Sabbath, March 30, 2019

Lesson 13 – Keys of the Kingdom

“‘The keys of the kingdom of heaven’ are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 413, 414.

Divine oracles

1. What was committed to Israel so that they would be able to obtain knowledge and truth?
Romans 2:17, 18, 20; 3:1, 2 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law…. 20An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law…. 3:1What advantage then hath the Jew?… 2Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
Deuteronomy 4:8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

“So with Israel. God had chosen the seed of Abraham. With a high arm He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt. He had made them the depositaries of sacred truth for the blessing of the world. He had entrusted to them the living oracles that they might communicate the light to others. But His stewards had used these gifts to enrich and exalt themselves.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 369.

“The apostle [Paul] regarded himself as ‘debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians,’ as well as to the Jews; but he never lost sight of the decided advantages possessed by the Jews over others, ‘chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.’” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 380.

2. Nevertheless, in view of what the people generally were like in his days, what words of the Lord did the prophet Hosea write? 
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

“The words of God to ancient Israel have a solemn warning to the church and its leaders today. Of Israel the Lord said, ‘I have written to him the great things of My law; but they were counted as a strange thing.’ Hosea 8:12. [Hosea 4:6 quoted.]” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 306.

“Had Israel heeded the messages of the prophets, they would have been spared the humiliation that followed. It was because they had persisted in turning aside from His law that God was compelled to let them go into captivity. ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,’ was His message to them through Hosea.

‘Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee:… seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God.’ Hosea 4:6.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 297.

The key of knowledge taken away

3. Was it any better in the time of Jesus? What had especially the leaders done with the key of knowledge?
Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

“We should beware of indulging the spirit which controlled the Jews. They would not learn of Christ, because His explanation of the Scriptures did not agree with their ideas; therefore they became spies upon His track, ‘laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him.’ Let us not bring upon ourselves the fearful denunciation of the Saviour’s words, ‘Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.’” –Gospel Workers
(1982), p. 128.

“Rather than yield their pride of opinion, they [the Jews] closed their eyes to all the evidences of His Messiahship, and they not only rejected the message of salvation themselves, but they steeled the hearts of the people against Jesus. Their history should be a solemn warning to us…. Let us beware that we do not refuse the light God sends, because it does not come in a way to please us…. If
there are any who do not see and accept the light themselves, let them not stand in the way of others.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 728.

4. In removing the key of knowledge, what were the scribes and Pharisees actually doing with the kingdom of heaven?
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 

“The teachings of the scribes and Pharisees were of a character to turn the people away from the unadulterated truth that was to be presented by the Great Teacher when He should enter upon His mission. The only hope of the people was to open their hearts and minds to the light sent from heaven by His prophet, the forerunner of Christ.

“These lessons are for us. Those who claim to know the truth and understand the great work to be done for this time are to consecrate themselves to God, soul, body, and spirit. In heart, in dress, in language, in every respect they are to be separate from the fashions and practices of the world. They are to be a peculiar and holy people. It is not their dress that makes them peculiar, but because they are a peculiar and holy people, they cannot carry the marks of likeness to the world.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 310, 311.

5. Because of their negative and unfruitful spirit and actions, what was going to happen with the kingdom of God that had been entrusted to them? 
Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

“Christ would have averted the doom of the Jewish nation if the people had received Him. But envy and jealousy made them implacable. They determined that they would not receive Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. They rejected the Light of the world, and thenceforth their lives were surrounded with darkness as the darkness of midnight. The doom foretold came upon the Jewish nation. Their own fierce passions, uncontrolled, wrought their ruin. In their blind rage they destroyed one another. Their rebellious, stubborn pride brought upon them the wrath of their Roman conquerors. Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple laid in ruins, and its site plowed like a field.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 295, 296.

Receiving the keys of the kingdom

6. Therefore, to whom have the keys of the kingdom been entrusted? What is to be understood by the expression “the key of the kingdom”?
Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 

“… Jesus now honored him [Peter] as the representative of the whole body of believers. [Matthew 16:19 quoted.]…

“The Saviour did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually. At a later time, repeating the words that were spoken to Peter, He applied them directly to the church. And the same in substance was spoken also to the twelve as representatives of the body of believers.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 413, 414.

7. What result was expected from the message of God’s kingdom that was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples, who were all sent by Heaven?
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 
Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

“A deep sense of our need and a great desire for the things for which we ask must characterize our prayers, else they will not be heard. But we are not to become weary and cease our petitions because the answer is not immediately received. ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.’ Matthew 11:12. The violence here meant is a holy earnestness, such as
Jacob manifested. We need not try to work ourselves up into an intense feeling, but calmly, persistently, we are to press our petitions at the throne of grace. Our work is to humble our souls before God, confessing our sins, and in faith drawing nigh unto God…. It is the design of God to reveal Himself in His providence and in His grace. The object of our prayers must be the glory of God, not the glorification of ourselves….” –That I May Know Him, p. 272.

For additional study

“‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.’ This violence takes in the whole heart. To be double minded is to be unstable. Resolution, self-denial and consecrated effort are required for the work of preparation. The understanding and the conscience may be united; but if the will is not set to work, we shall make a failure. Every faculty and feeling must be engaged. Ardor and earnest prayer must take the place of listlessness and indifference. Only by earnest, determined effort and faith in the merits of Christ can we overcome, and gain the kingdom of heaven.” –(The Youth’s Instructor, May 24, 1900) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 1095, 1096.

“In secret prayer the soul should be laid bare to the inspecting eye of God…. How precious is secret prayer–the soul communing with God! Secret prayer is to be heard only by the prayer-hearing God. No curious ear is to receive the burden of petitions. Calmly, yet fervently, the soul is to reach out after God; and sweet and abiding will be the influence emanating from Him who sees in secret, whose ear is open to the prayer arising from the heart. He who in simple faith holds communion with God will gather to himself divine rays of light to strengthen and sustain him in the conflict with Satan.” –That I May Know Him, p. 272.