24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. (Acts 20:24–25, NKJV)
Although chains and tribulation awaited Paul in Jerusalem, he would not be deterred from accomplishing the service given him by the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:22-23). He reminded the Ephesian elders that he had testified of God’s grace by preaching the kingdom of God while he was among them. Those who say the kingdom of God has not yet been established have a problem. If the kingdom does not exist now, then how can it be said that grace is obtainable now? In truth, Christians stand in grace now, and those who are saved by grace are transferred from sin’s darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:12-14). Preaching God’s grace is tantamount to preaching God’s kingdom. The saved are added to the church, which is the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:47; 28:23, 28, 31). The kingdom (the church) does exist now (Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). Kingdom citizens have been saved by grace, through faith (Acts 2:47; Eph. 2:8-9). God grace and God’s kingdom are inextricably linked. By God’s grace we are receiving an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). As a result, we are able (and expected) to “have grace” by which to serve God acceptably. In the kingdom (the church) there is grace and acceptable service to God.
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21–22, NKJV)
The gospel makes disciples. And, disciples need strengthening to “continue in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7). The reason for exhortation to continue in the faith is given in verse 22 – there are many tribulations through which disciples must pass to “enter the kingdom of God.” Would someone please explain why strengthening the souls of the disciples for these tribulations is necessary if their entrance into heaven is already settled? In other words, if the eternal inheritance of Christians cannot be jeopardized, then why exhort them to continue in the faith? Why the need for strength in the face of tribulations, if entrance into the eternal kingdom can never be endangered? The truth is we can become weak. It is possible for Christians to turn back to sin and no longer continue “in the faith” (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:7). Let us hear and heed the Spirit’s exhortation to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). You will face pressures as a disciple of Christ. Be brave, be strong. Your entrance into the eternal kingdom is certain as you “continue in the faith.”
12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, NKJV)
The Passover feast of the Jews was approaching as Jesus entered Jerusalem. People laid palm branches (and even clothing) in His path as symbols of festive joy (Matt. 21:8; cf. Lev. 23:40; Rev. 7:9). The people verbalized their anticipation of victory with shouts of praise from the Psalms: “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psa. 118:25-26). “Hosanna” (“save now” or “oh save!”) punctuated their excitement that Jesus was the “Son of David,” the “King of Israel” (Matt. 21:9). But, Jesus was not riding upon a mighty steed as a conquering hero, but upon a lowly donkey (fulfilling a prophecy depicting the humble nature of the King and His kingdom, Jno. 12:14-15; Zech. 9:9). The salvation He brought was redemption from the bondage and death of sin, not freedom from their oppressive Roman overlords (Isa. 62:11-12). His kingdom is “not of this world,” and when their vision was not realized, they viciously turn against Jesus and shouted, “Crucify Him!” (Jno. 18:36-38; 19:14-16). We must not conjure up false images of Jesus and His gospel. If we do, we join hands with the faithless crowd that crucified the King of Israel, the Savior of the world.
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20–21, NKJV)
Citizenship identifies a person as a legal member of a nation. It qualifies that person to participate in the rights and privileges of that nation. In contrast to “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (“whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their minds on earthly things,” Phil. 3:18-19), Christians are qualified “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). By faith, we eagerly wait for the Savior’s return, living in hope of the glorious resurrection in anticipation of our heavenly estate (Heb. 11:14-16). Christ will subdue (subjugate, defeat) death in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Kingdom citizens will be delivered up to God the Father to dwell forever in the eternal city of God (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Rev. 21:22-27). These great assurances compel the wise and faithful of heart to answer the gospel call to be saved, to become citizens of heaven (Acts 2:37-41; Col. 1:13). Christians set their minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). Let us live for the glory of heaven daily, not for things that end in destruction.
5 They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. 6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth. 7 In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. (Psalm 72:5–7, NKJV)
The government of God’s appointed king and his blessings upon God’s people are in view in this psalm of Solomon (Psa. 72:1). As he ruled with God’s judgments, peace, justice, liberty, and righteousness flourish (Psa. 72:2-4). Under such rule, the enduring reverence for God is compared to the temporary presence of the sun and moon. This typifies the Messiah’s rule, who now reigns at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33-36). Through Him, the Father blesses His people with enduring spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3, 20-23; 2:13-19). As in Solomon’s day, Christ’s righteous rule prompts us to fear of God. July 20, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon. We respect and honor those who accomplished this amazing feat. Yet, the wondrous blessings of redemption and eternal life are infinitely greater. The moon, and all of humanity’s achievements in space, will one day be “no more” (v. 5, 7). But, when the dead are raised and eternity dawns, Christ will deliver His kingdom to the Father, where righteousness will dwell forever (1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Pet. 3:10-13). Our task to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). That is our purpose, our heritage, our legacy.
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12–16, NKJV)
The whole world was in darkness when the Son of God arrived on the scene (Jno. 1:4-5, 9). Here, by dwelling in Capernaum, Jesus was fulfilling Israel’s prophetic anticipation of liberty and light (Isa. 9:1-2). Numerous invaders had pillaged and oppressed the Galilean region throughout Israel’s history (Syria, 1 Kgs. 15:20; Assyria, 2 Kgs. 15:29). Now, the first to be crushed by oppression and death would be the first to see the Messiah’s light of truth. The promised kingdom was near, so Jesus called the Galileans to repent (Matt. 4:17, 23). His kingdom has now come (Mk. 9:1). All who come to His light and follow Him are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of marvelous light (Jno. 8:12; 12:35-36; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Jesus is shining for you. Escape sin’s darkness and death. Follow Jesus, the light of the world, and have eternal life (Jno. 8:12).
16 A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (Psalm 37:16–17, NKJV)
We use the wrong measuring stick when we measure success by material prosperity. The “prosperity gospel” promotes riches as if they measure God’s presence and approval. More than one religious movement tells us the strength of their bottom line shows God’s approval of their teachings and practices. This is a purely material assessment of spiritual things – a completely futile and false standard of what God accepts (1 Cor. 1:26-31). The poverty and itinerant life of God’s Son, Jesus, disproves such human wisdom (Lk. 9:57-58; 8:3). True, righteous men and women can be wealthy. With God, Jesus said, it is possible for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom (Matt. 19:23-26). The trouble is, riches become a great temptation to leave God out of the picture, and not to become “poor” for the sake of the kingdom (Matt. 19:20-22, 27-30). The riches of the wicked will not save them. God has not promised to make you wealthy. His word says to measure success according to righteousness. May we learn to be content with “a little” from a glad and grateful heart, instead of running after prosperity at the expense of righteousness. Godliness with contentment is great gain, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:6-10).