Seek First the Kingdom (Part 1)

Seek First the Kingdom (Part 1)

What is the ultimate objective of every child of God? Without question, it is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). But how do we glorify God in a practical, everyday sense? By seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Jesus gives a commentary on how to do this in the Beatitudes. Indeed, the Beatitudes delineate the spiritual qualities necessary for inheriting the kingdom of God.

The Beatitudes are not the means by which unsaved people become saved. Nor are they evidences that one has been saved. Furthermore, the Beatitudes are not merely teachings for the Jewish people. They are spiritual virtues that God intends all His children to display. Incidentally, the Beatitudes can never be merely simulated in one’s life. They are exhibited only to the extent that Jesus is allowed to live His life through His children. The Beatitudes, we could say, are the graces of the Christ-life.

Jesus’ audience would have rightly equated the word kingdom with Christ’s Messianic kingdom. As New Testament saints, having the completed Scriptures, we understand the Messianic kingdom to be the coming Millennial kingdom, a literal period of one thousand years during which Christ reigns on earth along with his bride.

As explained in a previous article, there is an apparent difference between entering the millennial kingdom and inheriting it. All children of God will enter the kingdom but, presumably, not all will inherit it. Those whose lives exemplify the Beatitudes will be qualified to inherit Christ’s millennial kingdom.

What, then, are the eight qualifications for inheriting the kingdom?

1. Poverty of spirit. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). In life, those who are materially poor are known as have-nots. Using this metaphor, Jesus describes disciples as spiritual have-nots. In other words, they are empty of self, recognizing they have no inherent worth or self-sufficiency. Their constant need is Jesus, and on Him alone they depend.

Poverty of spirit is the opposite of the Laodicean attitude, Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing (Rev. 3:17a). Ironically, those who think they have something to offer God are actually bankrupt and don’t realize it. And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17b). The poor in spirit, on the other hand, are rich in faith and, because of that, will be rewarded in the kingdom to come. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (James 2:5).

2. Mournfulness. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (Matt. 5:4).Does this suggest one who is lacking in joy or long-faced? On the contrary, a mournful soul is one who – because of poverty of spirit – agonizes over his deplorable spiritual condition, crying out, as Isaiah, Woe is me! For I am undone (Isa. 6:5). If poverty of spirit is the intellectual understanding that one is destitute without God, then mournfulness is the emotional reality that accompanies it. In one word, it is brokenness before God.

What does God do for broken people? He comforts them, filling them with Jesus, putting the pieces of life back together. He brings meaning to life, not just in this life but in the life to come. Those who are not mournful and broken before the Lord will, in the millennial kingdom, dwell outside the palace of the king, away from the brightness of His presence, in a realm of relative darkness, consciously regretting having lived for self in this life. In contrast, the mournful will be comforted, that is, they will be in His presence, enjoying the beauty of His holiness, serving Him as one of His loyal subjects.

3. Meekness. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). Meekness has two aspects. First, is the sense that, as individuals, we are no better than anyone else. All are on level playing field with God. Second, meekness is the gentle treatment of others on the basis that we can trust God to judge evildoers and to work in other believers as He works in us. Think of Jesus, Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously (1 Pet. 2:23). Our Savior was meek and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29), and He will produce the same spirit in us when we let the Spirit take control.

God views a meek and quiet spirit … of great price (1 Pet. 3:4). Thus, he rewards those who are meek by letting them inherit the earth, presumably, the millennial earth. In the minds of His Jewish audience, the reference to inheriting the earth would have fostered images reminiscent of the Old Testament promised land which, for the New Testament saint, is a picture of victory in the present life as well as inheritance in Christ’s coming kingdom.

4. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6). Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).Hungering and thirsting are cravings that long for fulfillment.

The spiritual parallel is vivid. Every disciple of Jesus Christ should desire to be righteous, to be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48), to be filled with the fruits of righteousness (Phil. 1:11). Solomon summed it up at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man (Eccl. 12:13). Those who appropriate the righteousness of Christ, by depending on the Holy Spirit, will find the enablement to live righteously.

The promise Jesus makes to those who long to live righteously is that all their earthly needs will be provided, and they will be filled. The word filled means to be satisfied in abundance. The implication, within the context of Matt. 5, is abundant spiritual life now for those who live obediently, as well as abundant life in the millennial world to come. No such promise is made to those who persist in carnal behavior. On the contrary, they are warned that persistence in sinning will result in not inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10Gal. 5:21Eph. 5:5).

Are you seeking first the kingdom of God? I would challenge you to meditate on these first four qualifications for inheriting the kingdom. Part 2 will examine the remaining four Beatitudes.

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