“I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” Revelation 21:22 NRSV
For the nation of Israel, the Temple was their core. It was where they believed God resided, and where they would go for the most holy days and festivals. Even today, the West Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem is an awesome and holy place. I remember standing at the wall to place my tiny prayer in one of the crevices and weeping for joy at the privilege of being in such a wonderful place. Israel continues to be a special place, but most of us agree that God doesn’t just reside in that country.
We believe that God resides everywhere and is accessible to all people. In the Christian faith, we believe that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God was reconciled to humanity. At Jesus’ death, the temple curtain separating the Holy of Holies was torn in two as a symbol of God’s love and forgiveness for all the earth, all people.
So, when we think of “heaven on earth” it could be anywhere, and I think it is individual in that sense. For some, it may be at the birth of a child; others may experience God’s presence on a mountaintop or by the ocean; still others may find God in the midst of a noisy city or working in rural areas. It varies for everyone which demonstrates that God can be found anywhere and everywhere.
There are some who say that the earth as it is now is actually hell, and the scripture from Revelation 21-22 could actually indicate such a possibility. We can see the widespread pain, hurt, sorrow, fear, and anguish that so many experience in life. Yet, as the Church of Jesus Christ, we believe that we can help to build the kingdom of God even in the midst of such challenges. We believe that God has called us to help make this “Heaven on earth” by living in the ways of Jesus, loving and caring for and about others, bringing kindness, compassion, and care to places where people most need it.
We believe that we are called to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, minister to the poor, visit the sick and imprisoned, clothe the naked, and reach out to the disenfranchised or outcasts of society. Sometimes we don’t succeed very well, but other times we actually do quite well. “Heaven on earth” is God working through all of us, and the temple of God is in all regions of this world. Our mission field is large, and often it begins right at home (which is often the most difficult!).
Heaven doesn’t need to be a place far away or look any particular way. Heaven is where the people of God carry out the mission of Christ. Heaven is where God’s presence is made manifest because of all God’s children working together to make this world a better place. And some day, heaven will be perfected because of God’s complete presence. May it be so.