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Ann Naffziger Answers:
Heaven is the common religious term generally referring to a “place,” where God or divine beings are thought to originate from and dwell. Also, many humans imagine ascending to heaven at their deaths, depending on their goodness and God’s grace. Ancient peoples have passed on the mythology of heaven being a place above this created world, with its opposite, hell, being located in the underworld.
The “kingdom of heaven” is a term used frequently by Jesus, though never defined by him. It is also sometimes called the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God.” The concept is one of the central messages of Jesus’ preaching. It is a symbolic term calling up the Jewish belief that God created this world, and is its universal king and judge who constantly works for the good of the people. The Kingdom encompasses a reign of justice, peace, and love — in short, a paradise. Sometimes the term conjures images of a cataclysmic end-time when God will defeat all evil and peace will reign forever. Jesus, however, also repeatedly pointed out that “The kingdom of God is among you” and encouraged his followers to work to spread the Kingdom of God. Such teachings suggest that we aren’t to wait for God to vindicate this world at Jesus’ second coming, but that we can use our gifts to further a world of justice and peace right now, in this world.