1 Corinthians 9: 25
“Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is the 29th session of the ‘heaven’ lecture series.
From today, I will talk to you about the 1st kingdom of heaven.
I will first tell you about the general environment of the 1st kingdom, and then what kind of people will be given 1st kingdom as their eternal dwelling place.
Brothers and sisters, heaven is incomparably more beautiful place than this earth, including Paradise where there are no personal rewards given. Beginning with the 1st kingdom of heaven, which I am going to talk about today, personally-owned houses will be given..
Our Lord is the general director of making and beautifying the heavenly kingdom, which is our eternal dwelling place, and how did He live on this earth?
Matthew 8:20 says, “Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Even before He began His public ministry, He didn’t live a comfortable life anyway, but since He began His ministry, He left home and spread the gospel going here and there.
He didn’t stay in a comfortable house even for a short period of time.
In the daytime He was very busy preaching the gospel, and at nighttime He always prayed on mountains. Finally, He received the sufferings of the cross to become the way of salvation, and gave us eternal life.
I hope that you will remember we can go into heavenly kingdom and live there forever through this devotion and sacrifice of Jesus.
And to meet in person our Lord Jesus who has become the way to heavenly kingdom and to give Him thanks in person, I urge you in the name of the Lord to go into spirit and whole spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what kind of place is the first kingdom of heaven? In the paradise, there is no personal rewards given, but from the first kingdom of heaven, personal rewards such personally-owned houses and crowns are given.
First, to those who go into the 1st kingdom of heaven, an imperishable crown, which is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:25, is given. ‘Imperishable Crown’ means it is made with the precious stones of heaven that do not change forever.
On this earth, we can say gold is never-changing. But including this gold, everything on this earth will be valueless after the human cultivation is over.
But everything in heavenly kingdom will not change forever, and it will be valuable forever.
Especially, if any reward is given in heavenly kingdom, because it is given by God the Father, it is so precious.
By saying that the imperishable crown is ‘imperishable’, we mean that the light of this crown will not dim and its value will last forever.
There are several different kinds of imperishable crowns including gold, silver, red, and blue colors of simple gemstones.
Their shape and form are just the basic as the crown. They are not as high as others, and their sizes are also the same, being just suitable to put them on the head.
They are not splendidly decorated with many kinds of jewels, but according to the characters of those who receive each of these crowns, their colors and shapes will differ slightly.
But those who go into the first kingdom of heaven will give thanks so much that God the Father has given them a crown as their reward, and they will wear it having a sense of being honored.
To those who go into the 1st kingdom of heaven, not only this imperishable crown but also personally-owned houses will be given. This is the most significant difference between paradise and 1st kingdom of heaven.
It is such great glory itself that one is given a personally-owned house in eternal heavenly kingdom. So, they can feel happiness that cannot be compared with that of the people in paradise.
The houses in 1st kingdom is not independent and individual houses but somewhat like apartments.
That doesn’t mean they are built with cement or bricks like houses on this earth, but they are built with heavenly materials such as gold and other jewels.
Also, they are like apartments, but the main difference from apartments of this earth is that they have only elevators with beautiful interior decorations, not any staircases.
Elevators in heaven will never break but always move safely by the power of God, so they don’t have to have staircases.
Also, on this earth, when we get on elevators, we have to press the buttons of the floor we want to go, but in heaven, the elevators will automatically go to the floor they want to go.
Among some people who have been to heaven, some say they have seen apartment-like buildings, and it’s because they saw the 1st kingdom of heaven.
How is the interior of the apartment-like houses made? Inside these houses, there is everything so that people will not have any discomfort in their living.
Also, each house will be decorated beautifully according to the taste of the owner.
For example, if the owner likes music, he can have some musical instruments in his house, so he can play them any time.
Also, if the owner likes reading, he can have a comfortable space to read books.
1st kingdom of heaven is so different from paradise and is filled with joy that they have never experienced on this earth, so they will be comforted very much.
