ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

(Trumpet Ministries, Inc. / Word of Righteousness)

ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

We Christians speak of "going to Heaven" as though the goal of the Divine redemption were to bring man to the spirit world to make his eternal residence there. We sing of going to a place, to a paradise that will put an end to all our pains and dreads. But the Scriptures speak of entering or inheriting the kingdom of Heaven. This is a different concept from that of merely going to a delightful place.

Because the Kingdom of Heaven is God in Christ in the saints performing God’s will, the "heaven" we desire is not, first of all, a place but a state of being—a state of being based on a set of relationships with God and people.

The condition of each individual depends on where he is with respect with God. If he is far from God he soon will be living in Hell. If he is dwelling in the bosom of the Father with the Lord Jesus he soon will find himself in the Paradise of God.

ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:7)

In this brief article we will be using the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God interchangeably. Both terms refer to the one Kingdom that originates in Heaven and is born in the heart of the individual who places his or her trust in Christ, the Kingdom that is the subject of the parables spoken by the Lord Jesus..

The Kingdom of Heaven (Kingdom of God) is God in Christ in the saints performing God’s will.

The Kingdom of Heaven is the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the Church, the eternal Temple of God.

Christians speak of "going to Heaven" as though our goal were to go to a place—to a Paradise that will put an end to all our pains and dreads.

But the Scriptures speak of entering or inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a somewhat different concept from that of merely going to a delightful place.

Because God, His Christ, the saints, and the holy angels have their residence in the spirit realm above us in beautiful surroundings, the goal of the Christian salvation often is thought to be entering this desirable environment when we die. The idea that the principal objective of the Christian believer is to enter the spirit Paradise when he dies is one of the most widely embraced concepts in all Christendom.

We may be looking forward to residing for eternity in the spirit realm above us. But the Scripture teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven is coming to the earth. In that day the "heaven" to which we aspire will be located in the earth.

Because the Kingdom of Heaven is God in Christ in the saints performing God’s will, the "heaven" we desire is not primarily a place but a state of being, a state of being based on a set of relationships with God and people. "Heaven" will be a city, the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is above us and we hope to see it and become part of it when we die. Nevertheless the Kingdom of God primarily is a state of being based on relationships with God and people. Let us explain.

We think of Heaven in terms of mansions, jewels, valuable minerals, and sometimes as a beautiful garden of birds and flowers. All these are present in the spirit Paradise above us to which the saints go when they die.

But let us reflect for a moment. What we actually desire is righteousness, peace, and joy, as well as freedom from sorrow, fear, and pain.

Now, what is it that brings peace and joy to our heart?

The peace and joy of a human being can come only from his relationship to God and to people.

There are individuals on the earth who can afford to own a mansion, jewels, gold, silver, and other articles of value. Their mansion may be secluded in an Eden-like setting—a paradise on the earth.

It is not unusual for such persons to be miserable most of the time. Sometimes such idyllic environments are filled with hatred, greed, violence, immorality, and other sinful attitudes and behaviors. Often there are scenes of strife with children in rebellion against their parents.

Notice that these wealthy estates may contain most of the tangible elements that are often mentioned when we are describing the beauties of Heaven above. Yet there may be far more anguish present than there is peace of mind.

It is clear that mansions, gold, silver, jewels, and paradisiac surroundings cannot by themselves bring peace and joy.

On the other hand, picture a humble dwelling in which lives a family filled with the love of Christ and love for one another. There, we must agree, is the essence of what we mean by "heaven." It is not the external things that bring peace and joy to our hearts, it is relationships.

The essence of Heaven is the Glory of God in Christ. When we are in the Presence of the Lord Jesus and of those whom we love we already possess the best part of Heaven. All for which we are yearning is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ and in those whom Jesus in His love has added to us.

The mature saints understand this because they are coming to know Christ.

When we are children we play with toys. When we become adults we put away our toys. 

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)

It is time for the Church of Christ to receive the understanding that our goal is not to go to a beautiful environment. Our goal is the fullness of the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. The spirit realm by itself could never satisfy us no matter how glorious it may prove to be. Our hearts are thirsting for God, for the love that flows from Him.

Christ did not come preaching we are to seek to go to Heaven. Nowhere in the Gospel accounts is this His message. Rather, Jesus, John, and the Apostles preached entering, or inheriting, the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is a state of being based on our relationship to God and to people.

The Scriptures teach that God’s Kingdom is coming to the earth. His will shall be performed in the earth. The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation reveal that the Throne of God and of the Lamb will be located for eternity on the new earth, not in the new heaven.

How would you like to be kept in the spirit Heaven when God and Christ and the saints have descended to live on the earth? Would you choose to remain in the spirit realm above? Not if your heart is bound up in Jesus and in people!

At God’s right hand there are pleasures forever. These pleasures always are based on our relationship to Christ and to people. The outside environment eventually will become pleasant when our relationships are according to the Lord’s will.

There actually is a place termed "Heaven." However, the peace and joy for which we thirst can be found only in relationships.

There is one more aspect to consider. The present beautiful earth is becoming a hell. Why is it a hell? Because of the sin and rebellion that abide in the personalities of people. Because of sin and self-seeking our relationships do not possess unclouded joy. Because of our lusts we fight among ourselves. Even in Christian families there often is much strife.

The problem with the earth is not a lack of beauty in the environment, it is that the personalities of people have become disfigured through the sin and rebellion into which we have been born.

Forgiving human beings and lifting them into the spirit Paradise can never bring the peace and joy they seek. A change in location is not the answer.

We can find "heaven," we can enter peace and joy, only as we acquire the right kind of relationships with God and people. But these right relationships, these foundations of "heaven," come into being only as we are purged from all sin and all self-seeking.

