“They say that God watches out for children, drunks and fools. Simply put, this means I stand a two-thirds better chance for divine intervention in my life than most other people. ”―Lenny Castellaneta, No One's Even Bleeding
Recently someone sent this email to me, “I am a frantically scrupulous Christian going through a crisis of faith. One issue I’m really struggling with is just how exhaustive the laundry lists of sinners excluded from the kingdom are. Reading verses like 1 Cor 6:9-11 and Gal 5:19-21 disturb me to my core. What percent of Christians can honestly say they can never be described as one of the types of people listed in these verses? I’m guessing it isn’t high. How can universal salvation be true in light of these verses that enumerate all these people not inheriting the kingdom?”
I understand this question because in the early days I had the same thoughts. Seemed it was Jesus plus making sure you don’t commit the big sins in order to make it “into the kingdom” ie heaven when you die. In other words, you could never quite know for sure if you were “saved”.
In that Galatians list of works of the “flesh” was drunkenness. I couldn’t understand how people could just ignore this and still be “Christian”. Now I understand the context of the NT much better.
So let’s say Joe is a strong believer who has a tragic night where he finds one of his children has been murdered. In despair he goes to the local bar and gets drunk. Since he is unaccustomed to alcohol it doesn’t take long to cross the line of any semblance of sobriety. In addition, because this is new territory he thinks he can drive but ends up in a fiery crash, losing his life. So at the “pearly gates” is he turned down for entry into the kingdom of heaven? Or sent to a Purgatory? Sent to hell?
Many Christians can’t clearly answer that. Some say that if he was a good Christian then the good outweighs the bad and he would be let in. Others would say the Bible is clear that his sin excluded him. Some say if he was a believer then it wouldn’t matter. Others would say he had to confess his sin in the last seconds before he died because sin cannot “enter” heaven.
Inheriting The Kingdom of Heaven As an Age in History.
Inheriting the kingdom and entering the kingdom are very closely related. An inheritance is something received when another person dies, not when you die. So from a Bible perspective, Jesus is said to be the one who died making others the inheritors. My main point is that the inheritance idea isn’t about you dying, but about another dying and leaving you something.
According to Paul in Ephesians and Romans, the Jews and Israel were the inheritors of “the promise” while Gentiles were grafted in. So the inheritance was for Jews/Israel and Gentiles but the death was of someone else.
The Kingdom of God is NOT about Going to Heaven
It was common knowledge and a common expectation that when the Messiah came, he would be ushering in a new era of the kingdom. The Jews had an expectation of the closing out of one age and the institution of another, they just didn’t quite understand what that looked like. So when Jesus shows up preaching “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” they knew exactly what he was talking about. They knew HE claimed he was somehow ushering in that new era, that new day!
Dispensationalists or futurists who see the kingdom only coming after a great tribulation teach that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are two different things. They teach that one is Jesus as the Davidic King reigning on the earth and the other is him reigning from heaven presently. They teach that the church age is what we are living in and the unfulfilled promises to Israel for a kingdom will be fulfilled in the millennium after the 7 year tribulation.
The only difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are the words kingdom or God. The kingdom of heaven is used mainly in Matthew instead of the kingdom of God for a reason. Matthew was written to Jewish believers and the Law said not to take the name of the Lord in vain. So Jews decided to not use his sacred name at all for fear that they might break the commandment accidentally. In desiring to reach those Jews, Matthew accommodated his language in that light. Therefore, kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven mean exactly the same thing.
In other words, the kingdom of heaven is not a place to go when one dies, nor an inheritance one gets at their own death. It is an age in history when the old earthly kingdom of the old covenant temple system would fall and the new spiritual kingdom emerged.
For example, the phrase “kingdom of God” occurs 68 times in 10 different New Testament books, while “kingdom of heaven” occurs only 32 times, and only in the Gospel of Matthew. Notice as well the parallel passage from Matthew and Luke. Same verse, but one calls it the heaven and the other God:
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of HEAVEN is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)
“For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of GOD is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28)
Entering The Kingdom Age:
“Entering” the kingdom on the other hand, meant entering the AGE in history when this kingdom would come to bear. Notice Matthew 16:27-28, "For the son of Man will come in the glory of his Father, with his angels and reward each man according to his deeds. Assuredly I say to you there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."
