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The Mystery of

the
Kingdom
The Mystery of
the Kingdom

This publication is not to be sold. It is produced as free educational


material by the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, Inc.
© 2013 Church of God, a Worldwide Association, Inc.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James
Version (© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.).
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Cover photo: 123RF.com

Author: David Treybig Editorial Reviewers: Kevin Epps, David Johnson, Doug Johnson, Tom Kirkpatrick, Steve
Moody, Greg Sargent, Richard Thompson, Don Waterhouse Design: Rachel Venish
The Mystery
of the Kingdom
When Jesus “began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom
of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17), most people didn’t under-
stand His message. The reason is quite simple: He purposefully
spoke in a way that hid key aspects of the truth. Though multitudes
Photo: 123RF.com

of people thronged to hear Him, most didn’t comprehend what He


was saying about the Kingdom of God.

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Jesus’ teaching style—authoritative and by means of parables, so that they [the
unlike the scribes—attracted people’s crowds] may look but not see, and listen
attention (Matthew 7:29), and many came but not understand” (Luke 8:10, Good
to be healed of physical ailments (Mat- News Translation).
thew 14:35-36). Others likely came hoping
to see a miracle or watch Jesus verbally Only a few were being given the oppor-
get the best of the religious authorities tunity to understand “the mystery of the
or possibly get a free meal (Luke 23:8; kingdom.” And the mystery continues
Matthew 15:1-20, 29-38; 14:13-21). But today. The “secrets of the Kingdom of
most didn’t fully grasp what He was say- God” remain hidden.
ing. While they couldn’t deny the mir- Instead of a clear explanation of Christ’s
acles and were intrigued by His style of central message, Christianity offers a diz-
­preaching, His message was a mystery. zying array of teachings and competing
Jesus’ use of parables—short stories to gospels. While everyone acknowledges
illustrate moral principles or truths— that Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom
is well known (Mark 4:2). Most people of heaven is at hand,” ideas about this
today think that He used these to make Kingdom vary widely. The 38,000 plus
His message easy to understand. But denominations of Christianity in our
here is a little known truth: He spoke in modern world each have their own inter-
­parables so people wouldn’t understand! pretation of Jesus’ words. See “What Is the
Gospel?” for an explanation of this term.
Do you find this hard to believe? Notice
Jesus’ explanation. Given the variety of beliefs within Chris-
tianity, it is not surprising that some of
After Jesus had likened the Kingdom to a
them contradict the Bible. For example,
farmer sowing seed, His disciples—those
the belief that good people go to heaven
He was personally training—privately
to be with Jesus when they die is a cher-
asked Him what this parable of the sower
ished assumption. Many have attended
meant. Here is His answer: “To you it
funerals where the minister and friends
has been given to know the mystery of
have referred to the deceased as looking
the kingdom of God; but to those who
down on everyone from heaven. But there
are outside, all things come in parables”
are some perplexing problems with this
(Mark 4:11, emphasis added throughout).
common perception. Going to heaven
Jesus purposefully spoke in parables to after one dies isn’t what the people of God
hide His message about the Kingdom. in the Old Testament understood. And it
Jesus told His disciples: “The knowledge isn’t what Jesus’ disciples preached after
of the secrets of the Kingdom of God has His crucifixion in the first century. So
been given to you, but to the rest it comes what’s the real story?

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Just what did Jesus mean when He said When Jesus came to earth, He contin-
that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand”? ued doing His “Father’s business” (Luke
What happens to good people when they 2:49)—carrying out the plan that the
die? Do we get to enter the Kingdom and Father had established long ago. Jesus
be with Jesus or not? If so, when? Where? said that He had come in His “Father’s
How? Read on to learn the mysterious name” (John 5:43) to do “the will of Him
secrets of the Kingdom. After all, it’s your who sent Me” (John 6:38).
life that is at stake! And just what was Jesus’ purpose for
coming to earth? Jesus said that He had
God’s purpose for you come to call “sinners, to repentance”
Understanding why we were born is (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32) so that those who
foundational to understanding the King- respond “may have life, and that they may
dom of God. When we consider why we have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
were born, we aren’t trying to figure out
human reproduction—how a male and The life to which Jesus was referring in
a female can produce a baby. Rather, we the preceding passage is far more than
need to know why God created human- just a better physical life. As John, one
ity. We need to know what God had in of the disciples personally taught by
mind when He fashioned the first man, Jesus, explains: “But as many as received
Adam, from the dust of the ground and Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right
then c­ reated the first woman from one of to become children of God, to those who
Adam’s ribs (Genesis 2:7, 21). believe in His name: who were born, not
of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor
The Bible reveals that God had a plan for of the will of man, but of God” (John
mankind from the “foundation of the 1:12-13).
world” (Revelation 13:8) before “time
began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Unique among This process of becoming children of God
all the physical life that God had created includes having Christ, the Son of God,
upon the earth, man was made in God’s “formed” in us (Galatians 4:19). Speaking
“own image” and according to His “like- of this end result, John wrote, “Beloved,
ness” (Genesis 1:26-27). This fundamental now we are the children of God; and it
aspect of our creation is why humans have has not yet been revealed what we shall
abilities to think, reason and plan their be; but we know that when He is revealed,
lives that are far superior to any abili- we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him
ties of animals. Humans resemble God, as He is” (1 John 3:2).
only with lesser powers and abilities. But Becoming part of the family of God—
though created with less glory than God, being born as children “of God”—is
humans have incredible ­potential. God’s ultimate purpose for you and for

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What Is the Gospel?
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He preached “the gospel of
the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14). The word “gospel” is de-
rived from the Greek word euangelion, which means “good news.”
So Jesus was preaching “good news” about the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’ message is also called “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1),
“the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the gospel of God”
(Romans 1:1), “the glorious gospel” (2 Corinthians 4:4, King James
Version), “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13) and “the gos-
pel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). While there is only one true gospel,
each of these descriptions focuses on a different aspect of the same
message.

