Big Apple Chapel is a New Testament based church in New York City, modeled after the pattern of the early church, with a strong emphasis on following Christ as a community of His disciples.

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BAC Sermons

NT Survey - The Gospel and the Kingdom


Preface: There is a literal place of eternal punishment ("hell") for those who have not trusted Jesus Christ as their personal, substitutionary sin-bearer. [Rev 20:15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.]

Rom 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished_26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Cf. John 3)

I. Preliminary Concepts about the Gospel of Jesus

A. The Good News

John, Jesus, and the disciples all proclaimed the same good news: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Mat 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

B. The Kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom coming from heaven (not the kingdom which is heaven [cf. kingdom of God in parallel passages in Luke to the Sermon on the Mount, it is not the kingdom which is God, but the kingdom which comes from God] note also that in the Greek, heaven is in the plural, so it can't be the kingdom which is heavens, but rather the kingdom which comes from the heavens.) is that which was promised in the Davidic Covenant, (II Sam 7; Ps 89) i.e., a literal rule over earth centered in Jerusalem. {See section on the Kingdom.}

Lk 1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

C. The Proper Response

The desired response to the good news was that of believing that the promised kingdom was coming in which righteousness would be rewarded, and thus to stop living as if this world was the only one. (Thus you would share your food and clothes, knowing that God would judge and reward you for doing so.)

Lk 3:10 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. 11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. " Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" 13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely_be content with your pay."

C1. Faith is believing that God is who He said He is and will do what He said He'll do.

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

C2. Faith was not necessarily belief that Jesus died for sins so you wouldn't have to, but belief that God would do what He said, be it accepting Christ's death on our behalf, or promise of God's blessing.

Gen 15:5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars_if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

D. The Gospel Audience

It is more than likely that the audience of John and Jesus (in the first half of the Gospels) were already going to heaven rather than hell because they were offering the blood sacrifices mandated by God for forgiveness. They believed God when He said in Leviticus, offer this sacrifice and you'll be forgiven. (To my knowledge, there is no OT evidence that an Jew had to be looking forward to a Messiah dying for them. They just had to exercise faith in what God had said He'd do if they participated (sincerely?) in the stipulated OT system.

Lev 1:4 He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 4:26 He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the man's sin, and he will be forgiven. [see also 4:35; 5:10, 13,15,18; 6:7; 19:22]

D1. From God's standpoint the sacrifices only covered over the sin until Christ died to take away the sin. God, standing outside of time looked immediately at the death of Christ, the worshipper could only look at God's word and promise. The OT sacrifices couldn't cleanse the conscience and had to be repeated and in other ways were deficient, but they secured forgiveness.

D2. The view of OT forgiveness which states that the worshipper/sacrificer had to be looking forward to the Messiah as he offered his lamb or goat is based upon extra-biblical writings and nowhere clearly stated in the Law, and obscurely referred to in the prophets. If looking forward to the Messiah's death was such an important part of the sacrificial system, then why didn't God state that was required instead of repeatedly offering a promise of forgiveness that had a hidden catch?

II. The Sermon on the Mount:  How to get rewards/blessed in the Kingdom

A. The Emphasis of the Sermon

Note the number of times blessing and reward is mentioned in the sermon. There is not mention of the blood sacrifice securing atonement and forgiveness. Note also who is addressed. If John 2:11 occurred chronologically before the Sermon, then there is a clear statement that the disciples were believers (in Jesus as Prophet, their belief in Him as King didn't come until Peter's confession that He was the Christ, and their belief in Him as Priest came after the Resurrection [Study "belief" and the disciples.]). In light of any teaching about Jesus dying for one's sins (which didn't come about until the nation rejected Him) it would be reasonable to assume that the issue faced by His audience was very parallel to that of believers today and those believers to whom the synoptic gospels were written, i.e., "how should a believer live to please God ?" Recall that the Gospels were written to believers not so much to authenticate (although that was a partial purpose, but to activate believers to service. John's gospel is the only one written to unbelievers and believers (life-abundant life). {See section on John.}

B. Note also what one has to do to get blessed.

Blessing does not equal forgiveness. If it did, than failure to be peacemakers or failure to be persecuted would mean that a person failed to obtain forgiveness and went to the lake of fire rather than heaven, just because no one persecuted them.

B1. Reward is a cause for rejoicing (v12). The issue is reward not heaven. Heaven is assumed as already a possession. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.

B2. The issue is glorifying God by good works (v13-16), a discipleship passage, no forgiveness in mentioned. Failure to do what Jesus instructed does not result in the lake of fire, but rather worthlessness for further service (in the kingdom).

B3. Where do "the least" go? v19 Note that the lawbreaker and hypocritical teacher is not cast into the lake of fire but rather is least in the kingdom, they apparently are still in the kingdom.

