January 3, 2020 Who Enters the Kingdom? Part 2

Who Enters the Kingdom?

Part Two

January 3, 2021

 

 

We began to consider the beatitudes last time as we looked at our Lord’s famous Sermon on the Mount. In order to properly understand our Lord’s sermon we took note of a few things.

 

First, we saw that this sermon is for his disciples. It is not for the general crowd, although they will follow the disciples up the mountain and they will hear what he has to say. Because it is for his disciples, it is for us. Because we are also the Lord’s disciples.

 

Second, we saw that the theme of the sermon is entering the kingdom. Our Lord’s great message is how we need to think and live in order to enter the kingdom.

 

Third, we learned that the “kingdom of heaven” is not heaven. Rather, it is the earthly kingdom that the Lord will establish when he returns to the earth.

 

Fourth, we learned that not all genuine Christians will enter the kingdom that is coming. Only those who are poor in spirit will enter. And, only those who live by God’s will as revealed in this sermon, will enter. (Those followers of the Lord who fail to live by Christ’s words will be excluded from the kingdom and must wait until the New Heavens and the New Earth to be united with the Lord.)

 

If we keep these four truths in mind, we will better understand this marvelous and glorious sermon of our Lord.

 

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [1]

 

Our Lord uses these phrases interchangeably:

 

  • Possess the kingdom (5:3, 10)
  • Inherit the earth (5:5)
  • Enter the kingdom (5:20; 7:21)
  • Receive a reward (5:46; 6:1, 4, 6, 18)
  • Receiving treasures (6:20)

 

Only the meek will inherit the earth. Only the meek will enter the kingdom. To enter the kingdom age is to inherit the earth. For the Lord’s kingdom will cover the whole earth.

What does it mean to be meek? To be meek does not mean to be weak. We might have some strange ideas about what it means to be meek. It doesn’t mean to be like Pee-Wee Herman, a movie character who is both weak and effeminate. Neither does it mean that we allow people to take advantage of us.

 

It means at least three things.

 

It means that we do not retaliate when we are insulted. Our Lord explicitly teaches this principle later in this chapter:

 

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. [2]

 

See that it is an evil person who we are not to resist. Because these commands are so radical, some have tried to get around them by saying that these commands are only for a covenant community of God’s people, not for use in the world as we know it. So, some say, these commands are either for the church (within the church) or during the Millennium. But the words, “one who is evil,” sets aside those considerations. These commands are for us here and now, in the world.

 

If someone strikes us on the cheek, we are not to strike back? Do we not have the right to self defense? We do. A closer examination of these words reveals what is at stake. To slap on the right cheek means that, if the assailant were right-handed (which most people are), he would be slapping with the back of his right hand. This means both that it would not be a strong blow and that it was intended more for insult and dishonor rather than to cause harm. Thus, many have concluded that for assaults that do not harm (being spit upon, back-handed slaps, shoves, etc.) we should not retaliate, but simply take it. This seems to be the correct understanding of our Lord’s words. If someone truly means to cause us harm, we have the right to defend ourselves.

 

Being meek means that we do not retaliate when insulted. We take it.

 

Secondly, being meek means that we do not seek to conquer. We do not try to take over land, or treasure, or position, or power with an ambitious drive. If we can receive land, or treasure, or position, or power through the exercise of our gifts in a legitimate way then, of course, we are so permitted. But we must be on guard against both excessive ambition and the temptation to cheat to receive more things.

 

 

Thirdly, being meek means we do not assert our will upon others, especially those in our household or those with whom we are in a close relationship. This is a temptation that mainly afflicts men. There are exceptions, of course. There are domineering women, too.

 

Most of us, if not all of us, have a hidden desire to be lord. We know we cannot be lord of much. But we can be lord over a tiny domain, even if it is over just one other person. This is the opposite of meakness.

 

Being meek means that we do not demand compliance, nor even expect compliance, to our way of doing things. We allow others to live their life the way they wish. I am not referring to outright sin. Of course, if a person is pursuing a course of sin, we seek to persuade them to abandon such a pursuit and we lovingly explain why. I am referring to the many things that we wish to do and how we wish to do them that are merely preference. Then, by force of personality we seek to make someone else go along. That is the opposite of meekness.

 

I like old tv shows. I’m not exactly sure why I like them. Part of it may have to do with the memories I had of them when I watched them as a child. But, I know another reason is that the shows made in the 60’s and earlier were clean. There was no sex, no innuendos, and no bad language. One of the shows I like is The Saint. He is an adventurer who goes around the world righting wrongs. The character is played by Roger Moore, who later took the role of James Bond after Sean Connery was finished with it. In an episode that Genevieve and I recently watched, there was a smuggling enterprise in Germany run by a Freudian psychiatrist and his wife. They were smuggling stolen artwork by Rembrandt from Germany to the U.S. This psychiatrist controlled a beautiful lounge singer. By the force of his personality and psychological techniques he got her to make friends with sailors heading to the U.S. and then getting them to take a miniature painting sewn into their jacket lining for the sum of $10,000 (2,000 marks in the episode). The way he controlled this poor woman was absolutely antithetical to meekness. And, although this story is an extreme example of asserting one’s will over another person, one person often asserts their will upon another in relationships. The one who does will not inherit the kingdom.

