Our Wednesday night men’s group is starting a new study this week on the Sermon on the Mount. Looking forward to it for a number of reasons. Sensing that the timing of it is no accident. Expecting it to connect and bring clarity in the context of this current season (the Word of God has a way of doing that, you know?).
As has been our practice for the past few years, our men’s study is going to be leveraging the “Christ-Centered Exposition” series to guide us. “Exalting Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount” will be our common prep each week and will provide the structure for our discussions during our Zoom gathering. And something in its intro comes to mind as I read in Matthew 5 this morning.
” . . . there is a now/not yet reality to our citizenship: we are kingdom citizens now, but we await the full manifestation of that kingdom when Jesus returns.”
— Akin, Danny; Holman Reference Staff. Exalting Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 14). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
There is a “now/not yet reality” to the kingdom. The kingdom is at hand now. We are citizens now of a heavenly economy. But we await the fullness of it, and that, when Jesus comes again. That’s the filter through which I’m processing the Beatitudes this morning.
Eight attributes of kingdom people. They are poor in spirit. They mourn. They are meek. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are merciful. They are pure in heart. They are peacemakers. They are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Eight promises. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They shall be comforted. They shall inherit the earth. They shall be satisfied. They shall receive mercy. They shall see God. They shall be called sons of God. For theirs is the kingdom of God.
Note the bookends of the promises, theirs is the kingdom. Makes me think that the other six promises are just synonyms for the kingdom. That being comforted, satisfied, and receiving mercy are kingdom of heaven realities. That inheriting the earth, seeing God, and being clearly recognized as His children are actualized as part of being in the kingdom of God. And all of it within the dynamic of a now/not yet reality. Now in part. One day yet, to fully be.
Is that why Jesus concludes these eight blessings with . . .
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven . . .
(Matthew 5:12a ESV)
Isn’t that what each of these blessings are, a reward? The recompense promised for those who toil for the kingdom? That fruit that results naturally, or more accurately supernaturally, from the seed that is sown? Realized, to some extent, in the now, but not fully known, and “great”, until the not yet. We sample and taste of the blessing even now, but great will be the reward in heaven.
So, isn’t that the key to seeking first the kingdom (Matt. 6:33)? Not necessarily expecting the fullness of the reward in the now, but living in full anticipation of the literal fulfillment of the promises in the not yet? Would that be what was behind Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians?
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:1-2 ESV)
Our reward is great in heaven — seek the things that are above. For ours is the kingdom of God — set your minds on things that are above. Live in the now. Focus on the not yet.
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place
While we walk the pilgrim pathway
Clouds will overspread the sky
But when travelling days are over
Not a shadow not a sigh
Let us then be true and faithful
Trusting serving every day
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay
Onward to the prize before us
Soon His beauty we’ll behold
Soon the pearly gates will open
We shall tread the streets of gold
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory
— Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus, Eliza Edmunds Stites Hewitt, 1898
Rejoice and be glad.
In the now. In anticipation of the not yet.
By His grace. For His glory.