The gospel or good news of the Kingdom is the message that Jesus
brought to earth. As the only Being through whom we may receive
salvation (Acts 4:12), we must heed His instruction to “repent, and
believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). It is indeed glorious news that can
give us peace of mind and salvation.

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every human being that has ever existed Considering these passages, we see that
and that will exist! (Ephesians 3:14-15; 2 the predominant name is the “kingdom
Corinthians 6:17-18). God is in the busi- of God.”
ness of drawing people to Himself (John
Of course, all of these phrases refer to the
6:44). He is “not willing that any should
same Kingdom—a Kingdom that belongs
perish but that all should come to repen-
to God the Father and His Son, Jesus
tance” (2 Peter 3:9). Now that we under-
Christ. Hence, it is indeed the Kingdom
stand God’s purpose for humanity, let’s
of God. So how are we to understand
focus on this Kingdom to which Jesus
Matthew’s 33 references to “the kingdom
referred.
of heaven” compared to five references
to the “kingdom of God”? “Of heaven”
Can we enter the Kingdom now? simply means that it belongs to the divine
When people learn that Jesus said to Beings who rule in heaven. So do we have
“repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at to go to heaven to enter this Kingdom? Is
hand” (Matthew 4:17), many assume that heaven where it will remain?
we can enter this Kingdom before we die.
After all, they reason, Jesus said this king-
Future location of the Kingdom
dom was “at hand.”
Over 2,500 years ago, God gave a Jewish
Some perceive the Kingdom as being prophet named Daniel special under-
the Church. Others believe it is our standing of future world governments.
world today when governed by Christian While serving in the court of Nebuchad-
principles. Some believe the Kingdom nezzar, the king of Babylon, God revealed
exists in one’s heart. Most of these well- to Daniel that throughout the course of
intentioned ideas are either mistaken or human history there would be three more
incomplete. world-ruling empires following the Baby-
lonian empire—the Persian, Greek and
When we study this subject in the Bible,
Roman empires.
we find that Matthew was the only writer
to use the term “kingdom of heaven.” The God then inspired Daniel to write: “And
other Gospel writers—Mark, Luke and in the days of these kings the God of
John—referred to it as the “kingdom of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall
God” (Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43; Acts 1:3; never be destroyed; and the kingdom
John 3:3, 5). Paul called it “the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall
of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5), break in pieces and consume all these
and Peter referred to it as “the everlast- kingdoms, and it shall stand forever”
ing kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus (Daniel 2:44). Later, Daniel added that
Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). In Revelation 12:10 the saints would possess this fifth world-
John wrote of “the kingdom of our God.” ruling kingdom—God’s Kingdom—and

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that it would stand forever (Daniel 7:18, yet run their course. It was not yet time
22, 27). for God’s Kingdom to replace all human
governments on earth. On trial before
From Daniel’s writings, we see that the
Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of
Kingdom of God will be set up on earth
this world. If My kingdom were of this
and after it is established, all earthly
world, My servants would fight, so that I
kingdoms will eventually come to an end. should not be delivered to the Jews; but
So this prophesied Kingdom is not sim- now My kingdom is not from here” (John
ply a philosophical movement or limited 18:36). But the fact that the Kingdom of
to a way of thinking that only resides in God had not yet come to earth didn’t stop
the minds of people. Instead, in its fullest Jesus’ disciples from asking questions
sense it is a literal kingdom—a kingdom about this most important subject. After
with territory, a ruler, laws and subjects— all, Jesus had taught them to pray for this
that will rule over all the nations on the Kingdom to come and to make it the first
earth. priority in their lives (Matthew 6:10, 33).
When Jesus came to earth, the world-rul- Curious about this Kingdom, the
ing empires prophesied by Daniel had not ­disciples came to Jesus privately, saying,

The Kingdom of God is currently in


heaven. But it will be established on
earth when Jesus returns.

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“Tell us, when will these things be? And Only after the series of events prophesied
what will be the sign of Your coming, and by John in the book of Revelation, will
of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Christ appear. After the seventh angel
They wanted to know what signs would sounds, loud voices in heaven will then
indicate that He would soon return and finally say, “The kingdoms of this world
that the reign of human governments was have become the kingdoms of our Lord
coming to an end. and of His Christ, and He shall reign for-
ever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).
In answering the disciples’ questions,
Jesus told them that there would be false To summarize, the Kingdom of God is
teachers, wars, famines, pestilences currently in heaven. But it will be estab-
and earthquakes. But “the end will not lished on earth when Jesus returns.
come immediately,” He said (Luke 21:9).
These events were just “the beginning of Why people don’t understand
­sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). Earlier we noted that Daniel had foretold
that the saints would eventually possess
Addressing these matters with His dis-
God’s Kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27).
ciples after His resurrection, Jesus again
Approximately 600 years after Daniel’s
affirmed that the prophesied Kingdom
prophecy, Christ came to earth preaching
was not yet on earth (Acts 1:3-8). And
“the gospel [good news] of the kingdom
here, He referred to “times or seasons”
of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled,
that were under the control of the Father.
and the kingdom of God is at hand.
Understanding the broad expanse of
Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark
human history like no human can, God
1:14-15).
the Father will decide when to send Jesus
to establish the Kingdom of God on earth When Jesus said that the Kingdom of
(Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). God was “at hand,” He meant that its rep-
resentative, the King, and the instruction
In Acts 1 Jesus told His disciples that they
that people needed to enter the Kingdom
needed to expand their understanding
were now available to the few who would
of the time God was taking to work with
understand the message, repent of their
mankind. He explained what they would
sins and believe in the gospel. This was
later come to understand more fully—that
only a small number of people. After
He would not return in their lifetimes.
Jesus’ 3½-year ministry, the number of
God was going to allow some time to pass
disciples gathered in Jerusalem for Pen-
during which “firstfruits”—an initially
tecost—an annual holy day of God—was
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small group of people—would be called


