“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” — Matthew 8:11–12 (NASB95)
Given the hype over a popular pastor’s book on whether there is really a heaven and a hell, Jesus’ words in these verses seem appropriate. Pastors and theologians can be deeply philosophical and creative when practicing their art. The only danger is when the art somehow moves you away from the original Artist. It is quite clear that Jesus describes two distinct places where men and women go after death. One is the kingdom of heaven where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reside. The other place is hell — a place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This pastor needs to contend with the very words of the Savior he professes faith in.
But back to our text. Our devotional series is on the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ words are in the larger context of a Roman centurion coming to Jesus so that Jesus might heal the centurion’s servant who was suffering greatly from a physical ailment. Jesus said that He would go to the centurion’s home to heal the boy, but the centurion prevented Jesus from coming. The centurion stated his unworthiness of having Jesus come to his home and asked that Jesus just “say the word” and he knew his servant would be healed. Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith and told those around Him that many like the centurion (“from the east and west”) would be in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus declared that heaven is open to any and all who would believe in Him like the centurion. Heaven is for all humankind. Every race and color. It is for all who believe and accept the grace and forgiveness won by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The kingdom of heaven is for you and for me. It sure beats that other place!