Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Reciprocity of Heaven on Earth

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
This text is from “Part Two” of the story of the Rich Young Man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus counseled him to sell what he had and give to the poor, but the man went away with great sadness because his wealth had such a powerful hold on him that it had taken the place of God in his life. After he left, Jesus discussed this with His disciples.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, 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.” (Matthew 19:23-34)
His disciples were greatly amazed. “Who then can be saved?” They had assumed that material prosperity meant God’s blessing was on a person. After all, Psalm 112:3 says that wealth and riches will be in the house of those who love and serve the Lord. That is true enough, but it is not a guarantee that those who are rich are also faithful. The promise is for those who love, trust and serve God. Those who love trust, and serve money may experience wealth and riches for a season, but it will not last because it is out of order — it is not true prosperity. Those who love and trust in their riches, as this young man did, do not enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples were astonished by Jesus’ statement because they still had too much of the world’s way of thinking in their system. It was a puzzlement to them: “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked directly at them and answered, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26). Impossible, yet possible — a paradox. It is impossible for those who trust in their riches, yet possible for those who trust in God. The young man’s problem was not that he was rich, but that he loved his possessions more than he desired God. He cared more about his wealth, it turns out, than he did about eternal life.

Remembering what Jesus instructed the young man, “Sell what you have and give to the poor,” Peter saw hope, a way for the impossible to become possible: Let go of riches and embrace the way of God. “See, we have left all and followed You,” he said, “Therefore, what shall we have?” If the rich young man had done as Jesus said, and followed Him, he would have entered into the kingdom of heaven. Even though Peter and the disciples did not have the same wealth the young man possessed, they did give up everything to follow Jesus. Surely that would mean something, wouldn’t it? He was beginning to see that it is not what you have, but who you trust that makes all the difference. Now, watch carefully how Jesus answered:
Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:28-29)
“Assuredly” indicates that this is a key truth, vital to our basic understanding concerning the kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The “regeneration” Jesus is talking about is not the individual “born again” experience he spoke of to Nicodemus. No, He was talking about the “new birth” of the world, the spiritual transformation that would begin when Jesus, the Son of Man, ascended to the “throne of His glory.” Not only would He be sitting on His throne, the place of ruling and reigning over His kingdom, but those who follow Him would also be seated on thrones to rule and reign with Him.

When would this take place? When the Son of Man is enthroned in glory. When will that happen? It has happened already! It happened forty days after the Resurrection, at what is called the Ascension. The Son of Man ascended to heaven and was seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21). Not only that, but all who follow Him have also been seated with Him, to rule and reign with Him forever.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6, emphasis mine)
Though the rule and reign of Jesus and all His disciples has not yet been fully manifested in the earth, it has indeed already begun. We see it, for instance, in the authority Jesus gives us in Matthew 18:18: “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” And in John 20:23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” And in the Great Commission, where Jesus declared:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
By binding and loosing, and bringing the Gospel of Forgiveness to Israel and the nations, the disciples of Jesus exercise the rule and authority of Heaven on Earth.

Now notice what else Jesus said in answer to Peter’s question: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” This, likewise, is not just about the age to come, but about this life, for the age to come is now breaking into this present age. The parallel account in Mark’s Gospel makes this clearer:
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30, emphasis mine)
The rich young man came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus told him to sell what he had, give to the poor and follow Him — to leave it all behind for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel. But his eyes were too fixed on this age, and all its ways, to see that God’s kingdom was breaking into the world. He would have had a hundredfold return of whatever he left behind — now in this time — as well as eternal life in the age to come.

It is the reciprocity of Heaven on Earth. When we make the kingdom of God and His righteousness our priority, everything else will be added to us. And whatever we let go for the sake of His kingdom, we will receive again a hundred times over.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.