What is the Kingdom?
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:20)
Whatever happened to Grace? I thought the blood of Jesus covered all sins and all we had to do to get to Heaven was to accept the sacrifice Jesus made for us? Isn’t that what we were always taught? That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is teaching in the passage above. Let’s see what Paul has to say about this:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) (see also Galatians 5:21, Ephesians 5:5 for the same point being made in different ways)
What’s up here? We all know that Jesus taught that sin takes place in the heart and to even look at a woman with lust in the heart is adultery. This applies to all other sins. And don’t we know that every man is a sinner? Doesn’t that make us all wicked?
So is there Grace or not? How do we reconcile these seemingly opposite scriptures?
The answer is the Kingdom. Eternal salvation can be grasped by one who simply accepts that he is a sinner, repents (turns around), and accepts Jesus’ work on the cross for him. This is eternal salvation and a life with God. But one such as this does not know God yet. He is like a baby who has been conceived in the womb. He will one day have a life outside the womb with his father, but up until that point, he is in another reality entirely.
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (Matthew 11:11-12)
Isn’t John the Baptist with God in Heaven? Of course He is. Moses and Elijah are there and John was greater than these. And yet, he did not inherit the Kingdom!
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’“ (Matthew 7:21-23)
The modern Church seems to look at Jesus as this fairy godmother in the sky that likes to grant us wishes. He’s all about peace and love, and there’s not any difficulty involved with taking up His Life. But what did He say about this?
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
” ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'” (Matthew 10: 34-36)
So the Kingdom is not all pie in the sky, sweet lullabies. Nor is it something that comes just because we declare Jesus as Savior and Lord, but is actually something deeper. Something which grows in us. We’ll look at that next.