A study in 2 Peter 1:5-11 (3b): Promised an Abundant Entrance into the Kingdom
Reformed Free Publishing Association
This is a study on 2 Peter 1:5-11 by Martyn McGeown. Previous article in the series: A study in 2 Peter 1:5-11 (3a): Making our calling and election sure
Promising an abundance into the kingdom
“For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly….” (2 Peter 1:11)
The key to the text is the first two words, “For so…”
“For” means “because:” it gives a reason for the earlier statements. That reason must be identified and examined. It gives a reason for a number of things. First, it gives a reason for the apostle’s assertion, “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Why not—for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you…” Second, it gives a reason why we should make our calling and election sure. Why—“for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you…” Third, it gives a reason why we must add to our faith godliness, knowledge, temperance, patience, godlines, brotherly kindness, and charity. Why—“for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you…”
“So means “in this way” or “in this manner.” Perhaps the most famous verse in which the word “so” appears is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth should not perish but have everlasting life.” Many people read “so” as “so much.” “For God loved the world so much,” but the real meaning is, “For God loved the world in this way/in this manner/like this.”
The word “so” in verse 11 describes the way in which we enter the kingdom. We do not enter the kingdom as those who lack “these things.” We do not enter the kingdom as those who lack virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity—such people are blind, they cannot see afar off, and they have forgotten that they were purged from our old sins (v. 9). Instead, we enter in this manner: first, as those who, doing these things, shall never fall (v. 10); second, as those who make our calling and election sure (v. 10); third, as those in whom “these things” are present and abound (v. 8); fourth, as those who are neither barren (idle) nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 8); and, fifth, as those who add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (vv. 5-7). “For so (in this way, in this manner) an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The text, then, provides a further reason, or a further incentive, to the godly living described in the context. Verses 5-11 are really a unit in which the apostle exhorts us to live a certain kind of life. And he gives us reasons, incentives, promises, and even warnings to press his point home to us. Perhaps, you do not like incentives or promises of reward. If that is your opinion, you need to reconsider because the Bible is full of them. God in his wisdom knows that we need them; God in his mercy gives them to us. Wise parents give their children incentives and promises of reward too: yes, they should expect obedience; but out of love they graciously reward their children. Such parents are simply treating their children as God treats his children.
Do you think that obedience is simply spontaneous, even automatic, that it springs from us as an expression of our gratitude? It should be, but it is not. