A KINGDOM PARADOX
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power, 12 To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
God has always been sovereign over all creation. He’s always had a throne and He will always sit on the throne of His kingdom. On the earth, however, He has restricted His rule to those who choose to submit to Him as Lord. He can force us to worship Him, but He does not because it subverts His heart’s desire to welcome us into His family as the children of His love. He is Lord over all creation, but the earth He has given to the children of men. He not only gave the earth to us, He also gave us authority over it and therefore responsibility for the condition of the earth and accountability for how we treat each other in it.
Psalm 115:16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 4:9, 10
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. “
Notice He gave the earth to us. We did not earn the earth. Those who trust God on the earth and experience His goodness (His glory) become His witnesses to the rest of mankind that they can trust God’s love and enter and enjoy the benefits of His kingdom, without deserving any of it. What some miss is that the most incredible benefit of God’s kingdom is a deep satisfying relationship with God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. Out of this relationship comes natural tendency to be like Him, including loving our enemies and taking care of the earth.
Satan, wanting to discredit God’s trustworthiness and goodness, plants hard-hearted unbelievers in the kingdom alongside God’s children to mimic them. What’s interesting is that God knows they are not His children. They can never really see or enter the kingdom without turning to Him in spirit and truth. He refers to them as in His kingdom, but not of the kingdom. They are those He calls the least in the kingdom. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is not sufficient to enter the kingdom. If they never accept Jesus as Savior, the day will come when they will be revealed as tares to be separated from the wheat; as goats to be separated from the sheep.
Matthew 5:19, 20
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Law of external demands could not create righteousness in the heart of a person.
Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
The Law did not require nor produce faith (Galatians 3:11, 12). It only empowered sin (1 Corinthians 15:56) because of the weakness of human flesh to obey the commandments (Romans 8:3).
By faith we receive God’s righteousness without working for it and thereby become convinced of God’s love for us, which empowers us to love others with the same love (John 13:34; 14:15). God’s love within us makes obedience natural, Law does not.
Matthew 8:11, 12
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Who are the sons of the kingdom that will be cast out? Those who believe they belong because they are of Abraham’s natural seed (Matthew 3:9). Also, those who think their obedience to the Law qualifies them. All who put their trust in their lineage and their interpretation of the Law will discover too late that they have misunderstood the purpose of the Law. If we search the Law and the Prophets to discover the heart of God, as David did, God’s loving kindness and mercy will draw us to His side. We will find Him. But if all we seek the Law for is a checklist of do’s and don’ts, we will miss God’s heart and His kingdom. There is only one way into God’s Kingdom, through the word of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which prompts us to invite Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior (Revelation 3:20, Galatians 3:14).
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Matthew 9:35 (NKJV) Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Jesus went about preaching the kingdom and demonstrated the kingdom by healing every sickness and disease, casting out demons and raising the dead. He was showing all the people, including tax collectors, harlots and thieves, that God loved them and had only good in His heart toward them.
Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Matthew 21:31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”
Obeying the rules did not prepare hearts to enter the kingdom. So Jesus came to help the people encounter the God who loved them and thereby show them the heart of God the Father. It was the goodness of God that produced repentance in the heart of men. Why? Repentance, like life, is a gift of God to those who will seek Him.
Acts 5:31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18, Romans 2:4, 2 Tim 2:25).
Did you know that everything we need from God to enter His kingdom and to remain faithful to God are gifts from God. We do not have the will power on our own to repent or remain true to God. We do not have the power to concentrate on love well enough to love God with all our hearts so that we obey every commandment. God gives us the love we need. He gives us the word that produces faith. He gives us faith itself, love for our neighbors, the Holy Spirit and grace to do the things He lays on our hearts to do. Without His grace and His Spirit we cannot do anything for God.
Kingdom Citizens or Transients
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
The kingdom, as a seed, took route in the earth of Mary’s heart as she pondered the message of Gabriel about Jesus and then as His disciples believed it and later preached it. Yet there have also been those who were counted as in the kingdom without receiving Jesus as King. Throughout the first century and every century since then, the kingdom of God has had both righteous and unrighteous within its domain. There are shepherds with God’s heart for the sheep. There have been and are today, goats pretending to be sheep and wolves in sheep’s clothing as false prophets and apostles fleecing the flock of God. But none of them can escape the great white throne day of judgment when all the dead and all who remain alive without turning to Jesus, will come before the throne to be judged (Revelations 20:11-15). They will not be part of the eternal kingdom of God but will be separated out. This will be a sad day of weeping. Yet God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of His children concerning those who don’t make it in.
Matthew 21:43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
The heart of a person who cannot see Jesus as Savior cannot really know Him as King nor see the kingdom. We can hang around the children of the King and enjoy their love and kindness and even think that is enough to be counted as one of His children. But unless we seek the kingdom and His righteousness for ourselves, we will only be hanging around the kingdom.
The truth is that the tares, the goats and the fish separated out were never really in the kingdom, because the kingdom of God is within the hearts of its citizens (Luke 17:20-21). If it is not within you, then you are not within it. But then there are miracles. A goat hearted person can become a sheep through the miracle of new birth. This is why God wants the sheep to hang around the goats. This is why Jesus hung around sinners. He displayed the love of His Father to challenge perceptions of what Father God is like. The enemy’s lies have been exposed and in the life of Jesus we have seen our Father in Heaven.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
Children who are still children can see the King and His kingdom and with childlike faith enter in. Childlike faith is innocent faith. It has not been corrupted by envy and bitterness. We may have lost that innocent faith. But we can have it again, if we will but ask for it as a gift.
Jesus told His disciples that unless they are converted and become as little children, they will not be able to enter the kingdom. How were they converted? They hung around Jesus until they saw the Father’s heart on display in the words and actions of His Son. They saw the goodness and love of God as Jesus ate with sinners, forgave their sins, healed their bodies and welcomed them into the kingdom ahead of the scribes and Pharisees. He got them to see that He and His Father loved them, not their efforts to be good. They knew they were doomed by the Law, so they were not looking to the Law anymore. Then they discovered that God was not looking for righteousness in them. He only wanted them to believe Him to cover and then wash away their sin in the righteous blood of His Son. Their hearts softened and became humble like that of a child.
Romans 10:3, 4, 6, 8, 9
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, . . .
8 . . . “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” . . . 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
Again everything they received was a gift of God. Those who demanded that their deeds be considered could not see the kingdom nor enter in. Those who demanded that the wrongs done to them be punished could not open their hearts to understand God’s mercy, even to them. But those who gave up trying to be good enough were given eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand and, thereby, enter the Kingdom of God.
Romans 5:17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Righteousness is truly a gift, not to be earned, but simply to be received as what it is, a gift. Those who receive it that way may reign with Christ in life in His kingdom.