Summary: Jesus, during one day of preaching used six different parables describing what Heaven was like. This sermon examines the parable of the leaven and how it relates to our mission as followers of Christ.
There was a pastor who was preaching on going to heaven. He said to his congregation, ‘How many of you would like to go to heaven tonight?’ Everybody raised their hands, except a little boy up in the balcony. The pastor tried again, ‘How many of you would like to go to heaven?’ Everybody but the little boy in the balcony raised their hands. So he finally said to the boy, ‘Son, don’t you want to go to heaven?’ The little boy said, ‘’Yeah, someday…but I thought you were getting’ up a load right now.’
This morning, we’re going to be talking about the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or as it is sometimes referred to, the ‘Kingdom of God’.
It was interesting to me that during my preparation for this sermon, I was reminded that Matthew was the ‘most Jewish’ of the all the Gospel writers. And because that was so, he refers to the Kingdom of Heaven thirty-two times and he refers to the Kingdom of God only four times. The reason for this practice, I found, is that the Jewish writers at that time tried to avoid using any verbal references to God for fear of breaking the third commandment, which says, ‘You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.’
So you can see why Matthew used the phrase Kingdom of Heaven more often in his writings. He definitely had a healthy fear of the Lord. And so, understanding this, we now know that the terms Kingdom of Heaven and the phrase Kingdom of God are really interchangeable in regards to their meaning throughout the New Testament.
As we look more critically at what the Bible says about the Kingdom of Heaven, we find that Jesus revealed to us that the Kingdom of Heaven is a gift from God that comes to people only…and I say only, when they are willing to accept it. You will find that the Kingdom is primarily the inward reign of God in an individual that then manifests itself externally in and through a Christian’s life.
As we accept Christ into our lives, we then acknowledge the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then directs our Sanctification…leading us, teaching us, interpreting our prayers, comforting and assuring us and revealing to us God’s will for our lives. As we mature in our faith, and we learn how to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, we begin to externalize this gift of Heaven by professing our faith in Christ Jesus to others…doing for others and calling to them to enter into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ our Savior.
When Jesus was with us here on earth, He viewed His Father’s Kingdom in three ways…past, present and future.
Jesus speaks of the Kingdom as being present….that it is present in the lives of individuals. Our Bible speaks about the Kingdom as being ‘preached’ (Matt. 4:23, 9:35), as being ‘received’ (Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17). The Kingdom can be ‘entered’ (Matt. 5:20, 18:3). One may not be ‘far from the kingdom’ (Mark 12:34). And so you can see now, that the Kingdom of Heaven was considered a present reality by Jesus.
But even though the Kingdom is a present reality that is within each one of us, it is also a reality of the past. The Bible identifies the prophets, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and other Old Testament prophets as coming before in the Kingdom. And in essence, saying the Kingdom has existed prior to our present time.
And the Bible also indicates that the Kingdom exists in the future. For Joseph of Arimathea, he had waited for the Kingdom. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, they all state that the Kingdom would come in the lifetime of some who listened to Jesus, in other words, in their future. Jesus himself looked forward to the coming of the Kingdom.
And regarding the second coming of Jesus…one of the most mentioned topics in the New Testament, by-the-way... we know in our present age that ‘in the future’, the Son of Man will usher in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
And so, from the words of Jesus himself, we begin to understand that the existence of the Kingdom of Heaven is all of this…it is a reality in the past, in the present and in the future.
The Disciples asked Jesus, ‘Why do you tell stories to the people?’
In order for Jesus to teach and explain the glories of Heaven to the people of his time, he used stories to which they could relate…stories of sheep and animals, stories of farming and daily life. Jesus turned to everyday life in Galilee in order to illustrate the Kingdom of God.