As mentioned previously, every kingdom has its own unique culture and ways. The kingdom of God is no exception. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus describes the culture and customs of His kingdom. The foundational aspect of the kingdom is repentance and surrender to God. Jesus says, “Blessed are:
- the poor in spirit,
- those who mourn,
- the meek,
- those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
- the merciful,
- the pure in heart,
- the peacemakers,
- those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
- are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).
The first four Beatitudes represent recognition and sorrow for sin, and the desire for God’s mercy. The remainder of the Beatitudes show the inner work of sanctification, which results in the scorn and persecution of non-citizens.
In the remainder of the Sermon Jesus explains further customs of His kingdom: the upholding of God’s Word, purity/fidelity, peace, truth, integrity, mercy/compassion, and the like. Towards the end of His Sermon, Jesus notes that very few will truly become citizens of His kingdom (7:13-14). Furthermore, many will give pretense of being citizens, but their words and behaviors will betray them. The issue isn’t the imperfection, but the very lawlessness and the refusal to surrender to God of the unregenerate (7:18-23). Many want the delicacies of the kingdom but not its ways or it’s King, but to scorn the latter is to be deprived of the former.
A synopsis of the Sermon on the Mount can be seen in one of Paul’s letters:
By the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect…. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:1-2, 9-21
The kingdom of God is established upon absolute righteousness. In this world, it is true, no one is perfect. No one measures up to the King’s high standards. However, persons are permitted to become citizens of His Kingdom by coming through the only entrance:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber…. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:1, 9-10
To enter through the Door, one must come humbly, repentant, and a willingness to be changed by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. There are many who profess to be of the kingdom but they are not its citizens, for they refuse the King’s terms. They want a treaty with a world that is hostile towards Him and His holiness. They want a duel citizenship, not understanding neither kingdom accepts this. Jesus tells a parable describing such individuals who will be utterly shocked when they are called out for their refusal of His terms.
But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen. ~ Matthew 22:11-14
The expectation of the citizens of the kingdom of God is to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, which is provided by Him. To refuse His providence is to reveal one’s contempt, like that of Cain (Gen. 4).
The King reveals His kingdom in further detail, as we receive glimpses of the splendor of Heaven—the New Jerusalem. Yet, let us be very mindful of what we are told within the descriptions:
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death…. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. ~ Revelation 21:8, 27
There are many who bulk at such revelation, but this does not reveal any injustice or malignity within God. Rather, this reveals the truthfulness of God’s Word when it reveals humanity’s corrupt and unrighteous nature because of sin. When persons are shut out of the kingdom of God, it is not because of hostility within God. He has long offered peace and reconciliation. No, but the fault lies within people, for:
The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ~ John 3:19-20