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WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN LIKE?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

23 JULY 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Matthew 5:9
              
7:6-7
             13:24-58
Revelation 21:4

What is the kingdom of heaven like?

Some people think that it's a place where people sit around on clouds playing harps, but that's not what the Bible says.

Those of us who read our Bibles get pictures of magnificence, and the joy and peace of being in the presence of the Lord; a place where there will no longer be any death for for humans or non-humans (Revelation 21:4).

But, these perspectives are in our future. How can we picture what the kingdom of heaven is like, now?

In Matthew 13 Jesus paints a somewhat different, and more spiritual, view of heaven through a series of parables, but at the same time He shows us the physical presence of heaven. Let's look at some of these beginning at verse 24.

24. He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

25. "But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away.

26. "But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

27. "And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'

28. "And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' And the slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?'

29. "But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them.

30. 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn." ' "

The disciples didn't fully understand this parable at first, but Jesus let them ponder His words over in their minds for a while.

What does the wheat symbolize?

And what are the tares?

Who is the enemy who sowed the tares among the wheat?

Who are the reapers, and where is the place of burning?

And where is the barn into which the wheat is gathered?

What do you think?

Do you understand what Jesus is saying?

Instead of answering these questions, Jesus proceeds to present another parable, so that they and we might come to the correct answers by ourselves.

31. He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field;

32. and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

What do you think the mustard seed symbolizes?

It's the word of God.

And where did the man sow it?

In his mind, so that it became part of his entire being.

A little of God's word goes a long way, and when nurtured, it grows greatly.

And who are the birds?

They are those who seek the protection and comfort of the Lord through His word from those who have nurtured it and spread it out among the community in which they live.

Remember also, that the mustard plant is silent, so were not talking about words, but the way we live.

Does the way we live the word of God attract others to us, and God's message?

And remember, that Jesus said that this is like the kingdom of heaven.

And since this is true, right here, right now, we should all be seeing into the kingdom or at least the gate to the kingdom.

But I pray even more that we all would be able to actually enter the kingdom of heaven.

Can you experience some of its presence?

But just in case everyone couldn't relate to this parable, Jesus gives us another:

33. He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened."

What is the leaven?

In most cases it represents sin, but in this case it represents love and righteousness.

One (or more) of you may have entered here today as just a peck of meal, but if you remain in the presence of the word of God, and the love and righteousness of others, you will receive the joy of heaven.

But this also carries with it a responsibility; for we who know the Lord are responsible for placing the leaven of God's love and righteousness into the hearts and souls of all who enter this place, and also into the hearts and souls of those who don't.

We are to do this so that the world around us can begin to see the kingdom of heaven.

34. All these things Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable,

35. so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying,

"I will open My mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world."

Why wouldn't Jesus just speak plainly?

Because, if people don't want to hear the truth, and you speak the truth plainly before them, they get angry.

But those who search for the whole truth will study and search for it where they can, and they will soon come to understand the meaning of the parable.

It's as Jesus told us in Matthew 7:6-7.

6. "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

7. "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.

Jesus isn't talking about animals, but unbelieving people.

That which is holy are the things of God, and the pearls are the wisdom of God we have acquired.

The dogs are the male cult prostitutes and the swine are the worshipers of idols and false gods, who would only mock God's message of truth.

Now, let's return to our Matthew 13 verses, beginning at verse 36.

36. Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field."

Don't worry about not understanding everything about God and heaven, for even the disciples took time to learn, and they asked questions.

They sought for the answers, and thus they found them.

They knocked at the door of heaven, and it was opened to them.

And the same is awaiting us.

37. And He answered and said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,

38. and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;

39. and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

40. "Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

41. "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,

42. and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43. "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Do we have the ears to hear?

Did you hear Him say, “…they will gather out of His kingdom…”?

I pray so, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Don't worry about those among us who are of the devil.

For our part, we are to live the life of those of the kingdom of heaven, now.

If other people don’t want to be part of it, that's their problem.

All we can do is be a loving witness before them.

In the end they will be plucked out from among us, and thrown into the fires of hell, for they fell for the lies of the devil and rejected the truth and love of God.

There is some Biblical evidence that the fires of hell may not be actual fire, as we know it, because it does not consume.

The fires of hell are most likely the torment of constantly being reminded of their separation from God and of the sins in their lives.

Jesus goes on to give us another example of the kingdom of heaven:

44. ''The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.

Nothing is of greater value than the truth of God.

The treasure is the receiving of the word of God, which is the gate to heaven.

If something else prevents us from having our part of it, then it is time to get rid of those obstacles and acquire the keys to the kingdom, and even the kingdom itself.

And we don't have to make a big fuss about it either; we are just to do it.

45. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,

46. and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Remember that if you possess the salvation of God, you possess the kingdom of God.

Seek it, and when you find it, do whatever you have to do, in love, to obtain it and retain it, and share it.

47. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind;

48. and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

In a way, the church is like a dragnet.

It gathers many of the community into it, but not all want to be a part of the kingdom of God.

49. "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous,

50. and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Then Jesus asks,

51. "Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes."

What do you say?

52. And He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old."

Do each of us fit this description?

We should.

53. And it came about that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there.

54. And coming to His home town He began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they became astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?

55. "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

56. "And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"

57. And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household."

58. And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Take these words to heart, for just as He was rejected, so are we.

But Jesus continued to proclaim the kingdom of heaven. He didn't give up.

And neither should we.

Remember also that the kingdom of heaven is more than just the salvation message, it is also Jesus' message of unconditional love, compassion, and peace.

For when people become peacemakers, they also become children of God (Matthew 5:9).

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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