Here is a concept that we think deserves the careful consideration of every believer in Christ.

It has been customary to view the Christian redemption as primarily forgiving people and transporting them to Paradise in the spirit realm. But this viewpoint is neither scriptural nor logical.

It is not scriptural because the new covenant is the writing of God’s laws in our minds and in our hearts (Hebrews 8:10), not a transporting of God’s Israel to Paradise in the spirit realm.

It is not logical because there is no reason to believe the passing of a personality from the physical realm into the spirit realm alters that personality.

The popular assumption that when we die and pass into the spirit realm we no longer will have a tendency toward sin and rebellion, that we will become ardent lovers of Christ, is not based on any passage of Scripture. It is important to remember that sin and rebellion began in the spirit realm, not in the physical realm. Physical death is the enemy of the saint, not the means of his perfecting (I Corinthians 15:26).

If the Kingdom of Heaven primarily is a state of being based on relationships, and if this state of being and set of relationships is impossible while we are walking in sin and rebellion, and if dying and passing into the spirit realm does not free us from sin and rebellion, then our physical death does not bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

To forgive a human being is a wonderful expression of God’s merciful Nature. The Kingdom call goes forth and all kinds of people are brought in. But at the end of this present age the angels will cast out of the Kingdom all who have not entered the state of being, the kind of relationships with God and with people, that are of the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41)

The Kingdom of Heaven is a new creation, and those who do not become a new creation in Christ are not of the Kingdom and cannot remain in the Kingdom. It is as straightforward as that. They simply are not dressed for the wedding!

If such is the case (and there is an abundance of Scripture in its support), the goal of the Christian redemption is not that we be forgiven and permitted to enter the spirit Paradise in an untransformed moral state. God will not allow any creature to bring sin and rebellion into His Presence.

The Kingdom of Heaven, the new Jerusalem, is a walled city. All that people on the outside can see is a massive wall. No sin or rebellion of any kind can pass inside the wall of the new Jerusalem, not by grace nor by mercy nor by any other means.

There is no Kingdom of Heaven apart from Christ-filled righteous people who, through the virtue of Christ, have overcome the world, self-seeking, and the lusts of the flesh. 

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9,10)

"Shall not inherit the Kingdom of God"!

Fornicators do not inherit the Kingdom of God, of Heaven, because there is no fornication in the Kingdom of God. Fornication is not permitted in the Kingdom of God.

Idolaters do not inherit the Kingdom of God because there is no idolatry in the Kingdom of God.

Thieves do not inherit the kingdom from Heaven because there is no stealing in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Since it is obvious that Paul is speaking to Christians, in First Corinthians, where, then, does Divine mercy apply? Where does New Testament "grace" fit in?

Mercy forgives us and sends us on our way rejoicing. Then the grace of God in Christ changes us so we no longer practice fornication, idolatry or thievery. The Kingdom of God, of Heaven, is not the forgiving of sin alone but also—and primarily—deliverance from sin. Where the Kingdom of God is, the works of Satan are destroyed.

It is not the purpose of Divine mercy to bring lust and violence into Paradise. It is the purpose of Divine mercy to bring the lustful and violent to repentance so they may become part of the Kingdom of God.

This is why the prostitute will enter the Kingdom before the Pharisee. The prostitute will repent. The Pharisee will not repent. He sees no need for repentance.

Our Christian tradition leaves people with the impression that no matter how Christians behave themselves in the world, God will bring them to Paradise when they die. This is not the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.

If the Kingdom of Heaven is deliverance from sin and rebellion, and we have not been delivered from sin and rebellion, then the Kingdom of Heaven has not as yet entered fully and permanently into us. Remember, the goal of redemption, as expressed in the Scriptures, is not admittance to Paradise, it is inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. (Matthew 13:47,48)

The Kingdom of Heaven is composed of the spirits of righteous people made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).

The eternal inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, of the Kingdom of Heaven, still are being formed, still are being "made perfect." Therefore "heaven" itself still is being created, is being formed in the image of Christ, if we wish to think of it in this way.

Heaven is the persons who dwell there, not an empty paradise. The beauty of Heaven is the beauty of the holiness of God in Christ in the saints. Apart from the Person and persons who make up the Kingdom there is no Kingdom and Paradise loses its charm.

The heaven we will enjoy for eternity is still being formed. God is making all things new. First, Christ, the Captain of our salvation, was made perfect through suffering. Next, the members of His Church will be made perfect. Also, the nations of the earth will be taught righteousness through the Church.

Finally God will re-create our environment. Then we will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth—for all things will have been made new and all things will be centered in Christ and will reflect Christ.

When the new Jerusalem has been made perfect in every detail it will be placed for eternity on the new earth. This is the coming of the Kingdom, the performing of God’s will in the earth. 

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

The new Jerusalem is a "prepared" city, prepared to be the perfect complement of Christ and the eternal Throne of God and of the Lamb.

One of the goals of the Christian life is to obtain eternal residence in a city in which we can enjoy a relationship of perfect love with Christ and with other people; a city in which there is perfect peace and joy, in which we can see the Face of God, and in which there is no death, no sorrow, no pain or dread of any kind whatever.

These blessings can come about only as we, through the Person of Christ working through the Holy Spirit, are transformed into the image of Christ and brought into restful union with Him and with our fellow saints.

Because the above is true, the emphasis found in the Scriptures is on our personal transformation through Christ and on our abiding in Christ and in love for one another, rather than on our transfer from the earth into the spirit realm.

Such transformation and relationships are the subject of the teaching of Christ concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

The Kingdom of Heaven is God in Christ in the saints performing God’s will. It is impossible for an individual who is full of his own ways, who is rich in his own spirit, to enter such a relationship of dependency on God.

True righteousness is continual dependence on God and trust in God through Christ. 

