name above every name. He, the Christ, who was made in all things like unto His brethren (Heb. 2:17) yet, while a man on earth, in humility, Himself said, "The Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN." And yet Christians in unbelief and ignorance, well meaning no doubt, nevertheless in shame and error sing, "When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be!" Heaven for children of God is not a future hope. It is a present reality. Jesus the Christ, when a man on earth, was at the same time in heaven. And so also are we who are "as He is" (I Jn. 4:17). "As is the heavenly such ARE THEY ALSO THAT ARE HEAVENLY" (I Cor. 15:48).
Our Lord was in heaven; He came down from heaven, and still was in heaven; and this heaven is, in the Greek, OURANOS. It is something a person can be in, can descend from, and still possess. And the meaning of the word is "elevation, height, exaltation." Our Lord was the King of the universe. But He descended from that state. He humbled Himself, and took upon Himself the form of sinful flesh. He became despised and rejected. But nevertheless, in His humiliation He was still the Lord of the universe. All things were subject to Him. He still could command the winds and waves and they obeyed Him to the astonishment of those men who saw it. He still could control the atoms, multiply the loaves and fishes, raise the dead, and was Master of all laws of nature. He still saw into the unseen realm of spirit, was consciously aware in both the earthly and spiritual dimensions, unlimited by the physical world. He was still elevated, exalted; He was still in heaven!
God gives us definitions in His Word. He tells us exactly what certain things are— if we have ears to hear. And He tells us exactly what heaven is. "Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool" (Acts 7:49). HEAVEN IS MY THRONE! It is the height, the very pinnacle of power and eminence and glory and majesty over all God’s limitless domain. And yet men, in their blindness and unbelief, tell us that heaven is a place where good people go to play harps. We are considering the Greek word OURANOS. It is a word appearing in the New Testament about 275 times. It is a state of eminence in which our Lord was, and which He left to become the meek and lowly Saviour; but a state of eminence which He, as the Lord of glory, still possessed. And the definition of it tells us that it is the very pinnacle of power and glory. "Ouranos is my throne." And the meaning of the word is elevation, height, exaltation. Therefore we have exactly the same statement if we say, "My throne is elevation, height, exaltation, eminence." And that, dear reader, is the basic heaven of the New Testament. "Ouranos" is not a place. It is, in its spiritual application, the height or pinnacle of majesty, glory and eminence. It is a condition, a position, and a state of being.
How many still hope that God is in heaven? The first Sputnik the Russians put up scared a lot of people— they were afraid it might knock God off His throne. Thank God, so far it’s missed the throne! But let me ask — How far is heaven away from earth? We know how far it is to the moon — 240,000 miles. We know how far it is to the sun — 93,000,000 miles. So how far is heaven from the earth? Let me assure you — it’s not very far. Maybe twenty feet? Perhaps ten feet? Five feet? Do those figures seem a little too close? We have all read the story of Jacob, when he was fleeing from his brother, Esau, he laid his head upon a stone and saw a ladder from the earth, passing by the moon, reaching past the sun, extending past Jupiter, right on through the Milky Way until it finally reached heaven! He saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven and God was standing at the top of the ladder and spoke to Jacob from the top of the ladder. Jacob could both see and hear God from the top of the ladder and he could see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the ladder. Jesus said HE was the ladder. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (Jn. 1:51). The ladder is the Christ of God — with its Head in the heavens and its body upon earth. The Christ body is the connecting link between the earthlies and the heavenlies. In and upon this body heaven comes down to earth, and earth is raised up into the heights of the Spirit realm of God. Jesus Himself is the proto-type of this reality as He walked on earth in the conscious awareness and active participation of both dimensions. He was both in heaven and earth at the same time. At the very moment when Jesus spoke these words, heaven could have been no more than six feet away, for Jesus was Himself the ladder that connected heaven with earth! In Him men could see God at the top of the ladder, and by Him God spoke to men upon earth. So heaven isn’t that far away! When Christ comes into your life — where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there.
The heaven of God’s presence, wherever it is in the universe, is constantly available to all who walk in the Spirit. And it doesn’t take a hundred years or even eight minutes for your prayers to reach heaven. We know that light travels at the speed of 180,000 miles a second, which is an incredible, almost incomprehensible, speed. At that rate it takes light eight minutes to reach the earth from the sun. But if you can determine how long it takes for your prayer to reach heaven, and the answer to return, you will know how far away heaven is. Someone says, "Brother, heaven must be very far away, because it takes a year for my prayer to get answered!" But have we not also discovered that the moment we pray, God hears? "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isa. 65:24).
God says that men enter His heavenly Kingdom by being born into it (Jn. 3:5). Men do not die to go to heaven, they are born there, for our Father is in heaven. And then after they are born into that state— after they become heavenly beings — they can lay up, by obedience to the heavenly Father, heavenly riches which will not only be a place, but royal pomp, splendor, majesty and dominion beyond compare. Sonship not only entitles one to residence in God’s limitless and eternal domain, but to the ownership and rule of that domain, in proportion to qualifying in spiritual growth and development. Oh, that it were possible to lift men up above the shadows, and give them just a glimpse of something higher! Mortal minds are so entirely inadequate; human eyes so dim; human ears so dull!
