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How Can You Be Part of the Kingdom of God?

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Scientists and would-be scientists write books searching for a “theory of everything”—some unifying framework that would explain and tie together all the loose ends of our existence. Science desperately wants to discover an all-encompassing theory that would solve the many great problems that seriously threaten human survival.

For centuries many have dreamed of humankind eventually bringing about a universal utopia on earth. But the opposite has happened.

Movies have been made that make fun of the meaning of life. Yet philosophers, scientists and theologians continue to diligently look for it.

It's rational to contemplate: Were we intelligently designed and put here to achieve a great plan and purpose? Or was it a great cosmic accident? Logically, life must have meaning and purpose. We should further ask, then, what is that purpose? Does one particular phrase made up of just four words sum it all up?

The pearl of great price

Mainstream Christianity speaks continually about Jesus Christ. Yet it never seems to emphasize what He really said. Christ constantly spoke of the Kingdom of God to His followers. In parables He compared this spiritual Kingdom to earthly, material things so they could begin to grasp its vital meaning and significance.

Jesus stated, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46 Matthew 13:45-46 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus' clear point is that the Kingdom of God is so precious that it becomes worth sacrificing everything else to actually enter it. The previous parable makes the same point: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid, and for joy over it goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (verse 44).

This Kingdom of which Jesus spoke embraces the solution to all our human problems and dilemmas. It answers everything! This Kingdom should be the primary goal of all mankind—the central focus of all our necessary subordinate goals.

However, a supremely clever but perverted spirit being has sidetracked humanity into believing all kinds of other philosophies and religions, teaching a witches' brew of false gospels of every type (see Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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; Ephesians 2:1-2 Ephesians 2:1-2 1 And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
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; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
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). Even many if not most churches have lost the plot!

Can people really enter the Kingdom?

Jesus Christ spoke of the prophets and patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:28-29 Luke 13:28-29 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
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). Matthew in his parallel account uses the term “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11-12 Matthew 8:11-12 11 And I say to you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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), employing “heaven” as a synonym for God since he was writing to a Jewish audience who avoided using the name of God.The terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are thus synonymous. 

Just before His suffering and subsequent death by crucifixion, Christ said to His original apostles: “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30 Luke 22:28-30 28 You are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint to you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed to me; 30 That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
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).

Jesus is clearly talking about a literal kingdom, with literal people whom the apostles would “judge”—lead, guide, train and teach!

But the Kingdom will encompass many more than just the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets and the New Testament apostles. The apostle Paul, facing the end of his life, wrote to his beloved friend Timothy the evangelist that “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord [Jesus Christ], the righteous Judge, will give to me in that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8 2 Timothy 4:8From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.
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).

These biblical passages show us that people can definitely enter the Kingdom of God. All true Christians will participate in and have their part in it!

The clear boundaries of the Kingdom

The Bible's “resurrection chapter,” 1 Corinthians 15, contains a rich repository of many critical biblical truths. Verse 50 in particular focuses on our present humanity and mortality. This human, flesh-and-blood physical existence was never intended to be an end in itself; it serves only as a training ground for the Kingdom.

Notice what the apostle Paul wrote here: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption [decay] inherit incorruption.” Our human bodies age and run down over time. We simply cannot exist permanently in the material flesh. In fact all physical matter, however long it takes, remains in a process of change toward disintegration and decay.

So, then, how can we enter and become a part of the spiritual Kingdom of God? How does God make it possible for flesh-and-blood, mortal human beings to enter that Kingdom? 

Paul outlines the solution in the next few passages of 1 Corinthians 15: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [in the grave], but we shall all be changed —in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (verses 51-53).

In a similar account in 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul corroborates these awesome truths. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord …” he writes. The truths that follow in this passage are not his personal ideas, but rather teaching obtained directly from Jesus Christ.

Continuing, he says: “We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep [in death—with no consciousness at present]. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven … with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (verses 15-17).

However, we will not be able to meet Christ this way while still existing as human flesh. “For our [Christian] citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly [ fleshly, perishable ] body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21 Philippians 3:20-21 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
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). Jesus is God along with the Father! They know how to accomplish the transformation. We don't!

Jesus Christ will do for us what we simply cannot perform for ourselves. But there remains something we can and must do in intimate partnership with God and Christ: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13 Philippians 2:12-13 12 Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
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). We have to embark on a series of necessary spiritual steps to overcome the obstacles in our way. 

Sin stands ominously in our path

Whether we realize it or not, our mind and thinking are hostile to God and His law of love (Romans 8:7 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
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). We have all been stained by sin. As long as we remain in this rebellious attitude of defiance and disobedience, we are unfit for the Kingdom of God. As a first step to embracing the road to eternal life, we must understand what has already gone awry in our lives.

Sin stands in the way of God's great plan and purpose for human life—directly in opposition to our eternal salvation as potential sons and daughters in the everlasting Kingdom of God. Sin remains such a stubborn, implacable, deep-rooted enemy that only the death of God's Son could cancel and blot out its horrendous consequences.

The Bible usually depicts death as the natural consequence of our sins. Disobedience to God's law of love brings divine punishment (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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). So Jesus Christ, completely and totally without sin, died the death which our sins so richly deserved (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God. 21 For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
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)—giving us the awesome opportunity of obtaining forgiveness and full reconciliation with God the Father.

“Sin is the transgression of the law,” we are told in 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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(King James Version). A more modern translation puts it this way: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (New International Version). Both translations are correct. The apostle James states the same thing: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9 James 2:8-9 8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well: 9 But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
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).

