4th – Defining Kingdom

Some Key Definitions –

We’re going to begin this chapter on new ground in order for us to understand what this Gospel of the Kingdom is. You know, I’ve gone to great lengths, and you probably are tired of me pounding it in, to point out that Jesus preached a gospel that is referred to in the Scriptures consistently as the gospel of the kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is this gospel of the kingdom that is the power of God unto salvation. And in order for us to understand what this gospel is, we need to deal with some very elementary things. And that is where we’re going to begin.

The key to understanding the gospel of the kingdom begins with a definition of this word that is translated “kingdom” in the New Testament. That Greek word is basileia – it’s a noun. However, this is one of those words that we find in the New Testament in both a noun and verb form. The noun is basileia, the verb is basileuō. And there is another word like that in the Greek that is often used in the New Testament that we use often, and it is the word pisteuō the verb and the noun pistis. The noun pistis and the verb pisteuō means faith. The word for faith in the New Testament in the Greek is pistis. The verb form of it is pisteuō and it means “to believe.” They are the same root. ‘To believe,’ the verb, is an action verb; “to believe” is “to have faith.” You can not have faith without the action of believing. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead” (see James 2:17). Faith that has no action in believing is a dead faith; it is an inadequate faith to accomplish anything.

And it is one of those words that we find translated with two different words: faith, which is perhaps would better be, in this illustration, translated “belief,” that which is held or believed, and “to believe” – we have faith “to believe.” And we have a similar thing going on with this word basileia and basileuō. And we’re going to look at that in the scriptures now. But the root meaning of this word basileia, if you were to go to Strong’s or Vine’s concordance or any of the Greek-English dictionaries, you will find that it has three basic meanings. Basileia will be first translated ‘kingdom.’ In the Webster’s dictionary, this will be the first meaning also. Kingdom, the first meaning, is the realm, the territory, the geography over which a king reigns.  When we think of kingdom in the 21st century,almost inevitably our thinking is limited to the realm itself – a kingdom is the realm. But that is not its root. It is realm by extension.

We have, for example, only a few kingdoms today where a monarch has the reign. For instance, Queen Elizabeth is the queen over the realm of the kingdom of Great Brittan. But she has absolutely no authority to reign over it. And the situation has developed over the last several centuries that we’ve had kings and monarchs who actually did not reign. And so, the meaning was lost. The realm became the prime meaning. And realm is one of the meanings by extension and it is used that way in the New Testament as we will see. Another meaning, the second meaning in Webster’s, is the people over which a king reigns. The subjects of a king are often referred to as his kingdom.

In the Webster’s dictionary, particularly the older Webster’s, published around 1950 or earlier, down around definition number 4 or 5, they will have the archaic meaning being the reign itself — the rule, or the right to rule. And that is its root meaning. The root meaning of the word “kingdom” is the reign or the rule itself; and by extension that over which the rule applies – the geography, or the people. And there is this kind of interrelationship between the three. Unless there is the reign, that is the right to rule, the authority to rule does not exist.

And, by the way, authority never exists without power. Power and authority go together. The limits of one’s authority or the limits of one’s reign are determined by how strong the king is, how strong his armies are. If a king’s armies are able to maintain and keep a realm of 500 square miles and no more, that’s the size of his kingdom. But if a kingdom on the North, South, East or West determines that it is able to take 100 square miles of that kingdom because they know the king is not able or does not have the strength with his armies to defend those 100 square miles, they move in on that territory and take it. The aggressor then becomes a king over that particular territory and the other kingdom decreases. The size and scope of a kingdom is determined by the strength of the power to rule. There’s that relationship between the two. But unless there is power to rule, the right to rule, and the authority to rule, with all of its power, then there is no kingdom.

Queen Elizabeth has a kingdom but she has no power, she has no reign over it or authority to reign – it’s invested in a parliament, in a democratic process – not her. She’s just a figurehead. There are a couple of countries who really do have a monarchy, for example Saudi Arabia. And there are others like it but they are very few, where the king really has the power and the rule. And, by the way, Saudi Arabia refers to their realm as ‘The Kingdom.’ The phrase ‘The Kingdom,’ is used by the rulers because they have the power and the authority to reign over it.