According to Jesus the coming of the kingdom was future to them from that day but was to be within their lifetime. This is not the cross, as there were no angels. This is not Pentecost. There were no angels and no judgment. So this was some event in the lifetime of the disciples where they were going to see the kingdom come. In fact they were to pray for this age to come... "thy kingdom come on EARTH as it is in heaven." The only event that fits is the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Why? Meets the above criteria, was in the lifetime of the disciples, was something that they could miss and be killed if they didn't watch and pray. In fact, Jesus said you, and when he said you he was talking to the disciples as his audience, that they would see the signs and they along with all believers would need to flee so they weren't killed in the fiery destruction of the city.
Luke 21:20 “But when you (the disciples/apostles) see Jerusalem being surrounded by army-encampments, then recognize that her desolation has drawn-near. 21 Then let the ones in Judea be fleeing to the mountains. And let the ones in the midst of her be going-out. And let the ones in the fields not be entering into her. 22 Because these are days of vengeance, that all the things having been written maybe fulfilled. (by the way there witnesses of an angelic army in the sky in AD 70).
So the point in them trusting Jesus and believing the good news was that the religious system, old earthly kingdom was about to fall and they were to flee Jerusalem as the new age of the kingdom being ushered in. So what does that look like? Revelation 21:3, And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying “Behold— the dwelling of God is with mankind. And He will dwell with them. And they themselves will be His peoples. And God Himself with them will be their God.
The ones who did not trust Jesus and did not flee Jerusalem would not enter into the AGE of the kingdom. The Galatians if they were backbiting and living in the works of the flesh might MISS it and get killed in the Roman onslaught.
In fact, that is why Jesus said, (continuing from the passage in Luke 21) Luke 21:34 “But take heed to yourselves that your hearts may not at any time be weighed-down with carousing and DRUNKENNESS and anxieties pertaining-to-life, and that UNEXPECTED DAY suddenly-come-upon you. In other words the whole thing about being drunk wasn't because it was worthy of hell but that it would cause them to potentially to miss this event and get caught up in its destruction. Their carelessness would get them killed.
Saying “drunks” don’t go to heaven is like saying someone who dies while having surgery and given morphine will go to hell. It is not logical at all. As soon as one makes a “law” about it being right or wrong, then it opens a can of worms that can not be recovered. What about medical marijuana or what about recreational use? What about Nyquil, can a person take it as medicine if it has alcohol in it? What about the tens of thousands and thousands who used marijuana medicinally over history? A right or wrong law can’t be created or one ends up like the Pharisees straining at gnats.
So EVERYONE is in the age of the kingdom today. EVERYONE is in the kingdom in that sense. When Jesus preached it was NEAR, he didn't mean FAR. It was AT HAND. They needed to believe the good news that it was near and they needed to press into it and not miss the transition to the kingdom AGE or they could lose their lives in the destruction by the Romans.
In addition, the “kingdom” is already “within” everyone, as it is direct spirit to Spirit oneness. The shift was from the old natural system to the spiritual reality within us all. Notice Paul said, “There is one God and Father of us all, who is above all, through all, and IN ALL.” Eph. 4:6
As a side note, I am not endorsing addiction or alcoholism. I have worked with addicts probably my whole life, and I have seen what addiction can do. But that does not mean alcoholics or getting drunk will put a person in hell (which by the way doesn’t exist… but hey that’s a different topic).
Jesus drank real fermented wine. As such he was accused of being a wine-bibber. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake. Paul also said, “do not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit.” He did not say “do not drink wine”, nor did he say if you do you are out of the kingdom. Paul said in Romans that all things were lawful for him, though not all things are beneficial. Sometimes a strawberry daiquiri is really beneficial!
On a lighter note, Paudie the Irishman goes into a bar and orders seven shots of tequila and one Guinness.
The barman lines up shots and goes to get the Guinness.
When he comes back with the pint, all seven shots are gone.
The barman says: “Wow! You sure drank those fast.”
Paudie explains: "You would drink fast too if you had what I have.”
The barman asks: “What do you have?”
The guy reaches into his pocket and says: “Fifty cents!”
What about Jesus’ words about “depart from me”? Check out this blog called “Exposing the ‘Depart from Me’ Myth of Matthew 7:21-23”