Kingdom of Heaven Part 2 – the Heavenly Kingdom

Kingdom

As a child, I loved the idea of knights who served kingdoms with their shiny armor and their sharp swords as they rode into battle defending their kingdoms. They had sworn allegiance to their king and would serve him by going on grand adventures into far-off lands defending the weak, protecting the innocents, and righting all wrongs along the way. These glamorized ideals were so appealing to me because I saw them as a grander time when people felt things like honor were worth living and dying for.

Like the knights of old, the idea of honor and fealty to a king has seemingly disappeared in our recent generations. Perhaps because America does not have a king and most governments in the world do not either, our world has lost the idea of what a king truly is and how a kingdom mentality applies in our current age. Please don’t misunderstand me, I have understand the dangers of how monarchies can work and history is filled with the abuse of power, the desire for personal conquest, and the general misuse of wealth that came from so many kings throughout history (reading 1st & 2nd Kings as well as 1st & 2nd Chronicles can give you a great glimpse into how Israel struggled with this as well).

Yet, the idea of fealty and dedicating one’s life to serving a king and their kingdom has so many merits that we have lost in our current society. Selfless sacrifice, personal integrity, representing something that is greater than our individual wants and desires, honor, and compassion are all things that knights of old were supposed to represent and hold in high prestige. I know this is a glamorized and idealized view of knights yet history also tells us of so many examples of how people of honor stood for what was right in the face of those who would stomp on the defenseless to get what they wanted.

This is an ideal that we also see taught in the Bible about how we as Christians should represent God as our ultimate King and should honor our allegiance to His Kingdom. I believe our lack of understanding of how fealty, kingdom rule, and the power a king had over his subjects has truly lessened our respect and respectful fear of who God is. If we say that God is our King then we are also saying we have sworn our allegiance and lives over to serving His Kingdom.

What exactly does this mean? How can we be members of both an earthly kingdom as well as a Heavenly Kingdom? Think of it like dual citizenship; I am both an American citizen and proudly do my small part to serve our great nation. But I have a higher allegiance to serve our King and to bring his Kingdom from Heaven to Earth. These two things are not incompatible with each other. I actually can be the best contributor to my country by being a devoted follower of Christ. In order to do this properly, we need to understand how God’s heavenly Kingdom works.

The Bible teaches us that God is eternal (cf. Psalms 90 as one example). This means that He has reigned over his creation since before time began. God did not need us to exist yet He chose us to be His special people. When we read the Bible we see that though God is omnipresent He has a heavenly kingdom where He reigns and rules. While many of the prophets had visions of this Kingdom, my favorite is from the Book of Daniel as is describes Jesus being given eternal and complete authority from the Heavenly Father:

 

[13] As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. [14] He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13-14 NLT)

 

With this we see that God has always reigned over His creation and that He always will. There will never be a moment where God is not completely in control. He may allow Satan to have certain amounts of authority while HIs plan of salvation is being worked out in us and while we as His Church bring the Kingdom of Heaven from Heaven to Earth but never for a second did God stop reigning supreme over all creation.

There are numerous visions writers of the Scriptures had of God in His Heavenly Kingdom and throne room. Isaiah was so overcome with God’s majesty and holiness that he lamented his sinfulness and claimed he was unclean by comparison (cf. Isaiah 6). Daniel, Ezekiel, John, and Isaiah all had visions of Heaven that they wrote about and other writers (such as Peter and Paul) wrote about how they had seen God in a vision even though they did not give details. The teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and the book of Revelation all tell us that God is in control and one day He will come back to establish His Kingdom here on earth (cf. Revelation 21 & 22).

If this is the case, then we do we have such a problem bringing the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth? I did some quick internet searching and found that there are estimated to be over 2.2 billion Christians on the Earth right now. There are also an estimated 7.1 billion people on the planet total. That means if we as the Church were obedient to Jesus’ commands then we could see the entire planet come to know Christ in short order. If we let God use us to lead one person to Christ each year then every person would place total trust in Jesus less than 3 years!

God has given us the great task of not just being members of His Kingdom but also to be his representatives here on Earth. We have been given the great job assignment of ambassadors of His Kingdom. We need to live as both citizens of Heaven and of our country. Look at what Paul wrote to the church community in Corinth:

 

[18] And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. [19] For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. [20] So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NLT)

 

If this is all it takes then why haven’t we seen the entire planet come to know Christ? I believe it is because we do not understand the eternal Heavenly rule God has over His creation and the power He has over it. You and I are subject to His ultimate authority so we can get with it now or it will get with us later. Remember the parable we read last week from Matthew 25? Jesus was teaching His followers that one day He would come back and hold all of His servants accountable for how they acted while He was away. That’s a pretty scary thought, right?

