Men are ‘Seizing God’s Kingdom’—How?
IN THE spring of the year 29 C.E. John the Baptist began “preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”’ (Matt. 3:1, 2) The work of John served to get ready a prepared people who would accept the king of that kingdom and put themselves in line for membership in it. Thus for the first time in human history the “kingdom of the heavens” became a goal toward which men could press.
But an individual’s attaining membership in this heavenly Kingdom was not to be an easy thing. Strenuous effort would be required. Alluding to this, the one anointed as King, Jesus Christ, stated: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.”—Matt. 11:12.
The Greek verb that conveys the thought of ‘pressing forward’ implies ‘forceful endeavor.’ By whom was this forceful endeavor put forth? By enemy attackers? No, but by persons who believed the preaching of John the Baptist and accepted Jesus Christ as King. Theirs was a determined striving and struggling for the Kingdom. They took hold of the privilege of being prospective members of the Kingdom as if seizing spoils or taking a city by storm. They spared no effort to make that privilege their own. But what prompted them to do this?
As noted by Jesus in one of his illustrations, it began with their hearing the “word of the kingdom.” The “seed” or “word of the kingdom” took root in their heart. They got the ‘sense of the word,’ that is, a real appreciation of the priceless value of membership in the Kingdom developed in their hearts. (Matt. 13:19-23) The Kingdom came to mean more to them than anything else, motivating them to do what was necessary to ‘seize’ it. (Matt. 13:45, 46) Therefore they repented of their transgressions against God’s law, turned around from a wrong course and submitted themselves to water baptism in symbol of their repentance and conversion. Genuine heart appreciation caused them to keep on exerting themselves to make their calling for the heavenly kingdom sure.—2 Pet. 1:10.
Because of barriers, continual exertion was necessary to seize the Kingdom. But who had set up these barriers? Jehovah God had set them up to prevent unworthy ones from entering the Kingdom. Only persons drawn by him and meeting his requirements could gain entrance. (John 6:44; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) Such persons must follow a narrow road, find the narrow gate, keep on asking, keep on knocking and the way would be opened. (Matt. 7:7, 8, 13, 14) Their gaining entrance might even entail giving up prominent positions, the pursuit of promising commercial interests, yes, something as dear as an eye or a hand.—Mark 9:43-47.
Any person failing to maintain moral and spiritual purity would be debarred from the Kingdom. The apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Galatia: “The works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Gal. 5:19-21.
However, besides combating fleshly tendencies to maintain moral and spiritual purity, those who gain entrance into the Kingdom must bear fruitage. Regarding those who get the ‘sense of the word,’ Jesus Christ said: “As for the one sown upon the fine soil, this is the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.” (Matt. 13:23) But what is this fruitage? Is it the result obtained in assisting others to become disciples of Jesus Christ? Or, is it the fruitage of God’s spirit, the fine qualities of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control?
The fruitage in this case is neither new disciples nor fine Christian qualities. The seed that is sown is the “word of the kingdom.” Accordingly, the fruitage must be a manyfold duplication of that seed. Yes, the bearing of fruitage refers to making expressions about the Kingdom. Such expressions stem from an appreciative heart. (Luke 6:45) Because of genuine love for others, those in line for the Kingdom have continued to make expressions concerning it so that many other people might be moved to take steps to gain God’s approval and blessing.
Of course, they also produce the fruit of God’s spirit, even as God’s spirit moves them to speak the Kingdom “word” or message. The prospective heirs of the Kingdom appreciate that in everything they must show an unselfish interest in others. Like Jesus, they must feel compassion for those who find themselves in a sad condition spiritually. (Matt. 9:36) Then, too, they cannot be insensitive to the needs of their brothers. There must be a willingness to spend and be completely spent in behalf of fellow believers. First John 3:16-18 admonishes: “We are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers. But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”
The lofty requirements set by Jehovah God guarantee that those who gain entrance into the Kingdom, becoming kings with Christ, will continue to do good toward their subjects and treat them compassionately. Having proved themselves to be unselfish, lovers of right and haters of bad despite reproach, bitter persecution or even the threat of death, obviously they will not become corrupt and misuse their authority when all pressures toward wrongdoing are gone.
Of course, as is true of any government, the majority are subjects and not rulers. The number of those ‘seizing the kingdom’ as heavenly heirs is limited. (Rev. 14:1, 3) But would it not be grand to live under the administration of persons who have demonstrated their love under test so as to have received God’s approval? If this is your desire, seize the opportunity to become a loyal earthly subject of God’s kingdom by doing the very things that are required of its prospective heavenly rulers.
True, this will require real effort. But we should be grateful that this is the case. The high standards that must be met, whether to ‘seize the Kingdom’ as an associate ruler of Jesus Christ or to gain life as a subject thereof, screen out those who, because of their selfishness and lack of love, would only make life difficult for others. So, may we make it our determination to be among those who show their appreciation for the value of the Kingdom by exerting every effort to be persons approved by God to receive its blessings.