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)

The person whose soul is lifted up in him is not poor in spirit. The righteous person is the one who lives by trusting in the Lord.

Paul uses the expression, "The just shall live by faith." This expression means that we walk in righteousness as we cast aside our independent, proud spirit, our trust in our own resources, and learn to look to the Lord for all things and in all situations.

"The just shall live by faith" has come to mean that if we make an affirmation of faith in Christian doctrine, in the facts of the atonement and the resurrection, then it no longer is essential that we behave righteously. We will "go to Heaven" when we die.

This is to equate living by faith with holding a correct doctrinal position concerning the Christian religion.

But this is not the statement of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was contrasting living in humble dependence on the Lord with living in one’s own pride and self-sufficiency. He was not contrasting believing in the facts of the atonement with not believing in the facts of the atonement.

The child readily enters the Kingdom of Heaven because it is not proud, not filled with its own wisdom and strength.

The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews defines what it means to live "by faith." We obtain the righteousness of faith, not merely by making an initial statement of faith in God but by obeying the will of God as it is revealed to us.

The Kingdom of Heaven is God in Christ in the saints performing God’s will whether in the heavens or on the earth. The proud, the rich, the self-sufficient, are filled with their own ways. They are not filled with God and His Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven does not belong to them. 

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

There is a futuristic aspect of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are to deny our own life now in the hope of gaining glory in the future. 

Now is the day of salvation. Now is the time when we are to reach out to the Lord Jesus in order to obtain mercy and the grace to help us put away our sins and self-love. Jesus is our Redeemer, our Deliverer. If we will seek Him with all our heart He will make Himself known to us and will deliver us from all our afflictions.

Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit whom we have now is a deposit on the fullness of redemption that is yet to come.

We must enter the Kingdom of Heaven through much tribulation. Patience is one of the principal virtues of the Kingdom. In our patience we possess our souls. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Master.

The doctrine of "positive thinking" is taking the place of the doctrine of the patiently suffering the afflictions of the Kingdom. The believers are being taught that since they are the children of God they should be happy at all times. They should possess the best the world has to offer. Pastor James would not have a large following in our day. 

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (James 4:9)

The concept of the Kingdom of Heaven is that those who are mourning now will be comforted in the future. And the reverse is true.

Contrary to popular opinion, the purpose of salvation is not to insure that we will have a better life in the present world. In fact, in the days to come we may be persecuted viciously for professing faith in Christ. 

Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. (Luke 6:25)

The story of the rich man and Lazarus does not have to do with accepting or rejecting Christ. It concerns the reversal of blessings in the future as those who were rich but unwilling to share their wealth are brought low while the despised of the earth are exalted. 

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (Luke 16:25)

Christ suffered much in the world and then was raised to glory. We are to enter the fellowship of His sufferings. We are to go outside the camp with Him bearing His reproach. If we suffer with Him we also will be glorified together with Him.

The willingness to suffer patiently is one of the virtues common to all Christian saints. He who is unwilling to defer his joy until the Lord’s time comes for him to experience that joy can never make a success of the Christian discipleship.

All of us march along carrying our cross. Our Kingdom is not of the world. During our pilgrimage we receive countless blessings at the hand of the Lord. But we also are called on to set aside some of our most intense desires. This can prove to be very difficult, very trying. But it also is very necessary. This is how we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

For those of us who live in wealthy nations our environment is one of much material luxury. Our fleshly desires can be gratified readily. Therefore the Christian churches in the wealthy countries are soft. They are lukewarm in their love toward Christ. The flesh is strong but the spirit is weak.

The Gospel of the Kingdom calls us to a life of self-denying, cross-carrying obedience to the Father in Heaven. We must lay aside the comforts of the flesh and follow the Lord with patience. In many instances we must look to the future for the satisfying of our desires. For the rich this is extremely difficult. They are accustomed to giving to their flesh everything that it demands. The Gospel of the Kingdom is hard on the flesh, and the flesh will rebel if our spirit does not, through the Holy Spirit, keep control of our personality.

In actuality the key to the Christian life is found in the saying, "He that saves his life shall lose it and he that loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s shall find it. It is impossible to be a true Christian until we come to the Lord Jesus and voluntarily lay down our life so His unhindered will may be performed in us and through us. The fact that we must agree to lose our own life before we can consider ourselves to be converted may well be the greatest area of ignorance of our century. But there is no genuine Christian salvation apart from this.

We mourn because our country is filled with sinners who mock God with their abominable behavior. We mourn because righteousness is not filling the land. We mourn because we do not see the reviving power of the Holy Spirit. We mourn because the Lord’s Presence is not as tangible as we desire it to be. We mourn because our own conduct and faith often fall short of the Glory of God.

But we shall be comforted. Those who are flaunting their self-will and self-seeking will mourn in that day for the Lord Jesus will give to them the fruit of their doings.

In order to enter the Kingdom of God we must be willing to set aside our own wishes now and live each day in the joyful hope that one day the Lord will come and give to us our heart’s desire.

If we demand our own satisfaction now we will forfeit the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The goal of the Christian redemption is to inherit the earth, not to inherit Heaven. Nowhere in the Scriptures is the teaching found that we inherit Heaven or that we make Heaven our home. This is not a scriptural concept.

Rather, we inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. We inherit the rule of Heaven. The place we inherit is the earth. The government of our kingdom comes from Heaven. It is the Kingdom that is coming from Heaven. It is coming to the earth. "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."

The parables spoken by Jesus were parables of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. Not one of them has to do with making our residence in Heaven. Some of them, such as the parable of the sower, illustrate the growth of the Word of the Kingdom in us. Others portray judgment on the wicked and the entrance of the righteous into eternal life. But none has to do with making our home in Heaven.

