These are my notes in preparation for our 1/22/2012 church meeting.
Leader: Michael Weatherford
Have you ever thought about heaven in the same terms we see described in Scripture? So many times we read about the "kingdom of God." This is something the apostles talked to people about a great deal (see Acts 28:23, 19:8). So, here is a question: What are we to do to enter or "declare" our citizenship in this kingdom?
Consider this: As U.S. citizens, we can travel to other lands and hold what is referred to as "dual" citizenship. But, other countries, like Australia, will not allow this. They want your dedication to be singularly with that country...in other words, you would have to give up your U.S. citizenship. What do we see the scriptures tell us about our citizenship? How does this affect our view of our Kingdom Citizenship? How much more precious is this citizenship?
I would ask that you all think about these things and please bring some Scriptures to discuss as I would love to get your thoughts on this subject. My aim is for us to come to a greater appreciation for our position in God's Kingdom.
The Coming of the Kingdom
John the Baptist preached repentance in preparing the way for Jesus who came after him. Jesus preached the message that the kingdom of heaven was near (Matt. 4:17). The kingdom came in the days of Jesus' generation (Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). Jesus said the kingdom would come without observation (Luke 17:20-21). This is because Jesus' kingdom is not physical, but spiritual in nature (John 18:36-37).
Entrance to the Kingdom
Jesus said the spiritual rebirth was necessary in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:3-8 NIV)
Numerous times Jesus taught that those who enter the kingdom would be as little children (Luke 18:15-17).
Jesus taught many parables and illustrations to explain the nature of the kingdom of heaven. He makes it clear that becoming a citizen of the kingdom is no small decision. It requires complete and total devotion and commitment.
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:57-62 NIV)
The apostles were given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, to bind and loose on earth what was done in heaven (Matt. 16:16-20). After Jesus' ascension to heaven, the apostles and evangelists preached entrance into the kingdom as part of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31).
12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized...
(Acts 8:12-13a NIV)
Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians that they had been brought into the kingdom of heaven:
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Col. 1:9-14 NIV)
Expectations for the Kingdom Citizen
Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are expected to live lives worthy of that citizenship. GOD has called us to holiness, as imitators of Him. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:
16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
(Rom. 14:16-18 NIV)
On this side of eternity, suffering is promised to the kingdom citizen.
21 [Paul and Barnabas] preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
(Acts 14:21-22 NIV)
Jesus told His disciples to seek first the kingdom, as opposed to worrying about life's necessities, which GOD will provide. This means we must make Jesus' reign and rule in our heart and life the MOST IMPORTANT priority.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matt. 6:25-34 NIV)
Inheriting the Kingdom
Tim's Note 6/7/2014: My understanding of several of these passages and statements below has changed since this article was posted. The following content has been left as originally posted.
Another difference between the kingdom of heaven and kingdoms of earth is that the citizen of the kingdom of heaven doesn't receive their inheritance immediately. In this world, citizens of the kingdom of heaven are nomads and pilgrims, on their journey home. The righteous will receive our inheritance on the judgment day when Jesus returns.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
(Matt. 25:34 NIV)
Entrance to the kingdom doesn't come to the one who believes (only), but he that believes AND obeys (Matt. 7:21-23; Gal. 5:16-21). Regarding this point, Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians:
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
(1 Cor. 6:9-10 NIV)
Flesh and blood—that is, our physical bodies—cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. As a result, when Jesus returns on the judgment day, our bodies will be transformed into a spiritual body. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
(1 Cor. 15:50-53 NIV)
The End of Jesus' Rule
Jesus' kingdom will endure until the end of time (Luke 1:32-33; Heb. 1:8). Once Jesus has defeated all His enemies, then He will hand over the kingdom to GOD. This will occur at the judgment day (see Rev. 20:14-15).
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
(1 Cor. 15:20-28 NIV)