B4. Enter (v20) does not necessarily just mean to step over the threshold, but has demonstrated NT meanings of "to take possession of" or "have a share in" something. Lk 24:26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Lk 8:33 And the demons came out from the man and entered the swine...and were drowned. (Also Mk 5:13 ) BAGD 2. fig._a. of pers.: come into something=share in something, come to enjoy something

C. What prevents Gehenna?

See the section on Hell for the rationale for not equating Gehenna with the lake of fire. It is more likely that the references to the Valley of Gehenna where the unprofitable garbage was burned outside the city, away from the presence of the King refers to unprofitable servants being deprived of rewards rather than the eternal torment of the unregenerate in the lake of fire. For now, just notice the corrective or preventative to Gehenna.

D. Are Righteous Works Rewarded?

Note the following clear statements on reward as a result of doing works of righteousness. One can't logically argue that we are not instructed to work for a reward. Jesus was not just teaching against self-righteousness, for then His conclusion (as that of many modern preachers) would be trust in the Substitutionary Atonement, but instead we find a call to put into practice the teaching (see the end of the Sermon). Jesus was obviously motivating His hearers to godly living with hope of reward in the kingdom.  Mat 5:46; 6:1-16 Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you.

E. The Obedient Make Deposits

Those who claim they aren't interested in rewards and that they are only motivated by the love of Jesus, should note that Jesus said if you love me keep my commandments and here commands believers to lay up treasure in heaven. 6:19-21

F. Seeking the Kingdom

The admonition to seek the kingdom serves as the conclusion to a chapter where focus is on living your life here in such a way that your heavenly Father will reward you in the future. Righteousness is a state of being in conformity to God's will as revealed in His communication to us (Gen 15:6). There is no mention about blood sacrifice or atonement in the chapter, or the book yet for that matter, so the issue isn't justification but glorification (=being blessed in heaven).

6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

G. Losing Your Life

Since thus far in the Sermon the issue has clearly been earning reward in the Kingdom, the burden of proof is upon those who want to read the following verses and ending as teaching about justification. v13 Destruction does not always mean "perdition" or lake of fire every time it occurs (if indeed it ever means that) but rather it refers to loss of something valuable. In Matthew's only other use of the noun (26:8) it refers to waste of precious ointment. His use of the verb refers to general loss (i.e., losing a coin or sheep) and frequently to loss of reward in discipleship passages. In Mt 10:39 and 16:24 we are actively told to lose our lives/souls in exchange for God's reward. Life also in 7:14 does not immediately equate with heaven but as will be seen under *. it frequently is used by Jesus in the gospels to refer to reward or dominion in the kingdom.

2 John 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

v8 A clear reward context, used as a motivation for obedience and teaching that one works for reward and that reward can be lost. The word for lost is that same as that used for those following the wide path in Mt 7.

H. The Issue of Fruitfulness

The fire in 7:19 can refer to burning of I Cor 3:17 or John 17 more easily than the lake of fire of Rev 21. The issue is good fruit vs. bad or no fruit rather than forgiveness. 7:19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit...thrown into the fire.

I Cor 3:14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

I. Call for Action

Again the context of the Sermon points to a reward motivation for believers in interpreting 7:21ff 

I1. The issue is not "Savior, Savior" because the suggested corrective course of action is not belief in Calvary, but works. Coming at the end of the Sermon on the Mount would lave to push the argument in favor of a rewards interpretation, unless there is not just possible but necessary evidence to the contrary. Remember: enter can mean take up possession.

I2. Those making the appeal are either: 1) those who have done miracles in Jesus' name and spoken under the power of the Holy Spirit yet have not been obedient to the teachings of the Sermon; or 2) those who have been energized by Satan to do counterfeit miracles in the name of Jesus. The former are much more in keeping with the context and conclusion of the Sermon, while the latter introduces concepts totally out of keeping with the Sermon, which would need more explanation before any conclusion (and a different conclusion as well.).

I3. Do you know me? Jesus said he didn't know these people who were "evil doers" (as opposed to those who did His word). Know has numerous meanings and connotations: from understanding, to acquaintance, to recognition. It is quite possible (particularly in light of the previous use of the word in recognizing good or bad fruit) that Jesus is saying that He never recognized the evil doers as profitable servants of His (because their disobedience hindered such a relationship) or that He was never intimately acquainted with them as lovers would be.

I4. The conclusion to the Sermon is an exhortation to build one's life on the teaching of Jesus concerning how to get blessed in the kingdom (not an exhortation to trust in the solid Rock of Christ's death). Those who failed to apply the Sermon suffered the loss of all they had built (lived for) even if what they had been living for had religious intent and effect (v 22). The collapse of one's house is catastrophic and tragic, but not the same as being cast into the lake of fire.

Mt 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Lk 8:18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."