What does it mean to enter the kingdom of God?
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions (Mark 12:28-34).
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 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.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:17-24).
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).
Under the Old Covenant, the kings of Israel were expected to have a copy of the Law of Moses and govern the people of Israel in accord with the Law.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1:3-9).
There has been a typical expectation that the Messiah would come and restore the kingdom of Israel by rebuilding the temple, reinstating the Law and setting Israel free from oppression or interference by the other surrounding nations.
However, when Israel requested a king to rule over them, like the other nations had, Samual the prophet was displeased and the Lord said that the people had in fact rejected him as their king.
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights” (1 Samuel 8:6-9).
Under the Old Covenant, it may have been supposed that the kingdom of God was established when God’s anointed King reigned from Jerusalem, such as King David had established his throne. However, as we noted above, before Saul became the first King of Israel, the Lord said to Samuel that the very demand for – and appointment of a king to rule of Israel, was an act of rejecting God as their king.
The kingdom of God is restored to Israel only when God once again reigns over his people. How will – or does – God reign over his people?
Before examining the question as to how God reigns over his people, consider the following good news proclamation:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7).
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15).
Jesus is the King. Jesus has overcome sin and death. Jesus is exalted to the highest throne and all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. Indeed, “Our God reigns!”
However, there are still some people, including professing Christians who are of the (false) opinion that until Jesus comes again to the earthly city of Jerusalem to establish his kingdom on “King David’s throne”, we should not suppose that the kingdom of God has yet come. If people deny that the kingdom of God has indeed come, then they cannot profess to have, by any means, yet entered the kingdom of God.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:19-23).
I will contend in this article that Jesus is the risen and exalted King seated upon his throne in heaven. I will contend that he reigns by putting his Spirit in us to lead us and to enable us to obey him. That the faith we profess is expressed through love and leads to obedience to Jesus the King. That the kingdom of God comes as a reality when Jesus puts his Spirit in us. That we enter the kingdom of God when we are no longer governed by the desires of the flesh, but are raised to new life by the Holy Spirit. We enter the kingdom of God when we obey the King who reigns from heaven – even while we may continue living in this mortal body on earth.
In this regard, we should also understand that when the Spirit of Jesus is in us, leading us into the obedience that comes from faith, then we are free and no longer under the supervision of the external, Old Covenant Law.
“The Puritans” were pious Christian groups who sought a holy life through submission to God’s Law. They believed that the Law of God was universal and should be applied by all governing authorities as the moral, judicial (and even ceremonial) laws governing all societies. The movement generally referred to as “Christian reconstructionism” are fundamentalist Christians who advocate theonomy, (a form of government through which society is governed by God’s law). However, external rules and regulations, such as those governing societies, even the very Law of Moses given through Moses at Mount Sinai, are completely powerless to change the human heart.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honour (Romans 13:1-7).
In this regard, many Christians, for example, may support President Donald Trump, because as I mentioned in a previous blog, One Holy Nation – One in the Spirit, they may suppose that Donald Trump, in a very straight-forward, unapologetic manner, without concern about being “politically correct”, will conform government law according to so-called “Christian principles” which will be imposed upon society. I met a Christian missionary many years ago, from the USA, who believed that America was a Christian nation. He equated his loyalty to the US government and to the American flag with Christianity and loyalty to God. President Donald Trump, through his campaign of “Evangelicals for Trump” is appealing to just such a naive notion. Many Christians may suppose that for the church to influence governments with Christian principles is surely a very good thing.
In the fourth century, Constantine (280-337) was the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian and he during his reign, he issued a favourable edict that protected Christians in the Roman empire.
From about 1541, John Calvin lived the rest of his life in Geneva as his adopted city. Although he only gained citizenship in Geneva in 1559 and did not hold any government office, Calvin dominated the city through the church and exercised strict discipline over the morals and behaviour of the community by drawing up a new form of government and liturgy for the church.
But, can the Law of Moses or so-called “Christian principles” be imposed and forced upon any society.
Jesus the Messiah and King of kings, reigns now by putting his Spirit into those who are being called – and who respond to the call – to the obedience that comes through faith. They do not walk in obedience through any external laws imposed upon them by church or by government. They willingly submit to Jesus through faith. They are free from any guiding external rules and regulations while they keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:16-25).
Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
The rulers of the nations need to promote themselves and to rule with some degree of authority through law and order. But they are not great in the kingdom of God. John Calvin exerted his authority over the church to the extent of approving the murder of Michael Servetus. Is that not like the rulers of the Gentiles who lord their authority over the people?
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:1-6).
We do not need governments to impose “Christian principles” or even the Old Covenant Law of Moses upon the people. Those who will live in faithful obedience to Jesus the Messiah, thereby enter the kingdom of God. They come under the rule of Jesus the King of kings in spite of the government of the day. They are not compelled to obey Jesus by any external law or prodding by government or church officials – if they are led by the Holy Spirit. They do not need to have Jesus appear from heaven before they enter the kingdom of God through the obedience that comes from faith.
In the period of the crusades, people were forced to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and King under the threat of death. Was the goal to bring people to the obedience that comes through faith in Jesus? Of course not! The motives had become one of trying to exploit religion and belief in God towards political ends for power and control over the people. In other words, not in faithful obedience to Jesus, who specifically taught that the overseers of his church should not presume to rule over the people forcefully as the rulers of the nations do.
The crusades were a series of religious wars in western Asia and Europe initiated, supported and sometimes directed by the Catholic Church between the 11th and the 17th century. The crusades differed from other religious conflicts in that they were considered a penance by the participants that brought forgiveness for confessed sin. The scope of the crusades is debated: some historians restrict it to armed pilgrimages to Jerusalem, others expand it to all Catholic military campaigns with a promise of spiritual benefits, or to all Catholic “holy wars” or those with the main characteristic of religious fervour. The best-known crusades are those fought against the Muslims of the eastern Mediterranean for the Holy Land between 1096 and 1271. Crusades were also fought from the 12th century against the Iberian Moors, the Ottoman Empire and for a variety of other reasons. These included fighting pagans, the suppression of heresy and the resolution of conflict between Catholic groups.
In 1095 Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I against the Seljuk Turks and an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The enthusiastic response across all social strata in western Europe established a precedent. Volunteers became crusaders by taking a public vow for various reasons: mass ascension into Heaven at Jerusalem, satisfying feudal obligations, the opportunity for glory and honour, or for economic and political gain. Four Crusader states were established, generally known collectively as the Outremer: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. The crusaders were eventually pushed back, and after a mainland presence of nearly two centuries, the last city Acre fell in 1291 [source: Wikipedia – Crusades.]
President Donald Trump is canvassing the support of Christians through his “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign. Christians who support Trump may make similar appeal to my friend who pointed out the following, (which I mentioned in a previous blog): Trump opposes homosexuality, transgender identity, same sex marriages, legal abortions, illegal border crossing, a ban on prayer in schools etc.
The apostle Paul asked, So when you, a mere human being, pass judgement on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
And: You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath , when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil (Romans 2:1-9).
There are still many Christians who expect the kingdom of God to only become a reality when Jesus appears from heaven to perhaps rule over the nations with a rod of iron.
He [God] said to me [Jesus the Messiah], “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me (God), and I (God) will make the nations your (Jesus the Messiah’s) inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2:7-12).
Jesus said, “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching [i.e. to the teaching of Jezebel, who called herself a prophet and misled Jesus’ servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Jesus gave her the opportunity to repent of her immorality, but she was unwilling.] [and Jesus said to those] have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come. To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ —just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:24-28).
“I [John] saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: ‘King of kings and lord of lords’” (Revelation 19:11-16).
How should we suppose that Jesus and his disciples will rule over the nations with an iron sceptre – and when? Will it be now, or once we have proven ourselves faithful and been victorious in our faith until the time of the end and of his coming?
“To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — that one ‘will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery’”.
