If you have ever heard the good news of God’s Kingdom then you will know that He invites everyone to leave the Kingdom of this world and join Him in His Kingdom. It is a Kingdom of love, power, and truth. And it is a Kingdom that will one day cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea (Is 9:7).
What is important to know is that this is a spiritual Kingdom. It exists in the spiritual realm, as does God Himself. So in order to engage in it we need to use our spirits. Only by using our spiritual faculties can we live and breathe and have our being with God in His Kingdom (John 3:5).
In order to fully participate in God’s Kingdom we need to activate all of the faculties in our spirit. Activating them is not automatic, but requires faith.
In his message on the day of Pentecost Peter gives us the keys that help us unlock all the aspects of our spirits we need to enter in and fully participate in God’s Kingdom.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:36-41)
As you can see in the passage above Peter stresses the revelation of the Kingdom of God and encourages everyone to reject the kingdom of this world, by rejecting this crooked generation. The crooked generation is simply those people that love the kingdoms of this world and reject the Kingdom of God. It is those that reject God’s rulership for the rulership of the gods of this world (money, pleasure, success, fame, etc).
Peter explains that God is calling unto himself a different generation of people. A people to whom He has made a promise (a people of the promise). And this invitation is to everyone. To those who are near (the Israelites), their children (future generations), and those who are far off (the Gentiles). Everyone whom the Lord is calling unto Himself and into His Kingdom.
The way Peter makes this clear to them is by announcing that God has made Jesus both the supreme ruler of the world, as well as its chosen saviour. He has made him both Lord and Christ. Jesus, the man, the one who was crucified, has been raised from the dead and has been established as the earthly ruler and administrator of God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
Until this point there had been no human that could facilitate God’s Kingdom for all of humanity. So for the most part, His Kingdom remained in the Heavens. But because of the absolute obedience of Jesus, God raised Him up and established him as the one who would bring this Kingdom to Earth.
Hearing this truth convicted the crowd in a very real way. They were “cut to the heart.” They did not know what to do with this information. When they heard that Jesus was the King of God’s Kingdom on the Earth, and the one chosen to liberate people from the kingdom of this world (in order to come under God’s rule), they wanted to know what they needed to do to respond to this news.
In response to their cry, Peter and the rest of the Apostles gave them four important steps that they needed to take. Four doors, if you will, that they needed to proceed through in order to fully enter into the Kingdom of God. They are as follows:
- Be Baptised
- Experience the forgiveness of sins
- Receive the Holy Spirit
These four steps are neatly divided into two groups of two. The first two steps involve something that we do, whereas the second two involve something that we receive. To repent and be baptised are choices that we make and acts that we engage in by faith and in obedience to God. Only once we have been obedient to these two steps can we receive the two gifts that God wants to give us, which is the forgiveness of our sins and the Holy Spirit. Receiving these two gifts is also a matter of faith and obedience.
There are many people today who may think they are in the Kingdom of God because they have “accepted Jesus into their hearts,” or because they have “prayed the sinners prayer,” or because they “attend church,” or because they have “accepted Jesus as their ‘personal saviour,'” or for a range of other seemingly “spiritual” reasons. But there is only one road that Peter and all the first Apostles shared with us as the true way into God’s Kingdom.
First, before a person can even take the road to God’s Kingdom there is something that such a person needs to experience.
Being “cut to the heart.”
The crowd experienced being cut to the heart for two reasons. Firstly, they were convicted by the fact that it was their hatred and sin that got Jesus crucified, and they were convinced that God raised him from the dead in order to establish him as the Lord and Saviour of the world.
Until a person is truly convicted of the way that they have turned against God and lived in rebellion against Him, and become fully convinced that Jesus, the man who lived in first century Palestine, was crucified, raised to life, sat down at the right hand of God, and was then established as the supreme ruler and chosen saviour of the world, they cannot truly take the road to God’s Kingdom. This is not simply an experience of mentally understanding it and acknowledging it as true. It is something that affects one deeply. To the point of having only one response, “What can I do to be saved from this place?” It is a cry from a truly cut-up heart.
