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Matthew: Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven

Monday, July 17, 2023

Matthew focuses on the Messiah (Christ) of Old Testament prophecy, proving and explaining Him. He quotes many Old Testament scriptures throughout his book. More than any of the other gospel writers, Matthew uses “kingdom of heaven” (32 times) rather than “kingdom of God” (5 times). The other gospel writers never use the term “kingdom of heaven.” Matthew also applies the term “son of David” to Jesus 10 times in his book, whereas Mark and Luke use the term 3 times each and John never does. This makes sense, when you realize Matthew is focusing on the Jews as his primary audience, while the others have a wider audience in mind.

The Five Sermons

Jesus preaches five major sermons recorded in Matthew’s gospel, each which ends with the marker, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings” and some transitionary language immediately following.

Matthew 5.1–8.1: The Sermon on the Mount begins with, “He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, his disciples came to Him.” It transitions to the next events with, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching…When He came down from the mountain…”

Matthew 10.5–11.1: The Sending of the Twelve begins with, “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them…” It transitions to the next events with, “When Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.”

Matthew 13.1–53: Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven begins with, “Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.” It transitions to the next events with, “And when Jesus had finished these parables, He went away from there.”

Matthew 18.1–19.1: Lessons on Humility and Forgiveness begins with, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus.” It transitions to the next events with, “Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, He went away from Galilee…”

Matthew 24.3–26.1: The Return of Christ begins with, “Jesus left the temple and was going away.” It transitions to the next events with, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said to His disciples…”

The Kingdom of Heaven

Face of JesusMatthew helps us understand the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. Next time you read through the gospel, keep your eyes open for “the kingdom of heaven” and related terms like “Our Father who is in heaven…”

Jesus talks about…

The timing of the kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” He preached. He taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come” (6.10), and John the Baptist was not in the kingdom (11.11–12). Peter was to be given the keys to the kingdom (16.19), and their generation would see the kingdom (16.28).

The nature of the kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” He preached at least nine times in the gospel, six of which are in chapter 13’s sermon (13.24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47; 18.23; 20.1; 22.2). Those in the kingdom are poor in spirit (5.3) and persecuted (5.10). They have a high view of Scripture (5.19) and of righteousness (5.20). They don’t just preach, they practice (7.21). They are like little children (19.14), and the rich can only enter the kingdom with great difficulty (19.23). Jesus called it, “My Father’s kingdom” (26.29), and it would be open to the Gentiles (21.41–43).

King Jesus

As the Messiah (Christ), Jesus is marked as the King of prophecy who now sits on the throne of David as a forever king. He had a humble beginning, born to poor parents (13.55–57) and raised in an obscure village of Nazareth. As a travelling rabbi, Jesus was homeless (8.20) and spent His time with the dregs and fringes of society (11.4–6) and was gentle in spirit (11.28–30; 12.18–21). He continually frustrated the Jewish leadership, entered Jerusalem as a humble king riding on a donkey (21.1–11), and was finally crucified in a shameful and painful death—rejected by His own people.

But He taught with authority (7.28–29). There was not a physical problem He couldn’t fix (see chapters 8–9). He didn’t just argue with the Jewish leaders but often confounded and cornered them (12.1–14; 15.1–9; 21.23–27; 22.15–46).

After His resurrection (glory and praise to God!), Jesus said to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Amen!


Jesus is the son of David, heir to the eternal throne of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus is the Son of Man, God made flesh.

Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one, with all authority over all things.

Thinking about Heaven

Monday, July 10, 2023

Do we believe that heaven will be worth the trouble and tears, the sorrows and struggles, the toiling and pain? Do we believe we will enjoy it better than this life? Are we looking forward to what God has prepared for us?

Perhaps our good days present the greatest threat to our faith: the days we feel excellent and energized, like we are masters of our own destinies. Our good days can make us lose focus on spiritual reality. As a young man before marriage, I really hoped Jesus didn’t return right then because there was so much I wanted to do and experience in this life. Do you feel that way sometimes? Is this life so captivating and pleasurable that you don’t want it to end?

The more trouble we experience, the greater a Christian’s hope becomes in a life beyond this one. In a sense, then, pain and trials are gifts of God which increase our character and our faith. “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom. 5.3–4). Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Another danger to our faith is our fuzzy expectation for what lies beyond the veil. What will we experience when we cross the Jordan, when we sleep the sleep, when we descend into Sheol? What does our resurrection promise? Where is our hope?

Barley fieldWhat is your picture of heaven? Do you fully expect it to be awesome?

Dear Christian, in Christ Jesus you have eternal life! “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2.25). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3.16). “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6.54).