 

So, meekness means not retaliating, not conquering, and not demanding our way. Those who are not meek will not enter the kingdom. I hope some are thinking, “I might be in trouble.” Yes! That is the purpose of our Lord’s words! To stimulate us to assess our own condition and to seek God’s face to change our heart!

 

Who will enter the kingdom? Only the meek!

 

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [3]

 

Our Lord is describing the kind of heart that is prepared to live in the next age. When he uses the phrase, “hunger and thirst,” he is putting light on the strength of the desire. We have all had times of great hunger. We know how strong the yearning for something to eat can be. We have had times of great thirst where there is nothing we want more than a cold drink.

 

A long time ago I went on a camping trip with a couple of friends in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was July and we were hiking back after two days in the wilderness. It was 92 degrees. We were at an elevation of about 8,000 feet and the air was extremely dry. I ran out of water. As we were coming down the mountain I was so thirsty. We came across some snow which still had not melted from the previous winter even though it was quite hot. Somebody had some Kool-Aid packets left. We made snow cones out of the snow and Kool-Aid. I tell you, that was the most refreshing snow cone I have ever had in my life! Thirst makes you appreciate water. And hunger makes you appreciate food, even food that you wouldn’t usually like.

 

Jesus is saying that our desire for righteousness ought to be like this. We desire both kinds of righteousness – the righteousness that is given to us as a gift (merited by Christ) and a practical righteousness (doing the right things as revealed through God’s word). However, it is the latter of which the Lord speaks.

 

Do we hunger and thirst for it? Of course, all disciples prefer righteousness over unrighteousness. The question is not whether we prefer it. Do we hunger and thirst for it? We can ask ourselves the question, “How do I spend my time?” Honestly answering this question will give us the answer whether we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

 

I believe all genuine Christians begin their walk with the Lord hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I know I did. But there were times in my journey that my thirst waned. I ran after other things for a while.

 

Listen! If we do not hunger and thirst for righteousness now, we will hunger and thirst for it when we are excluded from the kingdom. Now, we may barely notice our lack of thirst. But then, when we are outside the kingdom, our hunger and thirst will be a painful experience. I am warning you! Just as Jesus warned his disciples, I am warning all of you.

 

Our Lord’s warning comes up only a few verses later when he addresses anger:

 

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.[4]

 

This “hell of fire” to which our Lord refers is not the “lake of fire” that we see as the final destiny of those that refuse to bow the knee to our Lord. The lake of fire is permanent. Everyone who enters the lake of fire will never leave. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “hell.” The English word hell is an imprecise expression because it translates four different expressions in the original language.

 

Here, our Lord is using the word Gehenna. Gehenna was the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem where garbage was continually burning. It was an extremely undesirable place. Jesus taught that if his own disciples failed to deal with sin in their lives then they would be in a place that was comparable to the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. The spiritual Gehenna to which Jesus referred is a temporary place of suffering where Christ’s own people will learn not to sin. The temporary nature of this severe discipline is seen in verses 25 and 26:

 

25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [5]

 

You will be able to get out of Gehenna. No one will ever leave the lake of fire.

 

But do not let the temporariness of Gehenna give you much consolation. Because those who do not enter the kingdom will be there until the Millennium is over. And that will be a very long time!

 

This is why we must hunger and thirst for righteousness now. If we hunger and thirst now then we will not hunger and thirst in Gehenna.

 

Stimulate within yourself a hunger and thirst. How? First, ask the Lord for it. Be honest with him. Tell him that you once thirsted for righteousness but your thirst has waned. Ask him to make you thirsty once again. Second, don’t ignore the thirst you have. Don’t keep hiking down the mountain. Stop and drink the melted snow. Satisfy your thirst my drinking in God’s word. Set aside time every day to seek the face of God through the word of God.

 

Do you see what is at stake? The kingdom is at stake! Gehenna is at stake! Cultivate meekness and cultivate thirst!

 

Cultivate a poor spirit and win the prize! How do we cultivate it? By taking sin seriously and not ignoring it. Don’t live in a pretend world! Unbelievers live in a pretend world, by pretending that God winks at their sin. But, I tell you, there are some Christians like that also.

 

Face your sin. Tremble at his word. Enter the kingdom!

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:38–42). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:25–26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.