“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25, NKJV).[i] Yeshua affirmed this when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Before I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in 2002, I was also following a way that seemed right to me. It was the way of the world. When I moved back to the United States from Israel in 1984, I came here like an immigrant in search of the opportunities this nation provided.
I was intensely focused and determined to go to college, start a career, get married, buy a house, and raise a family. Even now, it is hard to find anything inherently wrong or sinful with this desire. After all, didn’t the Lord tell Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply the earth? So it appeared that I was at least fulfilling one of God’s commandments. And to the best extent possible, I was trying to be a good person; treating others as I desired to be treated—the golden rule.
Within ten years, I had achieved what many others only dreamed of. I was married to a kind and beautiful wife. My two children were healthy and incredibly smart. I had risen the career ladder very quickly and excelled into executive management from the young age of twenty-six. My income was above average, and we could afford to live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood that provided the best public schools. We were not rich or affluent, but life was good. Sure, there were challenges here and there, but overall life was good; even very good.
But the Lord had another plan and purpose for my life. Though I was not cognitively aware at the time, His prevenient grace was gently leading me towards an opposed alternative reality. And at that moment that would change my life forever, sitting on my couch in New Hampshire, I decided to read the New Testament.
I was not deeply searching, nor was I desperately looking to fill some void in my heart. But I was curious and adventurous enough to read a book that was, for the most part, forbidden by the Jewish people. I was seeking the truth about Christianity. It was either a false religion fabricated around a fake Jewish Messiah named Jesus, or, maybe, there was something I was failing to understand about this widely accepted and prevailing world religion.
So I opened a King James Bible and read the book of Matthew. What I saw began to shatter and unravel my comfortable world. On virtually every page there was something Yeshua said that challenged my conventional view of the world, and I needed to make a decision. Would I accept Yeshua as my Lord and Savior? Yes, that was unquestionable. But would I be willing to follow Him into the darkest places of this world? That was not so simple.
The book of Matthew uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” interchangeably. And the other three gospels use the term “Kingdom of God.” The Hebrew word for “heaven” is shamayim, which was used by the Jewish people as a circumlocution (substitute) for the name of God. So, the Kingdom of Heaven is a reference to the Kingdom of God—they are the same.
Yeshua had some very difficult things to say about His Kingdom. First, He required repentance as He proclaimed; “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2 & 4:17). But then He began to demonstrate what He further required to qualify for the Kingdom. This was the narrow gate and the difficult way that would lead to life, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
Let’s explore some of these Kingdom principles:
We must seek the Kingdom of God above anything else—“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
We must humble ourselves before the Lord and submit to Him—“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
We must do the will of our heavenly Father— “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
We must put everything else in this world as secondary, even our own families, follow the Lord and become His disciple—“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
We must be fully dedicated to the Lord and walking a straight path—“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
We must be willing to sell everything and invest it into His Kingdom— “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).
There are many other parables Yeshua shared about the Kingdom of God, and from what I have briefly shared you can surmise that my world was beginning to turn upside down. Everything I had labored for all these years had revolved around me—my career, my income, my wife, my house, and my family.
But all of a sudden, Yeshua’s words required a radical change in my thinking. It was His Kingdom, His calling on my life, His finances, and His family. Even my very life was determined by Him and was now His possession.
I was faced with a critical decision. Would I allow the Lord to radically change my earthly views and transform my thinking into that of the Kingdom? Or would I desperately hold onto the comfortable American lifestyle, ignoring the greater call on my life?
I began to understand that there are two kingdoms—one of this world, and one not of this world. The prince of this world governed this kingdom. The other was governed by Yeshua, the chief Prince and the Prince of all princes. That is why He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:6). But one day soon, it will.
Yeshua spoke of two things we needed for our life and sustenance—His living bread and His living water.[ii] He is the word of God made flesh. Therefore, the word of God is our daily bread.[iii] We must read His word and allow it to renew and radically transform our minds continually.[iv] Yeshua also asked the Father to send His Spirit into the world. He is the water of life that heals and continues to sustain all created things ex nihilo.
Being hungry or thirsty is our initial motivation, yet desire alone will not sustain us. We must act by picking up our Bibles and reading them every day. And we must spend time in worship and prayer with the Lord so that we might be refreshed each morning anew with His Spirit.
In contrast, there is a counterfeit to the Kingdom of God. This world has its own spirit—that of the anti-Christ—and this world also has its written ideologies.[v] If we are not careful, it would be just as easy for us to translate these earthly views into the Kingdom of God. How many Christian ministries have done exactly that?