This is the HOPE of every Christian. “…having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3.7). This kind of hope is an expectant certainty of gaining the promise of God. This is not the “I hope I win a million dollars in the lottery” kind of hope. It’s the “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” kind of hope. We hope by faith in the sure word of the Lord.

God wants you to KNOW you have eternal life:

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5.11–13)

God create this life for us, and there are so many wonderful, beautiful, thrilling aspects to it. And this is the world under the curse of sin! How much more wonderful, beautiful, and thrilling will eternal life be, in which there is no sorrow, pain, or tears? A contemporary song explores the idea of what it will be like:

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine… (by MercyMe)

I think we should imagine. It’s going to be real for us in the not-too-distant future. It’s already real for those who have gone on before us. I have loved ones who have crossed the Jordan already; I’m sure you do, too.

God tells us He will one day destroy this current world with fire and create a New Heaven and a New Earth (2 Pet. 3.10–13; Rev. 3.12; 21.1, 10). I don’t know how He will do that or what it will look like, exactly, but the promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth does not sound like floating around on clouds strumming harps for eternity. No, I am looking forward to a robust economy with fulfilling work to do, amazing food to eat, and glorious fellowship.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21.5)

We are told we will have a body like Jesus’ new body (1 Cor. 15.49; Phil. 3.20–21). There won’t be any marriage, but we will be like the angels of God (Matt. 22.30). We will have real bodies, and we will recognize and know one another. And we will be with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit forever! God once walked with Adam and Eve in the garden; He will do that once again with us. I’m looking forward to a new city with a river running through it. The Tree of Life will be bearing fruit constantly on the banks of that river (Rev. 22.1–2).

And we shall reign with Christ forever and ever (Rev. 22.5; 2 Tim. 2.12).

How Do You Define Success?

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Am I happy because of the security and wealth I have? Am I happy because of the things I do, the pleasures I enjoy, the food I eat, the clothing I wear, etc.? All these things can make me briefly happy, but pleasure is fleeting.

Your definition of success greatly affects your happiness and contentedness during your short stint on earth.

The "American dream" is about money and comfort. Is that success? Our Constitution guarantees us the right to pursue happiness, but it doesn't bother defining it. Most seem to think owning property produces happiness; therefore, to maximize happiness you should maximize the amount of stuff you own.

Not true!

Just look at how many winners of life's lottery still suffer severe depression, anger, hopelessness. Substance abuse remains rampant among the wealthy, just as it does among the poor. Being filthy rich doesn't protect marriages, as many of the world's rich and famous are famous for philandering, cheating, and divorcing.

Since money obviously does not guarantee happiness, we shouldn't define success by riches. I appreciate Dave Ramsey on many levels, but he often seems to equate "winning" with the amount of cash a person has. "Cash is king." He encourages making major sacrifices now to have millions later. He talks of years of rice and beans, beans and rice; live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else. Change the family tree.

Peace and CoffeeFor what purpose? Will those millions make me or my family happier down the road?

Why should I change my family tree in this way? Why should I leave millions to my children? Is this really the focus and goal God has for me and my family?

On the one hand,

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. (Prov. 13.22)

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough! (Prov. 28.19)

On the other hand,

There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches. (Prov. 13.7)

Better is a little with righteousness,
Than vast revenues without justice. (Prov. 16.8)

Better is a dry morsel with quietness,
Than a house full of feasting with strife. (Prov. 17.1)

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage. (Prov. 11.28)

What if, instead of earthly riches, I give my family a strong work ethic? What if I teach them to love their neighbor as themselves? What if I teach them to take care of widows and orphans in their distress? What if I leave a legacy of peace and fellowship?

What if my family lives within their means but never becomes rich or powerful? Can they still find happiness?

What if I teach them to give away their money and trust God to take care of them and continue to fill their needs?

Jesus says:

"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fill, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12.32-34)

Success, for the child of God, is a life filled with hope, love, faithfulness, and quietness. A contented man is successful.

As a wise man once prayed:

Give me neither poverty nor riches--
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God. (Prov. 30.8-9)


Are You Qualified to Serve?

Monday, June 19, 2023

Deacons are simply servants of the church. The church appoints these servants to fulfill certain tasks necessary to the working of the church. Early disciples in Jerusalem appointed these servants to take care of their needy widows (Acts 6), but their qualifications (1 Tim. 3.8-13) indicate they serve the church in more ways.

helping each otherIn Jesus’ teaching, the greatest of all is the least of all, and Jesus used διάκονος (diakonos) to describe us: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9.35) “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant…” (Mark 10.43)

God called the Roman government His διάκονος: “he [the governing authority] is God’s servant for your good” (Rom. 13.4).

