Some Christians have been unclear in their concepts of the Kingdom of Heaven and Paradise because they lack a full understanding of the Principle. Had Jesus completed his mission as the Messiah on earth, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth would have been established in his day. The Kingdom of Heaven in heaven would also have been realized at that time, once people of perfect character living in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth had passed into the spirit world as divine spirits. However, because Jesus died on the cross, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth was not realized. The earth never saw the appearance of people who had reached the level of a divine spirit. No one has ever become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven in the spirit world, which was created as the home of divine spirits. Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven in heaven remains empty and incomplete.
Why then did Jesus indicate that whoever believed in him would enter the Kingdom of Heaven? The original purpose for which he came on earth was to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. However, due to the people's disbelief in him, Jesus died on the cross before he could establish the Kingdom. Jesus promised the thief who was crucified at his right side that he would enter Paradise together with him.15(Luke 23:43)RS|KJ|NI The thief was the only person who believed in Jesus at the end, when everyone else had abandoned him. While Jesus had the hope of accomplishing his mission as the Messiah, he preached that people could enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But when he was at the point of dying on the cross without fulfilling this purpose, he told the thief that he would enter only Paradise. Paradise refers to the realm in the spirit world for those spirits who have attained the level of life spirits by believing in Jesus during their earthly life. There they remain in waiting until the day when the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven is opened.
The Last Days and Our Attitude
Jesus is to come again at the close of the New Testament Age. He will give us the new truth with which to found a new age, signified by the Bible's vision of a new heaven and new earth.89(Rev. 21:1-7)RS|KJ|NI Just as Jesus at his first coming was derided by the Jews as one possessed by Beelzebul,90(Matt. 12:24)RS|KJ|NI he will similarly be persecuted by the Christians when he comes again. Jesus therefore prophesied that at his Second Advent, "he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation."91(Luke 17:25)RS|KJ|NI At this historical transition period, those who are comfortably entrenched in the ways of the old age will surely face judgment, along with the old age.
Fallen people's spiritual sensibility is extremely dull. Hence, they generally tend to adhere strictly to the letter of the truth in their efforts to follow God's providence. Such people cannot readily adjust themselves to the dispensation of the new age, even though the providence of restoration is moving toward it. They are generally too strongly attached to the outdated perspective provided by the doctrines of the old age. This is well illustrated by the case of the Jewish people of Jesus' day who were so attached to the Old Testament that they could not respond to Jesus' call to open a new chapter of the providence. On the other hand, those believers who receive divine inspiration through prayer are able to grasp spiritually the providence of the new age. Even though this may put them at odds with the doctrines of the old age, they will still respond to the promptings of the spirit and follow the calling of the new providence. Among the disciples of Jesus, there was not one who was overly attached to the Old Testament Scriptures. Rather, they all responded to the spiritual experiences which they could sense through their inner minds. In the Last Days, people who lead an ardent life of prayer or who live by their conscience will feel intense anxiety in their hearts. This is because in their hearts they vaguely sense a spiritual calling and want to follow the providence of the new age, yet they have not come in contact with the new truth which can guide them to act accordingly. These are the chosen ones who, once they hear the new truth, will be awakened simultaneously in their spirits and intellects by spirit and truth. They will then fully understand God's providential needs concerning the new age and will volunteer with great enthusiasm and delight.
We who are alive today are living in the Last Days. We should cultivate a humble heart and make the utmost effort to receive divine inspiration through prayer. We should not be strongly attached to conventional concepts, but rather should direct ourselves to be receptive to the spirit, in order that we may find the new truth which can guide us to the providence of the new age. When we come across this truth, we should ascertain whether it leads us to become one with Heaven's guidance. We should examine ourselves as to whether or not genuine, heavenly bliss springs forth abundantly from the depths of our soul. Only in this way can we, the seekers in the Last Days, discover the path to true salvation.
Both in Jesus' day and at the Second Advent, many devout believers who set out on the path of faith with the hope of entering Heaven may actually find themselves in hell. In Jesus' day, because the priests and scribes had the responsibility to guide God's chosen people, they should have been the first to recognize that the Messiah had come and should have led the Jewish people to him. To help them fulfill their mission, Jesus took the initiative; he visited the Temple and taught them the Gospel before teaching anyone else.89(Luke 2:42-47)RS|KJ|NI However, when they did not receive him, Jesus had no choice but to search the shores of Galilee and take disciples from among the fishermen there. He had to minister to the dregs of society and associate with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. Eventually, the priests and scribes persecuted him to the point where he had to accept the fate of the cross. They committed this murder, believing that they had done a righteous deed by eliminating a dangerous heretic and blasphemer. Then they continued on with their customary clerical duties for the rest of their lives, reciting the Holy Scriptures, paying their tithes, and making sacrifices at the Temple, all with the assurance that they were headed toward Heaven. Instead, after they passed on, they found themselves most unexpectedly in hell. Ironically, the very path upon which they had set out to reach Heaven had led them astray.
Recognizing that similar events may occur in the Last Days, each of us should seriously examine ourselves. Many Christians today are dashing on a path which they believe leads to Heaven. Yet if they take a wrong step, their path may actually lead them to hell. This is why Jesus once said that he will rebuke many devout believers in the Last Days, even those whose dedication is so strong that they can cast out demons and perform miracles in his name: "I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers."90(Matt. 7:23)RS|KJ|NI
In truth, no one faces a more precarious situation than believers who live in such a transition period of history as exists today. No matter how much faith we have demonstrated in our lives, if we, like the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day, take the wrong step of turning against the returning Christ, all our efforts will have been in vain. Of these people, Daniel had said, "Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but those who are wise shall understand."91(Dan. 12:10)RS|KJ|NI
Exposition of the Divine Principle
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