Heaven is not a mansion over the hilltop, not the gratifying of the needs and desires of this vessel of clay. It is not that which will bring creature comfort. It is not a state of eternal creature enjoyment or rest. The celestial realm is something infinitely higher. It is eminence, power, majesty, life, glory. It is becoming the same kind of a Being as the One who made the worlds (Jn. 10:34-36; I Jn. 3:2), and will bring, not inactive rest with fluttering wings and strumming harps, which in a few short hours even becomes exceedingly tiresome, but activity and accomplishments far surpassing that of earth’s limitation. And it includes kingship and priesthood over God’s eternal and infinite domain. It is dominion and power and influence far above that which earth can contemplate or even imagine. And it begins here and now as the power and glory of God begin to move and manifest in and through our lives on this earth. Truly, "Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul."
The King James version of the Bible gives us this prayer in these words, "Our Father which art in heaven," but in fact the verb "art" in not in the original Greek text. The Greek expresses it more this way: "Father of ours, the One in the heavens." Why is there no verb in the Greek text? Because there has never been any particular time when God was not "in the heavens." One of the laws of Greek grammar is that whenever a verb is missing, it indicates limitless time. If our common version were correct and this verse said, "Our Father which art in heaven," it would indicate that the Father was in heaven at the particular time that the prayer was made. Our Lord, however, is revealing the great truth that our heavenly Father has always dwelt in the heavens. He was, is, and ever will be in heaven. It is the permanent dwelling of God.
WHERE IS HEAVEN
Jewish thought was fond of dividing the heavens into seven different strata, the "seventh heaven" being God’s dwelling place. But God does not dwell in one certain heaven— the third, the seventh, or any other. He is in the heavens, and above and beyond all heavens. A philosopher of yesteryear once referred to God as "God, whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere." Ah, that is it! If God’s center is everywhere, then wherever I may be the center of that center would be in my deepest being. From where I stand the center of God is right in the innermost part of my life, and His circumference is infinite. The Greek word for heaven, in the New Testament, is most often in the plural. When you read Jesus’ great parables of the Kingdom of Heaven it is really the Kingdom of the Heavens. Also, where Jesus teaches sons to pray, He says, according to the King James version, "Our Father which art in heaven." But in Greek it is plural — "Our Father which art in the heavens." So, contrary to popular thought, there is more than one heaven where God dwells. Paul spoke of being caught up into the third heaven, and God, our God, is the God of all the heavens. God dwells in heaven. He fills every heaven. He rules in every heaven. He is above every heaven, beyond every heaven, higher than all heavens and greater than the reality of each heaven. The great king Solomon cried out, "Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God, and the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods. But who is able to build Him an house, seeing the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I, then, that I should build Him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before Him?" (II Chron. 2:4-6).
In other words, that heaven that is so vast, so expansive, so extensive, so all-inclusive that it embodies within itself all the other heavens— even that heaven cannot contain our God! And yet I hear some say that God is not omnipresent! God is the God, not of heaven, but of THE HEAVENS. And in our journey into God we pass through all these heavens. Jesus passed through all the heavens on His way into the glory of the Father. "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things" (Eph. 4:10). In His ascension to the right hand of Power He passed through — experienced — all the heavens. But not only did He pass through them, He has also FILLED THEM ALL so that God in Christ is the essence in every heaven. You will find Him on a different plane, in a different dimension, in a different aspect of His life, in each heaven. Heaven is not a place, not a geographical or astral location — it is a sphere or realm of reality. It is a dimension of life. It is a level of God-consciousness. It is the invisible realm of spirit that transcends this gross material realm. It is as omnipresent as God is omnipresent. It is co-existent and co-extensive with the physical universe, but on a different level of reality and being. It is the dimension of spirit reality, of being where God is all that He is. Heaven is also the realm in which God is revealed by the Spirit. Heaven is the realm in which God is known by the Spirit. Heaven is the realm in which God can be touched in the Spirit. Heaven is the realm in which God can be experienced in the Spirit. God is the God of the heavens, and if ever you will see Him, if ever you will know Him, if ever you will touch Him, if ever you will experience Him — it will be in the heavens where in dwells, in the realms of His Spirit. Heaven, as I have pointed out, means "height, eminence, elevation." God is in heaven. God is Spirit. Heaven is the high and holy realm of the Spirit where God exists. To be in heaven is to be in the Spirit. To experience God spiritually is to experience heaven. Thus, heaven is the realm of spiritual experience. The heavens are the various realms or levels of spiritual experience where we meet and know God. When God is revealed to you by the Spirit, heaven is opened and you behold heavenly things. In the lower heavens you know God in a more elementary way. It is wonderful to know God in His heavens. Each heaven speaks of a plane of relationship with God by the Spirit. When the Lord unveils Himself to you on a higher plane, in deeper measures, in richer and fuller dimensions of His life, wisdom, and glory, and you experience Him in it, you ascend in Him to a higher heaven. As you pass through the heavens you come to know God in greater and grander measures. You experience Him in a deeper way. You come to know God more fully.
