Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JESUS CHRIST AND ENTRANCE INTO GOD’S KINGDOM”

John 3.1-17

 

His name was whispered throughout the city. Young men everywhere were talking about Him. It seemed as though the old man barely heard His name because his students were very careful about letting him hear them talk about Him. I don’t exactly know how the old man found out where He would be. Perhaps he collared one of his students and pried the information out of him. At any rate, a very unusual encounter took place between an old scholar from Jerusalem named Nicodemus and a young man from Galilee named Jesus, the Nazarene.

Turn in your Bible to John chapter three, where we read John’s summation of the conversation that took place between the two men so long ago:

 

1      There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2      The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou 0 doest, except God be with him.

3      Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4      Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5      Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6      That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7      Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8      The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

9      Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10    Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11    Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12    If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13    And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

14    And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15    That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

16    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

 

What I would like you to fix your mind on when you consider this conversation between the old Bible scholar, Nicodemus, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the point the Savior drives home. Unless he is born again Nicodemus will not only not see God’s kingdom; he will not be allowed to enter the kingdom of God. And since the Lord Jesus used the plural “ye” in verse 7 it is clear that He meant not only must Nicodemus be born again. Everyone must be born again!

What is obvious from this conversation is that Nicodemus has no concept of the requirements he must meet to enjoy what the Jewish people of his day anticipated with eager expectation, the kingdom of God. Of course, in our day, not only do people have no idea how to gain entrance into God’s kingdom, they have almost no idea there is such a thing as God’s kingdom. Oh, everyone knows of the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell. There are even some who have something of a handle on the notion of a lake of fire. However, very few people ever think about God’s kingdom, even though it was God’s kingdom that was the hope of every Jewish person of Jesus Christ’s day, and it was God’s kingdom that our Lord instructed His disciples to pray for. Remember?

 

“Thy kingdom come.”

 

With your permission, the message will tie together some strands that seemed to be quite loose in the minds of many in Nicodemus’ day, and seem to be still very loose in our day, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and entrance into God’s kingdom. There is a consensus of opinion among historians that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the only reasonable explanation for a number of undeniable historical facts, such as the empty tomb in Jerusalem, such as the admission by Jesus Christ’s enemies that the tomb was empty, such as the radical transformation of Jesus Christ’s defeated and discouraged disciples into men who turned the world upside down, such as the day of worship being changed from Saturday to Sunday, such as the conversion of Christianity’s greatest enemy (the Apostle Paul), and the conversion of the Lord’s skeptical brother (James), who rapidly ascended to the leadership of the Christian community in Jerusalem. The resurrection is behind all that.[1] As well, we know that the only rational explanation for Christ’s resurrection, as well as the only rational explanation for the Second Law of Thermodynamics that shows the material universe is winding down from beginning to an eventual heat death end, is the existence of God. God created and sustains the universe, and God raised His Son Jesus Christ from the dead.

However, that leads to another consideration. Since God would never raise a heretic from the dead, would never raise from the dead anyone with whom He disagreed, Christ’s resurrection is an endorsement by God of His person, as well as being an endorsement of His teachings. The question is, what was Christ’s message? He said many things over the course of His three and one-half year earthly ministry, but if there is one thread that runs through everything He both said and did, it would be the kingdom of God. In a book titled The Meaning Of Jesus, celebrated British Bible scholar N. T. Wright commented, “we actually know more securely that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jewish prophet announcing the kingdom of God than we know almost anything.”[2]

As I pointed out, Nicodemus was obviously ignorant and confused about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. Wright’s comment shows that most people today are ignorant and confused about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. Thus, little seems to have changed in that respect over these last twenty centuries. Since I have designed this to be a survey message, I would ask you to close your Bible at this time. Scripture references will be available to you when the sermon is posted on the Church website.

Five large pegs to hang my thoughts on that will help you to get your mind around the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to the kingdom of God:

 

First, THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND GOD

 

Before I define the kingdom of God, let me remind you that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven referred to in the four Gospels accounts are one in the same.[3] Kingdom of heaven has to do with where the kingdom comes from, while the kingdom of God has to do with whose kingdom it is. Defined, “The kingdom of God is the entrance of God into human history to reign over them.”[4]

The kingdom of God, without it then being called the kingdom of God, was decreed way back in Genesis chapter 12, what theologians commonly refer to as the Abrahamic Covenant. Though we obviously do not have time to address the Abrahamic Covenant in any depth, recognize that it is the promise of God to Abraham first revealed in Genesis 12.1-3, setting forth the plan whereby God would reestablish His rule over mankind that was forfeited by Adam in the Garden of Eden when he sinned. Let me read:

 

1      Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

2      And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

3      And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

 

Concerning the display of the kingdom of God, there are two aspects to mention: “The future aspect of the kingdom was often obvious in Jesus’ message. For instance, He taught His disciples to pray that God’s kingdom will come in Matthew 6.10. At the Last Supper, Jesus asserts that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until He does so in the future kingdom, Mark 14.25. In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus speaks of the coming judgment in the last days and the eternal life of the kingdom which will follow. He also describes a series of events which will surround the time of His coming and inaugurate the final revelation of the kingdom, Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus also equates eternal life of the age to come (after the resurrection of the dead) with the kingdom, in Mark 9.43-47 and 10.23, 30.”[5] “There is a sense in which the future kingdom is present, however. Jesus sent His disciples out in order to proclaim that the kingdom was at hand, Matthew 10.7. Jesus also speaks of His casting out demons as a sign that the kingdom had arrived, Luke 11.20. In fact, when questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom would come, Jesus responded that it was already among them, Luke 17.20-21.”[6] We must acknowledge, therefore, that when the king is present, in a very real sense, the kingdom has come.

Of course, the fulfillment of the kingdom’s manifestation will take place at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and great glory, when He returns in the brightness of His glory to reign here on earth.[7] The kingdom of God will then be ruled by the physically present Son of God in the future millennial kingdom here on earth.

 

Next, THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE LAND

 

The Jewish people always understood the kingdom of God to be a literal, earthly kingdom. In this, they were correct. Just as God had once ruled the earth through His regent, Adam, who He set over His earthly creation, so must any consideration of the kingdom of God include a recognition that where there is a kingdom, there must be a realm, a land.[8] In its pristine state, God’s creation was sinless, and therefore very good.[9] His will was reflected in the perfect obedience of Adam and the harmony that existed at that time. However, Adam sinned, and the peace and harmony of God’s earthly creation was disrupted. As promised when God warned Adam not to disobey, death followed immediately.[10] God’s rule over His earth through His regent, Adam, was destroyed by sin. Being spiritually dead after his rebellion, the man could no longer obey God. The Fall ruined everything.

Enter the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s plan to redeem both men and His physical creation. God’s rule over His subjects would take place in His kingdom. However, a real kingdom requires a real domain. Therefore, as Adam had presided over the Garden of Eden and also the whole earth, God expanded the Abrahamic Covenant to specify what theologians typically refer to as the Palestinian Covenant, whereby God’s rule over the whole earth would be extended from a particular geographic region set aside for the descendants of Abraham, the Jewish people.[11]

You cannot have a kingdom without a realm; not really. Therefore, it has always been understood by the Jewish people that God had promised to them a land, which we refer to as the Promised Land. There was no such thing in our Lord Jesus’ day as any conception of the kingdom of God that did not include a firm knowledge that for a kingdom to exist, there must be a land, a “holy land.”[12]

 

Third, THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE SUBJECTS

 

If you are going to have a kingdom, you must have a realm. This is clear. As well, if you are going to have a kingdom, you must have subjects, citizens, people. For there to be a holy land, there must also be a holy people. Enter the Law of Moses. Given to Moses on Mount Sinai shortly after the children of Israel were delivered from Egyptian bondage and passed through the parted waters of the Red Sea, the Law is a most grievously misunderstood approach to God’s rule over His people.[13] Erroneously thought to be permanent as a rule of life for the Jewish people, the Law was always designed by God to be temporary.[14] Think about it. If there is no Temple, no ark, no altar, no priesthood, and no sacrifices, how can the Mosaic Law which requires the use of such things be in force? As well, erroneously thought to be a means of salvation for the Jewish people, the Law is in actuality inherently weak, because it depends on a sinner’s ability to obey. In Romans 3.20, we read,

 

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.”

 

And in Romans 8.3, the Apostle Paul clearly declares the inability of the Law to save sinners from their sins:

 

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.”

