How Near Are You To The Kingdom Of God?

Tommy Thornhill

The title question under consideration is prompted by a statement Jesus made to a scribe in Mk.12:34“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Jesus had just answered his question, “Which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second like it, is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matt.22:37-38; Mk.12:28-31.

With these words Jesus was saying that God expects man to love Him with the totality of his being, heart, soul, mind, strength (ability) not superficially, as many were doing then, and do today. And in loving God in this manner man will also love his neighbor as himself. If you fully love God, you will also love those made in His image. The second issues from the first. True love for God will produce the right love for one’s fellow man 1.Jn.4:21. After Jesus stated the two commands, Matt.22:40 adds, “On these two statements hang all the Law and the prophets.” Every relationship and duty of man whether it be spiritual, moral or social will be fulfilled when he keeps these two principles. This is the only way to worship and serve God acceptably.

Mk.12:32-33 shows the effect Jesus’ answer had on the scribe, how it touched his heart. The scribe, agreeing with Jesus says, “Well said, teacher. You have spoken the truth … (this) is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Jesus sees the scribe’s heart is in the right place and that he had spoken wisely (discreetly) so He says to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” Mk.12:34   

Take note of what Jesus said to the scribe, He said, “you are not far FROM the kingdom of God.” He did not say the scribe was “in the kingdom,” he was only near (close) to it. One can be near the door of a house, but until he steps inside the house, he is still outside the house, not in it. Why wasn’t the scribe in the kingdom? Wasn’t he a Jew, a member of the physical kingdom of Israel? Yes, but the kingdom Jesus was speaking of was not a physical kingdom. As Jesus told Pilate a few days later, His kingdom was nor of this world, it was a spiritual kingdom Jn.18:36. The kingdom Jesus was talking about had not yet been established when He spoke to the scribe. But it would soon be established. It would be after His death, burial, resurrection and ascension back to heaven.

About 55 days after Jesus spoke to the scribe (this conversation took place the first part of the week Jesus was crucified), His kingdom/church was established in the city of Jerusalem on the Day or Pentecost. Acts 2 records that it was at this time the apostles used the keys Jesus had promised them Matt.16:18-19; 18:18 to open  the door into His church/kingdom Acts 2:38-41; 47. It is a possibility that this scribe was in the number of those who obeyed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost or soon after Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7    

Now, let’s make some applications to the words of Jesus using the term, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Up to this time the scribe had not fully committed himself to following Christ. He was still short of showing a true and obedient faith, and until he made a full surrender, he would still be short of being in the kingdom. Whether he would come into the spiritual kingdom of God was yet to be demonstrated.

Another man who was near, but not in the kingdom, was the rich man in Matt.19. He was very near to inheriting eternal life. But Jesus said, he lacked one thing. His love of riches When Jesus told him this, the rich young ruler “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” v.22.  His riches kept him from surrendering to Jesus. After he left Jesus said to His disciples, “assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” v.23. Jesus didn’t say it was impossible but was stating the improbability of one with such an attitude to change his mind. Those who are rich have to learn not to “trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” 1.Tim.6:17. The odds are this rich young ruler never entered the kingdom after it was established, nor would he inherit eternal life. The love of riches will keep a lot of people out of the kingdom 1.Tim.6:9-10.

We also see the pride and cowardice of people in Jn.12:42-43 who believed in Jesus but were unwilling to confess Him. They were more concerned with keeping themselves in good standing in the synagogue of men, rather than being ready to enter the kingdom of heaven. They may have been near, but until they were willing to actually confess Jesus before men Matt.10:32-33 they would remain outside His kingdom.

To those today who would believe and obey Him, Jesus is the Great Physician. Many might admit that He has the power to heal them of their sin-sickness, so they come to Him for the remedy. But, when they are told what the remedy is, they don’t like His medicine and want to use their own cure.  They might be close to being healed, but if they don’t take His remedy, they won’t be cured. Jesus said His cure for sin is to believe and be baptized, to wash away sins Mk.16:16; Acts 2:36; 22:16. For the cure to work one’s belief must be combined with baptism. Sadly, many people accept the first part of the remedy, saying they believe that Jesus’ blood is the cure, but then refuse to be baptized, which adds the power to make the cure work. Baptism is where the blood of Christ, mixed with the waters of baptism, produces the saving of the soul. Obedience activates the working (operation) of God that removes the sin from a person’s heart Col.2:12-13. (to be continued)

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