Do you want to process the keys to the kingdom of heaven? I do, and I am sure everyone does if we know what it means. So, first thing first, what is the kingdom of heaven?
The kingdom of heaven is the state of ultimate happiness, as King David wrote in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” King David is praying to God in this Psalm and when he says, “your presence,” he is talking about God’s presence, which is the kingdom of heaven.
According to King David, the presence of God is full of joy and eternal pleasure, and he was experiencing it when he was well alive. Many people tend to think that the kingdom of heaven is someplace beyond the sky, sometime in the future, or somewhere on the other side of dead. However, the truth is, it is both present and future. It is quantum, not linear or dualistic.
It means you can experience the kingdom of heaven right here and now, just as you would after death. In fact, I believe if you are going to heaven after death, you would be experiencing it now because eternity is not limited by time and space. That’s why the Bible teaches us that we can “rejoice in suffering” because our heavenly hope is far greater than our hellish hardship.
[bctt tweet=”We can rejoice in suffering because our heavenly hope is far greater than our hellish hardship!” username=”SamuelStone”]
Jesus wants you to pursue the kingdom of heaven as your top priority of life, “But above all, pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33 NET).
The Apostle Paul also indicated that the kingdom of God is a state of joy in the Holy Spirit. (Ro 14:17).
It’s important to seek the kingdom because happy people bring blessings to the world. All the problems in this world are caused by unhappy people. Unhappy people tend to make others unhappy. The terrorists are the unhappiest people and they want to terrorize the world to join them in unhappiness.
The kingdom people transform the world. The kingdom people are like walking lighthouses that penetrate the darkness of this world.
The question now is, how do we get the keys to the kingdom of heaven so that we can experience this ultimate joy?
Let’s look at the story where Jesus talked about the keys to the kingdom:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” (Ps 16:11).
Based on this passage, the keys to the kingdom of heaven belong to those who have a “personal conviction” that Jesus is the Messiah—the Savior of the world. What other people tell us about Jesus does not count. What our parents, teachers, pastors, etc. told us about Jesus does not give us the keys to the kingdom.
The keys to the kingdom of heaven are not in the information but conviction. Jesus used two questions to draw the contrast—“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and “But who do you say I am?” The first question is about information—what other people say—and the second is about conviction—what you personally say who I am?
You may go to church every week, listen to many sermons, and read the Bible and many spiritual books, but if what you receive is only information, it will not help you get the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
I am not saying these things are not important. Going to church regularly is important listen to God’s word is important, reading the Bible and spiritual books are important, but all these things are the means to the end of conviction.
The question is, how can we arrive at the state of conviction so that we will receive the keys to the kingdom of heaven?
It requires three conditions for us to arrive at the state of conviction. The first condition is that we must seek revelation…
According to Jesus, the conviction of him being the Messiah came from a revelation from God, not from people. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” (Mt 16:17). Jesus said it’s a blessing to receive the gift of conviction because it’s not something human beings can provide.
People might tell you, teach you, or even threaten you to believe Jesus is the Messiah, but they can never convince you unless God opens your eyes and reveals it to you. You might learn to repeat what other people are saying, but you can’t speak from the heart that Jesus is the Messiah until you have the revelation.
It’s easy to see Jesus as a reformer like John the Baptist, a miracle worker like Elijah, a messenger of God like Jeremiah, or one of the sages or prophets, but it takes a revelation to see Jesus as the Messiah.
Since revelation is a gift, we must ask. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Mt 7:7).
How do we ask? We ask like a child with the full faith and total trust in the heavenly Father. Jesus said, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt 7:9–11).
This leads to the second condition, which is to become like a child.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3). Notice the two words “change” and “become.”
First, we must change from the adultlike egoistic state to childlike innocent state. Change is the meaning of “repentance.” Many people think repentance means regret. No! The Greek word for repentance, “μετάνοια” (metanoia), means “regret and change,” just like the Chinese word for repentance, hui-gai, meaning “regret and change.”
So, regretting what you have done means nothing until you change. Jesus told a parable about a man who owed the king a huge amount of debt. He regretted and asked for forgiveness, and the king forgave him.
However, on the way home, he saw a debtor who owed him a small amount of money, but he grabbed the debtor’s neck and insisted that he must pay back at once. The king heard about it and summoned him back to the court and threw him into prison until he paid back the entire debt. (Mt 18:21-35)
The man in this parable regretted what he did, and was forgiven, but he didn’t change, so the forgiveness was reversed. Forgiveness is not complete until we change because regret is just half of repentance.
Secondly, we must become. It’s somewhat ironic that after growing up, we have to learn to become like children again. Children represent innocent, carefree, trust, but mainly Jesus emphasized their humility. “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:4). Notice the two words, “become humble.”
When we think about becoming we often think about becoming more of something, but Jesus is asking us to become less because humble means less to the point of empty. It is in becoming less that we make room for seeing Jesus as the Savior.
It’s like the ancient Taoist story of a professor who went to a sage to learn wisdom. Without saying anything, the sage poured tea into the professor’s cup until it overflowed. The professor said, “Stop! Please stop. Don’t you see it’s full?” The sage answered, “That’s right! when a cup is full, it can’t take anything in.”
This story implies that even though the professor came seeking wisdom, he came with his cup full. To use an American expression, “He is full of himself!”
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt 13:45–46). This parable is about a person who appreciates the value of the kingdom of heaven that he would empty himself to get it.
To become like a child is to become empty. Emptiness is synonymous with humility. The paradox here is that the highest human maturity is to become like a child. So being childlike is different from childish. A childish person is not mature, but a mature person is childlike.
[bctt tweet=”A childish person is not mature, but a mature person is childlike.” username=”SamuelStone”]
This leads to the next condition, perseverance to maturity.
Refuse to Give Up
Don’t give up! Your perseverance will pay off. The Apostle James said, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Jas 1:4). Don’t give up until you become mature and complete.
When it comes to perseverance, it reminds me of the story of the Chinese bamboo farmer. Do you know that the Chinese bamboo takes four years to sprout?
The farmer prepares the soil and plants the bamboo seeds, but after the first year, he sees nothing. He continues to fertilize, water, and weed the ground, but the second year, he sees nothing. The third year, the fourth year, still nothing.
Can you imagine taking care of an empty farm for four years without knowing whether the seeds you sow will work? You can’t dig them out to find out because you will end out killing them.
What if you find out after four years what you have planted is wrong and you have to start all over again? Four years of life will be wasted. Four years is a long time.
However, on the fifth year, the bamboo shoots begin to show up and within six weeks the bamboos rise up to 80 feet tall. The four years of nothing but sweat, tear and toil suddenly bear fruit.
In the same way, we must not give up going to church, studying the Bible, praying, reading, and gathering. All these things will pay off with a revelation from God, like a forest of bamboo appearing in front of us overnight which brings us the of keys to the kingdom of heaven.
So, let’s nurture these three conditions that will bring us the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
- Seek revelation
- Become Childlike
- Refuse to Give Up
Until we meet again, let your light shine brighter and brighter! Amen!