Let all who read these lines clearly understand that God’s heaven is not the inexhaustible universe of stars and suns and planets— swirling nebulae. Heaven has nothing whatever to do with the time-space continuum or matter in any form. The true heaven is beyond it all, above it all, before it all. Heaven is that high and holy and invisible realm of SPIRIT, the pure and divine and eternal and incorruptible realm of GOD HIMSELF, which existed before ever a star or a planet appeared. Heaven, therefore, can only be entered BY THAT WHICH IS SPIRIT. Let every man know for a certainty that natural eyes cannot pierce the invisible realm of spirit. The Russian astronauts returned from space and said, "We have been up there, we looked around, and we didn’t find or see God." Of course not! Natural minds know nothing of that realm, for we perceive only those physical things recognizable by the physical senses. Natural ears are unable to hear that which is spoken in the realm of the spirit, for spirit vibrates on a frequency higher than and superior to the low vibrations of matter. Heaven is all around us, in us, and through us, just as radio waves and various other rays are all around us, within us, and through us without our knowledge. We must be raised out of our natural consciousness in order to touch it. But the dimension of heaven is ten thousand times MORE REAL than this gross material realm to which our mortal form has been subjected.
The highest realm revealed to man is called HEAVEN, and all who have been born again from above by the Spirit of God have had opened to them a realm higher far than the heavens perceived by astronomers and astrologers. These know nothing of heaven at all! Paul tells us that we are to "seek those things which are ABOVE, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things ABOVE, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:1-2). The man or woman who is born again from that bright glory world above becomes an entirely new creation in Christ Jesus. And from that time forward he lives for God. His chief delight is in spiritual things. His affections are set above and not on things below. His citizenship is in heaven. Before his eyes there is opened up a kingdom which is beyond his full articulation or expression. He has only glimpsed some of the ineffable glories that God has revealed, is revealing, and will reveal to him. He is now part of a kingdom so vast in scope and so enduring in quality that the things of this world seem tawdry, mean, narrow, and insignificant by comparison.
Have you ever thought of the meaning of the name ascribed to God, the MOST HIGH? Why the Most High? Does this not indicate that there are other high authorities in existence, and that He is the Most High: the highest of them all? We often talk about Jesus, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension. We say that after He was raised from the dead He ascended up to heaven. What do we think of when we make such a statement? Do we visualize Him going somewhere away beyond the stars, millions of miles out into space, to a place called Heaven? The scriptures say that when He ascended up on High, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. He ascended up ON HIGH. What does this mean? High above what?
I want to draw your attention to a few scriptures that will make the truth crystal clear. In Hebrews 7:26 we read these words concerning Jesus: "For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made HIGHER THAN THE HEAVENS." This doesn’t say that He merely ascended up to some far off heaven somewhere, but that He was made HIGHER than the HEAVENS. What does it mean, "made higher than the heavens"? Let us look at some other passages along this line. "He that descended is the same also that ascended up FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS" (Eph. 4:10). Now this language is somewhat different than saying He ascended up to heaven. He is made higher than the heavens, and ascended up far above all heavens. Wonderful statements like this are also found in the Psalms. "Be thou exalted O God, ABOVE THE HEAVENS; let Thy glory be above all the earth" (Ps. 57:5,11). "Let God be exalted ABOVE THE HEAVENS" (Ps. 108:5).
Paul tells us something about this high and exalted realm.
"I...cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you
the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your
understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His
calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and
what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to
the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him
from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the HEAVENLY PLACES, FAR
ABOVE ALL PRINCIPALITY, AND POWER, AND MIGHT, AND DOMINION, and every name
that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come"
(Eph. 1:16-21). In verse twenty of this beautiful passage we have the Greek
phrase "en tois epouraniois," translated into
English as "in heavenly places." "...He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES." The word for heaven in the Greek New Testament, as I have pointed out, is OURANOS, only in this passage we have something added to it. And the compound word thus formed is of such great import to us that we must consider it very, very carefully. We have the Greek word EPI which means SUPERIMPOSITION, or in plain speech, ABOVE, HIGHER THAN, OVER. And when joined to OURANOS, it becomes EPOURANIOIS. These two words joined together mean ABOVE HEAVEN or THE HIGHEST HEAVEN or HIGHER THAN ALL HEAVENS
Our Lord and Saviour when on earth, even though He had humbled Himself and had descended to the depths of the realm of death and had borne our sins, was still the exalted One. He was still in heaven (Jn. 3:13). But then He arose the conquering Christ! And not only that, but He ASCENDED victor over all the powers of darkness, having brought in eternal redemption for a lost world and redeemed all things unto God. "Wherefore God hath HIGHLY EXALTED HIM, and given Him a name which is ABOVE EVERY NAME." Or as Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:10, "He...ascended up FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS." Or, let us note carefully, God set Him "at His own right hand IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES." And the word that is mistranslated here as "heavenly places" is EPOURANIOIS, meaning HIGHER THAN HEAVENLY. It is ABOVE HEAVEN, HIGHER THAN HEAVEN, FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS! Thus we read, "He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand IN EPOURANIOIS— FAR ABOVE ALL PRINCIPALITY, AND POWER, AND MIGHT, AND DOMINION, AND EVERY NAME THAT IS NAMED...and has put ALL THINGS under His feet" (Eph. 1:20-22).