The Archaic Meaning

But, unless you see that the primary, the archaic, the first century use of the word ‘kingdom’ is always first the rule itself or the reign itself; unless you understand that, you’ll not understand the text that we are about to explore. For example, turn to Luke chapter 11, verse 1. In this passage Jesus is asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus comes back with what we call the Lord’s Prayer, or an example prayer. And right from the beginning, something is said. Beginning in verse 2,

And He said to them, “when you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.’ ”

Is He saying, “Your ‘realm’ come?” Is He saying, “The ‘reign’ itself come?” Can you see the significance of knowing what the definition of the word “kingdom” is? We’ve been praying this prayer for a long time and we’ve sort of had this fuzzy view of what this “kingdom” might be. And, on the whole, because of modern theology, most have held that this prayer is praying for the return of Christ when He sets up His earthly kingdom, when his realm is finally here. But the truth is, Jesus went everywhere preaching that the realm is already here, the reign is right here inside of us, it is at hand (see Mark 1:15).

Let’s now go to Matthew chapter 6, to verse 33 and let’s ask that question again: How is the word “kingdom” being used in Matthew 6:33?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The definition is made even clearer were we to study the context in this little portion of the Sermon of the Mount. But I think it’s pretty clear just reading the verse itself.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Is He telling us that in order for the things of the earth to be added to us we need to find the realm, the place where He rules? Is He saying to us, in order for us to enjoy not having to seek after the things of the world, what you eat, what you drink, how you are clothed, you need to find the people of the reign? No! What is He saying?

He’s saying, “Seek first the reign of God, and His righteousness.” That’s exactly what He is saying.

Question: Doesn’t that require some submission on our part? Yes! It would seem to me that submission is the very issue. The issue is, we want to see God’s reign in the earth and still maintain our own. The issue is, we want God’s kingdom to come but not at the expense of loss of our own kingdom and that over which we reign. But this is the very point that in order for man to be the man that God created for him to be, it is required that God reign in his heart.

Where Is The Kingdom?
For with the heart man believes and it is with the mouth that he confesses that Jesus is Lord (see Romans 10:9). That’s the issue. The issue is, the reign of God is come and is now available for man in man. Up until Jesus Christ, starting from Adam, there never was a man or woman in whom God could enter or would enter their heart to reign, because it was an unclean, defiled vessel. It was a vessel that could not be made clean enough by the blood of goats and bulls (see Hebrews 10:4). It wasn’t until ‘The’ sacrifice came that cleansed the vessel that made it possible for God now to enter in and reign on the throne that was created right from the very beginning in the heart of man.
Man was made from the beginning with a throne on which he could not reign himself. He thought he took the reign for himself in the Garden but he didn’t. He really gave it to another, didn’t he? That’s why Satan is referred to as the god of this world, the prince of the air, because he has been reigning in the heart of man. He took over the throne in the heart of man. As soon as man submitted to the reign of Satan it was lost for man.
Let’s continue. We have two parts to this key that is the key to understanding the Gospel of the Kingdom, that is, the definition of the Gospel of the Kingdom. What did Jesus preach? The first is in the word itself. We’ve covered that and we’ll refer to it several times throughout the next few chapters.
But the second thing I want us to see is in Luke chapter 19. This is the defining text. In this text you will see Jesus, by the Spirit, defining the use of this word kingdom. The parable we will be looking at begins in verse 11 but we’re going to begin just two verses prior to the parable in verse 9 where Jesus is having an interaction with Zaccheus.

              So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

We are seeing the purpose of the coming of Jesus in Luke chapter 4, verse 43:

But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”

In this text His stated purpose was to preach the gospel of the kingdom.

But here is Luke 19:10 He says His purpose is, “…to seek and to save that which was lost.” My point is, and we’ll see it more clearly later in this chapter, the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom is all about salvation. It’s all about coming to seek and to save that which was lost.

There was a reason Jesus spent 3 ½ years preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and finding it not necessary to preach about His death, burial and resurrection which was coming. He did preach it before it came, within just a week of His passion. And it becomes a means whereby the kingdom can enter man. It was after His resurrection that He was able to breathe on His disciples and the Spirit enters His disciples. It was now possible because the sacrifice had been made – the vessel is now clean.

