Rev. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom.
When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Take a sewing needle; take the largest needle you can find. Look at the eye of this needle. Many of us have a rather difficult time passing a strand of thread through that eye.
Now imagine trying to get a camel to pass through the eye of that needle. “Totally impossible,” you say? “How absurd even to try such a thing”? Of course. It’s impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
But impossible as that may be, it is nevertheless easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
This can only mean that it is forever impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. This was Jesus’ instruction to His disciples.
Just prior to this instruction Jesus had been confronted with the question of the rich young ruler of the synagogue, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus’ answer to this young man was, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”
When the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
In response to this, Jesus turned to His disciples and taught them a very important truth in conjunction with what they had just witnessed.
A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
When the disciples heard this, they were exceedingly amazed. Are we perhaps also amazed at this truth?
Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. These are not two different kingdoms, but are one and the same. This kingdom is the glorious kingdom God has established in heaven at the ascension of Jesus.
God promised this kingdom to His people already in the Old Testament. He gave them an earthly picture of this kingdom through the kingdom He established for Israel in the land of Canaan.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke of this kingdom in their ministries, proclaiming it was at hand.
This kingdom has been established on the basis of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross. For that reason all the blessings of salvation belong to this kingdom and its citizens.
Although this kingdom was established at Christ’s ascension into heaven, it is not yet complete. The kingdom will not be complete until the coming again of Christ from heaven.
Jesus spoke of entering this kingdom.
We enter the kingdom whenever we enjoy the blessings of the kingdom, which are the blessings of salvation. That means that we are able to enter the kingdom already in this life. It is true, of course, that the kingdom is in heaven and we are yet on the earth. Yet, by faith in Jesus Christ we are able to enjoy even now the riches and salvation of the kingdom and in a very real way enter into the kingdom.
We enter into the kingdom more fully at the moment of death. For in death the soul of the child of God is glorified by God in heaven where the child of God enjoys the blessings of the kingdom as he never could during his earthly pilgrimage.
Finally, we enter into the kingdom in the full sense in the day of Christ’s return. For then every child of God will be brought body and soul into the kingdom in its completed form to enjoy the salvation of God in all its fullness.
According to Jesus a rich man can not enter into the kingdom. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom.
Who are the rich of whom Jesus spoke?
The rich are not merely those who possess earthly wealth. Were Jesus speaking here only of those who possess earthly wealth, He would have excluded most of us from the kingdom. Oh, we like to complain about how poor we are. But the fact is that we live in a time of unheard of prosperity. And most of us have a good share of that prosperity. Were the rich of whom Jesus spoke merely those who possess earthly wealth, the only way for us to enter the kingdom would be to sell what we have and give it to the poor.
However, this is not Scripture. Nowhere does Scripture condemn the mere possession of earthly riches. Nor does Scripture elevate poverty as a requirement for entrance into the kingdom.
Fact is, many of the saints who have entered the kingdom of God possessed the wealth of this world in great abundance. Consider, for example, Abraham, Job, David, Solomon . . . .
If we will find who the rich are of whom Jesus- spoke we must turn to a parallel passage. Mark in his gospel also records this same instruction of Jesus. There Jesus defined the rich as those who put their trust in riches. For, according to Mark, Jesus said, “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25).
How often do not men put their trust in riches!
There are essentially two things that everyone seeks in life: security and happiness. In the midst of a life filled with so many uncertainties, everyone is looking for something to provide him with safety and security. And, closely connected to that, everyone is looking for joy and happiness.
Many find this safety and joy in earthly riches. They count on their riches to provide for their needs in the future. Their riches will provide for them when they become sick, when the economy is poor, when they become old and feeble. They feel very secure about the future. And their security is the riches they possess. Besides all this, their riches afford them a life of pleasure and comfort. They are able to afford many luxuries and conveniences in life. Their riches even give them the esteem of men. And this is the joy of their soul. Their trust is in riches!
An example of this is the rich young ruler who came to Jesus to inquire what he must do to possess eternal life. Obviously he had placed his trust in his riches to the point that they were everything to him. Nothing was more important than his riches. His riches were even more important to him than eternal life.
Such like shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven so long as they continue to put their trust in riches: not in this life, not at the moment of death, not in the day of final judgment.
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for these to enter the kingdom.
In light of this truth, entering the kingdom is totally impossible from the viewpoint of man’s ability.
This was the conclusion of the disciples. Upon hearing that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom, the disciples were exceedingly amazed and said, “Who then can be saved?”
No doubt the disciples’ response was prompted by something they saw in themselves. Although none of them possessed any wealth to speak of, they saw their own tendency to put their trust in earthly riches. Hence, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, “Who then can be saved?” In light of what Jesus said, they saw no possibility of entering the kingdom and possessing its salvation.
And Jesus only confirmed their conclusion. With men this (entering the kingdom) is impossible. As far as his own ability is concerned, man is able only to put his trust in riches. Hence, he can not enter the kingdom.
The reason for this is his own depravity. Depraved, fallen man hates God with his whole being. The result of this is that he is not able to find in God the things he needs and desires the most: security and happiness for this life and for eternity. All he has left is earthly riches. For these he works and to these he clings. His trust is in them. He can do none else.
Entering the kingdom is impossible for man.
What is impossible with man, however, is possible with God. It is even possible for God to bring man into His kingdom.
God accomplishes this for all those whom He has ordained to eternal life in Jesus Christ. God brings them into the kingdom by changing them through a new birth. For when we are born again in Jesus Christ we are brought to love the God Whom we by nature hate. And because we now love God there is no greater joy to us than the joy of God’s fellowship in Jesus Christ. Hence, we seek that fellowship in the blood of Jesus. And in that fellowship we place our trust, to provide us with true happiness in this life and for all eternity. Earthly riches have lost the charm and the importance they once had. The joys of God’s fellowship in Jesus Christ are our all.
And being born again we come to see that our future is secure only in God’s care and provision. Hence, we turn away from the false security of earthly riches to find our safety and security in God’s care of us in Jesus Christ.
Our trust is in Jesus Christ and Gods salvation through Him. In this way we also are brought into the kingdom to taste of the great salvation of God and to enjoy the eternal pleasures and securities God has provided for His own.
Let us then turn away from all trusting in the riches of this world. And let us put our trust in God alone and in the provision of His grace in Jesus Christ.
That we may enter into the kingdom of God.