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Who Gets into the Kingdom of God?

Like Jesus, the Apostle Paul sets high standards for entering the kingdom of God. In his first letter to the Corinthians he writes: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites…will inherit the kingdom of God” (1Cor 6:9-10).

But that’s not all Paul says about the high standards of God. In the 5th chapter of his letter to the Galatians he adds, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21 New Living Translation).

I don’t know how anyone could read such a list and think it only refers to someone else. If we read it too quickly to see ourselves in the mirror, all we need to do is read again Paul’s catch-all phrase, “and other kinds of sin.”

But, anyone who has read Paul knows that it’s not his intent to show that no one has a hope of heaven. So, I think we need to answer the question:

What is “the kingdom of God”?

In one sense, the Bible shows that “the kingdom of God” is future. It represents the predicted day, at the end of this age, when Christ will rule the world. At that time, according to the New Testament, the Savior of the world will becomes its judge and king. He alone will determine who comes into his kingdom and who doesn’t (John 5:20-27; Matt 25:31-46).

The Scriptures, however, also speak of a present kingdom. In this sense, all who– in their own hearts– have bowed the knee to Christ, have already been welcomed into His kingdom (Col 1:13). Such people, according to Paul, have been accepted not on their own merits. They’ve been accepted by the grace of Christ who, on the basis of his own saving work, has washed, set apart, and declared right with God all who have trusted him (1Cor 6:11).

But how does this fit with what Paul is saying?

Is he saying those who have been forgiven by Christ will not commit the sins of their past? Is that how they show they’ve been forgiven? If that’s the case then why in this letter does Paul have to repeatedly urge the family of God not to fall back into sexual sin, conflict, and all kinds of other behavior that does not reflect the goodness of God in our lives?

To dig a little deeper let’s ask the question,

What does it mean to “inherit the kingdom?”

The word inherit can mean to receive, at some time in the future, a promised inheritance. Or it can also mean to partake and participate now in the “rule and influence of God.” Both are possible, and both are probably in view as Paul writes.

In a future sense, only those who have been forgiven of their sins will be allowed into the kingdom of heaven.

In the present, none of us can, point to any sin, and say that by such behavior, we are reflecting the rule and influence of God in our life.

Paul makes two things very clear in his letters:

No one qualifies for heaven on their own merits (1Cor 6:11),

And no can show the presence of God in their life by their own efforts (Gal 5:22-25).

Seems to me that such an understanding of “the kingdom of God” allows us to have an important conversation, not only about the high standards of God, but about the wisdom and grace by which God lets people like us come into his presence.

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21 Responses to “Who Gets into the Kingdom of God?”

  1. agapelife says:

    Wow, lots of questions, not many answers…. I think 1Cor 13 says it all… I like to substitute Christ for love in the Chapter. For are not called to Christ like, and in away if we are imitators of Christ, in the heart not the flesh. Does help those who struggle with if they are saved or not.–hope others can give my light here…. Thanks Mart, again you make us think, and the income is Him

  2. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning again everyone, Mart, In my opinion every thing in life is a matter of opinion, even every topic you have brought up, and i believe it is very important for everyone to give their opinion, but as i do pray, and i know you do that everyone not only can but will always agree to disagree in Love for one another, and really reason out what another person has said with the Holy Spirit, and be sure we know we are right when we do not agree with another person, fellowship is a great tool for growth if that is what we are here for, and not just to tell others how it is.
    In my opinion for a person to get into God’s Kingdom, it must be done while we are here, and because i know God knows every thing about me including my desires, i can never fool God for a second.
    I am in God’s kingdom right now, because i have stuidied God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and know i desire not only to live with God, but desire for God to be my God, and i have believed the report He has given me of what He has done whereby i can be Born Again into His Kingdom, thereby i have not only asked Him to save me, but for Him to be my God, and because i know this is according to His will that i not perish, i know He has saved me not only from Hell, but from the power of sin having control of me.
    I know absolutely i cannot fool God, and thereby entering God’s Kingdom, is accomplished by a true desire to do so, believing what God has done, and whereby asking God to be my God, and Savior, it has been done, PERIOD.
    If i have missed something let me know, God’s plan is very simple, and free to us, but a price can never be put on what God the Creator has done to show us what LOVE He has for us.