Supportive text would be Ezekiel 36: the promise from the Holy Spirit that a day is coming when God is going to cleanse the vessel. Then you’re going to take out of that vessel a heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh and He’s going to regenerate, He’s going to give that man a new spirit, a regenerated man. Then He adds, in Ezekiel 36, “And then I will put My Spirit within him” (see Ezekiel 36:27). This process is referred to as the coming of the reign of God into the heart of man. And when God’s on the throne, you’ll not need to teach each other the Law because He who is the writer of the Law, and the power to keep the Law, is within. He will cause you to keep My statutes (again refer to Ezekiel 36:27).

That’s the difference between the old covenant and the new. That’s the difference between the reign of God on the inside and the reign of God out here on the outside with Satan still ruling within. The sad commentary on the church of our age is that most have yet to find the reign of God in the heart. Another is still reigning. We are still fighting the same old battles over and over again because we’ve not understood the promise. And unless you understand the promise, you’ll not understand the Gospel – the necessity of the reign of God in the heart, the yielding of man to the reign of God in the heart. That’s the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Promised Kingdom –

Let’s go to Luke 19:11:

While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

There was this expectation and just following this He enters Jerusalem on the foal of an ass on “Palm Sunday”. He was hailed as king. It’s Palm Sunday and they’re expecting the reign that was promised, the kingdom of God. It was to be the kneeling of all of the kingdoms of the world to the throne of God; the submission of all the kingdoms of the world. It had been prophesied that every nation would bow before this king that was coming. And they saw Jesus coming to take power, and with His power and authority, He would establish His kingdom.

But He has something quite different in mind. Just turn back one page in your Bibles to Luke 17. In verses 20 and 21 we have this touched on again when the Pharisees are questioning Jesus.

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”

Now, they are saying “realm” and He is saying “reign.”

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Many translations substitute, “within you” for “in your midst.” I believe that’s an accurate translation. You can say it either way. The end result of the promise is that it, the kingdom of God, is within. The reign of God is within. And that is what Jesus came to establish first. Now, when He returns, He will have the authority and the power to cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess. It will either be voluntarily or it will be by a breaking. But every knee will bend because He will have the power and the authority to reign over all the earth and over all the kingdoms of this world. At this time, during this age, and we are going to quote from John 18:36 a little later, we are going to see that it is only for a little time that the reign remains hidden in the hearts of his man.

Back To Eden –

By the way, this line of thought in this text has led me to go back to the Garden of Eden. Because almost all kingdom teaching in our day goes back just to Israel and you see an effort to establish a kingdom of men over men in the earth like Israel. That is not where the battle began with man. And Jesus makes it very clear in this text; the issue is the reign of God in the man. That cannot be seen, at least immediately. The results may be seen but you can’t observe Christ on the throne of a heart from without. But that’s the first work of Christ. That is the work Jesus came to do. And when you see that, when that becomes clear and you see the significance of that in the salvation experience, it will empower your witness. You will know what the issue is with your lost relative.

The issue with your lost relative is not just that they’ve sinned. You can cover the sin but unless you deal with the issue of the reign, the question remains, Who is reigning? Are the light bulbs starting to come on here?

Unless the issue of who is reigning over the heart is dealt with, there’s no salvation. Because, unless there is the reign of God in the heart of man, you are going to just have Adam repeating what Adam did in the Garden. You see, Adam was without sin. But as soon as God lost the reign in the heart, Adam fell. Christ is not just trying to return us to where Adam was before he fell, because Adam did not have the power not to sin. He was not bound to sin like the sinner is today; he didn’t have to sin. But as soon as God lost His place in the heart of Adam, it was lost to Adam. As soon as Adam came out from under the reign, the reign was lost to Adam. That’s why the issue of salvation is: Who is reigning? You can cover the sins and you can bring the blood to bear, which you must do. But if the issue of the reign is absent, you’ve got the very thing Jesus was trying not to do.

That’s why He hid it. He did not want a response that was just based upon not going to hell. A lot of people think they’re in the kingdom, that is, they think they are saved, but they have no desire whatsoever for God to reign over their lives. They do not love Him or His reign. That’s the issue.

