ENTERING INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
When the time comes, exactly who will actually enter into the kingdom of God?
Jesus clearly defines, in the gospels, that there are those who think they are heaven bound but don’t have, or even come close to what they think they have.
God tells us in Jeremiah 17:10 “I the Lord searches the heart, tries the reins and gives to every man according to his ways and the fruit of his doings.” In other words, God knows our hearts, our intents, and ‘tests’ us to see if we are true and when we are, the fruit of our labor will bear it out.
And Jesus comments, in part, in Luke 15:16 “You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts …”
God knows our hearts! He know our thoughts and what we need, even before we ask (Matt. 6:8). ‘Nuff said?
OK. God knows our hearts, but let’s take a look at some passages that show that what is in man’s heart is reflected by his actions.
This passage starts out with Jesus declaring “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the kingdom of God”. Many will say “haven’t we prophesied, cast out devils in your name and done many wonderful works? And Jesus will reply to them “I never knew you, you who work in iniquity.”
Seemingly harsh words but Jesus goes on to say “The man who hears my sayings and does them, I will compare to the wise man who built his house upon a rock.
Jesus goes on to speak the parable which compares the man who built his house upon a rock and the man who built his house upon the sand. Obviously, the man who built his house upon the sand had no real foundation (in his life) so when troubles came, his house fell. But the man who built upon the ‘rock’ withstood tribulation because his heart was wise in the Lord.
This is like the man who does all the right things to look like he’s saved, gone through all the right motions, but he has no real love for the Lord. He has no true foundation in his life. Only the actions he ‘performs’. Consider Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:5-24) who was among the crowd in Samaria where Philip preached. Peter and John came up to lay hands on the believers (of whom Simon was one) that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Simon, seeing that by the laying on of hands brought this about, thought he could purchase this power but Peter told him (among other things) that his money would perish with him unless he repented the idea. Simon said the right things, did the right things but he didn’t really understand. His heart was still far from God.
Verse 32 says the king gathered from all nations and separated them, one from another as one would separate sheep from goats. Having welcomed the sheep into the kingdom of God, the goats were put on the left hand and the kings says
“Depart from me you who are accursed into the everlasting fires which is prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Whoa! The king gathered all those who were dwelling in His kingdom and says this to the goats? Isn’t that discrimination! Read on.
The king goes on to tell them that when he was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in jail they (the goats) did NOT minister to him. Just like the priest and the Levite in the ‘Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:30-36) who bypassed the man who was robbed and beaten as he lay on the roadside.
Jesus goes on to tell the goats “Because you did not do it to the least of these (children in the kingdom of God), you did not do it to me.”
James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:20). As James explains to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (James 1:1), we show our faith by ministering to others (especially God’s children), otherwise our ‘faith’ has no witness and it is self-contained and people don’t see our witness because we ‘do’ nothing to show them. Ergo, our faith is effectively – dead. In the goats, Jesus tells us that the goats did nothing to show their faith and in this it wasn’t because their faith was dormant, it truly just plain wasn’t really there – they didn’t know Jesus – at all. Not really, even though they were ‘in church’, they were just ‘bench warmers’!
Jesus expects us to minister to those whom He puts before us.
Jesus becomes a bit more blunt in speaking to the scribes and Pharisees. These men knew the law, but they worked the law to their own advantage. But Jesus told them that they stole from their parents, justifying the act because it brought them personal gain.
Jesus reminded them of Isaiah’s prophecy “The people draw near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
A people who praise God and say all the right things but their heart has no clue who He is. Everything is done for personal glory and for show. Look at me! Look at how great I am! They like the best seats in the church and all the praise for what little they actually do (Luke 20:46-47) While they cheat people ‘blind’.
All show and no go and for what? So people will glorify them. Who should get the glory? (Rom. 11:36), God!
And these people think that they are heaven bound because they say and do all the right things.
Ten virgins were awaiting the bridegroom. All took oil IN their lamps, but only five took extra. As they all slept, the call came out “The bridegroom is coming!” and they all woke up. Five trimmed their lamps with the extra oil they had and those lamps kept burning brightly but the other five found that their lamps had gone out and they had no oil with which to relight them. They tried to borrow oil from the five who were ready to relight their lamps but were denied. Again a seemingly harsh move by the five ‘wise’ virgins but look at verse nine “… no, unless there is not enough for us and you …”. In other words, if we loan you oil none of us may have enough light to go out and greet the bridegroom.
The five foolish virgins went out and bought more oil but by the time they returned home, the prince had already come and returned to His home with the five wise virgins. And what happens in verse twelve with the five foolish virgins when they came and knocked on the bridegroom’s door (yes, they knew where he lived)? They asked to be let in and he said “truly, I don’t know you.”
The five foolish virgins assumed their oil would last until the bridegroom came and, apparently, didn’t bother to check their levels before going to bed so they might replenish the oil in plenty of time, if necessary. They weren’t prepared when the call came out that the bridegroom was on his way.
The man who built his house upon the rock might be likened to a person who goes into a church founded and based in our Lord, Jesus Christ. The man who built his house on the sand may be likened to a person who goes into a church which does not preach and teach the resurrected son of God, Jesus, neither does he search to find out for himself, but leaned on his own understanding. And when the test came his house fell.
The goats discover that all they were doing was ‘putting in time’ in the church they attended because they didn’t put into practice what God teaches us thereby exposing a heart not truly committed to Jesus.
The scribes and the Pharisees represent those who are in the church, have no clue who Jesus really is and do things solely for personal recognition.
The virgins? Do we toe the line and make sure we are always prepared to be received by Jesus? Living for Him? Doing for Him? Or do we expose the true feelings of our heart and figure that there is always time to get things right before He returns to take us home? Or do we run the race as if we expect to win it (1 Corinth. 9:24)?
In each of these examples, they all ‘knew’ that their eternity was secure but discovered that God looks at our hearts and just as Isaiah said – they say and do all the right things, but their hearts never took time to know Me, so they missed the mark.
So how do we make sure that we are on the right track?
The bible tells us that we are Jesus’ brothers (and sisters) (Romans 8:29) and in Luke, Jesus clearly defines who His relatives are “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and DO IT.”
Just hearing the Word isn’t enough. Even knowing scripture forward and backward isn’t enough. Jesus expects us to be true witnesses for Him (Matt. 28:19-20).
The gospel of John, chapters fourteen, fifteen, sixteen and seventeen talk about our brotherhood with Jesus, how we can and should be one with the Father through Him. The scribes and Pharisees were proof positive that it takes more than ‘just’ knowing about Jesus (or scripture) to gain entrance into the kingdom of God. Remembering Paul when he declared that he was a Pharisee among Pharisees (Acts 23:6, Phil. 3:5), he knew the law but didn’t attain salvation until he learned to live it through Jesus Christ.
We, as Christians, have to live for Jesus, with Him and in Him. Jesus wants us to be one with Him as He is with the Father so we all can be one (John 17:21). When this is our goal in our relationship with Jesus and we pursue it, the rest will fall into place – as we grow.
Let us not be slack in our walk with Jesus, but diligent, giving our hearts to Him, totally, so when we stand before Him (2 Corinth. 5:10), we will hear “… Well done, good and faithful servant …” (Matt. 25:21) because our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:12-15, Rev. 21:23-27).