Monday we discussed Jesus’ first words. Tuesday we talked about Jesus’ first miracle. Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ first message.
It was only eight words. Here it is:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. (Matthew 4:17)
We discussed the first word here. Today we’ll look at the other seven.
The phrase “kingdom of heaven” appears a whopping 31 times in Matthew alone. But what does it mean exactly?
If you look at the whole Bible, the kingdom of heaven can be seen in three phases:
- The kingdom was prophesied. Over and over Daniel, Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets foretold that God would establish a kingdom that would never ever end (Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14, Jeremiah 23:5-6).
- The kingdom is near. John the Baptist, Jesus and the Disciples all described the kingdom of heaven as being “near” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). Jesus came to earth, died for us and then rose again to be with the Father. But we’re still here. So our present reality is a sort of “now but not yet” kingdom. Jesus rules the hearts of all who acknowledge him as king but he hasn’t booted Satan off the planet yet.
- The kingdom will be eternal. Jesus will come again, conquer Satan once and for all and give us “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).
The kingdom of heaven was one of Jesus’ favorite topics. Here’s a mere sampling of what he said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11)
Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)
Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)
It is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:23)
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, even that focused squarely on the kingdom. Pray through it right now with all your heart, soul and mind:
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today
our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have
forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Want to go even deeper? Meditate on Jesus’ kingdom parables:
- Weeds (Matthew 13:24-29)
- Mustard Seed and Yeast (Matthew 13:31-33)
- Treasure, Pearl and Net (Matthew 13:44-52)
- Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
- Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14)
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