Receiving The Right To Rule –

 Now, back to Luke 19:12:

 He went to a different country to receive a kingdom for himself. Well, you’ve got to ask the question: Is he talking primarily about a realm, the people, or the reign or the right to rule itself? Let’s continue – –

“And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

Now, what was he going to this distant country to receive? The right to reign! The right to rule! By the way, down in verse 14 where it says, “we don’t want this man to rule over us,” what do you suppose that phrase “to reign” is in the Greek? It’s the verb, basileuō. And in verse 12, where it talks about him going to receive a kingdom, the word kingdom is the noun of the same word, basileia. What he went to receive, they did not want him to have – the right to reign over them.

And by the way, although this applies to Jesus Himself because He was going to go off and receive the right to rule, one of the first things He said on returning after the resurrection was at the front end of His commissioning the disciples. He said, “All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth” (see Matthew 28:18). “The right to rule is now Mine. I’ve taken the keys.” And though it is so in the heavenlies, it is not yet fully exercised here because He is establishing His reign. Where? In the hearts of those who love Him! And so we see here in this text the definition of Jesus’ use of the word ‘kingdom.’ It’s the same word He used in referring to the gospel of the kingdom in passages throughout the gospel accounts.

But the Jew of His day had a different image than the one that Jesus referred to in this parable about Him going off to receive a kingdom for Himself. The image they had is of a family that they were familiar with—Herod’s family. And Herod’s family, history records, travels to Rome, visits with Caesar and in negotiation receives the right to rule over Israel as the head of a puppet government. And it was the threat of the loss of that right to rule that Jesus represented to Herod and his family; a threat to Herod’s rule that he received like this nobleman that went off to a far country.

So when Jesus told this parable, everyone understood, at least in the likeness of Herod going off to receive a kingdom. When Herod went off to receive the kingdom, did he go off to get a land that he was not living in? No! Did he go off to get a people that he did not know? No! He comes back to the same place that had the same boundaries, the same name, and the same people as before he left. So what did he receive? The right to rule! And that’s the issue. The gospel of the kingdom is the gospel of the reign first, then the realm, then the people over whom he reigns.

Nothing will make sense for the rest of the book unless that is in our heart. What was lost in the Garden? The truth that it takes the reign of God in the heart of man for man just to be man or woman as God gave them to be. That’s what Jesus came preaching and establishing: the reign of God is now here; the reign that was intended to be exercised from the heart of man is now here.

But, let’s continue reading in verse 14:

“But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had dome. The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’

I want you to see this, understanding this parable in the context of Jesus Himself. Before He goes off and receives, He has those who are His servants, that is, those over whom He is master being entrusted with a certain stewardship. And in this context, it would be the disciples, wouldn’t it? And in this context it would also be you and me. And whatever he has entrusted to us we recognize that it is not really ours but in the end is all His. And I’ve said right from the beginning it is my intent, and I hold no punches back, it is my intent to challenge every one of you to give all that you are and all that you’ve been entrusted with to the King and His kingdom. And how you use what He has entrusted to you which is your life and all that is entailed and all that you’ve been entrusted with, it is all about using them for the day when the Master returns and is going to hold you and me accountable.

Being Accountable –

This living our life as if we are not accountable for what God has entrusted to us is a deception that is gong to harm many before the throne, because we are handling our resources and our wealth as if they were ours on the whole. I do not know many in this country who have a good handle on our being His stewards and we’ve been entrusted with creation until He comes. What we are given in eternity and the rule we are given in eternity and the authority we are given in eternity is determined by how we handle what he has now entrusted to us.

Our 70 or 80 years is nothing compared to a million times a million years plus infinity. It’s just a vapor, just nothing. Why do we get so entangled in such small ambitions when He is entrusting to us that which can be multiplied in eternity to who knows what? Because it is the church, His bride, who is going to be sitting next to Him on the throne, reigning over all eternity. And so this parable is very applicable concerning the coming of the King.

Let’s continue in verse 18:

“The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is you mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave.’

Now, he was this master’s slave. He did belong to the king.

“He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’ ”

Now if you think He’s going to be harsh with the man who held onto it tight, hid it, saw that it was not lost, if you think He’s going to be harsh with that man, what about the man who squanders it on his own good pleasure, thinking He may not come? I don’t know. Why do we do such things? Am I being too hard? It’s got to mean something.

“Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Verse 27 ties up the definition: “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them…”

Remember, He went off to receive the right to reign over them.

“But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them…”

Heavenly Father, our heart is that Your Holy Spirit convicts us of all of those areas that we’ve not wanted You to reign over. We trust Your grace and mercy. We know your love; it’s spoken of so well in Christ Jesus.

“But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

They also were citizens of the kingdom but their end was not very pretty. I believe this whole issue of His reign, the gospel of the reign, is the front issue, is the pivotal issue before the church in the West. It’s not so much an issue in much of the eastern church – Asia or Africa, because you will not come to Jesus unless you wrestle with who is going to reign, because the cost of coming to Him is too high. In the West we’ve had a gospel that has been, for the most part, costless.

“No one of you can be My disciple who does not take up his cross, deny himself daily, and follow Me” (see Luke 9:23). He wants to reign. It may sound like a big sacrifice on our part, but it’s only because of short sightedness that we would ever think such. It is because the least in the kingdom is greater than the greatest man who ever lived before. And that runs from John the Baptist all the way back through Solomon, David, Moses, Abraham, you name them. Because it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give us the reign. We’ll look at that again a little later.

What we have said is that there are two definitions or two ways for arriving at the definition of what Jesus means by the gospel of the kingdom. It is the gospel of the reign, first by definition itself of the word and secondly, Jesus defines it in this Luke 19 text. It’s defined elsewhere but it’s very clear in this Luke 19 text… how the word kingdom is used in this text and is often used to mean the reign itself.

What Can I Do To Enter In?

Now go to Luke 18:18:

  The question is not, has Jesus said we are all to get rid of all that we have, sell it and give the proceeds to the poor and come follow Him. That’s not the issue. The issue is, does He have a right to say that? Because, you know, He does say, “No one can be my disciple who does not say good bye to all his own possessions (see Luke 14:33). We’ve talked about that, I think, at least we’ve hinted about it in the introduction. He does say, “You can’t be a disciple of Mine, you can’t come under My reign unless you say good bye to all your own possessions.” Now, He doesn’t say throw them away. He doesn’t say sell them and give the money to the poor. He just says, “Say good bye.”

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “why do you call Me good?”

Now, this is a ruler of the people which means that he was a scribe, a Pharisee, or a Sadducee. But, being a ruler, it was required of him to know the Law. He had to know every jot and tittles of the Law. He had to know how many punctuation marks there were in every text of the Law. That’s how they memorized it. That’s how they were tested. They would be asked, “Tell me how many commas and periods and accent marks there are in Isaiah 53.” They’d have to give an answer. The only way they would know the answer would be to know the text. And this was a ruler of the Law and this ruler of the Law knew that one of the Laws that they had extended out of the Law that God gave was that you call no man good – only God is good. And a ruler of the people would never, ever refer to someone as good.

Some who know me may have noticed that I use the phrase with some of my close friends, “good brother.” It is a play on this text. It is saying what this rich young ruler was saying to Jesus: “I see God in you.” And that’s what this rich young ruler was doing. He was risking much. But the proof is that he not only saw a life that was different, but it was a God kind of life. And it could only be described by him as a God kind of thing when he says, “Good Teacher…”

And to a Hebrew, eternal life had little to do with duration. Eternal had more to do with quality. And that’s really the issue with all of us. The issue is not how long will you be, the issue is the quality of your eternity, because you were created in the image and likeness of God. The issue is not eternity; the issue is heaven or hell. The issue is fire or something a bit more comfortable. The issue is quality. And this rich young ruler saw whatever it was that was more than duration but quality, a God kind of quality that was in Jesus. And when the rich young ruler comes and says, “Good Teacher,” Jesus responds with a tongue-in-cheek, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Well, the rich young ruler had an opportunity there to retract what he had said, because Jesus was reminding him of a regulation in the Law. But the ruler does not pull back. He continues in verse 21: And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” “I have kept the Law, good Teacher.”

Verse 22:

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

A new Law? Be careful before you answer that.

