Weekly Devotional 10-30-23
What is Meant by “the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones answers: “Perhaps I can put it all finally in this concept. The truth is that the Christian and the non-Christian belong to two entirely different realms. Concerning the Christian you will notice the first Beatitude and the last Beatitude promise the same reward, ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ but what does this mean? Our Lord starts and ends with it because it is His way of saying that the first thing you have to realize about yourself is that you belong to a different kingdom. You are not only different in essence; you are living in two absolutely different worlds. You are in this world; but you are not of it. You are among those other people, yes; but you are citizens of another kingdom. This is the vital thing that is emphasized everywhere in this passage.
What is meant by this kingdom of heaven? Our Lord’s whole object here is to show that His kingdom is primarily a spiritual one. In other words, He says to them, ‘You must not think of this kingdom primarily as anything earthly; it is essentially spiritual. It belongs to the heavenly rather than to the earthly and human sphere.’ What is this kingdom then? It means, in its essence, Christ’s rule or the sphere and realm in which He is reigning. It should be considered in the following three (3) ways.
(1) Many times, when He was here in the days of His flesh, our Lord said that the Kingdom of Heaven was already present.
Wherever He was present and exercising authority, the kingdom of heaven was there. You remember how on one occasion, when they charged Him with casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, He showed them the utter folly of that, and then went on to say, ‘If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you’ (Matt. 12:28). Here is the kingdom of God, His authority, His reign was actually in practice.
Then there is His phrase when He said to the Pharisees, ‘the kingdom of God is within you’, or, ‘the kingdom of God is among you’. It was as though He were saying, ‘It is being manifest in your midst. Don’t say ‘look here’ or ‘look there’. Get rid of this materialistic view. I am here amongst you; I am doing things. It is here.’ Wherever the reign of Christ is being manifested, the kingdom of God is there.
(2) It also means that the Kingdom of God is present at this moment in all who are True Believers. The Roman Catholic Church has tended to identify this kingdom with the Church, but that is not right, because the Church contains a mixed multitude.
The Kingdom of God is Only Present in the Church in the Hearts of True believers, in the hearts of those who have submitted to Christ and in whom and among whom He reigns. Remember how the Apostle Paul puts it in writing to the Colossians he gives thanks to the Father, ‘Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son’ (Col. 1:13). The ‘kingdom of His dear Son’ is ‘the kingdom of God’, it is ‘the kingdom of heaven’, it is this new kingdom into which we have entered. In Philippians, Paul says, ‘Our citizenship is in heaven.’ We who recognize Christ as our Lord and in whose lives He is reigning and ruling at this moment, are in the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of heaven is in us. We have been translated into the ‘kingdom of His dear Son’; we have become a ‘kingdom of priests’.
(3) The third and last way of looking at the Kingdom is There is a Sense in Which It is Yet to Come. It has come; it is here in us now; and yet it is to come. It was here when He was exercising authority, it is here in us now; and yet it is to come. It will come when this rule and reign of Christ will be established over the whole world even in a physical and material sense. The day is coming when the kingdoms of this world will have become ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ’, when: ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun, Doth his successive journeys run; His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, Till moons shall wax and wane no more.’ It will then have come, completely and entirely, and everything will be under His dominion and sway. Evil and Satan will be entirely removed; there will be ‘new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’ (2 Pet. 3:13), and then the kingdom of heaven will have come in that material way. The spiritual and the material will become one in a sense, and all things will be subject to His sway, that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:10,11).
There, then, is the general account of the Christian which is given in the Beatitudes. Do you see how essentially different he is from the non-Christian? The vital questions which we therefore ask ourselves are these: Do we belong to this kingdom? Are we ruled by Christ? Is He our King and our Lord? Are we manifesting these qualities in our daily lives? It is a simple question. My immediate reaction to these Beatitudes proclaim exactly what I am. If I feel that they are harsh and hard, if I feel that they are against the grain and depict a character of life which I dislike, I am afraid it just means that I am not a Christian. If I do not want to be like this, I must be ‘dead in trespasses and sins’; I can never have received new life. But if I feel that I am unworthy and yet I want to be like that, well, however unworthy I may be, if this is my desire and my ambition, there must be life in me, I must be a child of God, I must be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and of God’s dear Son. Let every man examine himself.”
Excerpted from ‘Studies of the Sermons on the Mount’ by Martyn Lloyd Jones recorded on pages 30-32 of that work.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899-1 March 1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London.
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