Jesus Himself is a διάκονος to Israel: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs…” (Rom. 15.8)

This word is used in many places throughout the New Testament. We understand by the context of 1 Tim. 3.1-13 that Paul writes of offices or positions in the church. The role of overseer / elder is an office of the church. Likewise (1 Tim. 3.8) there exists the role or office of deacon.

When addressing the Philippian church, Paul wrote “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1.1).

Those who serve their church in this official capacity should be tested and proven to be faithful before the church appoints them to this service. They not only serve the church; they represent the church (and, thus, Christ). Their qualifications differ from those of elders in several respects, but they are quite similar. We should look for men who are “dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3.8-9). They should manage their children and households well and be the husbands of one wife (1 Tim. 3.12). Women servants “must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (1 Tim. 3.11).

Those who serve well (i.e., faithfully), “gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3.13).

Isn’t it interesting that God requires men and women to be qualified before they serve the church in this capacity? These are not “advanced” Christians. They simply walk as Christians ought. They provide good examples to the flock, and they do not embarrass the church by shirking their responsibilities. They are faithful in their duties and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No wonder they gain confidence in the faith! Faithful service has that wonderful side-effect.

Are you qualified to serve?

When You Ban God's Word

Monday, June 12, 2023

About 600 years before Christ was born, while Jehoiakim was king of Judah, Jeremiah dictated words from God to Baruch the scribe, who wrote them on a scroll.

“I am banned from going to the house of YHWH,” Jeremiah told Baruch, “so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in YHWH’s house you shall read the words of YHWH from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. It may be that their plea for mercy will come before YHWH, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that YHWH has pronounced against this people.”

Baruch followed Jeremiah’s instructions. All the people of Judah proclaimed a fast and came to Jerusalem, and Baruch read Jeremiah’s words from the scroll in the house of YHWH.

A fellow named Micaiah heard Baruch’s reading and slipped away to tell the officials in the king’s house that someone was in the temple reading words against the people of Judah. The officials sent for Baruch to bring his scroll so he could read it to them.

They told Baruch, “Sit down and read it.”

After he finished, the officials looked around at each other with fear in their eyes. “We must report these words to the king,” they decided. Turning to Baruch, they said, “How did you write all these words? Was it at Jeremiah’s dictation?”

Baruch answered, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.”

The officials then said, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” They knew there could be serious blowback from the king because the words were harsh towards his kingdom.

burned bookThey brought the scroll to Jehoiakim, and the king had his man Jehudi read it to him in the presence of all the officials. In the fire pot before them, they had a hot fire going because it was winter, and Jehoiakim began taking the parts of the scroll that Jehudi had finished reading, cutting them off, and throwing them into the fire. Three of his men—Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah—urged the king not to burn the words, but he wouldn’t listen to them. Jehudi finally finished reading, and the king threw the last scrap of paper into the fire.

There was no fear in the king or any of his servants who had just heard the words. They had just burned the word of YHWH—it was gone. They didn’t believe it would come to pass.

The king ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be seized, but YHWH made sure they were hidden from the king’s designs.

Do you think that was the end of the story? Can men just burn and ban the word of God and remove His hand from upon them? Can we simply set God’s word aside with no consequence? Does burning the Bible make God vanish away?

The word of YHWH came to Jeremiah again: “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And concerning Jehoiakim you shall say, ‘Thus says YHWH, you have burned this scroll, saying “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” Therefore thus says YHWH concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’”

The first word was a warning; the second word was a promise of judgment. The first word was a hand of mercy extended and an opportunity for repentance; the second word was a firm expectation of God’s wrath.

You can attempt to ban God’s word. You can try to cast off His restraints. You can plan your own life and do it all your way. But God’s word will come upon you in the end. He will do what He intends.

We must not ban God’s word personally. He is my God and your God, and we are subject to His direction in every aspect of life. He formed me in my mother’s womb.

We must not ban God’s word as a family. He is our God. He formed and designed the family and set a purpose for father, mother, and children.

We must not ban God’s word in the marketplace. He demands honest scales.

We must not ban God’s word in the town square. He demands justice and will punish those who accept bribes and who judge with partiality.

We must not ban God’s word in the country’s capitol. The kings of the earth are subject to YHWH. God gives kings a mandate to punish wrongdoers and protect the innocent.

Burning the word of the Lord today is just as bad as it was for Jehoiakim, and those who do rightly fall under the judgment of God almighty. Help us, Lord, to bow our knee to King Jesus, love His word, and do it all the days of our lives.

(See Jeremiah 36 for the events recounted above.)

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