Prerequisites to Seeing the Kingdom
When a person encounters the Kingdom of God, he or she is commanded to repent
. Jesus said, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
(Matthew 4:17). What does it mean to repent? Literally, it means to change the mind
Our natural minds
cannot receive the Kingdom of God because "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be"
(Romans 8:7). Unless we repent, our natural minds will reject the Word of the Kingdom, thus preventing the seed of the Word from entering our hearts and taking root
(see the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13). Therefore, Jesus commanded that we change our way of thinking
so we can believe
After a person repents and believes the Gospel, the Holy Spirit
will enlighten that person's heart to the reality of the Kingdom of God. In addition, the Holy Spirit will perform a supernatural work of spiritual rebirth
within that person. This is absolutely essential, for Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
And, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God"
We can neither enter God's Kingdom with fleshly bodies (I Corinthians 15:50), nor can we grasp heavenly realities with human reasoning. Our lives, hearts, and minds must be radically transformed by God's Spirit.
As the Holy Spirit renews our minds (Romans 12:2) and teaches us God's truth (I John 2:27), we are to walk in obedience
to the Lord and line up our beliefs with the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit's work will involve the following changes:
- A change in allegiance — Jesus Christ is the King of His Kingdom (John 18:37), so He becomes our Lord and Master when we are transferred under His kingly rule. No longer do we serve ourselves and live after the desires of our flesh. As our King, Jesus now receives our loyalty, honor, and obedience. The Bible says that the Father "hath delivered us from the power of darkness [Satan], and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son"
- A change in priorities — As citizens of the Kingdom, we do not need to be anxious about our lives; even basic necessities are secondary to seeking first the priorities of the Kingdom. Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Paul told Timothy, "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (I Timothy 6:6-8).
- A change in values — The standards and principles of God's Kingdom are very different from those of the kingdom of darkness (see Matthew 23:1-12). Instead of esteeming worldly prosperity, self-image, education, success, and independence, we now value what matters to the King: heavenly treasures, a pure heart, the wisdom of God, servanthood, and total dependence upon the Holy Spirit. "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, 'Be ye holy; for I am holy'" (I Peter 1:14-16).
- A change in purpose — Some people are driven to achieve their own goals while others live aimlessly with no direction. But Jesus' disciples are to live with divine purpose and make decisions based upon God's direction. Our prayer should be, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). We are called to live as strangers and pilgrims in this present world (I Peter 2:11), not living for temporal, momentary pleasures but rather seeking a heavenly inheritance with Christ in God's eternal Kingdom.
Truly, following Jesus and seeking first His Kingdom is the journey
of a lifetime. Yet be forewarned: "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God"
(Luke 9:62). Like searching for a single pearl of great price
, obtaining the Kingdom of God may very well cost you everything else.
Parables of the Kingdom
Let's begin our Kingdom quest by studying some of Jesus' parables. Parables
are short, allegorical stories designed to teach or illustrate profound spiritual concepts
. When Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God, He almost always spoke in parables. "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them"
Why did Jesus teach in parables? Well, so His followers would be enlightened to the mysteries of the Kingdom
but those who did not have ears to hear would not. Jesus told His disciples, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand"
(Luke 8:10). After the crowds had gone home, Jesus often explained the parables to His disciples so they would understand the spiritual significance (Matthew 13:36).
Matthew 13 relates eight parables
which help define the Kingdom of God.
- Sower, Seed, and Soils (Matthew 13:3-23; also see Mark 4 and Luke 8) — The seed is the "word of the kingdom." Jesus identified four types of soils upon which the seed is cast, each representing the heart conditions of people. Only the soil which allowed the seed to take deep root yielded a fruitful harvest.
- Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43) — The field represents the world in which God (the Farmer) sows His seed. The enemy, however, sows tares (which resemble wheat but the grains are black and inedible) into the same field. The Farmer is aware of the enemy's wicked act but allows the wheat and tares to grow together until the harvest, at which time His servants bring the wheat (children of the Kingdom) into the barn and bind the tares (children of the wicked one) to burn them.
- Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32) — A mustard seed is the "least of all seeds" but when it is grown it is the "greatest among herbs." Similarly, the Kingdom of God begins small (with the seed of the Word) but it becomes a Kingdom which surpasses all other kingdoms (Daniel 2:44).
- Leaven (Matthew 13:33) — Just as a little leaven (yeast) spreads through a whole batch of bread dough, the Kingdom of God works quietly but effectively in the hearts of people, influencing lives and spreading truth.
- Buried Treasure (Matthew 13:44) — God's Kingdom is like a buried treasure, worth the exchange of everything a person owns. A secondary interpretation of this parable is that Jesus laid down everything He owned (Philippians 2:6-8) in order to take upon Himself the nature of men. The great cost of Jesus' sacrifice was worth the treasure hid in the field, which is His inheritance (see Ephesians 1:18).
- Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46) — Again, the Kingdom of God is like one priceless pearl, worth the exchange of everything else. God's Kingdom is the most important thing a person can obtain.
- Large Net (Matthew 13:47-50) — Just as a fish net brings in all kinds of fish, both good and bad, the Kingdom of God brings in all kinds of people. The warning, however, is that a day of reckoning is coming in which those who accept the kingdom will be separated from those who reject it.
- Householder's Treasury (Matthew 13:52) — A disciple of Jesus who is instructed in the ways of God's Kingdom is like the head of a household who brings both old and new treasures out of his treasury (that is, Old and New Testament wisdom out of the Scriptures).
In these parables, Jesus used lessons from ordinary, familiar duties such as farming, sowing, baking, harvesting, investing, and fishing to teach His disciples about the Kingdom of God. He brought Kingdom principles "down to earth" so His disciples could understand the rule and realm
of the Most High God.
With that in mind, it is important to note that the terms Kingdom of God
and Kingdom of Heaven
are used inter-
changeably throughout Jesus' parables. The Gospel writers Mark (John Mark) and Luke mostly used the term Kingdom of God
. Matthew, however, predominantly used the term Kingdom of Heaven
. Some scholars speculate that this usage was because of Matthew's Jewish audience. Therefore, out of respect for Jewish custom, Matthew avoided frequent use of God's name. Although the terms Kingdom of God
and Kingdom of Heaven
both appear in Matthew's gospel (for example, see Matthew 19:23-24), the phrases mean the same thing. Verses such as Daniel 2:44 confirm this point: "the God of heaven [shall] set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed."
In summary, Jesus' parables reveal that the Kingdom of God is a vast, supernatural, heavenly reality
which can only be seen and entered by those who are born again
. The parables also teach that God's Kingdom starts small in the hearts of people, but will ultimately surpass and destroy all other dominions
. Revelation 11:15 prophesies this truth: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."
You may recall that Satan tempted Jesus to obtain the kingdoms of this world without going through the suffering of the cross. The devil
took Jesus up into a high mountain and "shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, 'All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine'"
(Luke 4:5-7). Of course, Jesus rebuked the devil and submitted Himself to the path His Father had set. In the proper fulfillment of time (at the end of this age), Jesus will rightfully take the kingdoms of this world from the devil and His reign will be established.