Since there is an abundance of scriptural passages, both Old Testament and New Testament, that teach the coming of God’s Kingdom to the earth, and no passage that teaches that our eternal Kingdom will be located in Heaven, it is difficult to understand how the current concept, we are saved to "go to Heaven," ever gained the ground that it has. Perhaps the Scriptures are becoming more clear because the time for the Kingdom to enter the earth in the fullness of power is close at hand.

The Old Testament contains many descriptions of the coming of the Kingdom of God into the earth but no description of the saints going to Heaven to make their eternal home there. 

So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. (Psalms 102:15,16)

When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord. (Psalms 102:22)

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. (Psalms 67:4)

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him. (Psalms 67:7)

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. (Psalms 100:1,2)

O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. (Psalms 96:1)

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. (Psalms 96:11-13)

The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. (Psalms 97:1)

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

Not one mention is made in the Old Testament of the saints making their home in Heaven or even of the desirability of going to Heaven. The emphasis is on the coming of God to the earth.

Christian teachers who stress our going to Heaven explain the Old Testament emphasis on the earth by saying that the Jewish race will rule the earth while the "Gentile Church" is in Heaven. But there is not a single Scripture to support this concept. This would necessitate having two kingdoms of God, two brides of the Lamb. 

Nowhere is such a scheme suggested in the Scriptures, while the contrary can be found easily in both testaments. Paul states there is "one new man" (Ephesians 2:15). Perhaps it is time now to begin to pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, for the doing of God’s will in earth as it is in Heaven.

One New Testament passage that could be construed to mean that the goal of the Christian salvation is that we make our home in Heaven is found in the Book of Hebrews. 

But now they [the patriarchs] desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16)

It is true that we are pilgrims on the earth, that the present world system is not our home. But the heavenly country that the patriarchs sought is the Presence of God in Christ in the Jerusalem that is above.

During the thousand-year period, Christ, who is the Light of the heavenly Jerusalem, will be on the earth ruling from the city of Jerusalem. We who love Jesus will be with Him during this period for we always will be with the Lord.

After the thousand-year period, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Throne of God and of the Lamb, will descend to the earth and forever serve as the light of the world. The new Jerusalem is the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.

So in no event does the Heaven that is above become the eternal home of the saints.

Even more to the point, if Heaven is our goal then it is true that the patriarchs have attained the goal of redemption and are at rest.

Notice the following: 

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:39)

"Received not the promise"?

If the patriarchs, who are in Heaven in the present hour, have not received the promise of God, then Heaven cannot be the land of promise. For if it were, the patriarchs would have received the promise.

It is true, rather, that the heroes of faith were looking toward the resurrection from the dead so they may return in glory and possess the earth. 

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: (Hebrews 11:35)

"That they might obtain a better resurrection."

We are not looking to go to a city but for the city to come to earth. 

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)

Again, the hope held out to Daniel was not that he would go to Heaven but that he would be raised in the last days. 

But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. (Daniel 12:13)

The Lord Jesus encouraged us to lay up treasures in Heaven, but He will bring these treasures with Him when He comes. Jesus never once pointed toward residence in Heaven as being our goal. Jesus always spoke of Himself as being our goal. We are to abide in Him. We are to be in Him and He in us. If we abide in Him He will raise us when He returns. This is our hope—to be raised to meet Him when He returns.

We are not raised to go to Heaven for we shall have come with Him from Heaven in order to claim our body from the ground. "Them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (I Thessalonians 4:14). The purpose of raising us is that we may reign with Him on the earth as His royal priesthood.

It is the meek, those who are poor in spirit, who are teachable, who are humble and who fear the Lord, who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The violent cannot enter or inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

But did not Jesus in another place inform us that the Kingdom of Heaven was taken by force? (Matthew 11:12)

If it is the meek, the patient, the humble of spirit, who will inherit the earth, and if it is the Kingdom of Heaven that will inherit the earth, how, then, can it be true that the violent take the Kingdom by force?

The writer at one time believed Matthew 11:12 means we must be energetic, casting aside every hindrance, if we are to possess the Kingdom of Heaven. This certainly is true. But further experience has taught us that God places a high value on patience, on meekness, on humility of mind and spirit. We now believe that this verse refers to the fact that Herod had cast John the Baptist into prison, attempting to inherit the earth, the proper domain of God’s Kingdom, by violence.

We do not gain the things of Christ by forcing people or situations but by following the Lord in gentleness and patience. 

He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. (Isaiah 42:2)

It is true that industry and perseverance are prized in the Kingdom of Heaven. The believer who is slothful and double-minded will not inherit the rewards of the Kingdom. Laziness has no place in the Kingdom. The lazy of spirit will not inherit the earth.

It is true also that the violent will not inherit the earth. The way of God is the way of love and kindness, not of force.

We see many today who have risen to prominence in Christian circles by depriving their fellow believers of their rights, by robbing widows of their savings, by insisting on being exalted over their brothers, by receiving large offerings. Their behavior is ruthless; yet they have achieved fame and fortune by their violent manner.

Some of these "ministers" are held in esteem by Christians. But God does not hold them in high esteem. All they seemingly have gained will be taken from them and given to the meek. One by one their actions will be examined at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They will be left naked, and some will be cast into outer darkness—although they were certain that Christ was with them in their rise to fame and power.

Herod’s body is rotting in the grave and his spirit is in the flames of Hell. He is awaiting the Day of Judgment. His violence did not gain him any place in the Kingdom of Heaven. He did not inherit the earth.

The name of John the Baptist is one of the most famous in Christendom. His spirit is with Abraham in glory. His body is resting in its grave, awaiting the glorious hour in which he will receive his fabulous reward at the hands of a grateful God. John has inherited the earth, not by violence but by serving the Lord, even to death. 

