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CHAPTER II

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

The Desire of Life and Happiness Deeply Implanted in the Human

Heart. Jesus Came According to Prophecy to Establish a Kingdom. Introduced by John the Baptist. First Case of Gentile Healing. Rejection of the Jews. First Record of Pardon. Apostles Sent Forth. Second Record of Pardon. Healing on the Sabbath. Prophecy Regarding the Gentiles. The Kingdom. Second Case of Gentile Healing.

The most important subject for human consideration is existence, being, life, “For what shall a man be profited if he shall gain the whole world and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” All sane persons do their utmost to perpetuate their existence and to secure the greatest good attainable in this life. If there be life beyond -a life that shall not be measured by years but by an eternal future—the happiness or misery of which is governed by actions here, the subject demands our most profound attention.

The desire of life and happiness is deeply implanted in the human heart. The laws governing natural or temporal life are being studied more and more year by year. How shall life be preserved and happiness secured are questions of very great moment when connected with our present existence. To

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secure man's life and liberty and give him the right to pursue happiness, governments are established and laws are enacted by men. When we look over the world and see the vast efforts being put forth in all the departments of human industry, science, and invention for the present good of the race, to sustain and make happy this transient life of less than a century, we are startled when we consider the infinite

greatness of eternal life which lies just beyond. And how incomparably less is the exertion to secure that boon, to know the law of the spirit of that life, that everlasting felicity may be secured! Spiritual or eternal life is greater than the present just in proportion to its duration and enjoyment. A wise man therefore can not doubt or disbelieve without diligently inquiring, Is there a life beyond ?

Jesus proposes to purify this life in preparation for a life to come. He came, according to preceding prophecy, to establish a kingdom. This is called by Matthew "The Kingdom of Heaven”; by Mark and Luke, “The Kingdom of God.” This kingdom was announced before Jesus commenced His mission. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. “Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all regions around about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan confessing their sins.” a

And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth

a Matt, iii. 5-6; Mark i. 4; Luke iii. 3.

a

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of Galilee and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him; and there came a voice from heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”a Thus briefly does John prepare the way of the Lord and introduce to the world the long expected Messiah, who is here acknowledged by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Passing over His wondrous temptation and the foiling of Satan by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and also His sermon on the Mount, which stands alone among all writings for its union of wisdom, mercy and love, reversing the past and laying the foundation for a glorious future, we come to speak of His first intimations that we, the Gentiles, are to share in the blessings of His heavenly kingdom, to have part in His coming reign. This is recorded in the eighth chapter of Matthew and is the story of the healing of the Roman centurion's servant. The centurion said unto him:“Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof; but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard it he marveled and said unto them that followed, Verily, I say unto you I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and

.

a Mark i. 9-11.

ness.”a

shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom (the Jews] shall be cast out into outer dark

Here is indicated the rejection of the Jews and the final extension of His pure religion to the uttermost bounds of the earth.

The first case recorded where Jesus pardoned sin is found in the story of the man afflicted with the palsy. “And behold, they brought to him a man sick with the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee. And behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said ... But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (then saith he to the sick of the palsy), Arise, take up thy bed, and

go

into thine house. And he arose and departed to his house.”+ This example will be used in connection with other cases of pardon hereafter.

Passing again over the declaration of His extreme poverty and the demonstration of His superhuman power in calming the sea, casting out demons, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, causing the dumb to speak, and raising the dead, we call attention to the sending forth of the twelve apostles. He commanded them saying: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as ye go preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand."a And here it will be observed that the burden of the apostles' preaching is that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” i.e., is approaching, and that their mission is still confined to the Jews. Not even is the mixed race of Jews and Gentiles inhabiting Samaria to be visited. We, therefore, search in vain for anything thus far in the synoptic gospels addressed to the Gentiles directly as a people. Following this is Christ's instructions to His apostles as they go on this important mission, foretelling their persecution, commanding them not to fear, and promising reward to those who would receive them. About this time John, being in prison, sent two of his disciples to Jesus, who said unto Him, “Art thou he that cometh or look we for another ?” Jesus gave them evidence

a Matt. viii. 6–12. b Matt. ix. 2–7; Mark ii. 5; Luke v. 20.

b in what He said and did that He was the Messiah, and crowned it by stating, “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” And when they departed Jesus said unto the multitude: “Verily 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.”c He passed from this wonderful statement in regard to the kingdom to pronounce woes on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because they repented not when His mighty works were done in them. These cities have long since been utterly destroyed. Their locations are unknown. Immediately after this, according to Luke, we have the second case

c Matt. xi. II.

a Matt. x. 5-7

b Matt. xi. 3-5.

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