It's strange, when you think about - that God doesn't let us hear much about the resurrected life, that is. After all, one of Jesus's favorite topics to talk about was the Kingdom of God. And you'd think that someone who has that much to say about the Kingdom would have at least a little bit to say about eternity, about the life that we are being prepared for now.
That's because for most of us, when we hear "the Kingdom of God," we immediately think about heaven. We immediately think about the next life. We don't really think of this one.
And for somewhat good reason, I suppose - that reason being that we've always been taught that Jesus was not an earthly king. That He didn't come to be like Caesar; He came to be like God. He came to be the kind of King that rules from somewhere that you can't put on a map. And if that's the case about the kingship of Jesus, then the same must be true about the Kingdom of God - that you just can't put it on a map. That you can't find it using Google. That you can't put a pushpin in it on a wall and say, "Yeah. I've been here."
And if the Kingdom of God is not a physical place, then it must be a metaphysical place. That is, it must be a place that exists in the next life.
Thus, we want more information about what the next life looks like.
Here's the problem with that: for all the preaching that Jesus did about the Kingdom of God, not once does He say that it exists only in the next life. In fact, if we look at everything that Jesus says about the Kingdom, the only logical conclusion we can draw is that the Kingdom extends here.
This gets all tangled up in semantics the more we try to preach about it, and especially the more we try to live it. We read all these things about what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God, and we wrap it in the message that we, as believers, are supposed to be living a Kingdom life now and that it is up to us to put these principles into our lives today so that this world becomes just like the next one, so that this life becomes the kind of life God promised us all along.
And yes, that's true. But it's not the whole story. We don't live the Kingdom of God principles here because we are somehow supposed to make the metaphysical physical in our own lives or because it's our responsibility to make sure that God's goodness is manifest here. It's not our mission to make the Kingdom of God a reality; He's already done that.
What's really going on is that we are already living in the Kingdom of God. We are already a people under His authority, living under His Kingship - even if we can't just go walking up to some kind of physical palace. And it is because that is who we are that that is how we should live. It's not about bringing the next life to this one; it is about drawing this one closer to the next one. It is about using what we know about the Kingdom to live in the King's grace right now.
It is a tension that is so hard for us to articulate, so hard for us to put our finger on. Because it's a bit circular, I suppose - and at the very least, unimaginable. We just don't quite grasp the interplay of this life and the next one, of the covenant and the promise, of the already, but not yet.
But don't let that discourage you. Because we're not the first of God's people to wrestle with this....