All these things are delicate and loving care of the Father God. As I will explain to you later, in fact, even going into the 1st kingdom of heaven belongs to the category of receiving shameful salvation.
But God the Father considers as faith their effort to live by the word and gives them rewards and houses made in accordance with their taste.
In the 1st kingdom of heaven, except the personally-owned houses and the rewards, everything will be shared by the public. It’s just like people who are living in apartment complex on this earth share a park or sports facilities in the complex.
There are many pretty gardens, big parks with thick forest, and other facilities for convenience. There are also amusement parks with many kinds of rides, and sports facilities such as swimming pool and golf course.
Also, on the bank of the river of water of life, beautiful benches and trees of life are planted along, so people can sit on the benches or walk along the river having conversations with loved ones.
On this earth, if these public facilities are not maintained properly, they will soon become dirty and worn out, or break.
But the public facilities and public areas in the 1st kingdom of heaven are maintained by angels, so they are maintained at the best condition all the time.
Also, the angels in the 1st kingdom will guide God’s children and help them so that they will not have any difficulty using certain facilities.
In the 1st kingdom, there is no personally ministering angel, but you can be guided and helped by the angels anywhere you go.
This is also one of the differences between paradise and 1st kingdom. In paradise, angels just maintain the facilities, and they do not help or guide the people there. But in 1st kingdom, angels kindly guide them and help them, so they can have a different dimension of joy and happiness.
For example, let us say those who are in the 1st kingdom of heaven are talking with one another sitting on the benches along the river of water of life, and they want to have some fruits.
Then, they can ask the angels in that area to get them some fruits.
Then, the angels will get the fruits and give to God’s children with respect.
But in paradise, you cannot ask an angel to get anything, but you have to get it yourself.
This is one little example, but in every place in the 1st kingdom, there are angels helping God’s children, so the living standard here is so different from that of the paradise.
Not only the 1st kingdom has different living standard from the paradise but it is also decorated more beautifully in every aspect. The flowers are different in color and fragrance.
The animals have different glittering and beauty on their furs. Everything is so different.
The fruits are also very different from those of paradise. They taste a lot better, and the colors and fragrance from the fruits are much better than those of paradise.
We should understand that all these things are God the Father’s delicate loving care.
If you have some special guests even on this earth, you will clean the house, make some pretty decorations, and prepare delicious food to serve the guests.
Likewise, God the Father made the heavenly kingdom in such a way that His children will be able to feel the utmost satisfaction when they come in there and live.
With His utmost loving care within precise justice, God lets us live happily forever with the greatest satisfaction.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, now, what kind of people will go into the 1st kingdom of heaven? It’s those who are in the 2nd level of faith.
The 2nd level of faith is the faith of trying to act according to the word. Today’s reading passage also says that Christian life is a race, and 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”
Whether in a race, swimming, or skiing, or in any kind of competition, if the players do not follow the rules, they will be disqualified.
Even though they reach the finish line first, they will not get any award.
Just like sports games, there is law in the spiritual realm for our Christian life, so only when we act according to the law can we be acknowledged by God and the enemy devil and Satan cannot accuse us. The law in the spiritual realm that is in accordance with justice is the word of God.
At the first level of faith, right after one has accepted Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit, he may not know the rules in Christian life.
So, even though they attend church and profess their faith in the Lord, they may still have the habits of old days.
They may have not quit drinking and smoking yet, or they speak aggressive words.
They may also tell a lie to seek their own benefit. Likewise, they are not really different from the worldly people.
But as they learn the word of God through worship services and meetings, they realize that their lives have to change.
They come to understand how their lives should be as children of God.
Namely, they learn about keeping the Sabbath holy and giving proper tithes, and about other commands such as ‘do not get angry’, ‘do not tell a lie’, ‘do not judge or condemn’, ‘do not commit adultery’, ‘seek other’s benefit’, and ‘pray’, ‘love’, ‘serve others’, and ‘seek peace’.