And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

Oops! I thought we were talking about eternal life? Jesus uses in a synonymous way “eternal life” and “entering the kingdom of God.” And there are many other texts that would make this connection. You need to make this connection too. Eternal life and entering the kingdom are one and the same. And you might ask yourself, “I wonder how this basileia is translated or is being used in this particular text – “to enter the kingdom of God?”

Hard For The Rich –

It might help us to know, before we go on to the next verse, that the average American household income puts that average American in the top 1% of the wealth of the world. So when we are thinking about the rich – you know, we think of wealth that is always beyond what we have. And it may be beyond for many of us. There is a lot beyond us, isn’t there? We use to think of the wealthy in terms of millionaires and now billionaires are the common extreme rich. But the average American is in the top 1% of the wealth of the world. So evidently the rich are rarer than that. Maybe they are in the top 1/10 of 1% of the wealth of the world or something like that. It is certainly beyond us.

Jesus continues, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

You are all familiar with this text. I’m sure you’ve heard it preached. Some say that the “eye of the needle” is a gate in the city. And in order for a person to enter after dark, they had to come by way of the “gate of the needle.” And this needle gate would require that everything on the camel is unloaded. You couldn’t enter the city armed or bring anything in undisclosed. And so, in order for a camel to get through, it would have to be stripped of its luggage and the camel would have to literally scoot in on its knees to enter the city after dark. It was a security precaution.

Others say that this is simply an illustration by Jesus of a physical impossibility: for a camel, the largest animal in that area of the world, to pass through the smallest opening, the eye of a needle.

The issue is really not the interpretation of the “eye of the needle” in this commentary. It really doesn’t matter one iota in the context of this book or in the context of Scripture which way it is interpreted. Either way the result is the same. It’s harder to enter the kingdom of God if you are among the wealthy than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That’s the imagery that is being used here.

Then the disciples took up the commentary in verse 26,

They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

Wait a minute! I thought we were talking about eternal life or entering the kingdom. And now the question is raised by the disciples, “Well then, who can be saved?” It’s as if they are saying, “Who can have eternal life or who can enter the kingdom?” It’s synonymous. Salvation has to do with entering the kingdom. We’ve obviously held this precept that salvation has to do with eternal life. But you need to see that it also relates to the realm of His reign. All three are used in the same text, all are used synonymously. So, when you go to talk about eternal life to your friends, your brothers and your sisters, you need to know that it includes entering the kingdom, the realm of the reign; it includes coming under the reign.

So, we ask the question, what is Jesus doing here? Is Jesus adding another Law, like, “you call no one good, only God is good,” or “thou shalt not kill?” Is Jesus laying down a new law for being a disciple? Well, no He isn’t. What is He doing? Yes, Jesus knows what is keeping this young man down. And what’s keeping him down? His riches? No! His trust? Certainly that is part of it. But, it seems to me Jesus is saying, “Will you give Me the right…to your life? You’ve asked Me about this because you have seen God in Me. Will you allow the God in Me to say something to you? Will you give Me the right to say, “You are lacking something and the only way for you to make up the lack is to sell all that you have, give it to the poor and come follow me.”

The Real Issue –

 The question really gets back to the issue of the reign. Does Jesus have a right to say to you and me, “Sell all that you have, give the money to the poor and come follow me?” There might be some agreement, but I’m also feeling, you know, do you really want to answer that? That’s the question.

 I may be old but I can remember dating. And I can remember standing on Patti Barmore’s front porch and saying good bye and an hour later still being there. Good bye does not necessarily mean going right now. Usually it was when the light was switched on from the inside. That settled the issue. Then I had to decide, does Patti’s mother have a right to end the evening, and I decided that she did.

The issue is, Jesus is saying to this rich young ruler, “Do I have a right to reign over your life? You’re asking me about salvation and entering the kingdom, about God’s life that was promised in the Garden. I’ll tell you how you can have it. Just let Me die for you and cover your sins.”
Well, he was going to do that for the rich young ruler. But the issue is first and foremost, “Will you give Me the reign?” And that’s the issue in each of our lives. Does He have a right as Lord to reign over all that we are and all that He has entrusted unto us? And unless that issue is settled, we’ll not enter the realm where we can reign in life over all that is. But as soon as we do, we’ll soar like eagles. We are transformed into the realm, out on the water; however you want to say it. But it requires His reign.
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