The Kingdom of Heaven

Hell, Kingdom of God, Matthew

Sometimes people develop a mistaken notion of the Christian faith. They think of it as something that about only the future. In other words, it is all about “going to Heaven”.  That is to miss an important part of what it means to trust Christ. When you come to faith in Christ (when you trust Him to rescue you from your sin and brokenness) you step into and begin a journey in the Kingdom of God right now!

One of the greatest blessings about following Christ is eternal life. We will live forever in the place He has prepared for us. However, we are meant to prepare for that time and begin to enjoy what is coming right now.

This morning we look at three additional Kingdom parables in Matthew 13:44-52: the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, and the fishing net. From these parables, Jesus teaches important truths about God’s Kingdom. But first, let’s re-read the text.

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

47 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. 48 When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. 49 That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, 50 throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Do you understand all these things?”

“Yes,” they said, “we do.”

52 Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” [1]

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew talks about the Kingdom of Heaven while Mark and Luke speak of the “Kingdom of God”. They both mean the same thing. Matthew probably talked about the Kingdom of Heaven because he was writing to Jews who, out of respect, did not speak the name of God. The phrases Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used frequently (especially by Jesus).

But what does this phrase refer to? It refers to the divine turning point in history that began with the coming of Christ. It is the time when God came close and gave us the opportunity to be part of His family. We become a part of this Kingdom when we voluntarily accept the rule of God in our life and receive the forgiveness and new life offered by His Son, Jesus. When we do this, we break the power of Satan in our life and begin to serve under a new King. We move from the Kingdom of the world to the Kingdom of God!

Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom as he healed the blind, the lame, the deaf, and set prisoners free from the possession of the Devil. Jesus showed the Kingdom by proclaiming hope for the poor, comfort for the grieving, forgiveness for the broken (all of us). God’s Kingdom is about making all things new and restoring His world to its intended condition.

This Kingdom is only in its infancy at present but it is present. It will be in full bloom when Christ returns and takes His rightful place as Lord of all Creation. As we read in the parables preceding this: the Kingdom has already been planted and has started to grow. It may not seem very big but it will grow into something dominant and overwhelming

The Kingdom of Heaven the Greatest of Treasures

What is it that Jesus is teaching us about the Kingdom. Both people see the treasure as being the most valuable thing they could every obtain. They pursue it with all the energy and resources they have.

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

There are two people. One stumbles upon the treasure, the other seemed to be searching for it. It reveals that some find the grace of God by surprise. They go along in life quite content in their perceived goodness and one day hear and understand the gospel message. Suddenly, their life turns around. In this moment of realization, they see the beauty of the gospel and know this is something they need. It is something they realize they were looking for all their life . . . they just didn’t know it.

The other person was searching. Perhaps they knew there was a hole in their life. They examined other religions. They read the mystics. They tried all kinds of things and ended up empty. Then one day they heard and understood the message of the gospel: we are made new in Christ, but not because we were good and God is rewarding us. Such thinking will leave us always wondering if we have done enough. Instead God came to us knowing we were a mess. He loved us even though He saw the hidden decay and brokenness inside of us. A light goes on and they realize this message of astounding grace. They see that this is what they need and have been looking for all their life.

Think about it like love. One person is not looking for love and it sneaks up on them. They are “surprised by love.” Someone else was looking for someone to love and when they find that person they are elated. They came to love in different ways but they agree that this love is worth securing and guarding. True love ought not to be squandered.

In the science of economics, there is a theory known as the subjective theory of value. It teaches that the value of something is determined by the individual. In other words, two people will not value the same thing in the same way. You and I may value an automobile differently. If you value it more than I do, I will not buy your car. If I value it more I will jump at the chance to buy it.

The point of the parable is that being part of the Kingdom of Heaven should have a value that is greater than even family and freedom. This Kingdom is what we were created for. It brings meaning and purpose into our lives and life eternal in the next. We should be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to be part of this Kingdom.

We spend a good deal of our lives weighing the value of things. We make our decisions based on what we deem most valuable.

  • Is the work we do of more value than family time?
  • Are team obligations more important than church activities?
  • Is a new car, new home, or new whatever, as valuable to us as the price tag it carries?
  • Are politics of enough value that we discard friendships with those who disagree?
  • Is being “right” more important than being kind?
  • Is a college education at a prestigious university if it leaves us in massive debt?

We make these decisions all the time! We are constantly weighing value. The point Jesus is making is that the Kingdom of God is of the highest value. When we find the Kingdom we should recognize that NOTHING is more important than being right with God. That is the linchpin to everything else in life!

The Greatest Treasure is worth the Greatest Sacrifice

What would you do to save the life of your spouse or child? Would you run into a burning building? Would you give up pleasures to provide for your children? Would you sacrifice your life to save them? I suspect you would go to great lengths, great expense, and great sacrifice to save the life of those you love.

When our country is threatened, men and women sign up to serve in the military. They do this because they believe freedom is worth fighting for and defending . . . even with their lives. Jesus says this is how we should feel about the Kingdom!

According to the laws of the Rabbis, if a worker came across a buried treasure (which was not uncommon because of all the battles fought in the land), if you lifted the treasure out, it belonged to the person who owned the land. This laborer was wise, they did not lift the treasure out. Instead, he sold all he had and bought that tract of land so the treasure would be legally his.

