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 (Manna 21: To the End of the Earth)
Who Can Enter the Kingdom of God?
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THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT AN EARTHLY ONE. It exists in a spiritual dimension not detectable by our carnal senses. It is a realm where God reigns sovereign, a habitation which He prepared for us even before the creation of the world. Such a kingdom cannot be shaken and will never change, for it is untainted by earthly sorrow, sickness or death; aptly called the kingdom of Heaven. This enviable place is the ultimate goal of every Christian, and his greatest hope. If anyone has hope in Christ only in the present life, he is of all men most pitiable (1 Cor 15: 19). But Jesus said, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that does the will of my father who is in Heaven” (Mt 7:21) and also, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Mt 23:15). These are serious remarks which demand serious pondering and self-evaluation.


Every believer properly taught in the fundamentals understands the necessity to be “born of water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5) — that one must be baptised for the remission of sins and must receive the Holy Spirit for his constant renewal (Tit 3:5). However, the full implication of being born of the Spirit — the utter transformation of our carnal nature into one that reflects the very spiritual qualities of the son of God (Rom 8:29; 12:2), has not always been sufficiently stressed. What then are the marks of grace manifested by one who would eventually be accepted into the pearly gates?


All four Gospels bear the account of people bringing their young ones before the Lord Jesus so that He might touch them. When His disciples tried to stop them, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter it” (Lk 18:15-17). This incident clearly tells us that people in the kingdom of God are like little children. Therefore the most lovable and beautiful period of a person’s life is his childhood, wherein one may almost catch glimpses of man’s original guilelessness and innocence.

This suggests that though infants are born with depraved natures, the ability to sin increases only with age, just as does understanding. So Paul reminds us, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking, be mature” (1 Cor 14:20). The Corinthian believers should not be babes in understanding but be mature.

Transcending, Pharisaic, Righteousness

Jesus taught His disciples, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:20). “Righteousness” refers to doing what is right in the eyes of God. In order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, our behaviour must excel over that of the Scribes and Pharisees. From the teachings of the Lord Jesus, we know that the Scribes and Pharisees were not ignorant of doing righteous deeds. They were taught from the Books of the Law and they placed special emphasis on displaying before others, their ardent devotion in observing the Law.

As recorded in the Gospel according to Luke, a Pharisee would say these words when he is praying in the temple, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Lk 18:11-12). Though we cannot deny that they indeed performed all these, we know that there is much left to be desired, since the Lord wants us to excel over them. To do so. we must first examine their weaknesses. The first is arrogance, as recorded in the Scripture: “They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the places of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men” (Mt 23:5-7). The arrogance of the Scribes and Pharisees, and their love for self glory are clearly described. Since they desire the glory of men, they will not receive the reward of God. Therefore, we must not be arrogant nor crave for vain glory. Rather let us be girded with humility, serving one another. The things that we have to do, let us do them silently. Let us not boast about our efforts. This is the message behind the Lord Jesus’ saying that we ought not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing.

Next is hypocrisy. The Scribes and Pharisees were adept at putting up pretences. They loved to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the street. In doing so, their intention was not that of petition towards God but rather, that they might be seen by men, so as to receive their praises. For instance, although on the surface, they seemed to regard highly the observances of the Sabbath day, they actually did not understand the true significance of keeping the Sabbath. Therefore, the Lord Jesus rebuked them, calling them hypocrites and white washed tombs, which are beautiful outwardly, but are full of dead man’s bones inside (Mt 23:27-28). In whatever we do, our actions must be in accordance with our intentions. The Lord Jesus said, “First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Mt 23:26). This is to teach us that we must first adorn our inner self, before a good image of truth without hypocrisy will naturally appear.

We have to learn from the virtues of the Scribes and Pharisees but remain wary of their weaknesses. We have to be alert and keep ourselves in check, performing our duties with sincerity and living our lives befitting true Christians, thus transcending the righteousness of the Pharisees.

Obeying the Father’s Will

The Lord Jesus once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’ “(Mt 7:21-23). The Lord Jesus will surely come one day. At that time, there will be many who are left outside the gates of Heaven, weeping and gnashing their teeth. Only those who have obeyed the will of God will be allowed to enter and enjoy eternal life.

What is the will of the heavenly Father? The Bible teaches, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from unchastity; that each of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like heathens who do not know God” (1 Thess 4:3-5). It also says, “See that none of you repay evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:15,18b).

These two passages of Scripture clearly tell us that it is the will of God that we be holy and do good to others. The Scripture also records that one should “strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). When the Lord Jesus comes again, only those who are holy will be able to meet Him. To be holy is to depart from all unrighteousness, fornication, idolatry, adultery, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, and so on. These are acts that we should not commit. Those who practise them cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor6:9-11). One must also have the full stature of a Christian, allowing no unclean, filthy, foolish talk or coarse jesting to proceed from one’s mouth (Eph 5:3-5). In one’s strife for holiness, one must always pray, relying on the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “God chose you from the beginning to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13’).

Striving for the Kingdom

The Lord Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Mt 11:12). In this world, there is nothing that can be gained without any toil. For students to obtain good grades, they must put in effort in their studies. For a farmer to obtain the precious produce of the land, he must work hard at cultivating the land. Though Christians are saved by grace, this does not exempt them from necessary effort. What should believers specifically strive for?

Firstly, strive for perfection. The Lord Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). This is a reference to the nature of a believer, in terms of his spiritual cultivation in practising the Word. The level of perfection is to be measured against the standard of the Lord. Whatever the disposition of God is, we must also be likewise. This cannot be achieved in a short period of time, but rather through continual striving. Peter says, “For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control... so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:5-11). Paul was one who strived for perfection. We normally reckon that for someone who had done so much divine work, salvation seems a natural consequence. But Paul continued to strive with fear and trembling, never relenting. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, hut I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” (Phil 3:12). Paul reckoned that only upon the attainment of the life of Christ in his own body, could he be assuredly saved. Therefore he once said, “For to rue to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:2 1). “To die is gain” refers to the laying hold of salvation and entering the kingdom of Heaven.

It is quite clear now, that in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, one must strive to complete the heavenly journey. However, the road heaven-ward is by no means easy; it is long and undulating. The Lord Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life” (Mt 7:14). The exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt was in order to enter the land of Canaan. After they had crossed the Red Sea, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. In this long period of time, they underwent desolation, led a monotonous life and endured hardships. Very often, they were intimidated and attacked by enemies. Their experiences prefigure the sufferings a Christian pilgrim would have to undergo. As such, we should persevere and strive to run the race till we reach the final destination. Paul mentioned the Israelites who had faltered and died in the wilderness as an example to encourage believers (1 Cor 10:1-11). We must emulate Paul, as he himself had encouraged us: “Brethren, I do not consider that! have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining froward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). Paul had run the race with hope, endurance, faith and perseverance. In the end, he had won. He said before passing onto glory, “I have finished the race… Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:7-8). This is the fruit of perseverance.

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