only “about a hundred and twenty” (Acts
and trained to serve as teachers when
1:15).
Jesus returns to the earth to set up the
Kingdom (James 1:18; Revelation 5:10). The number of people who respond to

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Jesus’ message today is likewise small. Repent and believe
It is generally acknowledged that only a To respond to the good news regarding
third of the earth’s inhabitants claim to be the Kingdom, Jesus said people must do
Christian; and among this group, beliefs two things: “Repent, and believe in the
vary widely. So why is there so much con- gospel” (Mark 1:15). Sadly, this important
fusion and lack of understanding? instruction is widely ignored or, at best,
We’ve already considered Jesus’ explana- only partially explained.
tion that He spoke in parables to hide the Some say that all you have to do is
meaning from most people. Jesus had “believe on Jesus.” Too often, this popular
told His disciples: “Because it has been but incomplete explanation has blurred
given to you to know the mysteries of the and clouded the understanding of the
kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not true gospel. With this common teaching,
been given” (Matthew 13:11). Continuing,
Christianity is wrongly reduced to the
He added, “Therefore I speak to them in
mistaken idea that all people have to do
parables, because seeing they do not see,
to receive eternal life in the Kingdom of
and hearing they do not hear, nor do they
God is to simply believe that Jesus is their
understand” (verse 13). This was a fulfill-
Savior and that He lived a righteous life
ment of a prophecy God had given to Isa-
for us. What is lacking in this explana-
iah (verse 14-17).
tion is what believing in Jesus entails and
In further explaining why some would what it means to repent.
be allowed to understand His message
while others would not, Jesus said, “No According to the Bible, repentance
one can come to Me unless the Father includes two important parts. First,
who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). One repentance is a gift of God. Because
reason why God has to specifically invite God has to open a person’s mind and
people to become children of His King- draw him or her to Himself, this aspect
dom (John 1:12) is because an evil spirit of repentance must come from God.
called “the Devil and Satan … deceives As such, He leads people to repen-
the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). tance (Romans 2:4). Without God’s
involvement, true biblical repentance is
Paul likened this deception to a veil that ­impossible.
blinds people’s minds (2 Corinthians
3:14; 4:3-4). With the realization that Second, repentance also includes a sus-
Jesus’ message will not be fully under- tained decision by the person to change
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stood unless God the Father removes this his or her life from doing whatever he or
veil of spiritual blindness, let’s consider she pleases to obeying God’s commands.
what the vast majority of people have not In response to God mercifully removing
understood about Jesus’ teaching. the veil of spiritual blindness and thereby

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allowing the person to understand, God her past sins and fully commit to a life
expects him or her to stop sinning— of obedience. Repentance includes the
breaking His laws—and begin living as recognition that our sins are an affront
He commands. to God and that Jesus gave His life so our
Illustrating the personal response sins might be forgiven. This is a humbling
required of people when they repent, realization that has a profound, lasting
John the Baptist told the religious lead- impact upon our lives. Explaining what
ers of that day that they needed to “bear repentance is, Barnes’ Notes on Matthew
fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:2 says, “There are two words in the New
3:8). The fruit they needed to bear was Testament translated ‘repentance,’ one of
visible evidence of a changed life—a life which denotes a change of mind, or a ref-
now oriented toward God. Explaining ormation of life; and the other, sorrow or
this same principle, Paul taught that faith regret that sin has been committed.”
and actions go hand-in-hand. Real repen- Coupling both of these concepts of repen-
tance includes receiving God’s grace and tance, conversion occurs when one’s
“obedience to the faith” (Romans 1:5). way of thinking changes from a primar-
To repent, one must be sorry for his or ily selfish orientation to one yielded to

John the Baptist tells us that we need to “bear fruits


worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The fruit we
need to bear is visible evidence of a changed life—
a life now oriented toward God.
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Jesus made it clear that those who
wish to enter the Kingdom must
keep the commandments.

