The Kingdom of GOD in Heaven
A STUDY OF THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES
How are we to understand the Kingdom of GOD? Where are we to go and search so as to be able to find out just what awaits us there, after our resurrection? Who can point us in the right direction so that we might have an idea of what to expect, and of what will be required of us?
In the introduction to his second treatise, Luke preserved for us a most interesting and enlightening piece of information pertaining to these questions.
ACTS 1:1-3 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Yeshua [Jesus] pioneered that trail into that heavenly kingdom, but after His resurrection what signposts or markers did He leave for us to follow? As far as we know, He never wrote of His experiences concerning the after-life so we must depend upon the ones to whom He taught. Luke tells us that during those forty days following His resurrection experience, that it was to the twelve apostles that Yeshua spoke concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
To no others in the history of mankind were the mysteries of the afterlife ever so widely opened up and revealed. Only the Twelve received a first hand account by an actual participator of what resurrection was to hold for each and every individual. Thus, if we want to know what the kingdom of heaven is about, if we want to learn how to gain access through those pearly gates, then we must go to the writings and teachings of those twelve apostles.
Howbeit, few writings of these apostles have been preserved for us to study and consider. In fact it would appear that only four of the Twelve left us any record at all; those being Matthew, James, Peter and John.
It is generally agreed that the apostle Matthew probably wrote the first Gospel, but only the last three verses say much of anything about Yeshua's resurrection experience. That then leaves the writings of Peter, James and John. The apostle Peter left us two epistles, though few scholars believe that he actually wrote both. John left us a Gospel, three epistles and perhaps REVELATION, but hardly anyone attributes all of them to the apostle. And according to the opinion of nearly every single Biblical teacher, the apostle James left us nothing at all to consider, since they speculate that the epistle JAMES was written by some other individual.
But if GOD had a hand in assembling these Christian writings for us, then the most natural expectation is that the epistles JAMES, 1st and 2nd PETER and 1st, 2nd and 3rd JOHN were all written by none other than those premier apostles, James and Peter and John. These were the ones which Yeshua was continually calling out from the others so as to show them the workings of His life and ministry. Peter, James and John were the ones chosen so as to experience His inner emotions, to witness Yeshua's personal struggles as He was coming to grips with the magnitude of His passion. Hence, unless there is proof to the contrary, it would only seem reasonable for us to receive the epistles of PETER, JAMES and JOHN to be none other than from these three specially called out apostles.
These three were singled out from the other apostles on a number of remarkable occasions. When entering Peter and Andrew's house where Yeshua healed Peter's mother-in-law of the fever, only James and John accompanied them (MARK 1:29). When Yeshua raised Jairus' daughter from the dead, only Peter, James and John were allowed to enter the home with Him and the parents (MARK 5:37). When He journeyed into a high mountain, only these three were invited to witness the Transfiguration (MATTHEW 17:1). It was these three with Andrew who asked Him privately when the temple would be destroyed (MARK 13:3). And only Peter, James and John were permitted to accompany Him as Yeshua separated Himself from the others in the Garden of Gethsemane saying, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me" (MATTHEW 26:37).
These three were no doubt being groomed by the Master for some exceptional mission or undertaking. These three were evidently being trusted with the inner workings of His ministry. Surely then, after Yeshua's death, resurrection and ascension, we should expect that all three of these apostles would together have left us some written legacy of their experiences. It would then seem self-evident, that before one erases an apostle's name from some epistle, that he had better have a good and solid reason for doing so.
If we take the epistles of James, Peter and John together as three witnesses of Yeshua's resurrection, as three voices revealing to us just what this hidden heavenly kingdom of GOD is all about, then we have an important key to unlocking the mysteries of the kingdom of GOD. But if we see no hand of the Creator in the selection of the Christian scriptures; if we assume that by some chance or Church council these writings were assembled for us, then we may find great difficulty in understanding that hidden kingdom of GOD.
To a great degree, the dark shadow which has been cast over some of the apostle's writings is oftentimes because Commentators have come to place a higher regard on Church Tradition and the so-called apostolic Fathers then they do on scripture. What those second and third century writers said, or are said to have said, too often overshadows what has been plainly written in the Christian scriptures.
In this fabricated age of grace, where Paul's writings are all exalted to some heavenly realm, while the writings of Yeshua's three chosen witnesses are relegated to a lower room, perhaps we would do well to give them another look. These epistles are crying out to be heard.