There are some that have mentally acknowledged that Jesus is the world’s saviour, turned away from their worldly lives, been baptised, and now attend a church, but this does not mean they are in the Kingdom of God. Although they may have left their original lives and lifestyles, they may not have actually entered into God’s Kingdom. The reason: they have not truly turned away from their rebellion towards God, nor actually surrendered to Jesus as master. They are just part of a religious system that is modeled around Jesus and which causes them to live more morally. As such, they may have just left one of Satan’s kingdoms for another more religious one. (Remember, Satan is the ruler of the Kingdom of darkness. Within that kingdom he has a range of little kingdoms all designed to keep us in darkness. Religion is one of those kingdoms. It is a form of godliness but without any true spiritual power – 2 Tim 3:5)
Truly entering into God’s Kingdom requires a work of God’s Spirit in our inner beings that is coupled with faith. It requires an experience that is similar to the one the crowd had that Peter preached to. One where we experience being “cut to the heart” because we have for the first time truly realised that Jesus is the supreme ruler and the one chosen to redeem all of who we are for God’s Kingdom. He is the one we are supposed to love and serve and surrender all our being to for the glory of our creator, and for the fulfillment of life’s purpose.
Only once someone has had such an experience will they truly be able to take the road into the Kingdom. Because in truth, until such a time they will not actually have a revelation that there is such a Kingdom, or that all of who they are actually opposes it. Only once they truly realise that there is a Kingdom in the Spirit, which requires the complete rejection of all others, will they be able to take the journey there. Only once they see that by submitting to anything other than Jesus (even living a good life) they actually oppose God’s Kingdom, and that they need to completely submit their lives to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, will they be able to truly enter into God’s Kingdom.
Once they truly accept and receive this revelation, nothing is ever the same again. They begin to experience God speaking to them by His Spirit in very real and often supernatural ways. They begin to have new desires and new feelings. Their channel to God has essentially been opened and they can hear His voice and sense His leading.
With the crowd that Peter spoke to, their first experience of this speaking was the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit. Being “cut to the heart.” This was God speaking to them, confirming that that which Peter was saying was true, and strongly encouraging them to respond to it. In a similar way, someone who has truly received a revelation about God’s Kingdom and its King, will experience God’s voice, and that voice will encourage them to take the road to His Kingdom.
Once they have responded to God’s voice, then they can take the four step journey there.
Repent. This means that we turn away from and reject all other kingdoms (including the “good” ones like religion). Whether it is the pursuit of success, fame, money, pleasure, power, goodness, impact, etc. We give up all allegiances we have to these kingdoms and surrender to Jesus as our new Lord and King. As a result we also turn away from all sin and darkness and choose to submit our lives to be made holy. We submit our beings to become cleansed, sanctified, and set apart for our new lives in God’s Kingdom. A life that is completely and utterly determined by Jesus alone.
Baptised in Water. This is the act of burying the old life, with all its evil allegiances in water (a picture of death), and coming up in the new life in God’s Kingdom. When done in faith, water baptism severs all unholy ties and demonic bonds that Satan used to control one in his kingdom. As a result, many people experience freedom from addiction, unholy patterns, illnesses, mental oppression, and a range of other demonic forces after being baptised in water.
Forgiveness of sins. As a result of rejecting the kingdoms of this world as well as one’s old life of sin, the Apostles say that we experience the forgiveness of our sins. We experience all our sins being washed away as they are buried with our old life. This is something very experiential. When one has truly obeyed God and repented from everything that stands opposed to Him and His Kingdom, that person has a very definite inward experience of being forgiven. For the first time their conscience is clear and they know that God has forgiven all their sins and that they are free. This is a wonderful feeling!
Receiving the Holy Spirit. Upon truly repenting, truly dying to one’s old life, and experiencing freedom from sin, God promises that we will receive the Holy Spirit. This is when someone receives God’s Spirit and empowerment. It is a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind (truth) (2 Tim 1:7). It is this Spirit that enables us with His supernatural nature. When received properly the Spirit empowers us to actually live and move and function in God’s Kingdom. Without the Spirit we might get to the entrance of the Kingdom of God, but we will not be able to truly enjoy and participate in all that it is.