 

Understand, then, that the Law was not given to exercise permanent authority over the Jewish people. Neither was the Law given for people to obey and thereby be saved by their good works. The Law was given to show sinners, in particular, a sinful people, how very sinful they are. Therefore, if the Jewish people are hopelessly lost in their sins, then the Gentiles are certainly lost in their sins as well. With all this sin, how comes to be holy the subjects of the kingdom of God destined to dwell in the “holy land”? To meet this need God expanded the Abrahamic Covenant in yet another direction, referred to as the New Covenant.[15]

What is the benefit of the New Covenant? As any kingdom needs a domain, a realm, so the kingdom of God needs a land, provided under the terms of the Palestinian Covenant. As any kingdom needs subjects, so the kingdom of God needs subjects, provided under the terms of the New Covenant. Ezekiel 36.25-27 is one of the several places in the Old Testament where the New Covenant can be found:

 

25    Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

26    A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

27    And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

 

Cleansed from sin, and with a new heart, the kind of person who has this experience can live in the kingdom of God, can live in the “holy land,” because such a person as this is a holy person, by God’s grace capable of obedience, a saint.

 

Fourth, THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE KING

 

The kingdom must have a king. Is that not so? Subjects must be ruled, lands must be presided over, and the king must have His kingdom. Israel had wanted a king before God wanted to give them a king, so He gave them a king who was exactly the kind of man they wanted. He stood taller than any man in the kingdom. He was impressive, charismatic, and bold. However, he was also wicked, and King Saul’s sins resulted in God finally tearing the kingdom from him and replacing him with David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the shepherd, the lad who slew Goliath with a sling and a sword, the man after God’s own heart. David, of course, was the type of the Messianic King who was promised by the Davidic Covenant to provide for the kingdom of God a worthy ruler over the “holy land,” and a worthy ruler over the people of God prepared by the New Covenant. The king promised by the Davidic Covenant would sit on the throne of His father, David.[16]

To show the Lord Jesus Christ’s pedigree and His right to rule as king over God’s kingdom, two genealogies are presented in the Gospels. Matthew’s Gospel shows the pedigree that establishes Jesus Christ as the legal heir to Israel’s throne from Abraham, down through the centuries through David, and through his stepfather, Joseph.[17] Luke’s Gospel traces the genealogy of Jesus Christ in reverse order, beginning with the Lord Jesus, and working backward through David, through Abraham, all the way back to Adam, to establish the bloodline of Jesus Christ as the rightful king of the Jews.[18] No man who ever lived had a more established right to sit on the throne of Israel, as both king and as heir of David’s promised dynasty, than did the Lord Jesus, with the legal right, inherited through Joseph, and the blood right inherited through Mary.

It is important to note that the Lord Jesus Christ did not come into this world to an obviously high station in life. He was born King of the Jews, to be sure, as the wise men said when they came to worship Him.[19] However, He was a man of no reputation. He fulfilled Isaiah’s centuries old prediction that

 

“he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”[20]

 

This was necessary so He could suffer for our sins by being crucified, and then be exalted by being raised from the dead. Thus, we see where the resurrection of Jesus Christ fits into the grand scheme of things, the unfolding drama of redemption. A seemingly lowborn man, who would be conspired against and crucified unjustly, was God’s own Son, of whom Isaiah wrote,

 

“the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”[21]

 

It was all necessary, don’t you see? His sacrifice on the cross was necessary to atone for men’s sins so that He might save some. However, it also accomplished another grand purpose. Listen as I read Philippians 2.6-11, where Paul summarizes it all for us, from humiliation, to crucifixion, to exaltation, that would end in His enthronement on high, where He is at present:[22]

 

6      Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7      But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8      And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

9      Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10    That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11    And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Fifth, And Finally, THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE CHURCH

 

The press of time requires that I greatly condense my comments regarding the Church, so that you will see that there is no direct connection between the Church Age in which we live and the coming realization of the kingdom of God on earth, except through our relationship with Jesus Christ, as briefly noted here:

First, the Church was constituted before His crucifixion by our Lord Jesus Christ, when He called the twelve to be His apostles.[23] It was the apostles who were the first to be in the Church.[24] Though Israel’s Messiah was clearly predicted to come to the earth twice, the people did not understand the first and second advents of their Messiah. The program of God carried out between the two advents would be a program carried out, not by the Jewish people as a nation, but by Christians serving in and through Churches.

Second, the Church was commissioned following our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. Matthew 28.18-20 is the most familiar of several commissions uttered by the Savior before His ascension:

 

18    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

However, it was not until after Christ’s ascension that the Church was empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, thereby fulfilling a promise made in Acts 1.8-9:

 

8      But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

9      And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

 

Fourth, what of the Church and the “holy land”? There is no connection between Churches and the Promised Land, beyond our awareness and expectation of God’s promise being fulfilled. Rather than being of one people who are tied to a geographical region by His promise, God’s people of this age are distinct from the Jewish people of old in that we are called out from every kindred, tongue, and tribe to come together as a spiritual household, as a spiritual temple instead of one made of stone.[25] That is what your Church is in truth.

