Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
What is your place in the world? Or, maybe it’s better to ask how you feel about your standing in the world right now? Well, the Holy Spirit wants you to know that no matter how you may feel, you are royalty.
The Word declares,
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of the darkness and into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
And in Revelation 5:10 it says of the Lord, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” So how does this kingdom of believers advertised in the Bible work? Well, before we understand our place, we have to understand the place of Christ. When he comes in the book of Revelation, we find this written of Jesus,
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16).
That’s a pretty strong title! Jesus is the ultimate King above all kings, and the Lord above all lords. Now, with this in mind let’s check out what Paul has to say about us:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6).
Through Jesus’ work on the cross and our salvation through him, we become sons and daughters of God. If we are his children, then we are also the inheritors of the Lord. And indeed, the Bible says as much; for it is written,
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:16-17).
And elsewhere Paul wrote, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6). The Word of God is quite clear that those who believe in Christ and his Lordship share in his inheritance from our heavenly father. So why do bad things happen to us? Hebrews 12:7-8 reminds us,
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Even in difficult times we who believe can hold our heads up high because our troubles are not without reason; the Lord is using hardship to shape us and prepare us for his kingdom. As Paul wrote to the people of Corinth,
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings – and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! (1 Corinthians 4:8)
Now, this passage deserves some explanation. It’s easy to think that Paul is referencing some sort of material wealth already possessed by the people of Corinth. However, if you notice, he also says, “I wish that you really had become kings”; this is a reference to his desire for them to have the material wealth in order to assist his ministry. From this we can learn that those in Christ become kings; though perhaps not by earthly standards- no, those who believe have much more, for they have the greatness of God behind them!
It is important that we understand our position as princes and princesses in the Lord. What we received freely is not something that can be easily achieved. Take this scene from Acts; Paul had been arrested, but everything changed once his heritage was discovered:
The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains (Acts 22:27-29).
Paul being a Roman citizen was a big deal; Roman citizenship was very expensive at the time but Paul had been born into it. Likewise, citizenship in heaven carries an extremely high price: a life without sin- something which is impossible for any human to achieve. However, Jesus lived a sinless life and took the punishment for sin (death) in our stead that we might have the opportunity to be granted citizenship in heaven. Jesus explained our citizenship like this:
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to sprit” (John 3:2-6).
According to Christ, when we accept his death on a cross in our stead, we not only are granted citizenship, but we are reborn- our citizenship is not something we paid for ourselves like the commander, but a natural-born citizenship in heaven like Paul’s Roman birthright. When we accept Christ we are born again through the Holy Spirit. When we receive our heavenly birthright we become like the fathers of faith in Hebrews 11:13-16,
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Through our spiritual rebirth we are no longer of this world, but native-born citizens of heaven. And since our birthright is the kingdom of God, we can reign as princes and princesses over this territory we call the earth. Followers of Christ who still live here in the physical world that we know have become ambassadors of heaven. Jesus instructed his ambassadors,
Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town (Matthew 10:11-15).
I’m not going to argue that we should be going from house to house as drifters; times were somewhat different then. But look at the power that Jesus bestowed on his disciples; wherever they went they controlled the blessing upon that house or city. And if they were rejected, the Lord promised wrath upon those who rejected them. Each and every follower of Christ has that very same power flowing from them- we bless those around us by our sheer presence (even if we don’t feel that blessing in our own lives).
With heaven as our birthright, we have God’s limitless resources at our fingertips. Just consider the story of the prodigal sons; we know that the Father represents God, so take a look at what he says to the older son: “’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours’” (Luke 15:31). That’s the Lord’s promise to us too! We can prove it because Jesus told the very same directly to his disciples, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). As royal inheritors of the kingdom of heaven this is the power that has been bestowed upon us, if only we don’t lose our faith in the Lord; for it is written:
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:21-22).
And this is where the keyword to accessing our power comes into play: prayer. James gets direct when addressing believers who don’t yet know how to utilize the power they have from on-high, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). If you need something, just ask your heavenly Father! I see every day good Christians who try to weasel the world into working for them, when all they needed to do was ask the Lord for some help. “But Layman, what if God doesn’t answer my prayer?” Know this, God listens to everything you ask for and he knows everything you need. When you reach out to the Lord, he will act- just maybe not in the way you were expecting. Jesus put it this way, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).
So hold your head up high, you are royalty! Maybe you feel right now that if you are indeed royalty, than you are a prince or princess in exile. That’s fine, because you can return any time to the Lord’s open arms. Remember when the younger prodigal son returned to his father in Luke 15:20,
So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
This is how the Lord responds when his children repent of their sins and make a real effort to get back to God. So recognize your position as a son or daughter of the most high and when you need something, pray! In fact, pray any time because fathers love listening to their children. It is written, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul took it up a notch and commanded, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” As royal citizens in heaven, God wants us to be joyful in prayer as we live our lives to the Lord. This is your heritage and your birthright; you are the son or daughter of the universe’s most benevolent king- live like it!