The Lord had a problem.
He had to convey to His disciples the inner operations of the Kingdom of God. He had to bring them up to a proper understanding of how God did things in the spiritual realm. And He had only three years to do it.
This must have been the equivalent of teaching quantum physics to a colony of ants. It was so far outside their day-to-day experiences that little of it made sense to the disciples.
They don’t call Jesus the Master Teacher for nothing.
He pulled it off.
How He did it should be called the greatest miracle He performed, although it’s not one you see included in anyone’s list of His feats.
He taught His followers up and down the Galilean hills, in the towns of Judea, and even while the stormy sea was battering them. He gave lessons in short bytes, it appears, and was constantly reiterating the insights. He demonstrated in Himself the principles He taught and was forever surprising the disciples. He did miracles of healing and provision, and turned these events into moments of teaching.
And among His teachings, He gave parables.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like….” and “the Kingdom of God is like….”
I take the position that when He spoke of the kingdom of Heaven and of God, it was the same thing, that He used these terms interchangeably.
We have tiny examples all around us of the task Jesus was up against.
Missionaries return from their overseas assignment and stand before our churches to tell what things are like where they live. They entertain us with stories of how they learned the languages and mistakes they made. The customs of the citizens seem weird to us, and some are truly bizarre.
That is a tiny illustration of the assignment Jesus had in explaining Heaven’s operation to His followers.
A slightly better example is the foreign visitor who tries to tell you and me of his country. He is the native there and the newcomer here, and he knows his own people better than he does us. We listen intently because he speaks as an authority.
The best example, however, is one we cannot provide. The best illustration of what Jesus was up against would be a visitor from another planet, another world, coming to earth and telling us how things are where he is from.
That task would be formidable, the gap between the two immense, and the time period the alien might require to pull it off would involve years or more. He would have to learn our language, know our customs, and understand our people in order to make parallels from his own world
Jesus did it in three years. And lest anyone miss the point, as He died on the cross, He was heard to say, “It is finished.” He left no part of His assignment undone.
First, let us establish that Jesus Christ was an authority–no, THE authority–on Heaven. He Himself claimed as much.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into Heaven except the One who descended from Heaven–the Son of Man.” (John 3:13)
That is, He ought to know what He’s talking about. Jesus is a Native. And furthermore, He has no rival, no counterpart on earth who can add to what He’s saying. No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there.
That raises a question: what about Elijah and Enoch and the saints of old? Didn’t they go to Heaven? The Bible seems to indicate they did (Genesis 5:24 and II Kings 2:11) and the Lord’s people have spoken on them through the ages as though they did.
Apparently, not to the Heaven Jesus spoke of, but perhaps some intermediate “lesser-Heaven,” if you will. Not yet the final resting place of the saints of God.
But we must leave that question to God and not waste time–for that’s what it would be–speculating on such matters for which God has not given answers.
When it comes to Heaven and the things of God, Jesus is the Authority.