• johned@aibi.ph

The Kingdom Of God And Salvation

The question of who is saved and who isn't saved is often debated by Christians so I thought I would tackle the question by starting with Jesus' salvation message about the Kingdom of God. Jesus equates salvation with "entering the Kingdom of God" and the salvation message of Jesus was simple: (Matthew 4:17 NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

This means that salvation is experienced by those who truly repent and enter the Kingdom of God. Furthermore this Kingdom is not a distant goal but is "at hand", just as a carpenters hammer is at hand - available to those who reach out.

This Kingdom of God is defined by Paul as "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17) and portrayed in detail by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the Matthew 13 parables. It is a realm where God rules and where His will is done on earth as it is done in the Heavens (Matthew 6). It is a touch of Heaven upon earth, it is glory, grace and truth in our midst. It is also a realm where God's provision is the central economic fact (Matthew 6:19-34).

Those who turn from sin, believe in Jesus and enter into righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit are those who have entered the Kingdom of God.

They are the true believers, the lovers of Heaven, the people who are of a Kingdom that is not a political Kingdom of this world (John 18:36) and which is not inherited "by flesh and blood" but is eternal, spiritual and glorious. (1 Corinthians 15:50 NKJV) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

According to the red letters of Jesus these precious heaven-loving saints are greater than all the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 11:11-13). Those who enter the Kingdom are citizens of the realm of truth, the heavens, being seated there with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) as members of the Heavenly Zion (Hebrews 12:22-24).
This heavenly kingdom, this Kingdom of the Heavens, this realm of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is a holy place with a holy lifestyle and glorious and holy inhabitants.(Hebrews 12:22-24). It is also a place of healing and resurrection and gospel living. (Matthew 10:7-8 NKJV) "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' {8} "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

The parables paint pictures of the Kingdom such as its holiness and purity (the dragnet, the wheat and the tares), the need for diligence to enter it (the ten virgins, the ten talents), the hidden influence of the Kingdom (the leaven) and its growth from small seeds of faith (the mustard seed). They also tell us of its varying reception by individuals (the sower and the soils, the King;s banquet) and by Israel and the Gentiles (the King's messengers and Son).

Any broken sinner longing for healing, wholeness, righteousness, love, peace and joy can enter the kingdom of God in an instant as Zaccheus did and as the thief on the cross did. The prostitutes often enter before the self-righteous.(Matthew 21:31) The Kingdom is not a matter of continuous self-improvement of working harder, getting smarter and being more intensely religious. In fact it can be entered by those who do no works at all. (Romans 4)

The Kingdom is entered by the unspiritual, even the spiritually deprived and backward, the "poor in spirit": (Matthew 5:3 NKJV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In fact the Kingdom is completely unreligious and does not require us to go to a temple, see a priest, wear a robe, take certain days as holy-days or any other nonsense. Its just for people who want God and love righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. By contrast the scribes and Pharisees lock people out of the Kingdom by encouraging hard-hearted legalism and making it full of commandments and impossible requirements. (Matthew 23:13)

Entering the Kingdom is easy and light and free of religious requirements:(Matthew 11:27-30 NKJV) "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. {28} "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

The Kingdom and is joyous, humble and child-like: (Matthew 18:1-5 NKJV) 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. {5} "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Even in 90AD the apostle John said it was easy to be a Christian: "(1 John 5:3 NKJV) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." The Christian life is unreligious and easy and the holiness is that of love and joy and peace not an artificial sanctity composed of human rules and regulations (Colossians 2:8-23).

The Kingdom is for those who love Heaven and righteousness and truth. For those who love holy things and who see that this world and all its lusts is passing away. In fact Kingdom folk love Heaven and glory so much they will gladly be persecuted for righteousness sake: "(Matthew 5:10 NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Furthermore they will separate completely from sin and all defilement. "(Mark 9:47 NKJV) "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire;"

Yet while God calls us to separation He is not stingy or unrewarding. We will not be worse off in the end. (Luke 18:29-30 NKJV) So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, {30} "who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."

