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Seeing the Kingdom

John 3.1-12

I think one of the key verses in this passage is verse 10.  [John 3:10]  Nicodemus is a master of Israel, a teacher.  This is the equivalent of Rabbi.  The definite article “the” is used with both words here:  The teacher of the Israel.  He was the well known or the authorized or the accepted teacher of the Israel of God. 

Nicodemus was the master of Israel, he knew the Scriptures, the OT.  Jesus is saying, “You know the OT yet you don’t understand?” 

[John 3:3]  (Born from above; see verse 31)  This is talking about being born from above.  This is the way God explains to us our salvation so that we can relate to the family and being a part of His family. 

But the expression “he cannot see the Kingdom of God” is an expression that a master of Israel should have understood and been able to respond to.  Obviously, one must be saved before one can see the Kingdom of God.  If you’re not saved or born from above, you will spend the ages unto the ages in the lake of fire, which is commonly known as hell, but it’s truly the lake of fire.  “Hell” is simply the grave; the lake of fire is the place of everlasting punishment and torment.  We’re all going to hell.  (Unless we’re alive when the Lord returns.)

The word “hell” is translated from the Hebrew word Sheol or Greek word Hades; this is just the restful part or the place of the redeemed that was in the lower part of the earth.  Our Lord and the thief on the cross went there, and I don’t think Jesus went to the lake of fire.  This is also where Lazarus and the rich man went; they didn’t go to the lake of fire, but they went to hell; the rich man being in the part of the disobedient, whereas Lazarus was in the part housing the obedient.  There are many words that are translated or inferred to as “Hell”, but what we commonly refer to as “Hell” is the lake of fire.  The lake of fire is currently empty, but Revelation 19:20 tells us the Beast and the false prophet will be thrown in at the beginning of the millennium.  After the 1000 years, Satan is next (Revelation 20:10) followed by the lost at the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). 

As a master of Israel, Nicodemus should have been able to relate to seeing and then entering the Kingdom of God, and what I’d like us to do this evening is try to relate to it like the Lord wanted Nicodemus to it.  Now, this evening, we’ll not be dealing with entering into the Kingdom.  We’ll do that next week.  But this evening, I’d like for us to understand and appreciate what it means to see the Kingdom of God. 

To see this from a master of Israel’s perspective, we have to go to the OT.  The OT was written for our learning, for our admonition, and for our exhortation that we might have hope, that we might be encouraged and that we might be warned in these last days.

[Deuteronomy 34:1; keep your finger in John]  We find the Lord and Moses being together in the plains of Moab, upon the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah that is over against Jericho.  In other words, here is Moses looking across the Jordan River and seeing Jericho.  He was in the middle of the land; that way you can get a broad perspective all the way to the north and all the way to the south.  And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead unto Dan; and all of Nephtali and the land of Ephraim and all the land of Manassah and all of the land of Judah unto the utmost sea or the Mediterranean Sea.  And unto the south and all of the plain and valley of Jericho, the City of Palm Trees unto Zoar.

And the Lord said unto him, “This is the Land”.  “Moses, I am showing you the land.”  Moses is seeing the land that God was showing to him.  And the Lord said, “this is the land that I sware unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying that I will give it to thy seed.  I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.”  Moses saw, but he could not enter in.

[Keep your finger in Deuteronomy and turn back with me to John 3:3]  The land of Canaan is a type or a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God.  The Word of God teaches us in John chapter 1 that, “the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”  The law will bring us up to the Jordan River to give us a view of the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He did not promise it to Moses.  Isn’t that interesting?  “I have promised this to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to their seed, but not to you, Moses.”

[Deuteronomy 34:4b-5]  And He said, “I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over.  So Moses, a servant of the Lord, died in the land of Moab according to the word of the Lord.” 

[Deuteronomy 6]  In Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 10 and 11, [Deuteronomy 6:10]; emphasize great and goodly cities. 

