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The Kingdom of Heaven

I would like to talk with you about the strange and inscrutable idea of Heaven-the Kingdom of Heaven-as has been suggested in the theologies of Christianity. There are as many concepts of Heaven as there are people. When Mark Connolly's play, Green Pastures, appeared back in 1930, the "Heavenly Fish-Fry" was viewed with affection and amusement, as one happy version of life in "the great beyond." But, actually, it's not too far from the concept that has been taught and believed by millions of Christians: a place where we go with the "golden streets," and so forth-"the after-life in the sky," "the happy hunting grounds," "out where the blue begins."

There seems little doubt as to the importance of the teaching, concerning the Kingdom of God, to Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus is recorded as having made references to the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, 113 times. But, because there is so much conflict in the interpretation of these teachings, it seems important that we take a little time to consider just what this Kingdom is. Where is it? What is its importance to humans?

Now, at the outset, had the Kingdom, to which Jesus so often referred, been a "city with golden streets in the skies," he could very easily have located it in that way. But, as you read your Gospels, you will find that this is a context that we have given it. Jesus didn't say anything like this, at all! On the contrary, again and again, he gave illustrations that it was a desirable condition that would be brought about among people by the Power of Spirit. Jesus never identified the Kingdom of God, or Heaven, as being situated anywhere in particular, nor did he say that it could be attained quickly. He said: "Unto what is the Kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I liken it? It is like unto a grain of mustard seed which a man took, and cast into his own garden, and it grew, and became a tree, and the birds of the heaven lodged in the branches thereof." [Luke 13:18-19] Another time, he said: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, til it was all leavened." [Matt. 13:33] A rather strange lot of comparisons, if he had in mind a place where the good go after death. And then, he said, making it very clear: "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you." [Luke 17:20-21, ASV] That seems clear enough, doesn't it? Jesus gives a clear key to understanding, and the view that there is an inner and an outer side to everything, and that life can not be understood in terms of the outer.the appearance, the flesh and blood.

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus says, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven." [Matt. 6:10] He intimates that there is a greater Resource, a Perfect Plan, that is in the Kingdom-which he says is within man-that, he says, must be unfolded. It is an inner side, the Divine Side, of man, to be released, to be evolved. Jesus knew that man could never really find himself or fulfill his Infinite Potentialities as a Child of God until he entered into the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words: to come to know himself in relation to the Infinite.

The old Greek philosophers declared: "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." This means that we apprehend God, not with observation, not by any other senses. We are told, "No man hath seen God at anytime." [John 1:18 & 1 John 4:12] But, we perceive God as the Source, the Idea, the Underlying Activity-even as Peter perceived the "Living Christ," and Jesus then said to him, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in Heaven." [Matt. 16:17]

In terms of "modern thought," Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom is that all is Mind, and all that manifests is but a symbol of that which constitutes its Inner Being in Mind. Our scientists are making the startling statement that matter is little more than a changing mental concept. And, the differences in matter come like the process of a kaleidoscope, using the same material but ever presenting constantly changing forms. Man is an Idea in the Infinite Mind of God, and all that comes forth in his world is a manifestation-in some way, clearly or vaguely, "in a mirror darkly" [1 Cor. 13:12]-of an identity in Divine Mind. Jesus promised: "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom.." [Matt. 13:11 & Luke 8:10] The "mystery of the Kingdom" is simply the relation that you bear to life, to God. It is imperative that we come to know the mystery of the Kingdom, because it is a matter of knowing ourselves, knowing that we are not, essentially, physical-not even mental-but that we are Spiritual Beings, Whole Creatures expressing in physical and mental ways.

The Kingdom, as far as you're concerned, is your unexpressed potentiality as a Child of God. The Kingdom of Heaven in you is the Divine Possibility in you that you have not yet called forth in your life. So, when Jesus says in his great prayer, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven," he intimates that you have a greater capacity within you than anything you have ever expressed. It is the very Will of the Infinite that this "more" of you be unfolded, released, manifest-that you become an expression in the outer of what you really are in Spirit.

The Kingdom of God is a Substance, which is the root of all things-the Primal Substance of which all things are made, that are made. It is not life or form as we recognize it, but something much more concentrated than that. It is the conception of Life, or Primal Substance, as the sum-total of all undistributed powers-being, as yet, none of these in particular, but all of them in potentiality.

So, now you can see why Jesus had to use parables to teach such an abstract idea. He didn't speak in parables just to confuse people, just to be mysterious. He used parables to convey concrete meanings to abstract things. If you read the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, meditate on the parables explaining the Kingdom of Heaven: the tears in the wheat, the grain of mustard seed, the seed, the leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the dragnet, etc. They all point, in their unique way, to the hidden Kingdom.the other side, the inner side of life.

Man's tendency is to become centered in things-in outer conditions, in circumstances-and to forget the Source. As someone has said, "We live too close to the circumference of life." When we are centered in materiality and sense consciousness, we think that we're using life, using money, using ideas, rather than being the expression of Life and Substance and Intelligence, which is manifesting through us from the Kingdom of Heaven or the Infinite Potential that is ever within.

When we are told "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil," [1 Tim. 6:10] Jesus is pointing to the problem of looking to outer things and experiences as the of our good. In this consciousness, there is strain and strife and worry. He says, "Be not anxious about these things, but seek ye first the Kingdom.and all these things shall be added unto you." [Matt 6:33]

As the sap flows up through the apple tree, it enables [the growth of apples], and it results, ultimately, in bushels of apples. So we might liken the recognition of the Kingdom within. The apples are thrown off as a natural result of the upward flow of the sap. This is what happens when we become One with Life-when we understand the "mystery of the Kingdom," when we know that our good comes from within, instead of thinking that we use life.

Jesus wanted us to see that to have more, we must be more, and [to know] that life is consciousness. The moment that the recognition of the Power takes place, and we begin to accept the promise, "Come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," [Matt. 25:34] then the unspecialized Substance of Spirit is particularized as the fullness of our needs. We are told then, "And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches and glory.." [Philippians 4:19]

Someone may say, "But if the Kingdom of Heaven is really right here within me, if seeking it will give me the things that I desire, if my desires are really God's urge to express through me, if God and His creations are good, then how can I express anything but good? How can I ever be sick? How can I know lack or have inharmony in my life?" Well, as Children of God, we are heir to all things, but we cannot claim our Inheritance in the Kingdom and still dwell in "the courts of wickedness." We are told, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." [Psalm 91:1] And that's not easy! But that is what consciousness is all about. We must not only believe in this Inner Potential, but we must act as if we believe it, and let the belief become the basis and the motivation of our thoughts and our words and our actions. We must come to live and move and have our being in the consciousness of our Divine Sonship! It is not easy. But then, that is what the study of Truth, or of Life, is really all about.

© Eric Butterworth

Unity Center of Practical Christianity

Phone: (212) 582-1300 / E-Mail: unitycenter@verizon.net
The Unity Center of New York City Web Site: www.unitynewyork.com