A Celtic Christian Worldview (21)
But certainly those who attain the consolations of eternal life will themselves too lay hold of the bliss of the kingdom of heaven in a double way through the gift of the one who gives generously. For the kingdom of heaven is indeed promised to certain of those who are still on earth, while they are made poor for Christ’s sake. But although far off, it is granted again to those who persevere in toil and weariness, when it is said: Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- The Book of the Order of Creatures XIV.1
For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.
- 1 Corinthians 4.20
It’s interesting to note that the writer of the Liber deals with the subject of the Kingdom of God in his chapter on purgation.
He explains that, when this life is through, some will enter the bliss of heaven sooner than others. Those believers who have not been diligent in repenting of their sins in this life, will have those dead works purged in the refining fire of grace, as Paul explains (1 Cor. 3.12-15). And while we do not know how long this period of purgation will last, both Paul and the writer of the Liber indicate that we ought to prepare for this well, by building on the foundation of our salvation good works of gold, silver, and precious stones, rather than of wood, hay, and straw.
We must all pass through a time of purgation upon departing this life. All our works will be judged, though our salvation will be perfectly intact because of Jesus. But our motivation in this life should be for that season of purgation to be as brief as possible, that we might the sooner enter fully into the joy of the Lord.
The writer does not treat purgatory as a place but as a process, the purpose of which is to prepare believers to enter and know the full joy and worship of heaven. The overall purpose of this chapter, as in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, is to encourage diligence in good works – becoming the people zealous for good works that we have been redeemed to be. The more we do good now, the briefer will be that final period of purgation before we see the Lord face to face and are at last like Him (1 Jn. 3.1-3). We do not earn salvation by good works. Rather, being saved, we should be motivated to do good works, both because good works refract the goodness of the Lord and prepare us for a sooner-than-later welcome into His eternal presence and glory.
All for whom the Kingdom of heaven is their ultimate destination may know a foretaste of that Kingdom here and now. But the Kingdom of God and heaven is not merely something to talk about. It is an experience of power that transforms us increasingly into the image of Christ, and demonstrates that we are indeed citizens of a Kingdom not of this world. When we become poor in the things of this life, and for Christ’s sake seek nothing but His glory and praise, then we experience a measure of what it is like to be in heaven, where all we care about is worshiping and glorifying the Lord.
In this life, we have many duties and obligations. But none of these must preclude our pursuing the Kingdom of God. That is, none of these things which we must do in this life should exclude our laboring “in toil and weariness” to make known the Good News of Jesus by our words and deeds. As followers of Christ, we seek the Kingdom of God at all times, as the defining priority of our lives. We can know the presence and joy of Christ wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. But not if our primary focus is on selfish interests. By setting our minds on Christ at all times (Col. 3.1-3), we enter the company of those who have gone before us into the full glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and we experience and express the reality of that Kingdom in all our activities, doing good as Jesus would, and thus anticipating our being with Him forever.
The Kingdom in heaven exists in complete and perfect righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit, and it is available to us right now. But as those who have gone before us into heaven have been purged of all dead works, so that they might worship and rejoice in the Lord without hindrances, so we too, if we would know the Kingdom of God, must give ourselves to increasing in righteousness, abiding in the Lord’s peace, and practicing the joy of His Presence through worship and praise.
This is how the Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6.10), when Kingdom citizens, for Jesus’ sake, in the midst of every worldly obligation, burden, or hindrance, seek the righteousness, peace, and joy that come by seeing Jesus and doing good in His Name.
Questions for Reflection
1. What’s the difference between purgation and purgatory? Which of these does Paul seem to be talking about in 1 Corinthians 3.11-15?
2. How does the Kingdom of heaven come in our lives here and now?
Psalm 72.15-20 (Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
Let Christ be praised and all the gold of Sheba be His right;
Let blessings to His Name be told, and prayers made both day and night.
And let the earth abound with grain, let fields His fame proclaim;
And may our King forever reign and nations bless His great Name.
Now bless the God of Israel Who wondrous works performs.
And bless His Name, His glory tell both now and forever more!
Let Your Kingdom come on earth as in heaven through me today, O Lord, as I…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
Davies, p. 25