The ministry of Jesus began when He went to the Jordan to be baptized by John. As He came up out of the water the heavens opened and God said: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus then spent forty days in the wilderness before emerging in the power of the Holy Spirit and proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Get the picture? First, Jesus obtained an open heaven Himself. Next, He proclaimed the message: “Repent, for heaven and earth are becoming connected — as never before.” Next, He demonstrated what He preached as power from heaven transformed people’s lives. His message was the message of the open heavens.
If some today are nervous about testimonies of open heaven encounters, it isn’t because these testimonies are proclaiming a new message. These testimonies fulfill the old gospel, the message Jesus proclaimed. He said the kingdom of heaven was here, now.
First, we haven’t quite understood what Jesus did say. Second, we haven’t realized what He didn’t say: that our connection with heaven begins only after death.
So for two thousand years, the church has preached that God has opened heaven to those who believe in Jesus, and if we deny ourselves now, heaven’s door will be open to us after we die.
Some generations have seen open heaven opportunities available here and now: that we can enter the holiest of all to find grace to help in time of need. Many who have become adept at flowing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit have noted that heaven is filled with resources God wants to pour out on His people. Ephesians 1:3 says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.
Note the language of Ephesians 1:3. We come to God with a prayer request and wonder how He will choose to answer. But it turns out He has already anticipated our needs and has created a storehouse full of spiritual blessings He will release to us when we ask.
This means God doesn’t have to scratch His head and wonder what to do when we pray – He’s decided long ago that He will answer. He has already decided to bless us.
This is the world Jesus and later the early church lived in. They moved about in the earth, but reached into heaven for resources that enabled them to preach the gospel with power. Off and on in church history, other believers have done the same.
But it comes back to a simple question: if God has made heaven available to ordinary folks like us, how wide open is the door? Is it available to us only after death, or is it available now?
I’ll begin by agreeing with the traditionalists who tell us we must wait until after death, but my next step is to ask the same question Paul asked in Romans 6:3:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Do we know that when Jesus died, we died with Him? Do we, or don’t we, know this classic gospel truth?
If we don’t know that we’ve died already in Christ, then of course we’ll find it hard to access the open heavens. But if we know that we’ve died already, there is nothing to stop us from entering into the heavens now.
It’s amazing what becomes available to us if we believe the simple gospel. It turns out that what Jesus preached is equally true for us today: heaven is open, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand.