We continue the study of Matthew 5:3 by looking at the words kingdom of heaven. Previously, we saw how depraved sinful men and women fell into the pit of spiritual death. Their lives were controlled by pride, self-indulgent desires, and a powerful spirit of independence that constantly rebelled against God. They fell because of their iniquity. All of their strategies for managing their lives to achieve happiness and prosperity have failed. They are miserable, lost, and alone. From the depth of the mud filled pit, they wallow in the slime of their own selfishness. They try and try and try again to climb out of the pit that binds them, but it is impossible. Many will ultimately die in the pit unless they undergo a change of mind.
Some will lay in the filth of the pit and harden their hearts by consciously hating God for their predicament, and others will harden their hearts by blaming other people for their imprisonment. But the fortunate ones will turn their attention away from hate and blame, look at themselves and realize that they are responsible for the grave that confines them. They will not harden their hearts, but will experience humility. They will realize that it was their pride that drove them into the pit. They will begin to see in part that they are being held captive by their own worldly beliefs and attitudes. They will begin to see their own sin and be disgusted. In short, they will have their first experience with humility.
A humble person will be able to divert his or her attention from self-preoccupation and look up to the edge of the pit. They will experience helplessness and begin to recognize that there must be something or someone that is stronger than them. From the depth of complete hopelessness, they will see that there is someone standing at the edge of the pit looking down at them. This person is not laughing at their situation or cursing them, but they see compassion in the eyes of the one who is looking down at them. It is Jesus, the only begotten son of God the Father, who stands at the top of the pit and offers His hand to those who believe that He is the son of God and who are willing to repent for their sins.
Jesus will reach down into the pit and grab the filthy hand of the sinner who repents and believes. He stands at the edge of the pit for all who are trapped, but many will refuse to be humbled and to look up. Many will stay lost and forsaken in their hatred and sin. But the few, who give their life and their hand to Jesus, will be given a new heart and a new life. Their sins will be forgiven, and they will be cleansed of their iniquity. Those who reach up and grab the hand of Jesus will be given a new life and a new home. Their new home is called the kingdom of heaven.
The born again believer still has a physical body and still occupies space on the physical earth, but something fundamental has changed. In the past, heaven was far away, but now the presence of the King and His heavenly kingdom begin to be real. When they leave this earth, they will experience the fullness of God and heaven, but their new status enables them to have a partial consciousness of God and the heavenly realm that He occupies. This consciousness is a personal inner awareness of the Holy Spirit who is living within them. For the first time, the person is not alone. He or she has the Holy Spirit of God who is ready to help the person grow and mature into an adult Christian.
The maturation of a Christian does not happen all at once, but over the remainder of the person’s life on the physical earth. The Holy Spirit helps us replace our independent spirit with a spirit of submission and service. We learn to submit to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In doing so, we learn to live quietly and peacefully in the kingdom of God. We learn to seek God’s truth together through scripture, to focus on our ongoing need for sanctification, and to help others with their sanctification. When necessary we speak out against false teaching and false teachers who deliver a non-biblical gospel. We also begin to hear the voice of God who speaks to us in our hearts, calling us to be witnesses for His glory. We begin to have a heart for those who are still trapped in the pit and we desire to give them the good news that they do not have to stay there until they die. However, we cannot help those who are still trapped in the pit unless we have truly been pulled from the pit by Jesus and have a testimony that brings glory to God. If we don’t have a personal understanding of how the power of God has saved us from certain destruction in hell, and we cannot describe that power, then we will be ineffective at helping others who are still in the pit. We must be able to show those in the pit that it was God’s power that pulled us out of the pit, and He can do the same for them.
Sadly, there are many in the pit who believe that if they acknowledge that God exists, and stand upright in the pit while a passing rainstorm washes away their coating of slime and filth, then they are Christians. This is a delusion. We must meet the condition that scripture gives us, which is repentance for all known sins and to believe that Jesus is the son of God. When this is done, Jesus will forgive our sins and pull us out of the pit. From that day forth, we are called to live a lifestyle of repentance and to seek to be sanctified every day. The ongoing work of repentance and sanctification leads us into an ever deepening experience of the kingdom of heaven and our God who has given us eternal life.