What Abraham saw was goodly cities, which thou buildest not [Deuteronomy 6:11; stop at plantedst not].  This is just like if we were to go to Lake Tahoe in the desert, and we can see all of those beautiful homes out there and the lady of the house went shopping before we got there and all of the cupboards are full, and there are apple trees out back full of fruit, and the gardens are full of fresh vegetables, and the shrubs are well-kept and beautiful.

God is saying to the nation of Israel, these are things that you’re going to enjoy.  He says here in the end of verse 11, “when thou shalt have eaten and be full”; “you’ll have plenty.”  This is what He showed Moses:  He showed him cities, houses, wells, vineyards, and olive trees and said, “You’re going to have plenty to eat”.

You and I have not been in the desert for 40 years, and it still sounds good.  Can you imagine living in a tent for 40 years?  Have any of you ever stayed in an old canvas tent?  [Describe tents:  animal skins, maybe cloth similar to canvas, etc.]  You get them out and they smell; they stink.  They’re mildewed and it’s hot.  In some of the areas around here, some of the nicer houses are air-conditioned.  Think what that would seem like if you had been in the desert for 40 years.  In Anchorage even, some of the wealthier houses have swimming pools.  I guess that would sort of be the equivalent of wells being digged since everyone has indoor plumbing today with hot and cold running water.  Well, almost everyone.  A swimming pool in the desert would be the equivalent of wells dug.

The point is this:  When you’ve been living in a hot, smelly tent for forty years and you’ve been eating the same diet of manna every day (kind of like eating salmon every day for us); I’m sure they butchered an animal occasionally, they brought flocks with them; they bought water and food as they went through the land of Edom which was the inheritance of Esau, and some other people and they did conquer a few; but the point is this:  These people were anticipating these blessings that God had promised to them.

[Numbers 13:26; don’t read yet]  The neat thing about the lord is this; he didn’t just have a bunch of brochures printed up.  Even though that’s what we have today of sorts; the Bible.  But in the days of Moses and in Kadesh Barnea, they sent out spies and checked it out.  They didn’t have brochures to describe the land.  [Numbers 13:26,27]  The spies brought back samples.

Let me say this:  From Kadesh Barnea until the life of Moses was taken was a forty year period of time.  Here, they had only been out in the desert for two years.  They had been to Mt. Sanai, they had received the law, and here they were at Kadesh Barnea and the Lord brought them fruit.  They had it in their hands.

They had knowledge of the land in which they had to carry a cluster of grapes (look up in verse 23) they had to bear it between two upon a staff, and they brought some of the pomegranates and some figs.  Can you imagine carrying a cluster of grapes that takes two men to carry one cluster?  Those grapes must have been as big as apples or maybe bigger; they were big!  And I’m sure they were good, too.  God doesn’t give us bad fruit.

And when you think of a land flowing with milk and honey, you think of a land that has plenty of produce; wheat fields, barley fields, things growing.  I’m sure the Browns can relate to this, but as a beekeeper, you anticipate the honey flow.  If there’s nothing for the bees to work, no flowers or anything, there will be no flow.  When it says the land was flowing with milk and honey, we also know that there has to be cattle (you’ve got to have pregnant cows if you’re going to have milk; you’ve got to have goats that are bearing kids); the land flowing with milk and honey:  cows, goats, flowers and produce, and the Lord permitted them to have samples. 

We’ve got the brochures, but the spies were able to go over and they were able to say, “It’s just like the Lord said it was”.  The Lord let them have some grapes, some pomegranates and some figs, and they were, I am sure, very good and juicy and tasty. 

Turn with me to Nehemiah chapter 9.  This is over past 2 Chronicles; between Job and 2 Chronicles.  If you’re over in Esther’s house, turn one door to the left.  [Nehemiah 9:16.17]  This is referring to the nation of Israel at the time of Kadesh Barnea.  They ate that fruit!  They had some fried apple pies, and some pomegranate jam, and some Fig Newtons, and yet it tells us here that they dealt proudly, they hardened their hearts, they harkened not, they refused to obey, they didn’t want to think about it, and neither were they mindful of the wonders, they hardened their necks, they rebelled and they wanted to go back to Egypt. 