So the heavens He has been raised up far above are the Principalities and Powers, the Might and Dominion, that inhabit and dwell in all the heavens. God has given Jesus an exalted position, far above all other Principality and Power, good and bad, and given Him a name (nature) that is above every name that is named throughout the vastnesses of infinity. He has put all other Power and Authority everywhere under His feet, and made them all His footstool, that before His glorious name, that wonderful name of Jesus, every knee should bow, yes, every knee, of the inhabitants of the heavens as well as those on the earth and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess, the tongues of those in the heavens, of those on the earth, and those in the underworld, every one of them shall proclaim Him Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And let demons rage. Let fools and unbelievers hang their heads in shame. We quote once more from the incomparable Word of God. "But God...HATH raised US up together, and MADE US SIT TOGETHER IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST JESUS" (ePH. 2:4-6). And this "heavenly places" where WE NOW SIT with the firstborn Son is this same super-heaven, or epouraniois, the same position that He holds "far above all heavens"! Ah, we who have come the way of the cross, we whose spirits have been quickened by His Spirit, we in whom the mighty power is working which God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand far above all heavens— are enthroned with Him in this super-eminence NOW. Christ is enthroned in the higher-than-all-heavens and WE HAVE BEEN QUICKENED AND RAISED UP AND GIVEN JOINT-SEATING WITH HIM IN THE UNION OF HIS DIVINE LIFE! So you see, precious friend of mine, it IS possible to live in heaven while you walk on earth!
And yet Christians in ignorance sing, "In the sweet bye and bye, we shall meet on that beautiful shore!" Heaven for those who have been born from above is not a future hope. It is a present reality. It is the realm far above all other forms of natural and spiritual life that inhabit God’s vast universe and far above all power and might and dominion of any order; not above them geographically, but above them in RANK, in QUALITY OF LIFE, in EMINENCE, in POWER and AUTHORITY and NATURE and GLORY! All the elect sons of God must find their existence and experience enthroned with Christ in the higher than all heavens. They must find all their source and reality of being IN SPIRIT. Oh! sons of God— let us arise and live the heavenly life! Let our ministry be one that will lift people out of the earthly consciousness into a heavenly (spiritual) consciousness. Truly all creation has been lowered into the bondage of corruption, the consciousness of the earthly and temporal, but not without a hope of restoration into a full God-consciousness and state of being again. This is what salvation is about. This is why God’s purpose in this hour is to perfect, to raise us and bring us into the consciousness of God which is the full awareness of the realm of the SPIRIT — the power and substance of life within OUR VERY SPIRIT!
If my Father is "in heaven," then I can expect from Him only such things as come from heaven, are heavenly in character, and such as will make me heavenly. All that comes to me from heaven will make my life and my world more heavenly. In prayer I am making a link between earth and heaven; I am opening up a channel for heaven’s bounty to come into this world. We do not, then, pray to gain divine power for doing worldly tasks, or for realizing worldly ends. We come in prayer to open up the way for heaven’s life, heaven’s reality, heaven’s power, heaven’s glory, conditions, qualities and purposes to flow down into the earth realm, thereby establishing the Kingdom of Heaven— the Kingdom of God in earth. We come not to lay hold upon heaven’s power to fulfill earthly plans, hopes, and dreams, but to open the door of heaven for godliness to come down and transform all it touches. As a son of God I cannot ask for anything contrary to the character or will of my heavenly Father, for anything out of keeping with the heavenly order. To the Father in heaven I come seeking heaven’s glory. When we understand this, and by conscious awareness live in the reality of "our Father," we live and move and have our being in God. It is a great mistake to think of heaven as something that happens after we die. It separates us in the "here and now" from the reality of our Father. It is said that the Kingdom of Heaven is "within you" (Lk. 17:21), that it is "in the midst of thee" (Zeph. 3:17), and that it is "at hand" (Mat. 4:17). We must claim it now, know it now, experience it now, lay hold upon it now, live in it now as sons of our heavenly Father.
In the Garden of Eden the footsteps of Yahweh were heard. He walked in the Garden and talked with man face to face. As far as Adam saw, the wonderful Creator was ever present. The thought that God was far away, removed from the habitation of man, never entered the pure minds of our first parents. It was later that worldly philosophy placed God at a terrible distance, while idolatry lowered Him to the earthly and sensual.