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

The Kingdom of Heaven is first, righteousness; and after that, peace and joy. These three blessings come through the Holy Spirit.

One of the greatest gifts any human being can receive is a deep hunger and thirst to be pleasing to God, for that is what righteousness is—being pleasing to God.

The closer we walk to the Lord the more our sins and self-love are apparent to us and the more desirous we are to be free from them so the Lord may be totally pleased with every area of our personality. 

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. (Psalms 101:2,3)

We have said that the Kingdom of Heaven is God in Christ in the saints performing the will of God. To inherit the Kingdom is to receive the ability to "walk in our house" with a perfect heart.

When we receive our glorified body we no longer will be required to struggle against our own flesh in order to perform the will of God. In that day, even our body will be serving the Lord in righteousness and holiness. This is the answer to Paul’s prayer: 

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)

The Kingdom of Heaven includes the power to live righteously. God gives us the gift of hungering and thirsting after His righteousness. We cannot be righteous in our own strength. The power to live righteously comes only from Heaven.

We are not to be content in our sins and self-seeking but are to cry to the Lord until He delivers us. If we keep on seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness the promise is we will be filled with the Kingdom and righteousness. It is not that we will be touched lightly or helped along some small line but that we will be filled with the Kingdom and with righteousness.

We must never give up. We must keep on believing that God can and will fill us, as bad as we may consider ourselves to be, with Divine righteousness. He will not fill us just with imputed (ascribed) righteousness but with actual righteousness, holiness, and obedience of mind, of motive, of imagination, of speech, of action. God can and will conform us to the moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ if we will keep on praying to that end.

We never, never, never are to give up. We never are to accept any enemy in our land. The battle may take a period of time. But if we do not give up in unbelief we will be filled with righteousness. This is the promise of Christ.

If we have a hunger for righteousness we already have been blessed by the Lord. That hunger is the guarantee we will be filled. Let us regard the hunger we have for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as one of the greatest of all the blessings we possess. Let us never allow the hunger for righteousness to be crowded out by the cares and things of the world. Let us nourish and cherish the hunger until the Lord fills us with complete righteousness of personality.

The Kingdom of God consists of righteous people—people who, being filled with God and Christ, always perform the Lord’s will. The scepter of Christ’s Kingdom is a scepter of righteousness.

Notice that one of the differences between the concept of entering the Kingdom of Heaven and the more traditional "going to Heaven" when we die is that we are to be entering the Kingdom now—not just after we die. We are to take steps now to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But we cannot go to Heaven until after we die physically.

We are trusting Christ to save us from our bondages now, not after we die. Because we are entering the Kingdom of God and His righteousness now, we shall have faith and victory in the hour of our physical death—faith that Christ whom we have served diligently during our life will not desert us in the hour of our death.

But if we wait until we die to enter the Kingdom we cannot be sure of what kind of reception we will receive. All we can be certain of is, "it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

How much better to enter the Kingdom now, having our conduct judged and corrected by the Lord now, rather than to wait nervously until we die in the hope that we, in spite of the total lack of scriptural assurances, will enter Paradise even though we have continued to follow the lusts of our flesh during our life on the earth. 

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

One of the most important principles of the Kingdom of Heaven is that of sowing and reaping. If we are merciful we will receive mercy. If we are unmerciful we will be dealt with unmercifully. Whatever we sow we shall reap. 

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:33-35)

The law of sowing and reaping applies also to our generosity with money: 

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. (II Corinthians 9:6)

God deals with us according to our works. He responds to us as we respond to others. When we are generous with people God is generous with us. If we do not forgive men their trespasses God does not forgive our trespasses. 

Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward [crooked] thou wilt shew thyself froward [shrewd]. (Psalms 18:24-26)

The law of sowing and reaping applies to our condition now and at the return of Christ from Heaven. 

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7,8)

Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (Romans 2:6)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)

But, some will protest, these passages do not apply to the saved.

They apply to all persons, saved and unsaved. Notice the Word of Christ to the members of the church in Thyatira: 

And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)

If we are going to reap what we sow, of what use is it to receive Christ as our Savior? Where does God’s mercy come into the picture?

Grace and mercy come into the picture when we repent

But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. (Ezekiel 18:21,22)

If such mercy was shown under the old covenant, what must be true now that the Son of God has been crucified for our sins?

But two important factors must be kept in mind.

First, even though God has forgiven us completely and our sins will not be mentioned to us in the next age, we still may reap in the present world some of the sin we have sown.

Second, God cannot be mocked. We cannot abuse the grace of God.

Christ has come as the great Jubilee, the Divine Redeemer. He has proclaimed an amnesty to those who will turn to Him and believe in the atonement He has wrought for them.

However, the terms of this amnesty do not make provision for our continuing in sin. The amnesty is for the truly repentant. 

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26,27)

Christian scholars who do not understand the conditional nature or the purpose of the amnesty, conceive of the Christian redemption as a forgiveness that God hands out to us so we can enter Heaven when we die, regardless of how we have lived on the earth. This is a misconception of both the goal and the process of the Divine redemption.

The purpose of redemption is not to bring sinners into Paradise. The purpose of redemption is to make it possible for sinners to repent, to turn to God, to be delivered from the power of Satan, and to inherit eternal life.

Redemption does not bring the old personality into Paradise; rather, it creates a new personality that belongs in Paradise by nature.

Christ did not come to earth in order to bring back to Paradise the sinful and rebellious. Christ came to the earth in order to turn sinners from the power of Satan to the power of God. Christ was revealed for the purpose of undoing the works of Satan (I John 3:8). 

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)

There are "Christians" today who do not show mercy, who are spiteful, who force their will on others, who do not practice the virtues that the Lord Jesus set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. Such people would turn any paradise into hell.