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God. Jesus said this must occur if we are break God’s law will be destroyed (Mat-
going to enter the Kingdom. “Assuredly, thew 13:41-42). See “What Is the Pun-
I say to you, unless you are converted ishment of the Wicked?” for additional
and become as little children, you will by explanation.
no means enter the kingdom of heaven”
Someone who repents and truly believes
(Matthew 18:3).
will obey all God’s commands. Later,
In addition to genuine, heartfelt repen- we will examine some of God’s instruc-
tance, Jesus commands those who follow tions that are commonly disregarded;
Him to “believe in the gospel” (Mark but before we do, let’s consider what
1:15). Truly believing means not only God expects after one repents and
being sorry for our sins but changing demonstrates his or her belief through
how we live (2 Corinthians 7:10). As Paul ­obedience to God’s law.
noted, “the doers of the law”—as opposed
to “the hearers of the law”—are the ones Baptism
who will be justified, considered right in When people have truly repented, they
God’s sight (Romans 2:13). have a tender conscience toward God
As we are converted, we change from the and are willing to acknowledge their
inside out. Because our way of thinking sins. Preaching to such individuals on
changes, what we do changes. Instead the Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of their
of rebelling against God’s laws as all and our culpability—our responsibility
humans naturally do (Romans 3:23; 6:23), and involvement—in the death of Jesus.
we now desire to obey God and be like Our sins necessitated His death. Because
our Father in heaven. of the sins of humanity, Jesus endured
the pain and humiliation of crucifixion
Jesus made it clear that those who wish so we might be forgiven. Jesus laid down
to enter the Kingdom must keep the His life and became a sin offering for us.
commandments. Responding to the Humbly recognizing this profound truth
commonly asked question as to what of which Peter had spoken, many “were
one must do to receive eternal life, Jesus cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the
repeatedly told people to obey the com- rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren,
mandments (Mathew 19:16-20; Mark what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
10:17-23; Luke 10:25-27; Luke 18:18-24).
Furthermore, Jesus explained that those Peter then answered, “Repent, and let
who practice lawlessness will not be in every one of you be baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;
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the Kingdom. Although obedience to


God’s commands doesn’t earn one sal- and you shall receive the gift of the Holy
vation, which is a gift of God (Romans Spirit” (verse 38).
6:23), unrepentant people who willfully When one is baptized, he or she is

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What Is the Punishment
of the Wicked?
In teaching about the Kingdom, Jesus spoke a parable about
wheat and tares growing together in the same field until the
harvest, when they would be separated (Matthew 13:24-30). Af-
ter sending the multitude away (verse 36), Jesus told His disci-
ples that this harvest represented “the end of the age” (verse 39)
when angels would reap the harvest of people for the Kingdom.

Continuing, Jesus explained that in this harvest the angels


would “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and
those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the
furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth”
­(Matthew 13:41-42).

This “furnace of fire” is also referred to in Scripture as “the lake of


fire” (Revelation 20:15), where those whose names were not writ-
ten in the Book of Life will be cast. The punishment of the wick-
ed—those who will not repent of their sins—is to be burned up.

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As the prophet Malachi explained, “‘For behold, the day is coming,
burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly
will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’
says the Lord of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch’”
(Malachi 4:1). Continuing, God says to the righteous, “‘You shall tram-
ple the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
on the day that I do this,’ says the Lord of hosts” (verse 3).

Because of the mistaken idea that humans have an immortal soul,


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many have likewise mistakenly assumed that the wicked will suffer
eternal torment in an ever-burning fire. But this is not what the Bible
teaches. Instead, unrepentant humans will be mercifully destroyed.

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immersed in water (John 3:23; Acts 8:39). component in addition to being
“The words ‘baptize’ and ‘baptism’ are immersed in water. After being baptized,
simply Greek words transferred into we must have hands laid on us by a min-
English. … It means … to dip a thing ister who, in prayer, asks for God to grant
into an element or liquid” (Easton’s Bible us His Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17-18; 19:6; 2
Dictionary, “Baptism, Christian”). Jesus Timothy 1:6).
underwent this symbolic experience to The Holy Spirit is a “gift of God” that
“fulfill all righteousness”—that is, to set overcomes fear, gives us spiritual under-
an example for us (Matthew 3:13-16). Of standing and empowers us to love both
course, Jesus did not need to be baptized God and our fellow man (Acts 1:8; 2
for the forgiveness of sin because He lived Timothy 1:6-7). After the laying on
a perfect, sin-free life (1 Peter 2:22). of hands, God’s Spirit begins residing
Jesus was baptized to show us what we within us and evidence or “fruit” of it
must do. Through baptism, we com- becomes obvious to ourselves and others.
mit our lives to God and agree to “fol- The characteristics of “love, joy, peace,
low His [Jesus’] steps” and “walk just as longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith-
He walked” (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). fulness, gentleness, self-control” describe
It is also important to note that Jesus our way of thinking and conduct (Gala-
instructed those who would lead the tians 5:22-23).
Church to “go therefore and make dis- The Holy Spirit does not force us to live
ciples of all the nations, baptizing them God’s way or become like Him. Instead,
in the name of the Father and of the Son it leads us in the right direction. We must
and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). allow God’s Spirit to guide us because “to
Being completely immersed in water be carnally minded [primarily governed
symbolizes the death and burial of our by our own way of thinking apart from
old way of living prior to repentance, and God] is death” (Romans 8:6). This natu-
coming up from the water symbolizes ral, human way of thinking is “against
our resurrection—being brought back God” (verse 7). The only way we will
to life—to a new sin-free way of living please Him is by yielding to His direc-
(Romans 6:3-11). Paul also referred to this tion, allowing ourselves to be led by His
process as putting “off the old man with Spirit. Paul then further explained, “For
his deeds” and putting “on the new man if you live according to the flesh you will
who is renewed in knowledge” (Colos- die; but if by the Spirit you put to death
the deeds of the body, you will live. For
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sians 3:8-10).
as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
Led by the Spirit these are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).
Baptism includes another i­ mportant The Bible here defines God’s people as

