Vol. 7, No. 10
Since You Asked
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That while I'm not by any means assured that none of Jesus' references to the "kingdom of God" or the "kingdom of heaven" were to an afterlife relm, I do feel we should keep in mind what He said in Luke 17:21 and the fact that this may indicate that heaven (along with hell) could be largely a state of mind which we might carry forward with us when we depart to the other side (or to put it another way, it seems logical to me that those who earnestly seek out God while on Earth will continue to do so when they pass over and thus put themselves in better stead to be fit for His presence, while those who don't/didn't will presumably endure separation from Him both here and in the hereafter). ~ Jon
Luke 17:20-21 reads: "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." "A kingdom is not just a territory, nor a system of governmental machinery" (Wycliffe). Even under Judaism when the Jewish kingdom obviously had a physical manifestation, then too, God's kingdom was supposed to be internalized as well.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 emphasis added)
Luke 17:20-21 reflects first that the Pharisees both misread Scripture and misconstrued our Lord's teachings respecting the nature of the new kingdom. Second, based on their incorrect assessments, the Pharisees proceeded to denounce Jesus and his teaching about the kingdom.
The prophets had foretold of a spiritual kingdom, but the Jews had misunderstood the nature of the kingdom and perverted the meaning of the prophecy so they were expecting an earthly and temporal kingdom. This kingdom of which Jesus taught was the same as his reign or administration, and was spiritual in its nature. (John 18:36; Rom. 14:17.) (Gospel Advocate)
Rom 14:17. The question of the Pharisees was doubtless a covert criticism. More than three years before this Jesus had begun to say that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and they thought that after all this preparation it was high time that the kingdom should commence. They were looking for some manifestation of the sovereignty of God in the realm of the civil and the external, which would raise the Jewish nation to conspicuous supremacy, but they are told that the work of the kingdom is internal and spiritual (John 3:8; 18:36; Rom 10:8; Col 1:27), and that its effects are not such as can be located in space. They were seeking honors and joys, and would find contempt and sorrow (Amos 5:18-20). Some have thought it strange than Jesus should say "within you" when addressing the Pharisees, but the word "you" is used generally and indefinitely. (Four-Fold Gospel)
Jesus informed the Pharisees that the new kingdom, the subject of both prophecy and his teachings, was spiritual--not physical. Governor Pilate understood the clear teaching of Jesus respecting the nature of his kingdom and was willing to release Jesus (John 18:36-39). However, the Pharisees and other Jews did not want a spiritual kingdom, but a physical kingdom.
What Jesus says to the Pharisees is that they, as others, are to look for the kingdom of God within themselves, not in outward displays and supernatural manifestations. ...The only other instance of entos (NT:1787) in the New Testament (Matt 23:26) necessarily means "within" ("the inside of the cup"). (Robertson's)
Summarized, Jesus stated that the new kingdom is "[a] kingdom that has its throne in the heart, on which Christ, the King, sits. It has to be formed by yielding our hearts to Christ" (People's New Testament). Hence, neither Luke 17:20-21 nor elsewhere in Scripture are heaven and hell reduced to "a state of mind."
Hell can hardly be reduced to "a state of mind" when we consider that Jesus Christ said that a person could "be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22) and that one's "whole body" could "be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30). Otherwise, Jesus described hell as "a furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:42); similar descriptions of this eternal place dot the New Testament (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 21:8).
Likewise, heaven is more that merely "a state of mind." Not only was the new kingdom (of prophecy and Jesus' teaching) from or of heaven (Matthew 3:2; 4:17, etc.), God the Father resides in heaven (Matthew 7:11; 10:32-33; 12:50; etc.). "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21 emphasis added). God the Father does not reside in "a state of mind"!
Paul, by inspiration, said it best respecting new twists on old truths: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8). Heaven and hell are no more and no less than what, for instance, the New Testament clearly represents them to be. Heaven and hell are the only two possible eternal abodes of human souls and all spiritual beings.
Boles, H. Leo. Gospel Advocate Commentaries. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1991. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2005.
Johnson, B.W. People's New Testament with Explanatory Notes. St. Louis: Christian Publishing, 1891. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2004.
McGarvey, J.W. and Philip Y. Pendleton. Four-Fold Gospel. Cincinnati: Standard, 1914. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2004.
Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman, 1985. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft & Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1997.
Wycliffe Bible Commentary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody, 1962.
Respected brother in Christ, brother please tell me, y God compeer this people to sheep always, and he his shepherded, even in old Testament, in psalm 100.1-5 and in new testament, in john 10.1 = following, why god compeer, with sheep, there is lots for good animals is there, why God? what are the goods things in sheep
There are a number of reasons that sheep appear so prominently in the Bible. First, sheep were a primary part of the livestock owned by the people to whom the Bible was originally written. "Sheep were an important part of the possessions of the ancient Hebrews and of Eastern nations generally" (Unger's). Sheep "[a]bounded in the pastures of Palestine" (Fausset's). "Sheep are mentioned more frequently than any other animal in the Bible-about 750 times. This is only natural since the Hebrew people were known early in their history as a race of wandering herdsmen" (Nelson's). Consequently, the people to whom the Bible was originally penned could immediately identify with the illustration used in various teachings throughout both testaments of the Bible. Second, sheep were an important product, providing food and clothes. "This well known domestic animal has, from the earliest period, contributed to the wants of mankind" (McClintock and Strong).
Third, some of the characteristics of sheep can illustrate both dependence on God and virtues that Christians should adopt for themselves.
By nature, sheep are helpless creatures. They depend on shepherds to lead them to water and pasture, to fight off wild beasts, and to anoint their faces with oil when a snake nips them from the grass. Sheep are social animals that gather in flocks, but they tend to wander off and fall into a crevice or get caught in a thorn bush. Then the shepherd must leave the rest of his flock to search for the stray. (Nelson's)
The nature of sheep and their relation to man have given rise to many beautiful figures. Jehovah was the Shepherd of Israel, and they were His flock (Ps 23:1; 74:1; 78:52; 79:13; 80:1; Isa 40:11; Jer 23:1-2; etc.). The apostasy of sinners from God is likened to the straying of a lost sheep (Ps 119:176; Isa 53:6; Jer 50:6). Jesus came to earth as the Good Shepherd (Luke 15:4-6; John 10:8-11). As the sheep is an emblem of meekness, patience, and submission, it is expressly mentioned as typifying these qualities in the Person of our blessed Lord (Isa 53:7; Acts 8:32; etc.). (Unger's)
Fourth, "[s]heep were the most important sacrificial animals" (International). "In Scripture three kinds of four-footed beasts--oxen, sheep, and goats; and two of birds--turtle-doves and young pigeons--are appointed for sacrifices" (Temple).
From the foregoing considerations, we can see that it is quite appropriate that God caused sheep to appear in the Bible numerous times. There are many different animals mentioned in the Bible (Cook records information about 33 animals), but sheep were a vital part of the lives of Bible people and an especially useful creature to illustrate divine revelation to the same people. Furthermore, whereas some animals are not known worldwide, most of the world is familiar enough with sheep to grasp biblical lessons drawn from them.
Cook, Harriet N. Scripture Alphabet of Animals. CD-ROM. New York: American Tract Society, 1842.
Edersheim, Alfred. Temple - Its Ministry and Services. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2004.
Fausset's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1998.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1986.
New Unger's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody, 1988.