They were already in the land of promise.  Genesis 15:18 says, “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.”  The children of Israel wanted to turn back from the blessings the Lord had in store for them; back to the pleasures of their former lives.  Do you ever want to turn back to the pleasures of your life from before you were saved or do you want to persevere to the land flowing with milk and honey?  You didn’t feel guilty about your behavior then, did you?  I didn’t.  We didn’t know better.  Sometimes it’s easier to turn back.  Being obedient to God is sometimes hard; He never said it was easy.

There are Christians like that today; they want to turn back.  You start talking about the Kingdom and ruling and reigning, and the hardships involved and they want to go back to bondage.  They don’t want to cross over the Jordan River.  The Lord wasn’t unkind to them.  They had been eating manna for a long time.  God didn’t tell them when you cross over the Jordan and start fighting, “I’m going to stop feeing you and your shoes will wear out and your clothes will wear out and your feet might even swell.”  He didn’t tell them that; He didn’t scare them.  He gave them encouragement! 

That’s what we need to be doing today.  If you’re saved; if you’re born from above, you can see what God has for you and for me.  We need to be concentrating on that and thinking about that.

What’s in our thought lives today?  What are we thinking about today?  We’re thinking about security, retirement, the good life after work, things we can buy, food, clothing, shelter… 

The Lord says, “If you think of the things that are important to me, I’ll take care of the things that are important to you.”  That’s what he said in the sermon on the mount.

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”  That’s the Exhortation.  What’s the first thing on God’s mind?  The Kingdom of God.  What do we need to be focusing our attention on?  The blessings that are there for us.  It’s a land flowing with milk and honey.

As soon as you begin to concentrate on the manna, what’s God going to have to do to us?  He’s going to have to send serpents among us to strike us.  The children of Israel started thinking about the manna that they had to eat every day and they said, “we loathe this light bread”, and what did God do?  He sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people and much of the people of Israel died; they perished.  This is punishment for disobedience.  They lost their lives.  We can lose our lives also; we can perish.  We can’t lose our salvation, as that’s impossible, but we can lose out on our inheritance.

In our testing and trial here on earth, we can get very discouraged if we concentrate on what’s happening to us rather than concentrating on the blessings that God’s preparing us to have in the future

[1 Peter 1:6-8]  There is going to be testing.  It’s not going to be any fun.  There’s going to be scorpions, it’s going to be hot, you’re going to sweat, you’re going to eat food that you don’t even know what it is; you’ll do all this to help you know what you’re made of.  God already knows what we’re made of, but we don’t know and we don’t know where our priorities are.

There are times when we know what our priorities are; when we’re lying in bed alone and no one’s around, and we’re there with our thoughts; what are we thinking about?    

[Hebrews 6:3-5; don’t read yet]  We find a parallel passage to numbers 13.  When I read Hebrews 6:3-5, I automatically think of Numbers 13, and you should too.  Verse 3 says, “This we will do if God permits”.  What he’s saying here is we’ll go onto maturity; we’ll cross over the Jordan River.  We’ll learn to do without manna every day and start living off the land.  Let’s go onto perfection; let’s go onto maturity.

Verse 4:  [Hebrews 6:4-5]  (age to come) See the word taste?  It’s in there twice.  They tasted the fruit of the land.  We’re not tasting literal fruit today, but we can taste from the Word of God the blessings that are coming for those who will cross over the Jordan River and begin the warfare to enter into the land or to posses the land, once they are enlightened. 

Just think about Moses looking out over the land flowing with milk and honey.  He saw!  When you see, you’re enlightened and you understand.  You see those houses and those fields and those cattle; those vineyards and those olive trees?  You’re enlightened. 

