While studying in the book of Matthew the words “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” kept getting my attention. I became curious as to how many times Jesus used these words and I discovered that over 36 times in Matthew, Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven and or God.
Jesus said“the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.” Matt 22:1-3
This is a parable referring to Revelation 19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. This is the marriage supper prepared for those who receive the message of the gospel, clearly the Pharisees did not receive such message.
Matthew 24 talks about the great tribulation with Jesus explaining in detail the things to come and what we should be looking out for, including false prophets. Jesus said that false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible even the elect. Notice that Jesus speaks a parable about the Lords returning and the feast that will ensue in chapter 22 then He tells us about the tribulation and false prophets in Chapter 24. In the middle of these parables and warnings Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and even tells them they are headed to hell.
Notice Jesus rebukes the Pharisees with severe and precise words. It appears as if Jesus looked at His disciples and said to them “this is exactly how you are not to be, you are not to act like these men, you are to serve one another and be humble.” These characteristics of humility and servitude are definitely not words used to describe a Pharisee.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Matt 23:13 NKJV
Jesus goes on throughout most of the chapter to say “Woe to you” 8 times and He calls these men hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, and generation of vipers, not just once but several times!
Why was Jesus Christ so angry with these Pharisees?
Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matt 23:26
These men had an external presentation of a life of God but internally they were not in the least repentant for their own sins. They held others by their strict standards of the law when they themselves couldn’t keep their own standards. Because of their persistence in denying Jesus as the Christ they were shutting up the kingdom of God not only for themselves but for those they were overseeing, the same is true today.
Let’s take a look at what Jesus accused these men of doing from Matt 23:13-35:
Shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men vs 13
They stole or cheated widows in private but publicly made long prayers vs 14
They go long distances to make a Gentile convert to Judaism and make them the same hypocrites as they are. Vs 15
Because of their hard hearts and spiritual blindness, they put more importance on the gold in the temple than the temple itself. Vs 16-22
Their outward offerings are more important to them then their inward offerings. They keep the laws of tithing but ignore the more important matters of the law like justice, mercy and faith. Vs 23
They are doing outward activities to look good and holy but on the inside, they are not clean. Vs 25-27 and "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. [Mat 23:28 NKJV]
They are self-righteous enough to say if they had lived in the day the prophets were killed that they would not have participated, yet they are the one’s trying to kill The Prophet Jesus Christ. Vs 29-31
Jesus said He sends them prophets, wise men, and scribes and they will kill and crucify them, He accused them of murder. Vs 34-35
Finally, Jesus says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under [her] wings, but you were not willing! 38 "See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 "for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed [is] He who comes in the name of the LORD!' " [Mat 23:37-39]
Every time Jesus said “Woe” to the Pharisees He was expressing His and the Father’s grief towards their denial of His Messiah. Jesus ends His discussion with another expression of grief, one that states how much He wanted them to be of the Fathers children even though they had killed the prophets and stoned those sent to them. Therefore, they are left to their own accord with loneliness in the desert.
I Never Knew You
Today these very things are going on in our gatherings as believers in Christ. Many people put on a “good show” but have nothing to show on the inside. They are fruitless and religious people under the guise of Christians yet they walk in the same pharisaical spirit as the Pharisees did. The difference is they are saying yes, they believe in Jesus Christ as Messiah and offer “works” of their hands to prove it but their faith works are dead, their love works do not exist. Jesus didn’t leave these kinds of people out, He described these in Matthew 7. After warning that narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it and describing what happens to trees that do not produce fruit He then makes this very difficult to hear statement;
21 "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. 22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' [Mat 7:21-23]
There are people all over the world and in every church and denomination that perform works in the name of Jesus Christ but their hearts are far from them. Jesus said 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with [their] lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching [as] doctrines the commandments of men.' " [Mat 15:8-9]
Let me leave you with the advice of our King Jesus,
8 "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 "and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 "But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." [Luke 14:8-11 NKJV]
Heavenly Father, we seek Your face through Your Son Jesus Christ, we implore You to help us get our hearts aligned right with You. Help us see the destitute condition of our hearts and draw us near to You so that we can be in a love relationship with You and not just a works relationship. Please forgive us O God for knowingly performing in order to get a front seat and possibly a position of prestige, desiring the applause of men rather than the heavenly rewards offered us by You. Forgive us for every time we took the front row in service to be seen and applauded, for every time we took center stage and took the eyes off Your Son Jesus and put them on ourselves. We repent O Lord. In Jesus name, cleanse and purify us. Amen