The believers have been taught, in some instances, that the proclamations of Jesus concerning righteous and holy behavior do not apply to them because they are saved by "grace." They are trusting that in the moment of their death they will be able to hold God to the current formula of "salvation" and God will be required to declare them guiltless. God then will place a crown on their head, a rod of iron in their hand, and they will govern the nations of the earth as one of God’s royal priests.

They seek to manipulate God to their own advantage as they have sought to manipulate people all through their life.

They, perhaps without realizing it, are attempting to mock God.

Salvation does not work this way.

Those who, having made a profession of Christ, continue to walk in the ways of the flesh, especially those who are harsh with their fellow servants, will receive in the Day of Christ precisely what they have given. As they have done so will it be done to them. They have denied others their rights and their rights will be denied to them. As they have sown so shall they reap.

This is why it is so important to distinguish between the scriptural "entering the Kingdom of Heaven" and the traditional "going to Heaven when we die." It is obvious that the unmerciful cannot enter the Kingdom of God. This is clear to us. But the doctrine of "going to Heaven," not being scriptural, does not give us as clear a picture of the fate of the unmerciful.

Believers have the "feeling" that even though they are not living as they should, God, because of His mercy, will open the gates of Paradise to them when they die. They are confused about the relationship of the Kingdom of Heaven to Paradise.

Paul has stated that the covetous cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5). We know also that many believers in Christ are covetous. We vaguely assent to the fact that the covetous believers cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (whatever that means), but we certainly would reject the idea that God would not allow them to enter Heaven. After all, "they believe in Christ!"

The thoughtful Christian, after reading the preceding paragraph, can see how important it is that we understand the scriptural concept of entering the Kingdom of God, of Heaven. Entering the Kingdom of God is the scriptural equivalent of the traditional "going to Heaven."

There are numerous believers who would emphasize we are saved to "go to Heaven." As far as sin and rebellion entering the Kingdom of God by grace, they might agree with Paul that such cannot be. They would draw a distinction between entering Heaven and entering the Kingdom of God.

But isn’t this inconsistent? How could it be true that our sinful, rebellious nature could enter Heaven but not the Kingdom of God?

It appears there is confusion in Christian thinking concerning the Kingdom of God.

Paul said: 

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)

If Paul viewed redemption as we do, the verse would read: 

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, shall go to Heaven when he dies unless he accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior (Ephesians 5:5 according to our tradition).

Now it strikes home.

But, we protest, the "saved" will go to Heaven when they die.

Paul was writing to the saved, warning them that God will not accept such behavior in His Kingdom ("in Heaven," according to our present perception).

Can this be true? The Apostle John declares the same thing. 

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:14,15)

Doesn’t this mean that the saved (by grace) can enter in and the unsaved cannot? No, it does not. It means precisely what it states. It means that no person who practices sin can enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem, into the Presence of God in His Kingdom. The wall is there to keep out sin, not to keep out those who have not made the right profession of "faith."

The Christian redemption teaches and strengthens us so we may be able to keep the commandments of God. To be "saved" is to be delivered from the person, power, and works of Satan, not to be transferred in our sinful state to another locality.

The new Jerusalem is the Kingdom of Heaven that is at hand. It is the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the Church, the eternal Temple of God, the Israel of God. There is no sin in the eternal Temple of God. The purpose of the Christian redemption is to transform us so God can find rest in us. Only God’s grace can change us so we are suitable as a dwelling place for Himself.

God cannot abide in us permanently on the basis that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed (ascribed) to us. Although our redemption commences with an imputed righteousness it is the will of Christ that we begin immediately to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in converting the parts of our personality that are not in harmony with Christ’s Personality. Such conversion is the process of sanctification.

The new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven, consists of sanctified people. God is at rest in them because they are in His image, being free from lusts and self-seeking. They are at rest in God and God is at rest in them.

All those who make up the Kingdom of Heaven have learned, through the Spirit of God, to walk in righteousness, holiness, and strict obedience to God. Therefore God dwells with them and answers their prayers. Although it has required a life of stern obedience to Christ, they have sown faithfully and consistently to the Spirit of God. They are pressing toward the fullness of eternal life.

It is possible to have a "deathbed conversion" in which an individual who has been unmerciful is shown mercy by the Lord. But any person who is hoping to take advantage of God’s mercy by repenting at the last minute is in for a surprise. The Lord catches the wise in their own craftiness. With those who are crooked the Lord shows Himself to be shrewd indeed.

"Deathbed conversions" are not the normal Christian experience nor are they examples of victorious Christian living. One does not gain fruitfulness and dominion in the Kingdom nor the rewards to the overcomer on the basis of a deathbed conversion!

Most believers have a period of time granted to them in which to demonstrate their faith. The Scripture says we will be rewarded according to our works. The Christian who walks in sin and rebellion will reap what he is sowing, now, in this world, and also when the Lord comes. 

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

We cannot see God until our heart is pure. We must become as a child in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In order to have fellowship with God we must be purged from our unclean and self-seeking thoughts, words, and deeds.

Lack of virtue causes spiritual blindness: 

But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. (II Peter 1:9)

Apart from holiness of personality we cannot see the Lord: 

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)

Only those who are walking in righteousness and holiness can have fellowship with God: 

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; (Isaiah 33:14,15)

The Kingdom of God is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). The Kingdom of God changes us from unrighteousness, unrest, and misery to righteousness, peace, and joy. The Kingdom is not imputed righteousness, imputed peace, and imputed joy. The Kingdom is not in word but in power. It is real righteousness, real peace, and real joy.

