How to Enter the Kingdom of God
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How to Enter the Kingdom of God
Today there are more dislocated and homeless people on earth than there have ever been, even more than during World War II. Increasing populations in impoverished areas, famine, disease, horrible civil wars and strife have forced millions of men, women and children to leave their homes.
A recent New York Times article reported that “the global population of people displaced by conflict reached 70.8 million last year , up from a little over 43 million a decade ago . . . Around 80 percent of the world’s refugees have been living in exile for five years, and around one-fifth of them for 20 years” (Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Number of Refugees Is Soaring to Records,” June 20, 2019).
Vast numbers now wander through the world’s highways and byways, looking for a new home, someone to take them in. They’ve become a new “Lost Generation”—eyes deadened by the things they’ve seen, hearts growing cold with sorrow and loss, their hope slowly dimming.
They are all searching for the same thing—home.
Through the centuries, a smaller group of people have also been searching for a home—for a spiritual permanent residence, the Kingdom of God.
One man, the biblical patriarch Abraham, spent his life looking forward to this spiritual home. The book of Hebrews describes his lifelong search, his “sojourn”: “By faith Abraham . . . went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles [or tents] . . . for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10, King James Version, emphasis added throughout).
Abraham sought the Kingdom of God. Christians throughout time have joined him in this search. In fact, Jesus Christ told His followers to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). Christians are to build their lives around this goal, this hope for the future.
The Bible a few times calls this coming Kingdom a paradise (see Luke 23:43)—with Eden-like conditions in every corner of the world. God’s Word shows this Kingdom arrives at Christ’s second coming. It will involve a righteous government, one that is finally able to bring about the peace and prosperity all long for. No more war. Abundant harvests. Right education, including religion. Booming economies everywhere. Harmony.
No wonder we should be seeking it!
The prophesied Kingdom of God is a type of final home, a spiritual home. It will be mankind’s ultimate home, and the Bible shows it will be established on earth.
This Kingdom is obviously not here yet. It’s something still being sought after, like the millions of people around the world struggling to find a new physical home.
But how are we to seek it? And how do we ultimately gain entrance to God’s Kingdom? This is one of life’s great questions. Is just saying a prayer and letting Christ into your heart all it takes, as some assume? And is God going to let everyone in?
The Bible holds the answers! There is a marked path to entering God’s Kingdom, but it is not what most believe.
Repent—the first step
About 2,000 years ago, Christ started His ministry with the message, “The Kingdom of God is at hand: repent . . . and believe the gospel [or good news]” (Mark 1:15, KJV). He also told His servants to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Those called into God’s Church know they cannot build the Kingdom “in their hearts,” as some think. Instead they are focused on meeting the conditions to enter it.
The Bible shows that Christianity is a lifelong process of conversion—of building godly character. And God has outlined a number of steps—actions—that will cause people to truly change their hearts.
This process starts with repentance. The Greek word translated “repent” simply means “to change one’s mind,” leading to turning one’s life around. Everyone seems to generally agree that change is good, but most find it hard to make meaningful changes in their lives. A cartoon I once saw shows one person saying to another: “Change is good. You go first.” Change is hard! But with God’s help through His Spirit, real change is possible. And it is necessary for those seeking to enter the Kingdom.
Repentance starts with recognizing our sin, which the Bible defines as, among other related descriptions, the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4).
After the patriarch Job was humbled during his long, painful trial, he came to see himself as never before, telling God: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
Job saw himself, and repented!
In the New Testament, the apostle Peter preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost. His words deeply convicted listeners about their sin: “‘. . . God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent . . .’” (Acts 2:36-38).
The Greek word translated “cut”—or “pricked” in the King James Version—actually means “pierced thoroughly, agitated violently, stung to the quick.”
They saw their sin! And they realized they needed to do something about it.
Peter’s answer was, “Repent!” Change! Turn around from walking down the wrong path—one that doesn’t lead to the Kingdom—and start walking the right path, according to God’s ways.
Many more verses could be included to show the necessity of repentance. Jesus Himself commanded repentance, and more specifically spoke of the requirement of obeying God by keeping His commandments: “One came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘. . . If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments’” (Matthew 19:16-17).
Believe the gospel
The next step involves how we respond to hearing the gospel. Recall that Christ started His ministry with the instruction to “repent . . . and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15, KJV). God expects those who come into contact with the gospel to believe the message. But God also must open someone’s eyes to grasp the truth of this amazing good news.
Believing Christ’s true gospel also involves unlearning false teachings that obscure what He really said would happen. These false ideas include God’s Kingdom being here already, or that it is merely within our hearts.
A number of Old and New Testament verses, including many of Christ’s sayings, show that when the Kingdom arrives, every person on earth will be aware of it. There will be no secrecy in its arrival.
Of course, believing the good news takes real faith. This is what God is looking for in His servants—people who believe all that God reveals through His Word about this future Kingdom.
Do you believe the gospel?
Recognize Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and role
Another critical element to entering the Kingdom is recognizing what Jesus Christ did during His first coming. Without Christ’s blood being shed to take away our sins (John 1:29), our salvation would not be possible. Nothing about Christianity would be possible without Christ’s atonement for sin. We would all still be dead in our sins, unforgiven.