For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13)
Going though all four these stages fully transfers us from Satan’s kingdom into God’s Kingdom and enables us with the gifts that we need in order to grow and function effectively. It opens up all our spiritual faculties and enables us to fully participate in His Kingdom and fully and meaningfully function as spiritual beings. If someone stops before completing the journey, their spiritual transition will essentially be incomplete and as a result their ability to grow and function spiritually will be stunted. I have seen this happen too many times.
For the most part, people seem to get stuck at the point where they need to receive the Baptism of the Spirit. For this reason I will cover it in more depth.
The Baptism of the Spirit
While speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus explained how important it is to be born of water as well as the Spirit. In fact, he said that unless you are born of water as well as the Spirit you cannot even enter the Kingdom of God.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
I have heard it said that receiving the Spirit is “automatic” when responding to the truth about Jesus and God’s Kingdom through repentance and baptism. It is likened to being “saved” and having a relationship with God. But I am not convinced of this. I base this on a combination of things, namely, the scriptures, my own experience, and the experience of many others.
There is an account in Acts 8 which perfectly illustrates this.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)
In this example it is perfectly clear that even after repenting and being baptised the people in Samaria did not receive the Holy Spirit. They were considered “new believers” and as such “saved,” but they were lacking something. They had not completed their transition into God’s Kingdom. For this reason Peter and John prayed for them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. This reveals something striking:
Receiving the Holy Spirit is NOT AUTOMATIC after repentance and baptism in water.
There is another example of this is Acts 19.
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:1-7)
In this example, the Ephesians had been baptised for the remission of their sins, but they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. As such, Paul rebaptised them and after he laid his hands on them the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to function in spiritual gifts.
It is interesting that this was the first thing that Paul asked them. He did not ask them if they had repented, or if they had been baptised, or if their sins had been forgiven, or if they had a relationship with God. He asked them if they had received the Spirit. This reveals that receiving the Spirit was fundamental for Paul and the other Apostles. It was clearly very important for living under the rulership of Jesus and participating in the Kingdom of God.
As such, receiving the Holy Spirit was THE defining characteristic of being a member of God’s Kingdom.
Another important point is that Paul rebaptised them. They had already been baptised for the forgiveness of their sins. But it was John’s baptism. It was a baptism designed to set them apart for the coming Kingdom. In that sense, they had been separated from the kingdom of Satan, but they had not yet entered the Kingdom of God. For this reason Paul baptised them in the name of the Lord Jesus so that they would come under His rulership. That opened the door for them to receive the Holy Spirit.
It is also important to see that the Spirit came “upon them.” This is different from the awareness of God’s presence and the hearing of His voice that we so often associate with becoming “saved.”(*) This was something that affected their behaviour and which was noticeable to others. It was not just an inward knowing. It was an outward experience that was visible to others.
*(If you look at Acts 9 you will see that Jesus revealed Himself to Paul, spoke to him, and directed him, and this all happened before he had been baptised in water or filled with the Holy Spirit. So experiencing God in these ways does not mean that one has been filled with the Spirit).
Finally we must see that the receiving of the Holy Spirit resulted in a manifestation that resembles the spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12. But they were not just any gifts, they were specifically gifts that empowered them to reveal the truth about God to those around (tounges and prophecy). It was something visible, something supernatural, and something that brought glory to God, while at the same time revealing the truth about His Kingdom, His power, and His blessing to all around. It revealed that God’s supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit was real and available to all humanity.
Based on these passages there are a few clear points to consider regarding fully entering into God’s Kingdom.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit is crucial for entering into the Kingdom of God.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit is the defining characteristic for New Testament disciples of Jesus.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit is not automatic after repenting and being baptised in water.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit is not the same as being “saved,” having a relationship with God, being aware of God’s presence, or hearing His voice.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit is contingent on coming under the rulership of Jesus Christ by being baptised in His name.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit results in the Spirit coming upon us and causes visible supernatural manifestations.
