This is the first of a series which deals with the child of God’s heavenly citizenship as it is dealt with by our Lord in the Beatitudes. Be sure to follow each installment of this thought provoking series.
As a senior citizen of the land in which I live, but also as one given a better citizenship in a better, that is, an heavenly kingdom, I would like to begin a series of messages to you young people whether your earthly citizenship is in the United States of America, Canada, Jamaica, Singapore, in the northern or southern hemispheres, in the orient or Occident.
It is my purpose to write to you about your heavenly citizenship, and thus about a permanent citizenship in a kingdom that has no social, economic, political or international problems, or for that matter any problems at all. It is an everlasting kingdom that does not come to an end after some eighty to ninety years, with a citizenship that is never changed because one voluntarily chooses to have it altered, not by the sword of an invading force. What I would write about an earthly kingdom would soon be out of date, and even perhaps incorrect because of my limited knowledge of the facts and the limited perspective I have of it. But what I write to you about the kingdom of heaven is factually correct, because it comes from God’s infallible Word.
I have been asked to write to you on the Beatitudes which we find in Jesus’ sermon on the kingdom, commonly called The Sermon on the Mount. You may do that. You may call it after the place where it was delivered, namely, on the side of a mountain. We do that when we speak of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordrecht. But we speak more richly of it when we call that sermon Jesus’ Sermon on the Kingdom. And because the Beatitudes present to us the characteristics, the description of the citizens of that kingdom—of which the whole sermon in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 speaks—we ought to begin by getting that kingdom clearly before our minds. Then you will appreciate the more your citizenship in it, and more zealously look to find those earmarks and characteristics in your lives for assurance of citizenship in that kingdom.
Will you take note of the fact that in the very first Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’’ And the last Beatitude expresses the same truth, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We do, when we deal with the Beatitudes deal with the kingdom of heaven. You cannot treat the Beatitudes without having that kingdom before your minds.
Now that kingdom has in Scripture two names that are similar and complement each other, and yet therefore bring out in each instance a new facet of that kingdom. I mean that Jesus, in His sermon in which He deals so directly with this kingdom, calls it here in Matthew 5 the kingdom of heaven. And in the next chapter in verse 33 calls it the kingdom of God. Then in verse 21 of chapter 7 He reverts to calling it the kingdom of heaven. In each instance, He refers to the same realm. And we ought to see the truth in each of these names.
We will begin with the name Kingdom of God, for we must see that it is the kingdom of heaven because it is the kingdom of God. Let us see that once. The first reason why it is called the kingdom of God is that it is the kingdom which He designed and built. In Hebrews 11:10 we read of the city “Whose builder and maker is God.” It will be perfect, and will be a kingdom of heaven because He planned every detail, and because He built it in His wisdom and power. It will be as He planned it. Weak and sinful hands will not build it or put their silly ideas into it. And because He designed and built it, it is His possession. It is the kingdom that belongs to God; and He may do with it as He pleases and bring into it whom He will as well as keep out whom it pleases Him to keep out of it.
Further, and equally important is the fact that, it is the kingdom that exists for His glory. That we must never forget! We speak and sing so glibly and often lightly about how wonderful it will be for us to be there—and it will be, as I hope in a moment to show you—but we must never lose sight of the fact that it exists for God’s glory. It is the only kingdom wherein everything and everyone points to God and extols Him for His greatness and goodness, a kingdom wherein all rational, moral creatures live for Him and sing His praises. The life of every one will be God-centered and dedicated to His glory.
Remember that, young people! And examine yourselves to see whether there is a beginning of this in your lives. And to help you in this I will, the Lord willing, in future installments, call your attention to these Beatitudes which give the earmarks of that citizenship and will help you to look for signs of heavenly citizenship in your own lives.
What comes first in your lives? Is it sports? Money and material possessions? Honour before men? Social standing? Attraction and appeal to the opposite sex? To be something in the kingdom of the world to which you belong? Citizens in the kingdom of God love God and look forward to a life when they can serve Him perfectly in a life wholly consecrated to Him. And do you really want to be in such a kingdom? Then your desire to be in the kingdom of heaven is a spiritual desire, and you may appreciate the fact that it is the kingdom of heaven.
What does that name mean? Well, it is not called that because its location is in heaven. It is true that heaven is a temporary place for the souls of its citizens who have died, until that kingdom is fully come. But note that third Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’’ Turn also to Revelation 21:1-3, and you will find that the holy city, that kingdom, comes down from heaven and that when it is fully come heaven and earth will be one. For there shall be no more sea, that is, no more separation between that spiritual realm called heaven and the new spiritual earth that comes out of the purifying fire at Christ’s return.
It is called the kingdom of heaven because it is characterized by heavenly virtues and beauty, heavenly blessedness and heavenly wonders. Read Revelation 21 and 22. Turn also back to Isaiah 11:1-9 and 65:25. I cannot take the space to quote it all to you, but read these passages. Then look at the Beatitudes and see what a wonderful people will be there in that kingdom. What a sphere of love to God and the neighbor is displayed in those beatitudes, as we hope to point out later in this series. Imagine no keys or locks, no police or courts! No doctors, nurses, ambulances, hospitals or medicines! For none of these will be needed there. No harsh words, bickering, arguing, fault-finding, revenge or even failure to speak to one another! Because all will be God-centered and wholly dedicated and consecrated to Him and His glory, all will work together so that He is served, praised and glorified.
The environment will be beautiful there in that kingdom. But the people will also be spiritually as well as physically beautiful. When man’s flesh is pleased with an experience or object, man—even the unbeliever—will often say, “O, this is heavenly.” No, it is not. But what is heavenly, and what is in the kingdom of heaven is delightful, enjoyable and blessed. Does not each Beatitude begin with the word blessed?
Let us then together examine ourselves to see whether we are citizens in that kingdom and how faithful we are as such citizens. Let us stand before this mirror which the King of that kingdom holds before us in the Beatitudes.