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Jesus was baptized to show us what we
must do. Through baptism, we commit
our lives to God and agree to “follow
His [Jesus’] steps” and “walk just as He
walked” (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

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ones who “are led by the Spirit.” And Kingdom of God is when Jesus “comes
if we have God’s Spirit residing within in His glory.” Contrary to what many
us, we will eventually also be “glorified believe, humans do not enter the King-
together” with Christ (verse 17). dom prior to Christ’s return. This means
that good people do not go to heaven
Repenting, being baptized, becoming
when they die. The Bible teaches that
converted and being led by God’s Holy
when people die, their bodies return to
Spirit are all required steps for those who
the earth and their thoughts cease (Eccle-
wish to inherit eternal life in the King-
siastes 9:5; Psalm 146:4, King James Ver-
dom of God. (Note: If you believe you are
sion). Their conscious existence has come
ready to commit your life to God via bap-
to an end. Those who died faithful to
tism, please contact us. A minister will
God are “asleep” in their graves, awaiting
respond to your request.)
Christ’s return when they will be resur-
rected—brought back to life (1 Thessalo-
When we may enter the Kingdom nians 4:13-17; Job 14:10-15).
Returning to the occasion when Jesus
answered His disciples’ questions about So where did this idea that people go to
His coming and the end of the age, Jesus heaven when they die originate? History
explained when the elect—those who shows that humans have believed in an
had repented of their sins, been baptized afterlife—another life after one’s human
and demonstrated their belief in God life—for a long time. The ancient Egyp-
through obedience to His laws—would be tians, for example, preserved the bodies
invited into God’s Kingdom. Here is His of those who had died and buried trea-
­teaching. sures along with the deceased because
they thought all these things would later
“When the Son of Man comes in His
be needed by the person. They believed
glory, and all the holy angels with Him,
that humans had both a physical body
then He will sit on the throne of His
that would die and a spirit that would
glory. All the nations will be gathered
continue to live after death.
before Him, and He will separate them
one from another, as a shepherd divides Later, the Greeks and Romans expanded
his sheep from the goats. And He will upon the Egyptian belief with the idea
set the sheep on His right hand, but the that after death the souls of good people
goats on the left. Then the King will say were rewarded and the souls of bad peo-
to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you ple received punishment. The really bad
blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom people were believed to be consigned to
prepared for you from the foundation of everlasting punishment in hell.
the world’” (Matthew 25:31-34). While God’s plan is for people to live
The time when people will enter the eternally with Him in His family, what

18 THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM LifeHopeandTruth.com


these ancient peoples didn’t understand Because humans are mortal, the righ-
was when eternal life would be made teous will have to be given immortality
available to humans. Not understanding when Jesus returns to establish the King-
this concept, many assumed that humans dom of God on earth. When He returns,
have an immortal soul. And if humans “the dead in Christ” will be resurrected
have an immortal soul, then obviously back to life as immortal spirit beings (1
souls have to go somewhere when a Thessalonians 4:13-17), and the faithful
­person dies. in Christ who are alive will likewise be
What the Bible clearly teaches is the pos- changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). From
sibility of eternal death: “The soul who this time forward, these faithful humans
sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). The unre- now changed into immortal, eternal
pentant soul (“soul” meaning a living spirit beings will then “always be with the
being) will cease to exist—not continue Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
to live in another state (Romans 3:23;
6:23). Even the righteous who die before Seeking the Kingdom
Christ’s return will remain unconscious Even though the Kingdom of God is not
in their graves until He comes again yet here on earth and we cannot enter it
(Hebrews 9:27; Ecclesiastes 9:10). until Christ returns, our thinking and
our lives must be focused on this proph-
Understanding this concept, Peter told esied event. In this sense, the Kingdom
people in the first century that King David of God should be in our hearts or minds
remained dead and buried “to this day” because we are continually thinking
(Acts 2:29). Please note that Peter said this about it. But as we’ve already seen, the
after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Kingdom is much more. It is also a King-
Humans do not have an immortal soul dom that will come to earth and replace
residing within them, and no human has all human governments.
gone to heaven. As John 3:13 confirms,
“No one has ascended to heaven but He Is the Kingdom within you?
who came down from heaven, that is, the Responding to a question from the Phari-
Son of Man who is in heaven.” sees about when the Kingdom of God
The question of when we may enter the would come, Jesus said, “The kingdom
Kingdom is part of the mystery of the of God does not come with observa-
Kingdom of God. “Now this I say, breth- tion; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See
ren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is
the kingdom of God. … Behold, I tell within you” (Luke 17:20-21). The first part
you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, of Jesus’ answer has been fairly easy to
but we shall all be changed … at the last understand. Misunderstanding regarding
­trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:50-51). the latter part however, has given many

19
an incomplete picture of the Kingdom. When Jesus returns, there will indeed
be dramatic signs that all will be able to
When Jesus came to earth, the Jews were
looking for the Messiah to come and discern (Matthew 24:5-14, 21-27; Revela-
elevate the Jewish nation to prominence. tion 1:7). But in saying “The kingdom of
Instead of hearing a message of repen- God does not come with observation; nor
tance, they anticipated a Deliverer who will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’”
would lead them in a successful libera- (Luke 17:20-21), Jesus was explaining to
tion of their nation. And some of the reli- the Pharisees of that generation that in
gious authorities apparently believed that spite of their meticulous efforts, their
they—because of their careful investiga- mistaken understanding would not allow
tion—would be the ones to first discover them to identify the Messiah’s first com-
the promised Savior’s coming. In the ing. Furthermore, they would not see the
above noted passage, Jesus told the Phari- astonishing signs of His second coming—
sees that their thinking was mistaken. the signs for which they were looking. As
Jesus’ first coming was to announce the Jesus noted, His second coming would
Kingdom. Later, He would “appear a sec- be clearly observable like lightning flash-
ond time … for salvation” and the estab- ing across the sky. However, His return
lishment of the Kingdom here on earth would be in another “day” (verse 24)—a
(Hebrews 9:28). time period long after the Pharisees to

As Jesus noted, His second coming would


be clearly observable like lightning flashing
across the sky. However, His return would
be in another “day” (Luke 17:24).