Although not everybody’s experience of receiving the Holy Spirit is as dramatic as those described in the book of Acts, everyone that I know (including myself) that have experienced the baptism of the Spirit can testify that something supernatural took place. I would not go as far as to say that unless someone speaks in tounges or prophecies they have not received the Spirit, but I would say that based on the testimony of scripture as well as on the experience of many believers, receiving the Holy Spirit is a discernible supernatural experience.
In addition, based on 1 Corinthians 12, Acts 13:52, and Ephesians 5:18 it is clear that functioning in spiritual gifts and being continually filled with the Spirit, is not limited to the day that one receives the Holy Spirit. After receiving the Spirit and being enabled with gifts, the idea that scripture paints is that believers would be continually filled with the Spirit and continue to function in those gifts in order to reveal God to the world and build up the Body in supernatural ways. In fact, the scriptures encourage believers not to be content with only one or two gifts, especially those that are lower on the scale of usefulness, but to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Cor 12:31). This again reveals that receiving the Holy Spirit and functioning in supernatural spiritual gifts is very important for functioning in the Kingdom of God. As such, every person that desires to be an active citizen of God’s Kingdom should seek to receive the Spirit and begin to function in spiritual gifts.
Fully in God’s Kingdom
So how do you know if you are fully in the Kingdom of God? How do you know if have completed the transition from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God.
Well, it is quite simple. What is your answer to the Apostle Paul’s question to those in Ephesus?
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
If you have never had a supernatural experience where you received the Holy Spirit then there could be more than one reason.
- Just like those in Ephesus you did not know that there was a Holy Spirit that came upon people in a discernibly supernatural way.
- You know about it but you are skeptical or afraid.
- You have grown up or been a part of a church movement that does not believe in, condemns, or simply does not have faith for the discernible supernatural baptism of the Spirit and the functioning of spiritual gifts.
- Like those in Ephesus, you have not actually come under the rule of Jesus, you have just experienced the remission of your sins. (i.e. Jesus is your “saviour” but He is not your Lord, Master, Ruler, and King – you believe you are going to heaven because your sins are forgiven, but your life is still your own to do with as you please, and God is simply there to bless you and help you because he loves you so much).
- You desire the baptism of the Spirit as described in the scriptures and experienced by others but no matter how much you have sought it, you just have not received it.
Well, if you are in any one of these camps and desire to fully enter into and function in God’s supernatural Kingdom then here are some things you can do.
- Surrender to Jesus as Lord. If you simply got baptised in order to go to heaven, to join a church, to live a moral life, or because Jesus is a great guy and you want God to bless you because he is all about loving the world with little to no strings attached, then you need to get rebaptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. In other words, you need to come under his rulership. You need to submit to him completely.
- Ask God to transform your thinking about this. Read Acts and see for yourself how the Holy Spirit came upon people and how they operated because of it.
- Deal with your issues regarding this. Just because people you know have functioned in spiritual gifts in a way that is disorderly or even questionable, do not let that be the basis of your belief. Let what the scriptures say be your guide.
- Apply your faith to the truth about this. It is real. It is from God. And it is for us today. It is God’s promise to everyone, those who are near, and to you who may feel far off.
- Find someone who can lay their hands on you and pray for you to be filled with the Spirit. If you don’t know of anyone that can help you, or if those who have prayed for you struggled to help you, you may be able to find someone close to you on this map (https://thelastreformation.com/)
Above all, please realise that being fully transferred into God’s Kingdom, having access to all your spiritual faculties, and fully functioning as an active Kingdom citizen matters. The whole of creation is eagerly waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom 8:19).
Jesus only started his earthly ministry after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was a discernible and supernatural event. Thereafter he was able to walk in the power of the Spirit and functioned in a multitude of spiritual gifts which brought God’s Kingdom to Earth. His disciples followed in this pattern and faithfully passed it on to us through the scriptures. Since then, many have believed, accepted, and humbly submitted to this pattern which has allowed them to fully enter into and function in the Kingdom of God in their generation.
How about you?