Christ Himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter highlighted Christ’s role in Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Quoting the Old Testament prophet Joel, Peter also said, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). However, this does not mean that all one must do to enter the Kingdom is accept Jesus into your heart. But recognizing Christ’s sacrifice is certainly a crucial part of the process.
It’s also important to understand that Christ, raised from the dead, presented His offering before the Father for our atonement and intercedes for us. Christ is our Mediator and High Priest, as well as the sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 9:12-15). We have a living Savior who bridges the gap between mankind and God—and who also leads us into righteousness individually and as His people. He is our Lord and King, who must come to rule our hearts so that we may reign with Him in His coming Kingdom.
Christians seeking God’s Kingdom accept and understand Christ’s all-important sacrifice and role.
Think back to Peter’s Pentecost sermon. After telling the audience to “repent,” he immediately gave them another action: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [or forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Remarkably, around 3,000 people took his words to heart and followed through on baptism that day (Acts 2:41).
Baptism is one of the main requirements—a starting point—for Christians. It is an outward sign that someone has repented and made a commitment to live God’s way of life. Baptism is also a symbolic act showing that God is wiping away the person’s past sins. It is a ceremony that pictures the old sinful person being buried in a watery grave and the “new man” being raised up to a new life in Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 6:3-11).
To learn more about baptism, read our free study guide The Road to Eternal Life. It will show you more about why baptism is so vital, along with explaining that the biblical pattern is to be baptized with a mature understanding that one is making a lifelong commitment, and that it should be done through full immersion, representing the death and burial of the old person and a new person rising to live a new life dedicated to God.
Receive God’s Spirit
Another requirement for one to enter God’s Kingdom is to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Peter also emphasized this in Acts 2. The Bible reveals that God’s Spirit is given after baptism through the laying on of hands by a minister of God. Hebrews 6:2 lists this as one of the foundational doctrines of the Church.
Notice the account in Acts 8: “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17, New Revised Standard Version).
Although people in Samaria were baptized and had “accepted the word of God,” they had not yet received God’s Spirit. Baptism is not enough. The individual who has repented and been baptized must also have hands laid on him or her to receive God’s Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the missing ingredient—it is what gives Christians the ability to truly overcome the pulls of society, the self and Satan. God’s Spirit leads the Christian into deeper understanding and application of God’s truths. Notice: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14, KJV).
God’s Spirit is what ultimately enables a Christian to be born into the Kingdom of God as part of His divine family, as a son or daughter of God!
To learn more about the Holy Spirit, download or request our free study guide Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.
Be active in God’s Church
Being an active member of God’s Church is another personal action required of those seeking to enter the Kingdom. Overcoming cannot be done alone. It is essential to be with other Christians who are committed to putting God first in their lives.
This involves faithfully keeping the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset and assembling for worship with others on this day. Members of the Church that Christ built (see Matthew 16:18) also observe and assemble for worship during the seven annual biblical festivals, including Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. These important days reveal God’s plan for salvation.
Being active in the Church also includes dedicating one’s life to serving others and putting their needs first.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:42 (New International Version): “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
The apostle Paul wrote: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Interaction and fellowship with others in the Church helps Christians learn more about living God’s way. It prepares them for the coming Kingdom of God.
Endure and overcome
The final step we will look at is one of the most important—enduring and overcoming. Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13). Many scriptures show that God’s servants must endure until the end of their lives. They must keep going despite what life throws at them. Christians continue living God’s way despite trials or temptations, always striving to overcome sin and grow in character and righteousness.
The Christian develops godly character through daily prayer, diligent Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting to draw closer to God. All of this is part of the overcoming process.
The book of Revelation contains a number of verses showing that Christians must overcome the world.
Jesus states, “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life [representing eternal life], which is in the midst of the Paradise of God,” and, “He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:26).
He also says: “To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).
And God later declares, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7).
Christians are overcomers! They keep obeying God and seeking the Kingdom all the way to the end of their lives.
Now is the time!
You now know some of the basic steps to entering God’s Kingdom. Many other elements of Christianity could have been included, but this article only has space to cover the overall framework.
Christ said that the way to eternal life is “narrow” (Matthew 7:14) and that “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
The path to the Kingdom can be a difficult one—but it is not impossible. Through God’s help, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26).
The question now becomes, what will you do? With knowledge comes responsibility—in this case, responsibility to act on what you have learned. If God is opening your mind to understand the truth of His Kingdom, you are being given an incredible opportunity to be among those called now to enter the Kingdom of God at its arrival at Christ’s glorious return.
Continue reading Beyond Today magazine, watching our TV program and studying our library of material that teaches from Scripture the truths of God.
Keep striving to draw closer to God and bring your life more in line with His ways. Humble yourself and be willing to admit areas where you are wrong, or where you find yourself needing to unlearn wrong ideas.
As world conditions continue to deteriorate around us, with increased war, famine, disease and other signs of the end time, don’t wait to take action at a more “convenient” time.
Now is the time for action!