When they learn these words, those who have just the slightest bit of faith to receive salvation will have the desire to change themselves and live according to the words they learned.
So, they try to act by the word of God, but at the 2nd level of faith, they cannot do it completely.
It’s just like toddlers who just began to walk try to walk by themselves, but keep on falling down because they are not strong enough.
Likewise, there are people who have the faith of trying to act by the word of God, and the 1st kingdom of heaven is a place for these people.
Figuratively speaking, those who are in the second level of faith can be likened to players in games who are still trying to learn the rules and compete by those rules.
But because they are not good enough yet, they lose more often than when they win, or they do not get to any high positions.
But even on this earth, if players play a good game at their best, we may cheer even the loser, and in case of marathon, they sometimes consider finishing the race itself very important.
In some cases, some ‘participating awards’ are given to all participants in the game. Being given a personally-owned house and imperishable crown in the 1st kingdom of heaven is something like this ‘participating awards’.
Those who are in the 2nd level of faith and go into the 1st kingdom of heaven, of course, know the word of God, but in more parts they did not live by the word. They knew they had to struggle against sins to the point of shedding blood, but their life ended while they had more sins that they did not cast off.
But anyway, God deems their effort itself as faith and gives them their rewards accordingly.
But we should understand that up to this 2nd level of faith, it is actually shameful salvation that we receive. Why is it so?
Hebrews 12:3-5 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him.”
When those who are at the 2nd level of faith come out of their body and go into heaven, they will feel embarrassed before God that they didn’t act by the word of God and they didn’t cast off sins knowing that they had to.
It’s because if the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace and strength of God comes down, anybody can act by the word of God and cast off any kind of sinful nature.
But because they did not try to receive the help of the Holy Spirit or seek God’s grace and strength, they eventually could not cast off sinful natures and did not act by the word of God. As soon as their souls come out of their body, they realize this fact so clearly.
Our Lord took up such great sufferings to redeem us from sins, and they will feel so sorry and embarrassed that they were thinking, “It’s difficult to struggle against sins,” although they were confessing that they loved the Lord.
Those who are in the 1st kingdom of heaven did participate in the race of faith, but they did not really receive the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace and strength of God, so they led a kind of difficult Christian life.
Sometimes they felt tired in their life in faith, and at other times they were discouraged and sat back. So, even if they were Christians for a long time, they had stoppage in their spiritual life.
Some may think, “I have been a Christian for a considerable period of time, so I must have passed at least the 1st level of faith and at least I will go into the 1st kingdom of heaven.”
But if you truly have faith, you will obviously act by the word of God. If you do not cast off sins but keep on doing lawlessness, you should understand you cannot even go into paradise, not to mention the 1st kingdom of heaven.
James 2:14 says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?”
James 2:26 says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” We can never be saved with dead faith.
From next session, I will give you some examples of Manmin members who already passed away and went into the 1st kingdom of heaven.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we do sports games on this earth, even though we try so hard, we may not do well at all because we are not just good at it.
But the race of faith is a little different from this.
Of course, according to the difference in one’s inner heart, the speed of growth in his faith may be faster or relatively slower than other people.
But in the race of faith, of course there must be our own effort, but more important thing is that how much grace and strength of God and help of the Holy Spirit we receive.
Just as in the story about a turtle and a rabbit in a race, where the turtle ran until the end without giving up in the middle and reached the goal, all believers in God can reach the finish line in their race of faith.
They can all accomplish the whole spirit and enter into New Jerusalem.
Therefore, I hope none of you will give up your race of faith, and at more difficult times, you will seek God’s grace and strength even more.
God the Father is always ready to help you.
Also, the rewards are already prepared that will be given when you finish your race.
Therefore, I pray in the name of the Lord that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit even more and run the race of faith with more joy and happiness.