In a recent campaign speech (in 2020), President Donald Trump boasted about the strength and sophisticated weapons of the US army and air force. Should we suppose that this is the rod of iron that is given by Jesus by which the USA will rule over the rest of the nations in the world? On the contrary, I would suggest that as a nation exalts itself through its own political power and military strength to come as a sword of judgement over other nations, so too, in their national pride and arrogance they will be humbled and also eventually incur God’s wrath. I also believe that the rod of iron which Jesus brought to bear on unfaithful Israel and Jerusalem in 70 AD was at the hands of the Roman army. The point which the apostle Paul made in his letter to the church in Rome, is that they who resort to aggression and harsh judgement through excessive power when judging others, actually thereby show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Military might can never be right, because the meek and faithful will triumph in Jesus the Messiah and they will inherit the earth. Those who dare to take up the sword to judge others will only have that sword eventually come down upon themselves. We are only saved and protected under God’s mercy while we continue in his loving kindness. Do we see President Donald Trump displaying genuine faithfulness and obedience to Jesus? Does he come across as a meek, gentle forebearing and wise leader worthy of Christian support? Or does he come across as arrogant, boastful, proud and harsh? Some may argue that it is not upon a leader’s Christian faith, conduct and character that they should be elected into office or not. However, then neither should there be a campaign for Christian support of President Donald Trump. Am I writing this because I personally dislike this forty-fifth president of the USA?
No, I am writing this because naive Christians are supporting Zionism and Trump realised that and very confidently asserted that Jerusalem is the exclusive capital of the “Jewish” people. The city of Jerusalem was intended to be the City of Peace and the City of the Great King, the Great King being the king greater even than King David, i.e. Jesus the Messiah, also referred to as the Prince of Peace. The City that ought to have recognised that the way of peace was being revealed through Jesus the Messiah, who through his death on the cross, finally destroyed the pride and arrogance of the Jews in the flesh, so that God could show his loving-kindness to all humanity with no distinction any longer being made between Jew and Gentile which historically – and still continues – to provoke jealousy, national pride and hostility from the Gentiles. Jerusalem ought to represent love and peace between all nations and the capital City of the King of kings, but instead it became the place where they crucified the King in their blindness – and the place that testifies against them of their continual blindness to the way of peace.
By Donald Trump deciding to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, not in recognition of it being the place of peace for all nations, but instead and supposedly in recognition of it being the exclusive, “eternal capital city of the Jews”, he has arrogantly provoked hostility among many nations. He has given his support to the Zionist agenda which rejects Jesus the Messiah and which baosts in Jewish exclusive religious and national pride. He has tampered with the earthly city has already caused Israel and the Jews to reel and fall on account of their not recognising Jesus the King.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).
Paul taught the following: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
And: There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:9-11).
There are many teachers who indeed prophesy that Jerusalem will be a place of testing and that there will be a future and unique tribulation for Israel. However, they overlook the fact that Jerusalem was already a place of testing and that there has already been a three-and-half-year tribulation period through which the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the Roman army and eventually destroyed in the siege with immense suffering and death. As Paul said, trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew (i.e. 70 AD), then for the Gentile…
The unbelieving Jews are once again taking hold of the earthly city of Jerusalem, expecting that God will save them and vindicate them. However, this time they are rising only through the support of many Gentiles. They will not be uniquely dashed again as in 70 AD, this time, all who dare to tamper with the earthly city without recognising or humbly submitting to the Great King who reigns for the heavenly city, will find that the final tribulation will suddenly close like a trap upon the gentiles too. Even after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, in about 135AD, Rabbi Akiva declared that Bar Kochba was the promised messiah who would lead the Jews into a victory by overthrowing the Roman oppression. Rabbi Akiva was tortured to death, Bar Kochba, a false messiah, persecuted Christians. It is uncertain as to how he eventually died.
I do not personally like President Donald Trump, but my writing against him and against Christian support for him, is on account of his Zionist association in taking Jerusalem – and I refute his being favourably compared to King Cyrus. It is extremely misleading and deceptive. I believe that he is spiritually blind and has no idea of how he is being used for the Zionist ideology. He obviously has no idea that the Zionist ideology is not in accord with faithfulness to Jesus the King and the creation of a new humanity in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile.
He may yet come to his senses, but will the millions of Christians who blindly support him and Zionism, come to their senses? Or are we witnessing the great rebellion (against Jesus) and apostasy (falling away from the faith in the Messiah) which Paul said would precede the revealing of the wicked man of lawlessness who will lead the final rebellion against Jesus the King – but which will be finally destroyed when Jesus appears in his majestic glory at the close of the age?
Entering the kingdom of God is through the obedience that comes by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit. It has absolutely nothing to do with laying don forceful rules and regulations, or about power armies and weapons of the world, or with the Zionist agenda of building and exclusively “Jewish” nation. Entering the kingdom of God is patiently waiting for the heavenly city to be revealed, it is not through giving one’s allegiance to making Jerusalem the capital city of the “Jews” in the flesh.