The Kingdom of Heaven — The Kingdom of God
The Gospel of the Kingdom, i.e. the Good News of the Kingdom, and how to enter it was proclaimed by John the Baptizer, Jesus, Peter, and Paul. There is only one gospel. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and it is also the Gospel of Grace.
Mark wrote that the message proclaimed by John the Baptizer was the very beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way;
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forsaking of sins.
Some think “repentance” means “remorse”. Not so. The Greek word “μετανοια” literally means “a mind change.” To repent is to have a change of heart and mind, to turn around and change the direction in which one is going.
The Gospel According to John the Baptizer
According to John the Baptizer, there were two requirements necessary to become a member of the Kingdom:
1.Repent ie. Have a change of mind and heart.
2. Be baptized. The purpose of baptism was the affirmation of one’s decision, the entrance into the door of salvation, and the beginning of the process of salvation from sin, and thus the bearing of fruit that is worthy of repentance. I think of baptism as a bit like signing a contract.
The Gospel According to Jesus
Matt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
(Matthew 24:33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.)
John 4:1-3 Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
Jesus proclaimed the same requirements!
- Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14,15)*
To be a member of the kingdom, one must be a disciple of Christ. Jesus said, that in order to be His disciple, one must die to the self life, and become alive in Christ.
Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who discounts his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24,25
The Gospel According to Peter
After Peter had addressed the men of Judea, showing that God had raised Jesus from death, and that they had crucified Him, the following exchange took place:
“… Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forsaking of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
What were Peter’s requirements to appropriate the benefits of gospel? Repent and be baptized! The only difference was that now that Jesus had been raised, the gift of His Spirit was given. Yet, even prior to this, Jesus, before sending out his disciples, breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” But it seemed that that was only for the occasion of their ministry. After that special day of Pentecost, the Spirit was given to remain in the disciples.
The Gospel According to Paul
Acts 28:30,31 And he lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered.
But did Paul declare the necessity of repentance, as did John the Baptizer, Jesus, and Peter? Or did he teach that all that is necessary is to believe in the atoning work of Christ? In explaining to King Agrippa his experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus he concluded by saying,
Acts 26:19,20 "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent [have a change of heart and mind] and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.
Does Paul’s gospel not resemble that proclaimed by John the baptizer?
Yes, Paul preached repentance, and doing deeds worthy of repentance. But did Paul proclaim the necessity of baptism? We read:
Acts 18: 8 …many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
It was after they heard Paul that they were baptized. The necessity of baptism must have been implicit or explicit in Paul’s message. Otherwise, why would they get baptized? So Paul’s gospel not only “resembled” that of John the Baptizer. It was identical!
But is baptism really necessary in order to get right with God? Let’s look at the life of Paul himself. When were his sins washed away? Was it on the road to Damascus when Jesus spoke to him, and he submitted? That experience certainly turned him around. He was blinded, and was then ready to do what the Lord Jesus told him to do. But later, it was Ananias who counseled him to be baptized. From Paul’s own account of the matter, Ananias said:
Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.
So it was not when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, but at his baptism that Paul had his sins washed away.
*John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I tell you, unless one is generated of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Although there is much controversy about the meaning of “generated of water”, many understand it to be baptism. This view is consistent with Justin Martyr’s explanation of the ways of Christians to Augustus Caesar and to his son. Justin was born in 110 A.D. In chapter 61 of Justin’s “First Apology”, we find his explanation of Christian baptism.
I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God having been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them.
Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated… For Christ also said, “Except ye be generated again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”… And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Isaiah the prophet… he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if ye refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”…that he may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be regenerated, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe…”
What About John 3:16 and Acts 16:29-31…?
Acts 16:29-31 And he (the Philippian jailer) called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, “Men, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Do these passages contradict the requirements Jesus and Peter gave for becoming right with God? Do they require something less to be saved? So often today, we hear that all you have to do to get right with God is “accept Christ as your personal saviour”. That’s a phrase we don’t find in any New Testament or early Christian writing. Or all you have to do is pray “God be merciful to me a sinner” , or “I realize I’m a sinner, Jesus, and that you died to save me. I hereby accept your finished work to make me fit for heaven.” Or some other such prayer.
I recall a woman from my local area who affirmed that she would not become a Christian, because she just didn’t want to have to come to the front of a church and weep and cry. Some time later, she told me that she found out from her Christian friend that a person doesn’t have to come forward, weeping and crying. “All you have to do,” she explained, “is say a little prayer, and you’ll be a Christian.” That’s the way the woman understood the “gospel” which was presented to her. One wonders how many people have “said the little prayer” and remained unchanged, but are under the delusion that they are now “saved”, that they can go on living their lives as usual, but with the expectation that they’ll go to heaven when they die, or when they are raised again to life.
So, it is said, that all we have to do is believe in Jesus. However, the whole crux of the matter lies in that little word “πιστευω” which has been translated “believe”. Indeed, the word does mean “believe” in many contexts. But another meaning is given in John’s account of Jesus’ life:
*John 2:23-25 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. *
Is not “entrust” also the way the word is used in John 3:16 and Acts 16:29-31? If we entrust ourselves to Jesus, this includes repentance and baptism.
Luke 13:5 I tell you … unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
John 3:5 Jesus responded, "Truly, truly, I tell you, unless one is generated of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Back to the Kingdom. Has the Kingdom of God already come? Or must we await a future coming?
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; “nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” NKJV
How was that Kingdom within the Pharisees? A kingdom consists of a king and his subjects. Well the King and His subjects were standing right there in the midst of the Pharisees. Jesus was the King, and His disciples were the subjects. That’s how the Kingdom of God was within the Pharisees. Some think Jesus meant the kingdom was within their hearts. But surely the kingdom was not within the Pharisees’ hearts! Yet Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God is within you."
Matthew 23:13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.
So clearly Jesus indicated that the Pharisees COULD have entered the Kingdom of Heaven right then and there, but WOULD not.
Jesus’ Kingdom Parables
Entering the Kingdom
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.Matt 13:44-46
When a person recognized the exceeding value of the Kingdom, and the quintessence of entering it, he will gladly let go of all of his own aims and ambitions for the sake of the Kingdom.
The Growth of the Kingdom
*Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Matt 13:31-33*
The Purification of the Kingdom at Christ’s Coming (The Fulness of the Kingdom)
Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the darnel appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it darnel?’
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the darnel you root up the wheat along with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the darnel first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matt 13:24-30
Jesus Himself explained this parable:
*Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the darnel of the field.”
He answered, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the darnel are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.
Just as the darnel are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.*