The holy and beautiful Kingdom requires "clean robes" and repentance (Matthew 22:11-14) and cannot be entered presumptuously. The unrepentant, the profane, the unholy, the vile, the lovers of pleasure and worldliness will not enter into the Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV) Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, {10} nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

It is not praying a prayer or lip-service that makes one a Christian but joyfully doing the will of God. Matthew 7:21 NKJV) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." And as the parable of the two sons shows doing the will of God involves real obedience not just saying you have the "willingness to obey". (Matthew 21:28-32)

The Kingdom is also difficult for the rich, the powerful and worldly to enter because of their deep attachment to this life. (Matthew 19:23-24 NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. {24} "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

This attachment to this life is like Lot's wife who "looked back" and believers are not to look back to a life in the world and the pleasures of Sodom. (Luke 9:62 NKJV) But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

Neither is the Kingdom a matter of theological debate. (1 Corinthians 4:20 NKJV) For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. Rather the Kingdom of God is characterized by spiritual authority." (Matthew 12:28 NKJV) "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you." This authority was also to be exercised by believers: (Matthew 16:19 NKJV) "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

The understanding of the Kingdom is for those that truly love holy things. To these are granted "the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven". The pearls are not to be cast before swine (Matthew 7:6) and those obsessed with earth will not grasp the nature of the Kingdom. (Matthew 13:11-13 NKJV) He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. {12} "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. {13} "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

The imperceptibility of the Kingdom is due to the fact that it is an invisible, spiritual realm in our very midst, not an earthly Kingdom with a physical location. It is not "here" or "there" but at hand for all who believe. (Luke 17:20-22 NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; {21} "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

Paul puts it this way: (Romans 10:-69 NKJV) 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.

The entrance to the Kingdom is not a matter of just knowing Jesus or believing in Jesus but being willing to be changed by Jesus and to become like Jesus. Its a matter of being born-again and being made new with a holy, righteous and heavenly nature. (John 3:3 NKJV) Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This new birth is not a physical process but is accomplished by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5 NKJV) Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Those who have grasped the law of love are close to the Kingdom (Mark 12:32-34) for love is the Kingdoms's ruling ethos and its governing commandment (John 13:34, 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 13:9,10). Yet the gate to the Kingdom is narrow and entering requires effort. "(Luke 13:24 NKJV) "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able." This proper striving is a striving to keep the commandments of love: (John 15:10-12 NKJV) "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. {11} "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. {12} "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

This love is not merely sentimental but is also honest, pure and truthful: (1 Timothy 1:5 NKJV) Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,

In Acts we see that suffering was normal for those finding the Kingdom, it was no easy gospel. "(Acts 14:22 NKJV) strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."

Entering the Kingdom is not just a matter of "having a relationship with Jesus" because many who knew Jesus, such as Judas, will be outside the Kingdom and the so-called holy places like Jerusalem and Capernaum where Jesus preached will know wrath not blessing (Matthew 11:20-24). In fact many of those who knew Jesus as their next door neighbor will weep and wail and gnash their teeth:

(Luke 13:25-30 NKJV) "When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' {26} "then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' {27} "But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' {28} "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. {29} "They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. {30} "And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last."

This Luke 13 passage above also tells us that the Kingdom is not bounded by ethnicity or geography, It will be a universal Kingdom for all nations: "They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God." Neither will social rank lay any part in determining who is who in the Kingdom "And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last."

The Kingdom of God is a universal Kingdom and open to all who repent regardless of ethnicity, social rank or how messed up their lives may be. Yet it is still a holy Kingdom and the concept of "being worthy" of the Kingdom is common. (Luke 21:34-36 NKJV) "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. {35} "For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. {36} "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Galatians 5 contrasts carnality and the works of the flesh are not worthy actions for the Christian...

(Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, {20} idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, {21} envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." With the truly spiritual life: (Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. {24} And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. {25} If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Note carefully that this "worthiness" and true spirituality is not the performance of vows, religious acts, or external observances such as circumcision or church attendance but is rather the life of a renewed heart filled with the love of God.

This worthiness is demonstrated in genuine practical love (1 John3:16-18) and in the willingness to suffer for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 NKJV) We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, {4} so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, {5} which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;"

Some sinners do pray a sinners prayer and enter the Kingdom - they crash through into Heaven. Others pray a sinners prayer and walk away empty because they do not really want the Kingdom in their lives, ruling their soul and spirit and life. God is not going to be used for fire-insurance. He requires kingdom living from a repentant heart and a new born-again nature that believes in Christ and joyously obeys His commandments.

Yet salvation, and being a true believer is not a matter of religious works, but of trust in Christ, and faith born in our hearts through grace (Ephesians 2:8,9) and it is this faith that results in good works (Ephesians 2:10) because that's what Jesus would do and we are to be made like Him. (Romans 8:28-31).

So salvation is not a matter of praying a certain prayer, nor is it about doing certain religious works. Rather its about repenting from sin and entering the Kingdom and exchanging the lifestyle of the world for the Christ-centered, loving, joyous and peaceful lifestyle of Heaven.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.