Twice in the list of Beatitudes Jesus made the statement: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3,10. It’s particularly interesting that this is the reward He assigned to the first and the last Beatitude.
Jesus actually repeats the words ‘the kingdom of heaven’ six times in the Sermon on the Mount.
Despite theological arguments about ‘the kingdom of heaven’ versus ‘the kingdom of God’, let’s make it quite simple. They are the same.
The term has been defined in a number of ways but this is my favorite: it is the realm of the unhindered Holy Spirit within us. We experience the ‘kingdom of heaven’ when the Holy Spirit rules over our life; when He is at home in us.
Now the Holy Spirit is always with us once we are born again for Jesus said: I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17 . What a fantastic promise!
We learn from these verses that the Kingdom of heaven is invisible, inhabitable, internal and inherited.
Invisible: the Jewish people at the time were looking for a visible, tangible kingdom to be established with political power to overthrow the Romans. Even the disciples thought that way. But Jesus said: ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed…’ Luke 17:20
Inhabitable: we can actually ‘live in’ the kingdom of heaven for He promised the poor in spirit that ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ When the Holy Spirit inhabits your spirit, heaven has come to you. As Paul put it: Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
Internal: as Jesus described it, the kingdom of heaven would dwell in the hearts of those who followed Him and His presence is experienced as we learn to hear His voice and follow His leading.
Inherited: you receive an inheritance when someone dies. Therefore, no one could inherit the kingdom of heaven until Jesus died. Because He did, and rose again triumphant, everything changed for mankind. By embracing what He did on our behalf and becoming born again, we are now able to inherit – internalize and experience – all the benefits of Redemption. We become, as it were, the living, breathing, walking and talking kingdom of God on this earth.
Jesus also explained that this inheritance could only come to those who righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). The only way that is possible is by the work of the Holy Spirit within the born again believer. Elsewhere in the gospels, we are shown that the righteousness of the Pharisees consisted of external ‘works’ apart from a changed and transformed heart and mind. Religion majors in externals – the Holy Spirit majors in the attitudes of our hearts, changing us to become more like Jesus, which opens the way for us to enjoy the ‘kingdom of heaven’ while here on earth and guarantees us eternal life with God in heaven.
The ‘kingdom of heaven’ also presupposes that there is a King! Without a King there is no kingdom! Jesus said: ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Matthew 11:27 . Furthermore He said, ‘For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.’ John 5:21
That means that no one enters the Kingdom by accident but by invitation. We choose to follow the Lord, not because our parents or our grandparents did. It’s not a matter of human nationality – I’m Irish because my parents and grandparents were Irish. Becoming a subject in the Kingdom of heaven is a choice, a life and death decision each of us is invited to make.
Without the Holy Spirit, none of us can grasp the depth of meaning in the words ‘the kingdom of heaven.’ It is only by being born again through the work of the Holy Spirit within us that we begin to learn how powerful this is. Salvation does not come through performance of a list of good works but as the gift of God. It is not about what we do but what God does in us when we submit ourselves to Him.
To enjoy the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our ongoing journey through life, Paul gave us two commands: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and Do not quench the Holy Spirit. (I Thess. 5:19)
To grieve the Holy Spirit is to refuse to allow Him to do through you what He wants to do.
To quench the Holy Spirit is to refuse to allow Him to be all He wants to be through you.
May we never do either one!