Heaven is our Father’s native realm. It is His natural environment. It is His home and habitat. Heaven is heaven by virtue of the fact that His presence, nature, power, wisdom and glory make it such. If God dwells in me, then heaven is within me, for He is my Father "in heaven." When teaching His disciples this magnificent prayer, Jesus was not thinking of a distant Being in some remote area of the universe. He was referring to One whose existence was the very essence of His life. What was true of Jesus Christ as He lived in Palestine twenty centuries ago, is equally true of all sons and daughters of God today. Our Father is in heaven and also in our hearts. To know this is to know a new and deeper dimension to life. To know the presence and person of God our Father within is to experience heaven in the here and now, to be in heaven. But even more than that, we will see our lives now as the residence and habitation of the Most High. We will know ourselves to be the home of our heavenly Father, just as Jesus did. "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works" (Jn. 14:10). Thus, we and heaven are one. To say that God is in heaven and also in my heart, and to then separate between the two, is to entirely miss the mark. Once God’s sovereignty has been established in any human heart, the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven is accomplished in that life. That is heaven. That is where God lives. That is where we see, know, touch and experience God in His heaven.
Every child when thinking of his father associates with that personality an abode or dwelling place of some kind. It may be a tumble-down shack on the other side of the tracks or the king’s palace, yet it is home, sweet home. Home is where father is. Home is the storehouse where father keeps his resources to meet the need of his son. Home is the place from whence emanates peace, love, wisdom, joy, harmony, security and provision. It is the place where the child goes to find comfort, understanding, counsel and strength. It is the one place to which the child can go to express his joys and share his happiness. That is the picture of the abode of our heavenly Father which we call heaven. Heaven is our home— not in the sweet bye and bye, but in the here and now! Heaven is where the Father is, the realm from which He radiates and sends all His love, wisdom, power and purpose. Jesus went to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house, and He has come again in mighty Spirit power to receive us unto Himself, to bring us to the Father, seated together with Him in the heavenly places. In the true and inspired words of the old hymn:
Once heaven seemed a far off place,
Till Jesus showed His smiling face;
Now it is here within my soul,
‘Twill be while endless ages roll.
O Hallelujah! yes ‘tis heaven,
‘Tis heaven to know the Son that’s given;
O’re land or sea, what matter where,
Where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there!
We must realize Him as our living, ever-present God within. He is closer to us than the air that we breathe. Yea, closer is He to us than the blood that courses through our veins. He is in our spirit, and He is our very life. He is in heaven and we are in Him and He is in us. There is such a commingling that we cannot tell where heaven ends and earth begins, where God begins and we end, or where we begin and God ends. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.
Some time ago a brother shared a word and I now communicate it to you as faithfully as I can. He pointed out that heaven does not have a present significance in the mind and spirit and understanding of vast numbers of God’s people. Somehow the churches relegate heaven as an aftermath, something beyond this life, the category that awaits us after death. And that is to the great detriment of the Church. The Church is, by definition, a heavenly institution on earth and in time— NOW. Those who dwell in heaven (spirit) are required to bring the dimension of heaven into their present experience and expression. So if we save the word heaven for the future we are striking a death-blow to the very nature and character of the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s purpose in His people as a heavenly people presently in time. We need to become alive to heaven; heaven needs to become vital; it must be made real; it needs to have substance within our hearts, our lives, our speech, our thoughts, our convictions, and our manifestation. In a word, we need to be made HEAVENLY MINDED!
Everything in this world militates against this kind of consciousness. Everything in modern civilization, everything in the scientific, educational, medical, industrial and social institutions of the world is calculated against heaven, against eternity, against SPIRIT. They want to delude the masses of mankind to believe that this is it— this temporal, spacial, physical and visible world is the sum and substance of REALITY. That is the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of this age that undergirds and permeates the entire kingdom of corruption and death. The world operates on the supposition and premise that everything of value is now, in time, material, the things that are seen, tangible, felt and held, and that when this life passes it is over. Therefore, eat, drink and be merry; therefore fornicate; therefore agrandize; therefore grasp; therefore get all you can get and enjoy all you can enjoy, for this is all there is. And that is a LIE! The world is living in a lie. And the church world is living in another (and just as serious) LIE. The churches tell us that heaven is a future hope — beyond the grave. They understand not that heaven and spirit are synonymous — you cannot have SPIRIT without having HEAVEN. And the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU!
What is wanting is a people that are in consciousness so in the heavenly dimension now; are so alive to the things that are eternal, the things that are spirit, that even without them speaking this explicitly, their very presence exudes the atmosphere of life and the fragrance of eternity. God is after a people, a heavenly and celestial race, set in time. "...and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show..." (Eph. 2:6-7). This is meaningless prattle unless the Spirit opens our understanding. We have been warned by the carnal minded of this age about the danger of being so "heavenly minded" until we are "no earthly good." That is what the world says, and what should you expect from the world but to controvert and take the wisdom of God and so distort and pervert it until it appears ridiculous and absurd to have mankind believe exactly the reverse! But these words are being written to show that we have no choice, no option as to whether we will be heavenly minded or not; for the truth is, IF WE ARE NOT HEAVENLY MINDED IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE OF ANY EARTHLY GOOD! It is only as a power from above reaches down and touches earth that it can be raised and quickened, transformed from the image of the earthly into the image of the heavenly. And Paul, the apostle of the apostles, through whom the sacred secrets of God were revealed by the grace of God, defying the empty and inane cavillings of men and their fruitless doctrines and meaningless traditions, admonished those who would be the sons and daughters of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the HEAVENLY CALLING...if ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are ABOVE, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things ABOVE, NOT ON THINGS ON THE EARTH. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Heb. 3:1; Col. 3:1-3).