In this study, we will learn more about the kingdom of heaven. We will learn how man’s relationship to God and heaven have been changed by the death and resurrection of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit who has been sent to comfort, counsel, and lead us into righteousness. In an earlier lesson, I stated that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God refer to the same kingdom, and this is true, however, we should not assume that Matthew did not have a specific purpose for using the expression kingdom of heaven. As we follow the journey through the following scriptures, it will become clear that Matthew’s use of the words kingdom of heaven describes a dramatic change that Jesus brought to the Earth. We will begin by looking at scriptures that establish facts about heaven.
First, God created heaven.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Genesis 1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
Genesis 1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
Genesis 1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
The next scriptures describe God’s activities in heaven and man’s relationship to heaven.
Angels speak from heaven.
Genesis 22:11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
God expresses His commitment through an image of heaven.
Genesis 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
The dew of heaven is a blessing from God.
Genesis 27:28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
Heaven is a long way from the earth. Even the angels have to climb a great height to reach it. When heaven came close to earth, Jacob experienced fear and dread.
Genesis 28:12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. 16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Blessings of heaven come from the almighty God.
Genesis 49:22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: 23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: 24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) 25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: 26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
Bread comes from heaven to sustain the life of men.
Exodus 16:4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
God engages people in conversation from His place in heaven.
Exodus 20:22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
Heaven is called as a witness in matters of truth regarding blessings and curses.
Deuteronomy 4:26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
God casts down stones from heaven.
Joshua 10:11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.
God sits on His throne in heaven surrounded by heavenly hosts.
1 Kings 22:19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
Elijah was taken up to heaven at the end of His life.
2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
God hears our prayers in heaven when we speak them on Earth.
2 Chronicles 6:39 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee.
People raised their arms toward heaven and prayed.
1 Kings 8:54 And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
God sends down fire from heaven, and He displays His glory to those who give Him heartfelt sacrifices.
2 Chronicles 7:1 Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.
From heaven, God rules over all the heathen throughout the Earth.
2 Chronicles 20:6 And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
People cry out to God in heaven during times of great tribulation.
2 Chronicals 32:20 And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.
God looks down from heaven and examines the hearts of men and women.
Psalm 14:2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
God is not confined in heaven, but His glory goes far beyond.
Psalm 113:4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
God covers heaven and uses it for many purposes.
Psalm 147:8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
Lightening, rain, and wind come from the hand of God in heaven.
Jeramiah 51:16 When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
Even heaven will be shaken by the wrath of God against man.
Isaiah 13:13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.
The evil one fell from heaven.
Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
God is forever. Even heaven will pass away, but God’s righteousness will never end.
Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
God is provoked by the worship of false gods who claim to live in heaven.
Jeramiah 7:18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
Sometimes God opens the heavens so that people can have visions of God.
Ezekiel 1:1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
Jesus Brought the Kingdom of Heaven Down to the Earth
Throughout the times of the Old Testament, heaven remained far off. At best, people had a vision of God or heard His voice, but the realm of man and the realm of God were separated by the vast openness of the sky. They could see and believe that heaven existed, but they could not touch it.
Jesus brought heaven to Earth. He brought the untouchable realm of heaven down to dwell among men and women upon the earth. He opened the door to heaven and made it visible for all who would be born of the Spirit.
John the Baptist announced the impending arrival of heaven on Earth.
Matthew 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The heavens opened before Jesus and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus.
Matthew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
From the open heaven, God the father proclaimed that Jesus was His beloved son.
Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Jesus proclaimed the new reality that Heaven was no longer far away, but was among men.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The Kingdom of Heaven is a Blessing that is Given to the Poor in spirit
The kingdom of heaven became a reality when its king came down to Earth and dwelt among men and women. We enter into that kingdom when we become humble, repent, and believe. For the true Christian, heaven is no longer just a distant imagination or a longing in the soul, but a powerful blessing that is possessed by Christians. The blessing is experienced by those who have been translated from the earthly kingdom of Satan into the heavenly kingdom of God.