After all, the natural way of this world doesn’t seem all that bad? Maybe it’s not for living in this temporal world, but it is of little use in building the Kingdom of God, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
So what exactly does His Kingdom look like? A kingdom is a nation of people—both physical and spiritual—whose ruler is God as King. His Kingship (Malchut) and His Lordship (Adnut) lies in the fact that He is Lord of the whole universe. So, a kingdom has a King, and His name is Yeshua, and a kingdom has a people who form a nation that serves that King.
“It is known to all that the purpose of the creation of the world is the revelation of God’s sovereignty, for there is no king without a nation.”[vi] That nation is Israel, and her people now encompasses all those who have been grafted in amongst them, so that God’s church, His congregation includes all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.[vii]
The kingdom belongs to the King, and its people are His domain. Therefore, the Kingdom is as much about the people of God as it is about God Himself. But this is no ordinary Kingdom. It is a Kingdom of kingdoms as it says, “He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).
Many confuse the Kingdom of Heaven with a spiritual place that exists in some far off location or alternate dimension. And while there is a heavenly or spiritual realm, God intends to bring heaven to earth ultimately. In other words, the spiritual and natural worlds will one day collide, and the Kingdom of Heaven will invade the earth so the two shall become one.
The Lord instructed Moses concerning the building of the tabernacle, “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:9). All these serve the copy and shadow of heavenly things.[viii] Therefore, Yeshua instructed us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Yeshua rose from the grave and was resurrected into a physical body.[ix] And He is returning with His bride—the church—to a physical earth. “Thus the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You” (Zechariah 14:5), for “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
And when He returns, He will establish His earthly Kingdom in Israel from Jerusalem for all eternity just as the Lord promised to David, “Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
My walk with the Lord these past fifteen years has been one of gradual and continual transformation. The reality of God’s word has slowly become a reality in my life. I know that I am far from perfect, and admittedly, I don’t understand what a life completely sold out for Yeshua would look like. What I do know is that He has a desire and purpose for my life, and day-by-day He opens doors for me to serve Him.
I have raised my children to independence and continue to support my wife and all her household pets. I work a regular job at a local government agency and spend as much of my available time serving the Lord. I have read the entirety of scripture many times over, and my prayer life is continually advancing. I do love to worship the Lord, so that is the one natural gift that comes very easily for me.
My faith continues to be challenged by the cares of this world and the flaming arrows of our adversary. My flesh is weak and aging, there are things I still fear, and strongholds I continue to wrestle with. And yet, God is gracious and incredibly patient as my confidence rests in His salvation and transforming power over my life.
When I read scripture, I notice that Yeshua never gave His disciples an itinerary for the day. He would often disappear—either escaping to a nearby mountain to pray to His heavenly Father or simply walking away to His next assignment with His perplexed disciples running to catch up to Him. I suspect our present walk with the Lord will be much the same.
Yeshua knows that my heart’s desire is to serve Him fully, and I pray yours will also be. However, following Him is a choice that we each must make. In May 2013, the Lord gave me this dream:
In it, I was riding my bike to meet up with a group of Christians. As I entered a stone building, I saw to my left a sizeable group of men and women sitting at long rectangular tables. They were talking, laughing, and having a great time of fellowship. To my right, I saw Yeshua walking quickly towards a small door that was along the back side of the building. He was wearing a long reddish-purple colored robe and had a gold crown on his head.
He did not look at me or any of the other Christians. He had His eyes fixed on the door and moved quickly towards it. I said to Him in my spirit: “I also have a crown on my head. Why did you not take notice of me?” I then answered the Lord in my spirit as He gave me understanding: “The crown I am to wear is a crown of suffering.”
I saw Yeshua open the door. Behind the door was complete darkness. He paused for a minute to look back and see if anyone else was standing there with Him. As there was no one, He entered in and closed the door behind Him.
This dream represents an every-day decision the Lord gives me. I do have an opportunity to join the fellowship of Christians, and surely there is no condemnation for that, but I also have the opportunity to follow Yeshua into the dark places. And following Him requires me to wear His crown of suffering. This is a life of sacrifice.
Therefore, let us become radically transformed, fully surrendered, and completely sold-out disciples of Yeshua, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
“And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[ii] John 4:10, 6:35, 7:38.
[iii] John 1:14.
[iv] Ephesians 4:23.
[v] Ephesians 2:2.
[vi] Emek HaMelech, Shaar HaMitzvot, beginning of ch. 1; Rabbeinu Bachaye, Parshat Vayeishev, 38:2. Cf. Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, ch. 3.
[vii] Revelation 7:9.
[viii] Hebrews 8:5.
[ix] John 20:27.