The purpose of the blood atonement and of the remainder of the grace in the Lord Jesus Christ is not to bring into God’s Presence a group of people who are continuing in sin and rebellion. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a paper kingdom, a kingdom in word only. The purpose of the atoning blood, the born-again experience, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God is to change us until we conform to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.

The new Jerusalem is our eternal home. It is the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. The new Jerusalem consists of victorious saints being made perfect. They have been purged from every work of the world, of Satan, of their own flesh, and from all their self-seeking, self-will, and self-centeredness. They are pure in heart. It is their destiny to gaze on the Face of Almighty God forever. 

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just [righteous] men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)

And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4)

Cannot we who are immature Christians come "boldly to the throne of grace"? Yes, we can, because in Christ the veil has been taken away. When we come to God for mercy and for grace to help us in our time of need, God hears us because of Jesus’ blood and because we are serving God.

If we are walking in the light of God’s Presence and will we are having fellowship with Him and the blood of Jesus is cleansing us from all sin.

The Kingdom principle holds true for eternity: "the pure in heart will see God."

The current deceptions, such as the pre-tribulation translation of the believers to Paradise, the overemphasis on the love of God, the overemphasis on grace, the "once saved always saved" doctrine, depend for their appeal and validity on the tradition that the purpose of the Christian redemption is to admit us to Paradise when we die physically. It is believed that the goal is to admit the sinner, on the basis of God’s love and mercy, to a beautiful, peaceful environment where he will experience eternal joy and not the sufferings of Hell.

Would God come to Adam and Eve and bring them back into the garden, with access to the tree of life although there had been no change in their nature? In that case they would have been admitted back to Paradise on the basis of God’s forgiveness, but they themselves would not have been changed. This is the concept of current Christian teaching.

If, on the other hand, the purpose of the Christian redemption is to transform us in personality so we are in the image of Christ, with the view of bringing us into total union with God through Jesus, then the pre-tribulation rapture, the excessive emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, the doctrine of "once saved always saved," lose their validity.

The doctrine of "once saved always saved" is completely unscriptural. A logical person could not read the New Testament and still hold to the idea that an individual who receives Christ can never fall away from God’s blessing.

The faith-prosperity doctrine conceives of God as someone whose only desire is to make people happy. The proponents of this error have little understanding of the Kingdom that is coming from Heaven and go back to the Old Testament to emphasize the material blessings of the old covenant.

The concept that God wishes to shower the believer with material comforts and luxuries is related to the idea that God is anxious to receive sinful, self-centered believers into the highest realms of Paradise as soon as they have taken the steps required by whoever "led them to the Lord." (One wonders if they actually were led to the Lord or to the beliefs of a group!)

The present overemphasis on the love of God is based on the notion that God is so good He wants to bring everyone into Paradise. But when we stress the Kingdom of Heaven, the concept that we are being transformed into Christ’s image and are being brought into union with God, then both the goodness and the severity of God are brought into focus. Goodness comes to those who are brought into harmony with God’s will. Severity is the portion of those who resist God’s will.

Entering the Kingdom of Heaven is not the same as entering Paradise. In fact, entering the Kingdom of Heaven is accompanied by much tribulation. The thief on the cross entered Paradise with the Lord Jesus, but not into the Kingdom of God! The evidence we are in the Kingdom is that we are experiencing the rebukes and chastenings always administered by Jesus to those He loves. Entering the Kingdom is entering union with God. God’s love and mercy are not a substitute for union, for doing God’s will in earth as it is in Heaven.

Christians must come to understand thoroughly that grace is not an alternative to Kingdom principles and law. The grace of God in Christ is not God’s apology for the sins of His people. Grace is the Divine means of filling people with the Life of God so they may be able to keep His commandments, not a device for bringing sin and rebellion into Paradise.

Because the Christian believers and their leaders have, in many instances, fallen away from the truth of God, the churches are filled with sin and lukewarmness. Transformation of personality and union with God, which are the products and signs of the workings of the Kingdom of Heaven, are not in evidence to any great extent. A false vision has led the people to moral destruction.

We can expect tremendous judgments to fall on the earth in the near future. These judgments will separate the godly remnant from the babylonish (manmade, man-centered, man-directed) churches.

The coming tribulation will purify the elect, bringing them into perfect and complete union with God through Christ. They will learn to survive by depending totally on the Lord. They will come "up from the wilderness," leaning on their beloved (Song of Solomon 8:5).

God can protect the saints on earth as easily as in Heaven (witness Israel in Goshen; Daniel in the lions’ den). Tribulation is more apt to transform us into Christ’s image and bring us into union with God than it is to harm us. The peoples of the earth will continue to need our Presence and testimony—even during the great tribulation.

An increase in tribulation will cause the members of the Christian churches to become confused. Some of them will turn toward the Lord. Some will return to the world. Others will enter the one-world religious system, maintaining their comfortable way of life along with a show of belief in God. No one will be able to remain in the valley of decision because of the enormity of the spiritual forces operating on the peoples of the earth.

Many are growing cold today because of the abundance of temptation. During the hour to come they will choose to be called Christians but they will compromise with the world system in order to avoid tribulation. This will be a greater temptation in the wealthy nations than among the poorer peoples. Even today it can be noticed that the churches in the wealthy nations are lukewarm—lacking in the white-hot consecration required by the Christian discipleship.

How difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! 

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Wars and fighting are prevalent both in the world and in the churches. Only those who are coming to maturity in Christ have the spiritual strength to avoid conflict and bitterness and to bring lasting, peaceful solutions to situations that are troublesome.

Wherever there is lust and self-seeking there are wars. Pastor James rebuked the church members because of their conduct. They could not be called the sons of God because they were not peacemakers. 

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (James 4:1,2)

The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, and peace. The individual whose personality is characterized by strife and violence is not dwelling in the Kingdom nor is the Kingdom dwelling in him.

Receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior gives us the authority to be a child of God. We may be a person who is accustomed to gaining our desires by fighting. But as the Prince of Peace is formed in us we cease forcing our will on other people. We learn to wait on the Lord for victory, sometimes, as did Isaac, allowing ourselves to be defrauded (Genesis 26:22).

When we are strong enough spiritually to seek peace, allowing the Lord to fight our battles and to justify and vindicate us, then we are peacemakers. Then we shall be called the sons of God.

There is no end to the peace of Christ’s Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7). We cannot abide in the Kingdom of Heaven until we are healed of our willingness to accomplish our ends by means of strife.

One of the expressed goals of the world leaders of today is to establish peace among the nations. Yet wars and rumors of war continue, as Jesus said would be true. It is impossible for there to be peace on earth until the Kingdom of Heaven comes down from Heaven and is established on the earth. The Kingdom of Heaven consists of the Prince of Peace, Christ, and those in whom Christ’s peace reigns through the Holy Spirit.

There never will be a true peace until the Day in which Christ rules totally and completely over the nations of the earth. That peace is being created in us now. The Kingdom of Heaven is being created in us now. The personal day of the Lord has come when Jesus rules totally and completely in us. 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

The Kingdom of Heaven is not accepted by the world. The Lord Jesus warned us that the world will hate the saint as it hates Him. All attempts to make the Christian churches acceptable to the world are an abomination to God. The moment we try to reconcile the Church to the world the power of God will leave. The Church of Christ is not of the world. It is not a social institution. It is the prophet of God among men.

There always is a reproach on Christ and on those who are following Christ. Whenever God brings forth a new element of restoration, whether it is "the righteous shall live by faith," or water baptism or the born-again experience or holy living or "tongues," a reproach follows immediately. Reproach on the Presence of Jesus may come from the world but ordinarily it comes from the Christians who are members of organizations that endured reproach when they were founded but since that time have become accepted by the world and by worldly, popular, wealthy, influential "Christians."

The true followers of the Lord Jesus are a despised, disgraced remnant on whom falls the reproach borne by Christ.

The Pentecostal ("tongues") movement is now established, and accepted by many religious leaders as being reputable. The reproach is lifting.

As we might have expected, God already is moving ahead. Now we are learning that some of the widely held doctrines are not scriptural: for example, the substitution of "grace" for repentance and godly behavior; the overemphasis on the love of God; the likening of the Judgment Seat of Christ to an awards ceremony in which everyone is rewarded and no one is punished; the concept that the physical Jews will inherit the Kingdom on earth while the "saved Gentiles" are in "Heaven" playing harps on the bank of a river; the delusion that Paradise will be filled with sinning people who are "saved" by imputed (ascribed) righteousness.

When the Christians become aware that their comfortable position is being threatened, that all is not as well as they have believed, that God is calling on them to repent and that if they do not repent they will face an angry Christ, then the weight of their fury will fall on the godly remnant of believers. As in time past, the members of the "accepted" churches will persecute viciously the remnant who are seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The Scripture teaches that those who suffer with Christ today will be glorified together with Him. All who have borne the disgrace of the cross will be revealed in glory together. Here is the perfect justice of the God of Heaven.

But woe to those who are at ease in Zion! Woe to those who have made a profession of faith in Christ but who have chosen to walk in ways that are popular with the world and with worldly Christians! They never have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The blessing of the Lord is not on them. They have not gained the Kingdom of Heaven.

In review: to enter the Kingdom is not primarily to go to a place, although there indeed is a glorious Paradise in the spirit realm where the saints go to rest when they die (as far as we know). It is true, rather, that the Kingdom is born in us.

To enter the Kingdom of Heaven is to be changed into the image of Jesus and to be filled with His Presence. Although there is a spirit Paradise it is not the goal of our pilgrimage. The goal of our discipleship is perfect, complete union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself, not Paradise, is our Goal.

Did not Jesus counsel us to lay up treasures in Heaven? Indeed He did. This does not mean that Paradise itself is our goal or that we are going to live there forever.

The heavenly treasures that we lay up come to us from Heaven and are of the nature of Heaven, the Nature of God. They include eternal life, freedom from sin, authority, power, our predestined rank in the Kingdom of God, abilities, opportunities for service, loving joyous relationships with God and people, and rest in Christ in God. These are the heavenly treasures we are laying up by our faithfulness to Christ in the world. Notice that they have to do with our state of being and with our relationships.

Our treasure is in Heaven. It consists of spiritual (not mineral) gold, silver, and precious stones. The pearl is the pearl of patience, not of the oyster. When the Lord returns He will bring our rewards with Him. It is not Heaven itself that is our goal, it is the treasures that have been laid up for us in Heaven—treasures that the Lord Jesus will bring with Him when He comes.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not so much where we are as it is what we are and whom we are with. When we are the eternal habitation of God in Christ, then "Heaven" is in us. As soon as Heaven has been formed in us, God will cause us to dwell in Paradise—both in the heavens and on the earth.

God will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.

But if we do not receive Christ (the Kingdom of Heaven) into our life now, our environment will become increasingly miserable. Those who are in rebellion against God walk in dry places. After they die they are not fit for Paradise but for outer darkness—whether or not they call themselves Christians.

The Kingdom of Heaven is an eternal kingdom. We are to enter it today. If we enter the Kingdom today, being transformed into Christ’s image and abiding in union with Christ in God, then we will continue in this glory in the Day of the Lord.

If we are not entering the Kingdom of Heaven now, are not being made a new creature in Christ, are not abiding in Christ and He in us, then it is neither scriptural nor reasonable nor possible that in the Day of the Lord we will enter glorious fellowship with God, Christ, the saints, and the holy angels in the splendor of Paradise.