It is when we are quickened to the realm of SPIRIT, to the heavenly and celestial, to that bright glory world where alone can be perceived eternal truth and reality, that we hear our heavenly Father speaking from the throne of eternity, long before the ages were framed and before the cosmos appeared out of the wastes of chaos, there in the glory and wonder of His presence, from out of the depths of His omniscient mind, His purpose for the ages, the dispensations, the worlds, was laid down upon the infinite blue-print, plan by plan, purpose by purpose, age by age, so that each eonian purpose and every divine decree shall be guided and controlled by His omnipotent hand to grow and mature from glory to glory until His vast family of beloved sons shall deliver up to Him all things in perfection that God Himself might be All-in-all. The very idea that one could in some way become so "heavenly minded" that he would be "no earthly good" reveals the incredible darkness and deluded stupidity of the carnal mind and its pitiful inability to comprehend things that belong to heavenly realms. Oh, that the wisdom of man which is foolishness with God might be torn from our hearts that we might see beyond the mists and theories of time and tradition right into the very heart of the eternal where is found the infinite wisdom that teaches us how it is that until one becomes truly HEAVENLY MINDED he CANNOT be of any EARTHLY GOOD! The fact is, the only reality in the universe is SPIRIT. The things which are seen are TEMPORAL, says the Lord, and the things which are not seen are ETERNAL. This is the wisdom of God in a mystery. Until one learns how to live and have his being OUT OF SPIRIT, out of the invisible realm, out of his very innermost being, he will continue to be held captive by the corruption of the flesh and dwell in the shadow of death.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ," the inspired apostle wrote. In the Old Testament the blessings of the people of God were temporal and physical in nature. They were seen in financial prosperity, the multiplication of the herds and the sheep and the goats, in many children, in servants and in wealth. That was because they were a people of another age and God had to make His blessings visible to their eyes so that their faith could comprehend and grasp it. Everything was natural and physical under the Old Testament, a natural people, a physical land, a worldly temple, outward rituals and ceremonies, external laws and regulations, and temporal blessings. In the New Testament we move to a higher plane. The blessings that our heavenly Father bestows upon us are primarily spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. We might have physical blessings in this world, and God does pour them out upon us in the overflow— He is faithful with many physical needs of finances, healing, and answers to prayer — but all these things have a problem. They are like that gourd on the vine under which Jonah sat just outside of Nineveh! A worm came up and ate the gourd and it rotted and corrupted. So it is with all the physical blessings of the natural life. They all have a worm in them and when the day of withering is at hand, soon they shall have corrupted. Today God meets a need, but tomorrow a greater need arises. Today God heals our disease, but a few years after we are taken with another illness more grave than the first. Those who are so blessed that they are never sick a day in their life finally collapse and die. When we face the blasts of eternity, if we have nothing but the temporal blessings of this world, we shall face those blasts naked. Therefore "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal" (Mat. 6:19-20).
He who writes these lines testifies to those who read them that all who live after the flesh, out of the flesh, and for the flesh are earth dwellers, and woe! unto them that dwell upon the earth, for the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. All who by faith live after the spirit, out of the spirit, and for the spirit have now become PART OF THE ETERNAL. Neither can they die anymore. Death’s cruel sting, filled with its venom of sin, has passed away, and victory has been snatched from the yawning jaws of the tomb. We have passed from the realm where all is death to the realm where all is life. Our citizenship in this present age has been revoked and we have a new citizenship conferred upon us from the eternal and undying realm. And just as the stars in some mystical way influence and control the destinies of earth, so does the power of the SPIRIT quicken and metamorphose all natural things and even our mortal bodies as we live out of the high and eternal realm of the Spirit.
We are not citizens of earth, we are the true SPACE PEOPLE. Neither are we to be governed by the laws of earth. We are to be governed by the laws of heaven, the principles of the Kingdom of God, for we are citizens of that realm. In the realm of heaven there is life more abundant, incorruption and immortality. There is fullness of joy, peace, love and righteousness. There is no lack of anything, for all is out of God (spirit) and GOD IS ALL IN ALL. Even the natural world is blessed and made fruitful and quickened and raised when it comes under the rule of the heavens. Jesus was showing us this principle when He fed the five thousand from five loaves and two small fish, when He turned the water into wine, when He sent Peter to catch a fish in whose mouth was clenched the money to pay their taxes, and when He healed the sick and raised the dead back to life again. Jesus lived out of spirit, He knew God the Spirit as the source and substance of all things, He knew the power and reality of the Father who dwelt within Him, and all supply came out of the realm of spirit rather than from the limited and perishable capacity of the flesh.
