Most of the studies about the kingdom have focused on God’s kingdom in the present. In this one I want to move to the other side of God’s teaching on the kingdom. It is certainly true that most of the New Testament passages about God’s kingdom have to do with the present kingdom. Jesus foretold the coming of this present kingdom over which he began to reign as king when he ascended back to the Father in heaven.
But there are passages which point to the kingdom future existence. In 2 Timothy 4:1 Paul said to his young friend, Timothy, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at his coming and his kingdom.” Obviously Paul is referring to the eternal side of God’s kingdom when Christ will continue as king. In 2 Peter 1:1-13 is one of the most powerful statements on the topic. Peter declared that God has given us all things that have to do with life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. He told of his great and precious promises through which we can participate in his divine nature. Then he challenged us to keep growing in our faith and devotion to him. “Add to your faith, courage, to your courage knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control godliness, to your godliness brotherly kindness, and to your brotherly kindness love.” One of the problems with this translation is that it seems as though we get faith then move on to courage, etc. That isn’t the point. Instead it is that as we grow in our faith we should also grow in courage and as we grow in courage we are to also grow in knowledge, etc.
Peter said, if you do these things and keep on doing so it will keep you from being barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of him who called us by his glory and virtue. But if we lack these things we are blind and short sided, unable to see far away and have forgotten we have been cleansed from our old sins. It is amazing to see what not continuing to grow does in our life. It closes us off from the ability to see and grasp the wonderful truths of God and to share in his amazing blessings.
But Peter said if you do these things you make your calling and election sure and you will never stumble in following Christ. Have you ever questioned your calling from God? What about your election or your salvation? Do you ever wonder about your on going relationship with Him? Peter said that the way to be absolutely certain about all of these is if we keep on growing in each of these basic graces of godly living. Faith is the foundation on which we build the rest and love is the capstone over each. But each of the graces is vital to being what God wants us to be. It is amazing to see the relationship between the fruit of the Spirit described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 and Jesus beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12.
But notice the amazing conclusion of this whole segment. “And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We are in the kingdom of Christ now and have been since the time of our new birth in Christ (John 3:3-5). But the present kingdom isn’t heaven. In this present side of the kingdom we go through persecution, suffering and tribulation. In the final state of the kingdom we won’t have those trials, persecutions and suffering any longer. We will be in that world where we are led by the great shepherd of the sheep will lead us by everlasting fountains of water and wipe all tears from our eyes as described in Revelation 7. The fuller discussion of that final kingdom is found in Revelation 21-22. It is certainly true that much of what is described in these chapters isn’t intended to be taken literally but is a picture by God to show us something of what heaven will be like because there is no way we could comprehend that eternal kingdom with our finite minds. It would be like trying to explain the solar system to a three year old. Why kind of language and descriptions would you use to try to help them get an idea of what is involved. God faced that same dilemma in helping us see what the eternal kingdom will be like.
But here is the point I want us to see. The eternal kingdom is indeed an extension of the present kingdom that Jesus became king over at the ascension. Our immediate entrance into the kingdom at our new birth doesn’t mean that we will have the abundant or rich welcome into the eternal kingdom. To enter the eternal state of the kingdom one certainly must enter it by new birth. But they must also continue to grow and develop in their faith. It is only then that they have that overflowing entrance.
What was the richest welcome you ever received from anyone? Was it at birth when you came into the world? If it was, we wouldn’t remember. Others may remember and tell us about it. Perhaps it was after begin away for some time, such as when one has been in service to their country and away to fight in another country and returns. Maybe it was at a time when you had been very ill and recovered and now are able to come home from the hospital when you wondered if you ever would. No matter what it was, I want to tell you that it was nothing comparable to the rich welcome we will receive when we are welcomed by God into the eternal kingdom of glory. I can imagine a chorus of angels singing as they welcome us there and then Jesus being there with his crown of glory to say welcome home, my child. I can visualize God the Father waiting at the end of the line to say, “You are home now. Come on in. Your place is ready.”
I want desperately to hear the welcome home from the God of the Universe into His eternal kingdom. Don’t you?