We can fail to love both God and our neighbor by what we do as well as what we don't do. To neglect to do what you know is right can be as serious in its consequences as a deliberately conceived, lawless act with malice aforethought. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17 James 4:17Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
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).

The apostle Paul views sin as a grim and dreadful activity. He regards unrepentant men and women as being “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:17 Romans 6:17But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
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, 20), “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14 Romans 7:14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
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) and even being taken into captivity by it (verse 23). So we are sinners by nature as well as by choice (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
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). And yet the sin of human beings can be completely and totally erased through the work of a loving Mediator.

Jesus clearly said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth [crucified], will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32 John 12:32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me.
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). But the fact still remains that divine forgiveness can only occur in the lives of those who really repent.

Transforming our lives

Our first step on the road to ultimate salvation is genuine and heartfelt repentance. The apostle Peter said, “Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
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).

Jesus Christ continually stressed the importance of repentance. He stated, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32 Luke 5:32I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
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). Christ plainly taught that our highest priority in life should be to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
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). But repentance is the first in a series of basic steps leading to redemption and salvation. God the Father responds to the repentant sinner with total forgiveness, applying the sacrifice of His Son

to the humbled and repentant individual (1 John 1:7-9 1 John 1:7-9 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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).  

When is the best time to repent? Now! Ominous clouds of global turmoil and tragedy darken the horizon. Paul stated even during his day, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 Acts 17:30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
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).

And what does Jesus demand of those who hear the message of the Kingdom of God? “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand [in the person of Christ]. Repent, and believe in the gospel'” (Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
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).

Everlasting life in the family of God is available to only those who repent of their sins. No exceptions are possible, because “all have sinned and fall[en] short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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).

Repentance is not an ethereal concept which no one can fully grasp. In its most basic sense, it means to change. We are to change our minds, change our way of thinking, change our behavior, change our priorities, change our lives.

We are to demonstrate in our lives a changed way of living. This change away from our previous lifestyle will prove the genuineness of our repentance. “Let him who stole steal no longer,” for instance (Ephesians 4:28 Ephesians 4:28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.
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). We should produce “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8 Matthew 3:8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
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)—positive changes in our lives that clearly demonstrate that we indeed now put God first in our lives. Professing to know God, but showing no change in our lives, doesn't cut it (Titus 1:16 Titus 1:16They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.
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; 1 John 2:3-6 1 John 2:3-6 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
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).

Like King David of Israel, we must ask God to create a “clean heart” and a right spirit and attitude within us (Psalms 51:10 Psalms 51:10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
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). Repentance produces a humbled and submissive heart, one that seeks and even begs for God's mercy (Luke 18:13 Luke 18:13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
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). Then we are ready to take the next fundamental step, asking a true minister of God for baptism for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
).

Baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit

When the apostle Paul was miraculously struck down and called by God, what did the man to whom God directed him, Ananias, instruct him to do? “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins , calling on the name of the Lord'” (Acts 22:16 Acts 22:16And now why tarry you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
American King James Version×
).

Paul had clearly repented and was now willing to do whatever Christ asked of him. His deeply felt regret for his previous life of persecuting Christians emerges several times in his writings. His heartfelt goal was to put it fully behind him and press forward toward the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:11-14 Philippians 3:11-14 11 If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
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). Later in life Paul never forgot that his old sins had been completely cleansed, washed away and totally forgiven. He had become fully fit for the family of God, enduring as a Christian to the very end. 

Many biblical passages tell us that water baptism is a necessary step to obtaining salvation. The symbolism is very clear. Figuratively, our sins are washed away to lie at the bottom of a watery grave—and we should leave them there. This immersion in water pictures the death and burial of our old selves—the former man or woman of sin (Romans 6:2-6 Romans 6:2-6 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
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). We arise out of the water to begin a new life—ordered by God's great spiritual law, the Ten Commandments.

Jesus commanded His ministers to baptize repentant sinners (Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
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; John 4:1-3 John 4:1-3 1 When therefore the LORD knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
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). In fact, Jesus set us all a right example by asking John the Baptist to personally baptize Him even though He had never sinned and had no need of repentance (Matthew 3:13-15 Matthew 3:13-15 13 Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of you, and come you to me? 15 And Jesus answering said to him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
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; compare 1 Peter 2:21-22 1 Peter 2:21-22 21 For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
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). Christ submitted to water baptism in order to fulfill all righteousness.

But this is not all. Scriptural example shows that, after baptism, the next step in the salvation process involves the laying on of hands by one or more of God's true ministers so that the repentant person may receive God's Holy Spirit. In the brief list of basic Christian doctrines in Hebrews 6:1-2 Hebrews 6:1-2 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
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, the laying on of hands is mentioned along with repentance, baptism and faith toward God.

The basic formula is plainly articulated in Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
when Peter delivered His sermon on the day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

A life of spiritual growth commences

This completes our brief study about how to enter the Kingdom of God. After an encouraging and joyous beginning, we are to grow in the Christian faith. Among the last words the apostle Peter wrote were that we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 2 Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×
). This is a lifelong process requiring dedication and commitment on our part.

We must also patiently endure the trials and tests that will inevitably follow, trusting in God for deliverance (Acts 14:22 Acts 14:22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
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; Psalms 34:19 Psalms 34:19Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
American King James Version×
). “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19 Luke 21:19In your patience possess you your souls.
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, KJV).

Jesus Himself said in the lengthy prophecy of end-time events He gave to His disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before His death, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
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). In context, the very next verse speaks of preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.”

Finally, we need to recall an earlier admonition, also from the lips of Jesus Christ, in Luke 12:31-32 Luke 12:31-32 31 But rather seek you the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added to you. 32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
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: “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things [our material needs] shall be added to you. Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

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