In the last two posts I considered what the Bible had to say, particularly the Old Testament, about the concepts of heaven and hell. As we turn to the life and times of Jesus, Matthew, in the first book of the New Testament, changes the nomenclature from “Heaven” or “Heavens” to “the kingdom of Heaven”. He uses that phrase 32 times. Amazingly, the phrase is never used again.
So, how does Matthew describe the kingdom of heaven?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
The kingdom of heaven is something, when discovered, that we’d give everything to attain (The Parable of the Field). The kingdom of heaven is expansive, starting from seeming insignificance to something enormous (The Parable of the Mustard Seed).
The kingdom of heaven is a place of forgiveness and grace (the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant).
The kingdom of heaven isn’t necessarily “fair” as we define it. (The Parable of Laborers in the Vineyard)
“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
It will be difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven.
So, the kingdom of heaven, whenever and whatever it will be, is for the poor, persecuted, humble and children. It values forgiveness and grace, not necessarily fairness. And, although difficult for me to swallow, there apparently is going to be some sort of hierarchy with some that are lesser, others that are greater and some not allowed to enter at all. Lastly, for those that are rich – which could fairly be defined as a majority of America – tread carefully.
As we ponder our lives of faith, may they better conform to the coming kingdom.
What about heavenly inheritance? More to come . . .
Only the Truth will set you free. Set me free 360.