When the day of Pentecost was fully come, and the Spirit was shed forth, Peter stood up with the eleven. Consider the scene that day! There was Peter, a fisherman, a little man, an uncouth and apparently inconsequential man. But on that day of the outpouring of the Spirit, when he rose to testify and proclaim that Jesus was resurrected and ascended to the heavens, this little man was in a position higher far than the most exalted rank of earth. The greatest and highest on this earth could not compare with Peter and those standing there with him. Why were they so high? How could such as they be so exalted? It was because at the very moment their spirits were quickened by HIS SPIRIT they were in the ascended Christ. They were not men on this earth; they were men in the heavens. By the power of the Spirit these disciples were resurrected people, new creation people, people in the heavens. They transcended everything on this earth. The high priest, the rulers, the kings and emperor were all under their feet. They surpassed the highest rank of man because they were seated in the heavens in God’s Christ. They were living in Him, walking in Him, talking in Him, manifesting out of Him. They were living on this high plane and in this exalted realm of the Spirit.
Living, experiencing and expressing out of the heavenlies is not a matter of geographics, not a question of physical location at all. It is a matter of consciousness and experience. Our citizenship IS in heaven. We do not move in and out of the heavenly realms at our whim. But according to the positive declaration of the scripture, we exist constantly in the heavenlies. This is a state of constant spiritual existence, but because our outer man is still in this flesh realm, we are not always aware or conscious of the greater privileges of our heavenly existence. We must continually heed the admonition of scripture: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND" (Rom. 12:2). Transformed by the renewing of the mind! Almighty Father! what words are these which instruct us to be transformed by the way we THINK and PERCEIVE! I am sure that as the Holy Spirit illumines these significant words to your understanding you will find them among the most revealing and deeply meaningful and most powerful and life changing of all inspirations.
Various ministers and writers through the centuries, with keen spiritual insight, have seen and expressed these glorious realities. The Scottish preacher, Dr. Alexander Whyte, adds this testimony from one of his sermons delivered back in the 1800’s. "The spiritual world is essentially and fundamentally different from the material world. The geographical and astronomical dimensions and distances of the material world bear no manner of relation at all to the dimensions and distances— so to call them — of the spiritual world. We speak of English miles, we speak of nautical miles, when we take our measurements of the material world. But the distances and the directions of the spiritual world cannot be laid down and limited in such miles as these. When Holy Scripture speaks of the ‘highest heaven,’ it does not speak mathematically and astronomically, but spiritually. The highest heaven is not so called because it is away up above and beyond all the stars that we see. It is called the highest heaven, because it is immeasurably and inconceivably above and beyond us in its blessedness and in its glory; in its truth, in its love, in its peace, and in its joy in God.
"When it is told us in the Word of God that the Son of God came down from heaven to earth in order to redeem us to God with His own blood, we are not to think of Him as having left some glorious place far ‘beyond the bright blue sky,’ as the children’s hymn has it. Wherein then did His humiliation consist? His humiliation consisted in His being born, and that in a low condition, born in a stable and laid in a manger, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, and the cursed death of the cross. That was His descent from heaven to earth; and it was a descent of a kind, and of a degree, that no measuring-line of man can tell the depth of it, or the distress of it, or the dreadful humiliation of it. ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’ Now heaven, here, is not the sky. It is not the heaven of sun and moon and stars. Heaven here is the experience and enjoyed reality of God— wherever that is. Heaven here is our Father’s house — wherever that is. Heaven is high up above the earth — yes; but let it be always remembered and realized that it is high up, as Almighty God is high up, in His Divine Nature, above mortal man in his human nature. It is high up as goodness is high up above evil and as perfect blessedness is high up above the uttermost misery.
"As often as we kneel down again, and begin to pray, we are to think of ourselves as at a far greater distance from God than we ought to be, and now desire to be. All true prayer is a rising up and a drawing near to God: not in space indeed; not in measurable miles; but in mind, and in heart, and in spirit. ‘Oh for a mountain to pray on!’ thou criest. ‘A mountain and a temple on the top of it; high and exalted, so that I might be nearer God, and that God might hear me better; for He dwelleth on high!’ Yes, He dwelleth on high; but all the time, He hath respect to the humble. ‘Wouldst thou pray in His temple?’ says Augustine; ‘then pray within thyself; for thou thyself art the true temple of the living God.’"
The English preacher, G. A. Studdert Kennedy, back in the 1920’s wrote the following penetrating words in his book THE WICKET GATE. "What is heaven, and where it? Is it a place, or a state of mind? Is it here or hereafter? What is hell? Is it a place, or a state of mind? Is it here or hereafter? Heaven is where God is. God is here, and now, and so is heaven. God will be hereafter, and so will heaven. Hell is, where God is not, and that may be here and now for us. Hell is where God is not— and that may be hereafter for us too. Ah, God is even there, but to us it is as though He is not, for He is unperceived. Heaven is the truth about earth. It is what earth really is. It is the true meaning of life, both now and hereafter. Men have cried, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven!’ It may be doubted whether the best of them ever bothered their heads about the distinction between a place and a state of mind; and it is doubtful whether we need bother our heads either, for a place is never very much but a state of mind. A place is always what a man sees in it, and thinks of it. It is to him what it means to him. I remember standing with a friend of mine, who was not born again — or, at any rate, if he was born again, his eyes were still shut like a kitten’s. We were watching the sun go down behind the blue Welsh hills, and turn the still wet sands of Dee into a glory of rainbow colors. I was honestly struck dumb for a time by the wonder of the scene, but he continued talking about the extraordinary powers of his new motor bike, and when I said, ‘Is not that glorious?’ he replied, ‘What do you mean?’ We were both in the same place; and yet I was in heaven, and, if he was not in hell, he was getting close to the jaws of it. He was utterly unconscious of the true meaning and value of the place wherein he stood. He stood, as we all forever stand, on holy ground; but he took off neither hat nor shoes, because his soul was blind.