The Lord has enlightened us through the Word of God that there is a Kingdom to be seen and to be entered into; not just being saved.  We need to be thinking about these things.  But there is a responsibility with those who have been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made ministers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good Word of God.  This is not talking about getting saved (saved is by believe; Acts 16:31).  This is talking about preparing or crossing over into the land and possessing our inheritance.

[Hebrews 11:13-16]  Did you know that they hired Aaron to take them back into Egypt at one time?  He built a golden calf and they all partied; but the Lord was merciful.  There were some that lost their lives there, but God was merciful.  He was really merciful to Aaron.  Aaron was caught red-handed, preparing to go back into Egypt.  [Reminds me of the kid; mother knew he couldn’t tell time; what’s the big hand on?  A cookie.]  Red-handed.  They were caught! 

Moses came down the mountain and they were preparing to go back into Egypt.  We need to see things afar off.  We need to buy eye salve to put on our eyes so we can see things afar off.  [Revelation 3:18]  We need to put ointment in our eyes.  We need to be persuaded that there are better things ahead of us and we need to be concentrating on them. 

If we don’t do that, then we’re going to be caught up in the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, having a good time; lawlessness that abounds.  Look around us:  Lawlessness abounds.  Innocent are persecuted and the guilty are set free.  There’s always a “good” reason for it, though, isn’t there?  In this world today, bad behavior is rewarded and moral behavior is punished.  [Examples:  taxes, welfare, etc.]

We need to appreciate the fact that Jesus told His disciples in John 14:2, “In my Father’s houses are many mansions [dwelling places; abodes; houses; cities] and if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.”  The Lord prepared the land of Canaan for the children of Israel to enjoy.  He has prepared dwelling places for us.  Did you know that you could miss entering into those dwelling places?  That’s not guaranteed.  Most preaching and teaching today guarantees us those cities and houses and vineyards and olive trees…  They’re not guaranteed!

Take Achan for example.  The name Achan means one who troubles (from Aker), and was given to him because of his crime, which brought upon him and Israel an awful destruction (Josh. 7:1).  On the occasion of the fall of Jericho, contrary to the commands of God, he seized an ingot of gold, a quantity of silver, and a costly Babylonish garment, all of which he hid in his tent.  Joshua was convinced that the defeat which the Israelites sustained before Ai was because of some crime.  So they used lots and discovered the criminal.  It was then found that Achan was guilty, and he was stoned to death in the valley of Achor.  He and all that belonged to him were then consumed by fire, and a heap of stones was raised over the ashes.  (Your sins can affect others. 

Achan was already in the land; he was in Jericho.  But, he saw some gold and some silver and some glad rags (a change of garments; better clothes than what he had).  He took them!  And he and his family perished; they died. 

May the Lord help us to seek first His Kingdom.  Lord willing, next week, we’re going to look at what it means to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and not just see it. 

[2 Peter 1:5-7]  and then he says down in verse 10:  For if ye do these things, you’ll not fall.  What if you don’t do these things?  You will fall.  If you do them, you will never fall and you will have an entrance into the coming Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it will be abundant.  The cupboards will be full, not half full.  Full!  Full of blessings, and so we want to be prepared to enter into those dwelling places with the cupboard full.

What do we need to be doing!  We need to be thinking about those things.  We don’t need to be thinking about the way things are here on Earth.  We don’t need to be thinking about our plight or the things that are happening to us.

We need to be dwelling on those things that are before us; ahead of us; yet to come. 

As soon as we start looking at our circumstances and our difficulties and the difficulties of others, we need to open that jar of eye salve and start rubbing our eyes.  We need to get in the Word and remind ourselves that we are pilgrims.  We are sojourners.  We need to be persuaded that there are better things ahead for those that will live by faith and trust God.

Thank you for Your Word that gives us the vision You want us to have of entering into your blessings that we cannot understand or comprehend; but they’re there.  We can relate to full cupboards and vineyards that never run out; we will be full and we will not be hungry.  We need to anticipate the things we will be entering into; we need to anticipate hearing “well done, thou good and faithful servant”.