Sabbath, June 1, 2019

Lesson 22 – Welcome into the Heavenly Kingdom

“Those who have been actuated by selfishness and human ambition, who have been striving to be greatest, who have been self-important, who have felt above confessing mistakes and errors, will have no place in the kingdom of God. Whether men will be honored as members of the royal family of God, will be determined by the manner in which they bear the test and proving of God that is
brought to bear upon them in this life. Those who have not been self-denying, who have not manifested sympathy for the woes of others, who have not cultivated the precious attributes of love, who have not manifested forbearance and meekness in this life, will not be changed when Christ comes.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 60.

Commandments and kingdom
1. After having confirmed the validity of the commandments, what did the Lord say about those who by words or actions break or annul even one principle? What does it mean to be considered the least in God’s kingdom? 
Matthew 5:19, first part Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven…

“That is, he shall have no place therein. For he who willfully breaks one commandment, does not, in spirit and truth, keep any of them. ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.’ James 2:10.

“It is not the greatness of the act of disobedience that constitutes sin, but the fact of variance from God’s expressed will in the least particular; for this shows that there is yet communion between the soul and sin. The heart is divided in its service. There is a virtual denial of God, a rebellion against the laws of His government.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 51.

2. Why does the violation or annulling of a commandment have such grave consequences?
Psalm 119:4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

“Were men free to depart from the Lord’s requirements and to set up a standard of duty for themselves, there would be a variety of standards to suit different minds and the government would be taken out of the Lord’s hands. The will of man would be made supreme, and the high and holy will of God–His purpose of love toward His creatures–would be dishonored, disrespected.

“Whenever men choose their own way, they place themselves in controversy with God. They will have no place in the kingdom of heaven, for they are at war with the very principles of heaven. In disregarding the will of God, they are placing themselves on the side of Satan, the enemy of God and man…. There is not a commandment of the law that is not for the good and happiness of man, both in this life and in the life to come. In obedience to God’s law, man is surrounded as with a hedge and kept from the evil. He who breaks down this divinely erected barrier at one point has destroyed its power to protect him; for he has opened a way by which the enemy can enter to waste and ruin.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 51, 52.

3. On the other hand, what will be experienced by those who love and keep the holy law? In the kingdom of heaven, how will those who sincerely and willingly obey and teach the commandments be regarded?
Deuteronomy 6:3 That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
Isaiah 48:18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.
Matthew 5:19, last part … But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

“The qualities which shine with greatest luster in the kingdoms of the world, have no place in Christ’s spiritual kingdom. That which is highly exalted among men, and brings exaltation to its possessor, such as caste, rank, position, or wealth, is not esteemed in the spiritual kingdom. The Lord says, ‘Them that honor Me, I will honor.’ 1 Samuel 2:30. In Christ’s kingdom men are distinguished according to their piety….

“The kingdom of heaven is of a higher order than any earthly kingdom. Whether we shall have a higher position or a lower position, will not be determined by our rank, wealth, or education, but by the character of the obedience rendered to the word of God.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 60.

More than a prophet
4. What great testimony did Jesus give of His forerunner? In what sense was John the Baptist “much more than a prophet”?
Matthew 11:7-9 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
Luke 7:26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.

“The witness borne of him after his death, by those who had heard his testimony to Jesus, was, ‘John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this Man were true.’ John 10:41. It was not given to John to call down fire from heaven, or to raise the dead, as Elijah did, nor to wield Moses’ rod of power in the name of God. He was sent to herald the Saviour’s advent, and to call upon the people to prepare for His coming. So faithfully did he fulfill his mission, that as the people recalled what he had taught them of Jesus, they could say, ‘All things that John spake of this Man were true.’ Such witness to Christ every disciple of the Master is called upon to bear….

“As the Messiah’s herald, John was ‘much more than a prophet.’ Luke 7:26. For while prophets had seen from afar Christ’s advent, to John it was given to behold Him, to hear the testimony from heaven to His Messiahship, and to present Him to Israel as the Sent of God.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 219, 220.

5. Although John the Baptist was recognized by Jesus as a messenger and the greatest human being to ever live, what did Jesus say about him in comparison with the least in the kingdom of heaven? Why?
Matthew 11:10, 11 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

“Aside from the joy that John found in his mission, his life had been one of sorrow. His voice had been seldom heard except in the wilderness. His was a lonely lot. And he was not permitted to see the result of his own labors. It was not his privilege to be with Christ and witness the manifestation of divine power attending the greater light. It was not for him to see the blind restored to sight, the sick healed, and the dead raised to life. He did not behold the light that shone through every word of Christ, shedding glory upon the promises of prophecy. The least disciple who saw Christ’s mighty works and heard His words was in this sense more highly privileged than John the Baptist, and therefore is said to have been greater than he.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 220.

Striving and agonizing for the kingdom
6. What did Jesus say about entrance into the kingdom of God since the days of John’s preaching? What did He mean by saying that “the violent take it by force”?
Matthew 11:12, 13 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.

“The teaching of John aroused in the hearts of many a great desire to have a part in the blessings that Christ was to bring, and they received the truth. These saw the need of reform. They must not only seek to enter in at the strait gate; they must strive and agonize in order to have the blessings of the gospel. Nothing save a vehement desire, a determined will, a fixedness of purpose, could resist the moral darkness that covered the earth as the pall of death. In order to obtain the blessings that it was their privilege to have, they must work earnestly, they must deny self.” –The Youth’s Instructor, May 17, 1900.

7. Therefore, what should be our greatest and first interest in life? How is it possible to evaluate Jesus’ promise and labor wholeheartedly for the kingdom of heaven, as did the disciples in His time?
Matthew 6:33, first part; 11:15 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;… 11:15He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

“This promise will never fail. We cannot enjoy the favor of God unless we comply with the conditions upon which His favor is bestowed. By so doing there will come to us that peace, contentment, and wisdom that the world can neither give nor take away…. A humble mind and a grateful heart will elevate us above petty trials and real difficulties. The less earnest, energetic, and vigilant we are in the service of the Master, the more will the mind dwell upon self, magnifying molehills into mountains of difficulty….” –Conflict and Courage, p. 370.

“My brethren, there is eternal life for us to win. Let us fight the good fight of faith. Not in the future, but now, is our probation. While it lingers, ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things’–the things which now so often serve Satan’s purpose as snares to deceive and destroy–‘shall be added unto you.’” –(Review and Herald, March 5, 1908) Christian Service, p. 21.

For additional study
“The prophet John was the connecting link between the two dispensations. As God’s representative he stood forth to show the relation of the law and the prophets to the Christian dispensation. He was the lesser light, which was to be followed by a greater. The mind of John was illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that he might shed light upon his people; but no other light ever has shone or ever will shine so clearly upon fallen man as that which emanated from the teaching and example of Jesus. Christ and His mission had been but dimly understood as typified in the shadowy sacrifices.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 220.