"Heaven can be, and often is, wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, and He stands there in the midst of them. But, although that heaven is so near, closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet, yet it is a long way off; because the road that leads to it is the way of the Cross, the way of sacrifice, which all men fear to tread; and because they fear to tread it, they are always postponing it, or, having started, are always turning back. That is the real danger of putting off heaven to the hereafter. It means that we do not set out in earnest to find it here on earth; and if we do not begin to find it here, we certainly shall not find it hereafter. I have no reason whatsoever for supposing that I shall be any nearer heaven by the mere act of death than I am now; neither mere living nor mere dying can in themselves bring me nearer heaven. Everything depends upon how I live and how I die. Mere lapse of time cannot lead us to eternity. Heaven is not another world from this, as a matter of time. It is another world from this as a matter of kind. It is this world and the next seen in another light, the light that never was on land or sea, which shines in the eyes of those who have been quickened by the Spirit of God. Postponing heaven means doubting its truth— that is the only sense in which it can be postponed. The distance from heaven to earth is measured not in moments, nor in miles, but in terms of faith or of doubt. If we put it off to the hereafter, it tends to become an ideal rather than a reality; and an ideal, which is not recognized as a truth, is something which everyone is expected to honor, and no one is expected to attain.
"Our fathers tried to drive men into heaven by threatening them with the horrors of hell. The truth is, that a man cannot see the horrors of hell until he has caught a glimpse of the joys of heaven. You cannot learn the Love of God through the fear of hell. You can only learn the fear of hell through the Love of God. Less and less do men fear God, and less and less can be accomplished by preaching the fear of Him. I do not fear God. I reverence Him, but I am not afraid of Him. He could not, and would not, do me any harm, anywhere, or at any time. If I have any fear of Him, it is a fear that is born of love, a fear of grieving Him, which love begets. He is, and always has been, and always will be, pure, infinite, unmitigated Love. His justice cannot be separated from His Love— justice has no meaning apart from love. If He is the Judge of the world, He is not in the least like a human judge, for a human judge does not administer justice in any true sense of that word. Human justice is a caricature and a travesty of the Divine. The human judge administers those pains and penalties, which a chaotic and sinful community believe to be necessary in order that some measure of order and decency may be maintained; but, in the nature of things, the man condemned must often be less of a sinner than the jury that condemns him. What mainly governs the penalties imposed, is, not what is calculated to redeem the criminal, nor what is the absolutely right retribution for his wrong — but what is assumed to be necessary to deter others from committing like crimes.
"We have really nothing to fear from God, and I am not afraid of Him; but I am terrified of life without Him, for that is hell. Apart from God, when the sense of His presence grows dim and disappears, when men lose their hold upon goodness and beauty and truth, there appears to be no accursed cruelty, no damnable crime, no hideous villainy of which they are not capable. Men without God are infinitely lower than the beasts. A man who does not believe in hell, and who fought in Flanders and in France, must be as blind as forty bats in a room lit by a searchlight. A man who does not believe in hell, and has lived in Ireland or in Russia for the last ten years, must be almost past praying for. Hell! good Lord, it’s all around us, every day and everywhere; not only in those crude and brutal forms of it, which we see when large bodies of men lose their hold on God, but in countless individual lives which touch upon ours every day. I have talked today with a man in hell. He believes in nothing and in nobody. He sneers at righteousness, and laughs at the idea of spirit. He is forever enjoying himself, and yet I never saw anyone so utterly devoid of joy. He is without God in the world, and therefore is in hell.
Hell is life without God; and that can be, and often is, the most terrible of all realities. That is what I am afraid of— life without God, life outside of heaven. I am afraid of it for myself, and I am afraid of it for my people. When I used to walk about the slums in which I worked, passing from house to house among broken and despairing women, hundreds of whom had taken to drink — and when I get near to the heart of the West End of London with its drugs and its prostitution — I murmur to myself, ‘They lie in hell like sheep, and death gnaweth upon them.’ And there seems to me to be for them no morning, no fresh dews of early dawn, and no sweetness of the sunshine ever, unless the Eternal Love can find a way to turn their darkness into light.
"A linnet that had lost its way
Sang on a blackened bough in hell,
Till all the ghosts remembered well
The wind, the trees, the golden day.
At last they knew that they had died,
When they heard music in that land,
And Someone there stretched forth a hand
And drew a brother to his side.
"Then hell was hell no longer. For hell cannot be where love and beauty and God are. God grant we may find it true, ‘Even if I go down into hell, Thou art there also’"— end quote.
To be continued...
J. PRESTON EBY
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