20
20 THE
THEMYSTERY
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cogwa.org
whom He was speaking had lived and the power of darkness and conveyed us
died. into the kingdom of the Son of His love”
(Colossians 1:13). So there is a sense of us
After telling the Pharisees that they
being symbolically “conveyed,” “trans-
wouldn’t be able to observe the coming
lated” (King James Version) or “trans-
of the Kingdom of God in the way they
ferred” (English Standard Version) into
had anticipated, He said, “For indeed,
the Kingdom when we commit our lives
the kingdom of God is within you” (verse
to God and begin living as He instructs.
21). In this passage, the phrase “is within
Our primary allegiance is transferred
you” is also translated “is in the midst
from all kingdoms of this world to God’s
of you” (Revised Standard Version) and
Kingdom. We are then subject to differ-
“is among you” (Bible in Basic English).
ent laws (God’s laws) and belong to a dif-
The New American Standard Bible, the
ferent community (the Church of God).
New International Version, Modern
King James Version and Green’s Literal Even though the Bible speaks of our
Translation translate this phrase “in your “citizenship” as being in heaven after we
midst.” In this sense, Jesus, the King of are baptized (Philippians 3:20), in order
the coming Kingdom of God, was stand- to enter the Kingdom, humans must be
ing in the midst of the Pharisees. These changed from flesh and blood into spirit,
translations are clearly better, for the from mortal into immortal at Jesus’ sec-
Kingdom of God was not in the hearts of ond coming (1 Corinthians 15:50-53;
these Pharisees. Hebrews 9:28). When the Kingdom of
God comes to earth, it will rule over all
So what about the concept of the King-
the “kingdoms of this world” (Revelation
dom of God being in our hearts? The
11:15).
Scriptures show that this subject should
be on our minds. After all, we are sup- Unfortunately, in reading Jesus’ state-
posed to pray for the Kingdom to come ment that “the kingdom of God is within
(Matthew 6:10) and Jesus told us to “seek you,” many have mistakenly limited the
first the kingdom of God and His righ- Kingdom of God to a philosophical per-
teousness” (verse 33). spective or a way of thinking. In reality,
the coming Kingdom of God is far more
When we repent of our sins, are baptized
than what is in the hearts and minds of
and begin following the lead of the Holy
Jesus’ followers. In fact, it is the King-
Spirit, we voluntarily place ourselves
dom that God’s faithful elect will enter
under the laws and authority of the com-
Photo: 123RF.com

at Christ’s return and that will be estab-


ing Kingdom of God. Describing this
lished here on earth.
process, Paul, who was being held pris-
oner in Rome at the time, explained, “He In order to keep this vision of the future
[God, the Father] has delivered us from clearly in mind, Christ instructs us to

21
pray for this Kingdom to come (Matthew urday. God established this day of rest
6:9-10) and to “seek first the kingdom of from the beginning when He fashioned
God and His righteousness” (verse 33). the earth as we know it in six days. “And
It is not enough to simply learn about on the seventh day God ended His work
this mystery that has been hidden from which He had done, and He rested on the
most of mankind and then continue liv- seventh day from all His work which He
ing the same way we always lived prior to had done. Then God blessed the seventh
­receiving this knowledge. day and sanctified it, because in it He
rested from all His work which God had
Instead, our lives must change so that we
created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3).
become examples for others. As followers
of Jesus Christ, we become “the salt of the God specifically stated that “the seventh
earth” and “the light of the world” (Mat- day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy
thew 5:13-14). Here is how we can stay convocation” (Leviticus 23:3). The sev-
focused on God’s coming Kingdom and enth day was and remains the day to rest
represent it to others. from our regular labors and to assemble
with God’s people to worship Him. Con-
The weekly Sabbath trary to popular belief, God never blessed
One of the biggest changes in the lives of or sanctioned worshipping on another
those who are seeking God’s Kingdom day of the week. This weekly day of rest
is the days upon which they assemble to and assembly to worship has never been
worship God. In mainstream Christian- changed by God.
ity, most people assume that Sunday is When Christ came to earth, He wor-
the day to attend church and that the hol- shipped on the seventh-day Sabbath
idays of Christmas and Easter are the cel- (Luke 4:16), and this was the day upon
ebrations to observe in honor of Christ’s which His disciples and the New Testa-
birth and resurrection. But—and here lies ment Church worshipped (Acts 13:14, 42,
another part of “the mystery of the king- 44; 18:4). As one of the commandments
dom” (Mark 4:11)—these days are not the of God (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy
commanded days of worship in the Bible. 5:12-15), the seventh-day Sabbath con-
Instead, God has different days of wor- tinues as a “perpetual covenant” and
ship for those He is calling and preparing “sign” of God’s people today just as it was
for His Kingdom. for ancient Israel (Exodus 31:13, 16-17).
As Christ said, we must keep the com-
The weekly day of worship—the “Sab-
mandments if we want to receive the gift
bath,” as it is called in the Bible—is not
of eternal life (Matthew 19:16-19; Mark
the first day of the week, Sunday, as so
10:17-19).
many assume. Instead, the Bible states
that it is the seventh day of the week, Sat- In the book of Hebrews, Sabbath-keeping

