We can experience a foretaste of heaven right here on earth.
This foretaste doesn’t come by visiting some idyllic tropical island, or enjoying a beautiful mountain view.
We get a foretaste of heaven when we attend a regular Sunday worship service of our local church!
Revelation 7:9-12 describes the scene in heaven where an uncountable multitude, made up of people from every nation, tribe and language, gathers before the throne of God. These untold numbers fall on their faces and worship God, and praise Him for the salvation that He has provided through the Lamb.
This is a picture of God’s kingdom at the end of the time as we know it. Every follower of the Lord Jesus Christ will join in that throng, and worship God together forever and ever.
But the amazing truth that the Bible presents is that this future kingdom has broken into the present (Lk. 17:21)! Heaven has come down to earth, through the life, death, and resurrection of the King of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Jesus heaven has not only come, but it has also set up outposts, colonies, settlements all around the world. These pockets of heaven scattered everywhere are called local churches.
Each local church is tangible evidence that God’s new creation has already dawned, a visible sign that God’s kingdom has indeed come to earth. Each local church—even with all of its problems, inadequacies, and irritations—is a visible, local expression of the invisible, universal Church which is seen in that uncountable multitude described in Revelation 7. Just as someday believers from every tongue and tribe and language will gather around the throne of the Lord Jesus to worship Him forever, so even now people from every tongue and tribe and language come together in local churches to worship Him.
When we join with fellow believers in our local church to worship, to sing, to pray, to hear God’s Word, to fellowship, and to serve, we literally experience a slice of heaven.
This reality reminds us about some very important truths about the church.
First of all, it reminds us of the glory of the church. The church is not a religious society, a social club, or a spiritual lecture. It is nothing less than the outbreaking of heaven on earth. We should remember this biblical vision of the church when we feel annoyed or frustrated with particular people in our church, or when we are discouraged about the lack of growth in our church. There is much more going on in our churches than we can ever understand—Jesus is building His church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matt. 16:18)! This truth should fill us with hope for our churches, however imperfect they might be right now.
Secondly, it reminds us of the need for purity in the church. The light of heaven has broken through into the darkness of the world, and the church exists to be a visible manifestation of this light. Our churches should shine with the holiness, love, peace and joy of heaven. Therefore we need to urge believers to live holy lives (2 Cor. 7:1), and also to discipline those who are unrepentant (1 Cor. 5:11).
Thirdly, it reminds us of the diversity of the church. One of the ways that God will be glorified in heaven is by demonstrating that He is the Lord of all the peoples of the earth, and not just some local, tribal deity. Even today believers from different ethnic backgrounds, educational qualifications, age brackets, job profiles and income slabs gather together in local churches to worship the one, true and living God of the universe. This diversity reflects the heavenly assembly, and brings glory to God (Eph. 3:10).
Finally, it reminds us of the mission of the church. Amidst the deadness of the world, the eternal life of heaven has come down. The church is meant to be a witness to this life through our words and actions, so that people can hear the good news of Jesus and receive eternal life as they trust in Him. Our churches should be heavenly mission stations in this world, proclaiming Christ to all (Col. 1:28) and making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20).
Through our Lord Jesus, the kingdom of heaven has come down to earth. Jesus’ kingdom is visibly, tangibly represented in every local church. The local church truly is a foretaste of heaven!
Arvind Balaram serves as Senior Pastor of DBF-Gurgaon, Delhi. He is married to Karisa and have four kids.