Fifth, what of the Church and the subjects of the kingdom of God? The Great Commission is clear in showing that our purpose is all about making disciples. We work and preach the Gospel to see folks brought to Christ, baptized, and then trained (what we refer to as discipleship) to join us in fulfilling the Great Commission. However, during this age in which we live, our converts are not subjects of the kingdom in the same way as the saints of days gone by or as saints in the age to come.

We, and those we succeed in bringing to Christ are not subjects in the kingdom so much as members of the bride of Christ, our King.[26] Will we be in the kingdom of God? Yes, but as the King’s bride, with an altogether different station than the redeemed of other ages.

 

I know that I have placed a great deal on your plate during this overview of God’s plan from Genesis to Revelation. Just keep in mind that the crucial matter in all this is sin. Sin ruined God’s rule in the Garden of Eden, and sin explains both man’s history since then and the present state of affairs that we are miserably coping with in the world today. It is all about sin, both yours and mine.

God’s intention is to deal with sin as the obstacle to His rule over His creation. Sin must be dealt with so God’s rule in the lives of His creatures is not obstructed. Salvation from sin is only possible when Someone is punished as a Substitute for the sinner, providing salvation from past sins, salvation from sins presently being committed, and salvation from sins that will be committed. This is because God’s justice demands punishment for every sin you commit, either by punishing you or by punishing your Substitute.

The miracle of the New Birth, which occurs when a sinner comes to Christ, which is actually the fulfillment of the New Covenant that is promised to prepare subjects who are qualified to live in the kingdom of God, is what the Lord Jesus was telling the representative of all sinners named Nicodemus about in John chapter three:

 

“Ye must be born again.”

 

So, you see God’s relation to the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God and the land, the kingdom of God and the subjects in the kingdom, the kingdom of God and our glorious King, and the part played in all of this by the institution of the Church.

One final question. Do you know where you will end up being, should you come to Christ and experience the miracle of the new birth? Turn with me in your Bible to Revelation chapter 19. To be sure, if you come to Christ, you will eventually end up in heaven. However, that is not the half of it, since heaven is no Christian’s final stop. Being a Christian makes one part of the bride of Christ. The bride of Christ will be with Him wherever He is. So, when He returns in power and great glory from heaven to seize this earth and establish His millennial kingdom here on earth and sit on the throne of His father, David, you will be right with Him. Stand with me to read what He, and you, Christian, will be doing when King Jesus comes again. Revelation 19.11-14:

 

11    And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12    His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13    And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14    And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

 

Oh, that will be glory for me, and glory for you, if you belong to Christ. When your life here on earth is done, that life that is like a vapor that appears and then vanishes, then begins your eternity with Jesus Christ, our Lord. First, and for a short while, it will be heaven. Then, and throughout eternity, it will be with Him in His kingdom, beginning with the millennial kingdom here on earth following His Second Coming and continuing in the eternal state.

__________

[1] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), pages 43-77.

[2] N. T. Wright and Marcus Borg, The Meaning Of Jesus: Two Visions (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1999), page 23.

[3] George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, Vol I, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978), pages 283-284.

[4] Gary R. Habermas, The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984), page 98.

[5] Ibid., page 94.

[6] Ibid., pages 94-95.

[7] 2 Timothy 4.1

[8] Genesis 1.27-28

[9] Genesis 1.31

[10] Genesis 2.16-17; Genesis 3; Romans 5.12; 6.23a

[11] Genesis 12.7; 13.15; 17.7-8, see J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), pages 95-99.

[12] Zechariah 2.12

[13] Exodus 20.1-17

[14] David H. J. Gay, Christ Is All, (Bedford, UK: Brachus, 2013), pages 25-36.

[15] Ibid., pages 116-128.

[16] Ibid., pages 100-115

[17] Matthew 1.1-16

[18] Luke 3.23-38

[19] Matthew 2.2

[20] Isaiah 53.2

[21] Isaiah 53.6

[22] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[23] Luke 6.13

[24] 1 Corinthians 12.28

[25] Ephesians 2.21

[26] John 3.29; 2 Corinthians 11.2

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org