22 THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM LifeHopeandTruth.com


is spoken of as a reminder of the coming convocations”—commanded assem-
Kingdom of God. In making this con- blies—outline His plan of salvation for
nection, the author speaks of the Prom- mankind. The fourth of these annual holy
ised Land, Canaan, as a type of “rest” days, the Feast of Trumpets, represents
for ancient Israel (3:7-19) and of another the return of Christ to establish the King-
“rest” that the people of God might enter dom of God on earth. The remaining
(Hebrews 4:1). As one of the main sub- holy days remind Christians of additional
jects of our prayers (Matthew 6:10) and steps God will take to complete the plan
what we seek first in our lives (verse 33), He and the Son designed for humans
the Kingdom of God is clearly the rest we from the beginning.
look forward to entering.
These holy days were observed by Christ,
The author of Hebrews then points out His disciples and the Church of the first
that God rested on the seventh day century. Though given in the Old Testa-
from His creative works and that there ment, Jesus enhanced their Christian
“remains therefore a rest for the people meaning. One of these festivals, the Feast
of God” (Hebrews 4:9). The Greek word of Tabernacles, pictures the 1,000-year
translated “rest”—sabbatismos—literally reign of Christ on earth.
means ‘a Sabbath rest’ according to Louw
and Nida’s Greek English Lexicon of the During this Millennium, with the King-
New Testament. The next verse then adds dom firmly established on earth, wonder-
that anyone who enters the Kingdom will ful blessings will come upon all peoples
have followed God’s example of ceasing who hear and respond to Christ’s teach-
from working on the Sabbath (verse 10). ing. From the healing of physical infirmi-
ties (Isaiah 35:5-6) to abundant agricul-
As we worship God on the seventh day
tural production (verses 2-3; Amos 9:13)
of the week, we are reminded that God
to universal peace (Isaiah 9:7; 52:7; 54:10,
established the Sabbath by resting Him-
13), the Kingdom of God is going to be a
self when He prepared the earth for man-
most welcome change for earth’s inhabit-
kind and that this day also represents the
ants. But the greatest blessing of all will
future rest we anticipate in God’s King-
be the knowledge of God that includes an
dom. The weekly, seventh-day Sabbath
invitation for everyone to become part
is thus an important reminder of God’s
of His family and live forever if he or she
ongoing plan to invite humans to become
will respond to God’s loving instructions
part of His eternal family.
(Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).
Annual holy days See “What Are the Meanings of Each of
In Leviticus 23 we find the seven God’s Festivals?” to learn more about
annual holy days of God. These “holy these biblical celebrations. Observing

23
What Are the Meanings of
Each of God’s Festivals?
God’s annual festivals and holy days represent His plan of salva-
tion for mankind. Though given to ancient Israel (Leviticus 23),
Jesus, the disciples and the New Testament Church continued to
observe these days with Christian meaning. Here is what each of
these commanded assemblies represents.

Passover, celebrated with the killing of a lamb in the Old Testa-


ment, pointed toward Christ giving His life for our sins (1 Peter
2:24). In observing the Passover with His disciples prior to His
crucifixion, Jesus instituted New Testament symbols of bread
and wine to represent His broken body and shed blood. He now
represents the Passover lamb. As Paul told the Church at Corinth:
“Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The Days of Unleavened Bread last for seven days and are
observed by putting leaven and leavened products (which
­represent sin) out of our homes. By not eating leaven for this
­period of time, Christians are reminded that we must put sin out
of our lives (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Pentecost, which is the 50th day counted beginning with the


first day of the week (Sunday) during the Days of ­Unleavened
Bread, represents the day upon which the New Testament
Church—referred to as “firstfruits” (James 1:18; Revelation 14:4)—
24
24 THE
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began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). After
understanding that Jesus died for our sins, we must repent of
our sins in order to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This festival
also reminds us that once baptized, we must allow God’s Spirit
to lead us (Romans 8:8-9).

The Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Jesus Christ to


earth to establish the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15).

The Day of Atonement symbolizes the binding of Satan so


humans will no longer be deceived by him and the demons
(Revelation 20:1-3). This act prepares the world for what the next
holy day represents.

The Feast of Tabernacles, which lasts for seven days, pictures


the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. During this Millennium,
the saints will serve as kings and priests assisting Christ in teach-
ing humans God’s way of life (Revelation 5:10). During this time
of peace, humans will be healed of diseases (Isaiah 35:5-6), and
the earth will become abundantly productive (verses 1-2). This
celebration will continue to be observed during the Millennium
(Zechariah 14:16).

The Last Great Day represents another period of time after the
Millennium in which all humans who have ever lived without full
knowledge of God’s way of life will be resurrected to a physical
life. These people will then be instructed in God’s way and given
an opportunity to respond (Ezekiel 37:14; Matthew 12:41-42).