We often hear Christians say they want Jesus to come back soon. What the don’t take into account is that we have unfinished business left to do before He does. Think of it like your parents telling you to clean the house before they come back. You can either be obedient and do it right away and then rest easy knowing that when they come back that it will all be taken care of OR you can procrastinate and hopefully get it all done in the nick of time. If you put it off too long it may not get done in the first place and you’ll be in trouble for not being obedient to their commands.

This is a small idea of what it will be like when Jesus does return. He will judge every one of His followers. For those who were obedient to His commands He will throw a party and invite us to celebrate with Him. Those who are not obedient will be punished and cast into Hell (cf. Matthew 25:51) along with anyone else who had not placed total trust in Jesus. What is concerning to me when I read over that passage and others like it is that those who the Master casts into outer darkness (aka Hell) were ones who were servants of the Master. These are not people who did not claim to be Christians but those who were actually serving in the Master’s household. These were the Master’s servants which, in the case of this parable, equate to followers of Jesus.

This is incredibly scary! We as a Church have failed to be obedient servants. Instead, like what we read about in the parable, we have sat back and begun to even doubt that the Master is coming back at all. Maybe we think we will see Him coming and, like a child waiting to clean the house until the parents are on their way back home, we can get our acts together just in time. Yet, Jesus taught that He would come back unannounced and at an unexpected time. We will not be expecting Him to return but we need to be ready for it.

Consider what John wrote about what he saw in Revelation 21:

 

[22] I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. [23] And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. [24] The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. [25] Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. [26] And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. [27] Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 21:22-27 NLT)

 

This sounds so wonderful! To have Jesus reigning on the planet and over the planet in a new Jerusalem with the kings of this earth coming to the city to worship Jesus. We will be able to see Him and serve Him for eternity and there will be peace. Those who are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will not be able to enter because they will have been cast into the Lake of Fire (aka Hell). This will be wonderful for true Christians but will be sad for those who did not place total trust in Jesus.

The scary thing is that Jesus taught in other places that He will come to judge the people of the world before this will happen. Before He will reign on Earth He will judge people and will send those who were obedient into eternal life and those who were not into eternal death. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 7:

 

[21] “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. [22] On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ [23] But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NLT)

 

Notice something important in verse 22: these were people who claimed to be Christians. They prophesied, they cast out demons, they even did many miracles! Yet, because they did not have a personal relationship with Jesus they were sent to Hell. Jesus said to them that He never knew them. They had no true relationship. Both the parable in Matthew 25 and this teaching shows us that there will be a great many people who thought they were Christians and who did great acts of ministry that will go to Hell. Remember, these are not blatant sinners we are talking about here; these are those who thought they were real followers of Jesus.

How can we fix this? How can we know that we are truly following after Jesus? The answer is simple: we obey His commands. We love God with all we have and we love our neighbor as ourselves. We place total trust in Him and we show him this trust by being obedient. We cannot love our neighbor as ourselves if we are not faithful to share the Gospel and to make disciples. We are not faithful to Jesus’ commands if we are not producing spiritual fruit in our own lives. Jesus also said in Matthew 7 that you can know a tree by its fruit. If our lives are not producing spiritual fruit then we have a problem.

I didn’t write this to scare you but maybe I did. I am scared too; I am learning more and more to see that God reigns over all creation. And like an employee who wants to get a good pat on the back from their boss I want to be found doing my job properly. I want to be found doing the right thing and when I am inspected by my Master I will get the praise of approval, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). Not just because I do not want to go to Hell but because God is worthy.

What does that mean for you and me? How do we incorporate the Heavenly Kingdom into our everyday lives? Here are some feet to faith homework items to get us going in the right direction:

  1. Look at your life and see if your motives are to build your kingdom or God’s Kingdom?
  2. Think about when the last time was that you shared the Gospel with someone. If it was awhile ago (or never) then you need to begin to learn how to do it effectively and regularly.
  3. Ask yourself, “How much of my time,talent, and treasure am I spending on ministering to people on this planet in the name of the Kingdom?” If it doesn’t add up, then you need to make a change.
  4. Does your life produce spiritual fruit as evidence of your salvation? If not, you need to make sure you are right with God and not a person who stands before Him one day claiming to be His follower yet never having a real relationship with Him.
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