  3. sjd says:

    God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him. – Andrew Murray

    I remember going to the zoo with my parents when I was little. My father paid for my entrance and once inside without his carrying me around,and pointing out what was there, I would never have enjoyed the wonders of the zoo. In a similar way, I must now yield my life completely to Jesus in faith, accepting His payment of my debt and enter the Kingdom, and now yield completely to Him as I walk in faith, letting the Life of Christ continue to “save” me as Paul states in Romans 5:10. By His death I was made right with Him, and by His life He can keep me, and live through me revealing the fruit of the Spirit. Now I can enjoy the wonders of His kingdom in this age and all the more in the future. I am so thankful that we have a Heavenly Father that has taken responsibility for my ability to enjoy the Kingdom now and future, when I have proven my irresponsibility with my life of sin. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… Galatians 2:20 Thank you for the reminder that it is only God that can provide for us to enjoy His Kingdom.

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    sjd, that’s a really good word picture. Study software that I use gives a literal rendering of “inherit” for this text as “enjoying the allotment of”…

  5. igetbored says:

    I thank God we don’t have to work to get to heaven. Im so glad that we don’t have prove ourselves by reading the bible so many times a day or praying 5 times day. Jesus already paid the price once and he never has to do it again. His life given on the cross is the most important event that has ever happen and will ever happen. I thank Jesus so much for doing this beacuse as I sit here I admit that I am the biggest sinner of them all and I need his forgivness yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I pray that I will help bring a few more into the kingdom before I leave this earth. God bless

  6. desert rose says:

    “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that He was raised from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

    Scripture meaning of believe, is to adhere to, clings, to relies on, trust. Many are deceived into an easy believism by not really knowing what it means to believe. That is why many will say to Him, “Lord, Lord have we not done many wonderful things etc.” And the Lord will say “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

    It makes one look deep within their selves to make sure that the truly have believed and that God and God alone is the one who guides and directs them through the price that was paid when Jesus died on the cross and that the Holy Spirit is living within them.

    That is why, we as believers, must confess our sins as it states in I John 1:9 for we are still sinners by birth but born again by the Spirit.

  7. poohpity says:

    When I first accepted Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, I think I was about nine. As I walked down that isle toward the cross the only thing that was on my mind was my own behavior, I never considered what anyone else did or thought, just my own wrong doing and I wanted to be forgiven. I had not read the bible yet, I knew nothing except the cross and the forgiveness I wanted, this was at nine. Looking back at the heart of a child knowing I was a sinner at that age and considering all that would take place after that I feel like such a worm now.

    Then I began to read God’s word and saw that so many of the folks written about in the bible were just as human as I am and God still loved them. Thank God for Paul who explained the struggles we as human beings are going to go through daily and the things he himself did to followers of Jesus. Yet he again brings our focus off of him and back to the cross.

    Sometimes I think we try to make this harder than what it really is. With all you said Mart it seems that the meaning is so simple. God created, we missed it up, God fixed it, we still messed it up, God wants us with Him so He provided a way, we still mess up yet we can rest because He fixed it. So the moral of the story we in our own strength can do nothing to fix it.

  8. jonico says:

    I have been much more aware and more often convicted of my sins lately than ever before. My old nature wants to revel in self-pity but I now know that if I simply trust in God, He will lead me through it all. I can see how God’s grace is a gift because I have done nothing to earn it and yet it is changing my heart and my life. I just thank God that He’s chosen me to reveal Himself to and I pray that He will use me to reach out to the lost around me.

  9. yvetterjh says:

    I like the imagery that sjd gave about the zoo, therefore staying with that analogy I want to attempt to answer your questions Mart.
    What is the Kingdom of God?
    I believe the Kingdom of God is the promises of God- the blessing He offers- the benefits of dwelling in His presence. And if Jesus Christ has paid our way into the kingdom (zoo) we therefore have access to all of the attractions of it. Now we can choose to roam aimlessly throughout the park trying to understand the sites on our own, or we can follow the leadership of a tour guide (the Holy Spirit). A guide who is able to explain everything we will come across-not only the beauties and mysteries, but also the dangers. If we refuse the guidance can you image how much we would miss out? Imagine the stress of trying to coordinate and maneuver throughout the park- imagine all of the promises of excitement we’d miss just because we didn’t know our way well enough. We inherited access to the kingdom, but did not reap the full benefits of what it had to offer.