25
25
these annual holy days helps us keep ciples of the apostles, down to Lactantius,
God’s plan for each of us and the entire who was a preceptor to the son of Con-
world firmly in mind. stantine. Though it might not be univer-
sally received, it appears to have been
Concealing the mystery the reigning sentiment of the orthodox
Since the first century when Jesus’ dis- believers; and it seems so well adapted to
ciples explained the mystery of the the desires and apprehensions of man-
Kingdom to the Church, this knowledge kind, that it must have contributed in a
has gradually disappeared. Edward Gib- very considerable degree to the progress
bon, in his book The Decline and Fall of of the Christian faith.
the Roman Empire, documents how the “But when the edifice of the church was
understanding of Christ coming to earth almost completed, the temporary support
to establish the Kingdom of God fell was laid aside. The doctrine of Christ’s
out of prominence within mainstream reign upon earth was at first treated as
­Christianity: a profound allegory, was considered by
“The ancient and popular doctrine of the degrees as a doubtful and useless opin-
Millennium was intimately connected ion, and was at length rejected as the
with the second coming of Christ. As the absurd invention of heresy and fanati-
works of the creation had been finished cism” (Chapter 15, “The Progress of the
in six days, their duration in their present Christian Religion, and the Sentiments,
state, according to a tradition which was Manners, Numbers and Condition of the
attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed Primitive Christians”).
to six thousand years. By the same anal- In conjunction with the dismissal of the
ogy it was inferred that this long period teaching that Christ will bring the King-
of labour and contention, which was now dom of God to earth, the biblical days of
almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a worship that remind us of this doctrine
joyful sabbath of a thousand years; and were likewise suppressed. Worship on
that Christ, with the triumphant band of Sunday replaced the seventh-day Sab-
the saints and the elect who had escaped bath, and holidays founded in paganism
death, or who had been miraculously replaced the annual holy days of God.
revived, would reign upon earth till the The new days of worship were given
time appointed for the last and general meanings connected with Jesus’ birth
resurrection. … and resurrection.
“The assurance of such a Millennium was The deception has worked so well that
carefully inculcated by a succession of now a majority of people believe Chris-
fathers from Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, tians should worship on Sunday in honor
who conversed with the immediate dis- of Jesus’ resurrection, observe Christmas

26 THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM LifeHopeandTruth.com


in honor of His birth and celebrate Eas- When anyone hears the word of the king-
ter in remembrance of His resurrection. dom, and does not understand it, then
Eventually the deception will be revealed the wicked one comes and snatches away
and the wrath of God will come “against what was sown in his heart. This is he
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of who received seed by the wayside.
men, who suppress the truth” (Romans “But he who received the seed on stony
1:18). But for now, the mystery continues places, this is he who hears the word and
for the vast majority of people deceived immediately receives it with joy; yet he
by Satan (Revelation 12:9). has no root in himself, but endures only
However, this “mystery which has been for a while. For when tribulation or perse-
hidden from ages and generations … now cution arises because of the word, imme-
has been revealed to His saints. To them diately he stumbles.
God willed to make known what are the “Now he who received seed among the
riches of the glory of this mystery among thorns is he who hears the word, and the
the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness
hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). of riches choke the word, and he becomes
unfruitful.
Now that you know
“But he who received seed on the good
As you finish reading this revelation of ground is he who hears the word and
the mystery of the Kingdom, you are in understands it, who indeed bears fruit
a condition similar to that of Jesus’ dis- and produces: some a hundredfold, some
ciples. After explaining the parable about sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).
the sower and seed, Jesus said to them:
“But blessed are your eyes for they see, If you want to be in this last category—
and your ears for they hear” (Matthew those who bear abundant fruit that will
13:16). They had been given the explana- allow them to enter the Kingdom of
tion of the mystery and now so have you. God—feel free to contact us. Experienced
ministers will be pleased to counsel you
So now that you know “the secrets of the for baptism, answer your questions and
Kingdom of God,” what will you do with welcome you into a fellowship of believ-
this knowledge? (Luke 8:10, GNT). Your ers who like Joseph of Arimathea are
response will be one of four identified by “waiting for the kingdom of God” (Mark
Jesus in His parable of the sower. Care- 15:43).
fully consider these responses people have
upon hearing this hidden knowledge of We hope you will respond to this priceless
the Kingdom explained to them. opportunity. Jesus is saying to you: “The
kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

27
About

LifeHopeandTruth.com exists to fill a critical void in this world: the lack of understanding
about the purpose of life, the lack of realistic hope for a better future and the lack of
truth!
Neither religion nor science has satisfactorily addressed these issues, so people today
are of divided opinions, confused or, worst of all, don’t care anymore. The ancient words
of the prophet Isaiah ring so true today: “Truth is fallen in the street.” Why? Is it because
God was right when He warned that humans are inclined to reject Him and usually
choose not to know Him?
We are here for people who are searching for answers, who are ready to prove all
things or who are hungry for more than what they’ve been taught most of their lives
about God, the Bible, the meaning of life and how to live. We want to help you truly
understand the good news of the gospel and fulfill Jesus Christ’s admonition to “seek
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
LifeHopeandTruth.com is sponsored by the Church of God, a Worldwide Association,
Inc. It is supported by the generous contributions of donors and members of the Church
around the world, who make it possible for everything on this site to be free of charge
based on Jesus Christ’s statement, “Freely you have received, freely give.” You will never
be charged or made to feel obligated for anything on this site.
The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, has congregations around the world
in more than 50 countries, with headquarters in the United States near Dallas, Texas.
To learn more about the Church, please visit our website cogwa.org.

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