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In The Old Testament time before the ministry of Jesus on earth, heaven was far away. People could look up into the sky and see the visible heaven, but they could not see the higher realms of heaven where God’s throne was situated. From time to time special people were given visions of heaven, but for the average person, they were expected to live by faith and not by first hand experiences and visions of heaven. The Spirit of God would sometimes fall upon a person and the person would do great deeds for the people of Israel, and then the Spirit would withdraw again. The Spirit would withdraw when the hearts of the people turned toward false gods and their minds would be filled with visions given to them by Satan. We see this pattern throughout the Book of Judges.
Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
In The Old Testament era, we know that a house was built for God by Solomon, and God’s presence filled the holy of holies that was the innermost chamber of the building. Today, God’s dwelling place is in the Christian. Each Christian is a temple of God. God does not dwell in our church buildings, but in the hearts, minds, and the will of those who are led by the Spirit of God.
Those who seek God’s ongoing pruning and purification will be blessed. Those who participate in the process of ongoing repentance and sanctification will be blessed by receiving a personal experience of the king and His kingdom. Those who are blessed in this way will have true Christian unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. They will humbly receive biblically based correction when it offered by brothers and sisters, and will offer the same to others. Repentance is one of the key activities that brings unity to the Body of Christ. Without it, we will never experience the power and peace that is part of the kingdom of heaven. Without on-going repentance, our encounters with the King will be sporadic and distant, and our relationships with brothers and sisters will remain impersonal.
The kingdom of heaven is a blessing that is given by God to those who have been humbled by the pit. This blessing is only given to those who have been broken to such an extent that they are truly poor in spirit. This means they have no spiritual resources left within themselves and they know it. They receive the blessing of the kingdom of heaven when they repented and believed. They will continue to experience the blessing of the King on a daily basis through living in association with other true believers. Their awareness of the King and His kingdom will be enriched and deepened every time they repent and seek to live with greater righteousness. Their unity in the Body of Christ will be enriched by each brother or sister who embraces the goal of becoming more Christ-like by repenting. Repentance makes us more Christ-like and makes us into an increasingly pure and spotless sacrifice, which is suitable to be placed upon God’s holy altar (Romans 12:1-2).
It will be the scriptures and the Holy Spirit that guide us in the work of sanctification. It will be our work to become sanctified. God does not do this for us. It will be the hands and feet and hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ who help us in this great work. It is our willingness to be sanctified, and the willingness of the family of God to help one another become holy as He is holy, which brings glory to God.
I pray that each person who reads this will receive greater willingness to be sanctified, to become more righteous, and to become a glorious blessing to God and a blessing to all in the Body of Christ who are willing to lay down the sinful patterns in their lives and to bring glory to God by their obedience to scripture.
We cannot hide behind the false teaching that is commonly spoken in many church buildings, “God loves me just the way I am.” God does not love sin. If you or I have known sins that we cling to and which we refuse to give up, then we brings disgrace to God. We weaken the Body of Christ, and we are an obstacle to true fellowship.
If the Holy Spirit brings to mind your sin, or you recall the comments that others have made to you concerning your sin, then I pray that you will use this opportunity to repent. Tell God that you are willing to turn from this sin, to forsake it, to hate it, and that you want to have a new way. Ask to be forgiven and to be given strength to not return to the sin. Keep asking for the strength to resist temptation in this area until you have victory. Pray that the Holy Spirit and your brothers and sisters in Christ will help you in this work to uncover related sins that might cause you to slip back into the sinful patterns of the past.
I pray that in the days and weeks and years to come, that you will be blessed by a personal encounter with the King and the kingdom of heaven. I pray that you will be able to share God’s goodness with others, and be used by God to pull others from the pit. I pray that your work of sanctification and your reaching out to the lost will bring glory to God and will strengthen the Body of Christ.