The discussion regarding the kingdom of heaven often doesn't even begin, because the currently sterilized way to view the world is that there is no life after death. If one is inclined to mention a belief in an afterlife, many around them may not say as much, but what they're often thinking is that the speaker is ignorant.
The layman, after decades of pummeling from academia and popular culture, is much more prone to doubt not only the existence of heaven, but even the existence of God himself.
Peer pressure does not end when you graduate high school. It continues unabated throughout life, and if you are iconoclastic regarding public opinion, you already know how it feels to be marginalized and ridiculed, or how to wisely remain silent.
The cliche of a "god-fearing" individual is so ubiquitous in 2019, one would certainly only be feigning ignorance to claim they don't recognize it. In movies, music and literature of the last 35 years, the depiction of faithful believers as ignorant, stupid, idiotic, fanatical, sexually repressed, sexually predatory, mentally ill, violent, even evil, is without question a common theme.
There have been and always will be those believers who are mentally ill, or simply lying to others and themselves about their salvation. But the statistical truth is that they are not proportionately represented if compared to non-believers suffering from the same delusions. For clarity, this is to say that the percentage of mentally ill who are faithful followers of God are minuscule compared to the percentage of mentally ill who are not.
But statistics are only as good as the person using them to manipulate perception, and most people tend to trust their favorite cable news or social media feed, instead of simply paying attention to the tiny portion of the world that they themselves experience.
How many people do you know who are both mentally ill and worshipers of God? Then ask yourself, how many known believers are you familiar with who are trying to live out their lives the way Christ commanded, to the best of their abilities?
Jesus said many things about the kingdom of heaven. The one thing he did not say about it is that it's just a fantasy. He said it's very real, that he dwells there with the Father, and that he has gone to prepare a place for you as well.
Some will scoff and say that Christians are only being good so they can suck up to God and get a reward for it. I can see the cynical logic in that accusation, but it comes from a bitter, resentful heart that just doesn't want to obey God.
If God created the universe, and everything in it, and if he created you and me and everyone else directly or indirectly via the miracle of life and biology, it only stands to reason in our comparatively feeble minds that the laws of physics are only the ground floor of the rules we can't avoid.
We don't know a lot about the kingdom of heaven, but we do know quite a bit about those who will not be allowed in. To this, many have found solace in defiantly declaring that they don't want to be in a place where God would prevent some from entering. They feel that the honest way to approach the matter is to judge the One who made every atom in the universe and dictated its behavior, placement and structural formation, a feat so incredible that we can't even fathom it.
How many times do we have to be faced with the humbling reality of finding out we incorrectly judged someone else in our lives? How many times have we rushed to judgment about someone else we have deemed unworthy of respect for whatever reason we thought was appropriate?
What is the common denominator in our consistently faulty skills of character discernment?A lack of all the facts. This always becomes crystal clear upon retrospect.
Why are there Ten Commandments? Why are they impossible to maintain in our own lives, no matter how hard all of us try? If there is an afterlife, why is this life necessary? If God loved us, why did he allow an agent of chaos to introduce a seemingly irresistible factor called rebellion (sin)? Why is there suffering in the world if God is benevolent? Why do we grow old and die? Why do children develop terminal illness? Why do tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, viruses, droughts and starvation ravage so many on Earth?
There are answers to these questions, but those who would sincerely seek answers must leave their anger, resentment, pride and arrogance at the door.
I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the
door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."