Think about how this stands in contrast to the way approach faith in Christ. Think about how we relate to the Kingdom of God. People want something that is convenient, entertaining, fun. They want excitement, creativity and more. They want to be thrilled! They are not interested in a Christianity that requires sacrifice or that disrupts the status quo. Our faith can easily become focused on us rather than on the exceedingly great value of being part of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus is clearly saying, “those who understand the value of the Kingdom will endure anything or any cost to obtain this Kingdom. The value of God’s Kingdom is not in the good feeling it brings to us . . . it is in the way it brings us to the throne of God.

If you are not willing to make great sacrifices and alter your priorities to accommodate God’s Kingdom, then you have not rightly understood the value of this Kingdom.  He is the God who heals us. He is the One who forgives us and makes us new. He is the One that brings eternal purpose into our lives. Being part of the Kingdom does not help us enjoy life more . . . it IS life!

How valuable is the Kingdom of Heaven to you? What price are you willing to pay to live as a part of God’s Kingdom?

How We View the Treasure Will Determine our Eternal Destiny

47 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. 48 When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. 49 That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, 50 throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The picture in this parable is similar to the one about the wheat and the tares that we looked at last week. That parable taught us that there would be true believers and pretenders in the Church until the last day. This parable tells us what will happen to the tares, when they are sorted.

The picture is that of a dragnet sometimes drawn between two boats. You drop the net in the water and then you close the net and haul in your fish. This is when the fish are sorted between good and bad sea life; keepers and discards.

The picture is clear, those who are not part of the Kingdom will be cast away into “the fiery furnace. Where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This picture troubles people. They ask, “Will there be an actual fire that people are tossed into?” The answer is that this could very well be metaphorical, but if it is, Biblical metaphors always point to something that is at least as horrible as the metaphor itself. Whatever the punishment, it will be as devastating and painful as a literal fire.

Others ask, “What kind of God would send people to torture”? Before we address this question let me ask you: what punishment do you think is warranted for people who commit terrorist acts killing innocent people? What punishment is just for someone who traffics in the sexual exploitation of children? What kind of punishment is warranted for someone who is a brutal mass murderer? If Adolf Hitler had lived, what punishment do you think he should have gotten? Most of us would say such people deserve the harshest punishment. We feel even the death penalty is too good for some of these people.

So, when we complain that God will send people to the lake of fire we are saying the sins people commit against the Lord Almighty are not as great as those of the people we readily condemn. And that indicates we have no true concept of how offensive sin is to the Lord. We have rebelled against him throughout our lives by refusing to acknowledge His right to rule our lives. We have acted treasonously against His rule in the universe. We know the Law and willfully go against it. In a sense, we spit in His face. The just judge is not being unfair, cruel or mean by His judgment. We make a mistake when we think that the grace that God has extended to us shows that sin is not that bad.

But let’s change the lens on the camera and redefine this fire. Suppose this does not describe God actively torturing people. What if (and this is pure conjecture) those who die continue to live eternally. They live eternally but without His presence, influence, or blessing. The good gifts of God are gone. The pleasures from His hand . . .are gone. Love is gone. Peace and wholeness is gone. The restraint of God’s Law is gone. Instead of throwing us into an actual Lake of Fire He gives us just what we wanted: freedom from His authority and influence!

Now imagine you can still see the Kingdom of Heaven. You can hear the singing and the joy of eternal life with Christ. You catch a glimpse of the beauty that is outside your reach. You find yourself lonely and yearn for love or even friendship. How would you describe the deep regret you feel knowing that you had every opportunity to receive the grace of God and be part of this Kingdom but you pushed it aside? I am going to suggest that you might describe it as a regret that burns in your soul.

Think about the regret you feel if you played certain numbers every week in the lottery (I am not recommending such practices). The ONE week you do not play those numbers is the week it hits on millions of dollars in prize money. Would you regret not playing those numbers for the rest of your life?

Suppose you were given the chance to get in on the ground floor of a new company but you passed and that company became a multi-billion dollar corporation. You would spend the rest of your life mourning that you did not make a different choice.

How much more do you think you would regret passing on the gift of God: eternal life in Christ? Wouldn’t it be an ongoing agony? The point is: the lake of fire could be literal or could describe something tortuous inside those who spurn the Lord.

Conclusions

I think we can draw at least two conclusions. First, we should see God’s Kingdom as the treasure that it is. Instead of seeing our Christian commitment as another obligation, we need to see it for what it is: a tremendous privilege and gift.

Despite our sinful rebellion, we have been loved by God; Forgiven by grace; Inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and granted a new life that will have no end. There is nothing in this world that can even get close to the shadow of such a treasure!

Jesus is pleading with people to not settle for being merely religious. He calls us to count the cost and decide that such a Kingdom is worth the sacrifice. The Kingdom of Heaven calls us to re-allocate our energy and realign our priorities.

We are called to embrace a genuine and life-changing relationship with God and not settle for the counterfeit to this relationship produced by our efforts, gimmicks and programs. Living in the Kingdom of Heaven is trusting God’s wisdom and character as He leads our lives.

Second, we should confidently, boldly, and urgently, proclaim the Kingdom to everyone who will listen. We need to attack the notion that the Kingdom of Heaven is merely about where we go when we die. It is our duty to urge people to see the blessing of living in the Kingdom of Heaven starting right now. Our job is to describe the treasure of living life in Him and invite others to discover the beauty of that treasure for themselves.

Jesus showed us that the most important decision we will ever make is the decision of whether we will be part of the Kingdom of Heaven or remain outside that Kingdom . . . perhaps forever. We must decide between: His Kingdom and ours; The River of life or the Lake of Fire; The Kingdom of Heaven or the gods of our imagination; Life or death. This is no “little” decision. It will matter . . . forever.

 

[1] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mt 13:44–52.

Scripture:

Matthew 13:44-52