    You already stated that to inherit the kingdom is both present and future how do we explain Paul’s words in Gal 5? In the NKJV uses the words “practice such things will not inherit…” God knows that we are not perfect, and struggle daily-hourly against the nature of our flesh. I believe it’s the practicing part of this scripture that is key. To practice something means you are working on it frequently, and as believers we should be practicing walking according to the Spirit, by way of the Spirit- not the flesh. Sin should no longer be a lifestyle, a habit, a if nothing has changed for us. Instead Paul further tells us in the context that it is the fruits of the spirit that we should target. “ and those who are in Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” We shouldn’t gain access to the kingdom and constantly think and act like we did before we accepted the ticket. If after accepting the cross of Christ our actions and motives do not change, then we should seriously question our conversion. I completely agree that there is nothing that we can do to work our way into the promised kingdom, it was all done on the cross by Jesus Christ. However James warns us that faith without works is dead… “ show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works…Even the demons believe, and tremble” I believe that it’s not enough to believe we have to allow the Spirit of God to transform us. And it is up to God to determine what level of transformation is enough

  10. hal.fshr says:

    I think the article has an important message for all believers. However, I am concerned about one issue in it.

    Mart writes: ” I don’t know how anyone could read such a list and think it only refers to someone else. If we read it too quickly to see ourselves in the mirror, all we need to do is read again Paul’s catch-all phrase, “and other kinds of sin.”

    Wycliffe Bible Commentary indicates the meaning of the words “and the like” (New King James Translation) to be”The list could be extended—and “such like” The Greek New Testament could be even more accurately translated “The ones such things are habitually practicing”. The emphasis is not on “other kinds of sin” but upon the habitual practice of these kinds of sins.

    We have to be careful to not base a key point of a biblical teaching on a paraphrase like the New Living Translation.

    Nonetheless, I still agree with the article message and central idea. Thanks.

  11. daisymarygoldr says:

    “…NO ONE can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life” John 3:5-6

    “But to ALL who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God” John 1:12-13

    Therefore, EVERY sinner who is CLEANSED, made HOLY, and made RIGHT with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11) will enter and inherit the kingdom of God.

    This gives us all the more reason to preach the Good News about the Kingdom throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it (Matt 24:14)!

  12. Mart De Haan says:

    hal.fshr, I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer. What I am trying to clarify is that I don’t think that, in these two passages (1Cor 6:9 and Gal 5:21), Paul is talking about who qualifies for entrance into the future kingdom of heaven– but rather that those who are walking in the flesh, rather than the Spirit, are forfeiting the opportunity to presently enjoy living under the rule of Christ.

  13. daisymarygoldr says:

    I do not see a present and future but only one kingdom when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God (Rev. 11:15) indicating the second coming of Christ.
    When Paul refers to the kingdom of God in the present it refers to ‘salvation’ or being ‘translated’ meaning sinners outside Christ cannot be a part of God’s kingdom. Inheritance is in the future- as in praying for His kingdom to come, given as a promise (James 2:5) or we look forward to a grand entrance (II Peter 1:11). Paul also says that flesh and blood cannot inherit…obviously referring to the future. Is there a suggestion that when Christians sin we forfeit the privilege of being part of the kingdom here on earth and then if we confess all our sins on our death beds we gain access to the future Kingdom to come?

  14. igetbored says:

    daisymarygoldr the begining of John 3:5, is that the verse the baptist use to justify that the only way to get to heaven is to be baptised? Because that is not true. I think baptists forget about the theif on the cross.

  15. daisymarygoldr says:

    igetbored, Thank you for the Baptist point…it was informative! However, that was not the intention for quoting that verse…it was actually about the ‘born again’ factor in reply to today’s Q.

  16. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, another day another thought, trying to look at the bigger picture, i know we cannot look at the absolute picture God looks at, but getting out of our own back yard so to speak, how did Abel get into the Kingdom, or do we believe he is some where else.
    We have what we call the bible, Abel did not, and even though he gave a more excelent sacrifice than Cain, shows me God spoke to Abel, and Cain, Abel desired to believe God, Cain did not, thereby i believe Cain is in the Kingdom, because he believe and excepted God as his God he would follow, God knew his heart, without his head knowlege of what God was going to do.
    Just as God says about Abraham, He believed God, and not just desired to follow God, but did what God asked him to.
    We have been given the light of what God has done, thereby we will be accountable for the light we have been given, and what we do with it.
    Abel will be judged by the light he was given, but it was not the same light we have in order to get into the kingdom.
    I believe a person must be born again to enter God’s Kingdom, but i also believe it is not an absolute for everyone to believe as i do concerning the how this is done.
    Some believe baptism a must, some by emersion, some speaking in tongues, some communion every week, we have come up with all kind of ways of entering the Kingdom.
    As Paul declared I know in whom i have believed and know He is able to keep that which i have committed to Him against that day.
    I believe the person that commites their very being to God will enter the Kingdom.
    Forgive me if you disagree, and pray for me, please do not get angered.
    I just believe there is to much adding to what God desires of us, causing divisions, and letting satan win to many battles, we know he has lost the war, but lets stop letting him get us away from loving one another is God’s only desire.

  17. Mart De Haan says:

    Hey,Gale and all, I appreciate so much your willingness to give such thought to what the Bible says about “the kingdom of God.”

    Because it’s such an important subject– that can be so confusing, I’ve just posted something called “already but not yet.” Let’s see if these additional thoughts create more clarity or confusion :-).

  18. dianne says:

    If it weren’t for Grace none of us would have a prayer!
    Thanking my God that i am a sinner saved by His mercy! I plead nothing but the blood of my precious Lord & Saviour J.C.!!
    I am soooo a spawn of the sinful nature you just referred to and my life produced all of the above charges listed. The list pretty much includes all of mankind doesn’t it? So, if it weren’t for Grace what chance would we have? Thanks be to God that we have a hope & a future if we are fixed on Him as our Rock ……….Hallelujah!!

  19. nannamonty says:

    Dear Mart De Haan and All,

    Who gets into the Kingdom of God and who will inherit? I pray for all who reads this following comment with an open heart and to take Gods Word (not mine). Gods Path to Salvation is to HEAR the gospel=Romans 10:15-17, BELIEVE it to be true-Mark 16:15-16, REPENT of sins-Acts 17:30, CONFESS Christ as your Savior-Matt 10:32-33, Be BAPTIZED INTO Christ(body) Gal 3-27, Live a Faithful life-Rev 2:10. Because Jesus said, “I AM the way, the Truth and the Life, No one comes to the Father except Through Me.” John 14:6. There is only ONE grave that is empty-the grave of our Lord Jesus Christ! He us the ONLY way to get to heaven and to have the hope of eternal life. A lot of people are out there lost in the world trying to work their way to heaven. Then there are those who think they can buy their way into heaven. There are others who simply believe that as long as you try to be a good person, you’ll get end up in heaven. And finally there are the kinds of people who just don’t believe God would send anyone to hell. They believe everyone goes to heaven. Well, here’s some good news and some bad news. There really is a heaven and there really is a hell. It doesn’t matter how good you may think you are, how much money you have, or how many times you’ve been to church. Without Jesus (who is The Church Matt 16:18) you can forget it all! He is the ONLY way, the ONLY Truth, the ONLY life. There will be no second chances when Jesus returns, which only the Father knows,(can be anytime) and He will raise up first the members that are in HIS body (which is His Church he purchased with His blood, His Bride) and in a twinkling of an eye will divide the sheep (heaven) and the goats (hell). There are many MAN+MADE churches, with the Traditions of Men that the above people are in danger in their thinking. This is Satan’s specialty, his job, being the great deceiver, father of lies, to confuse, and take as many people (souls) as he can with him, because he knows his demise is already sealed on judgement day! God does not want anyone to perish, but to have everlasting life THROUGH His SON!
    It is my prayer that you please go to GODs Word and search the scriptures above to find GODS ONLY Path To Salvation He Has For All!
    With Love In Christ and Standing Firm on Spreading the GOOD NEWS, THE GOSPEL, found in GODS WORD (The Bible NKJV)

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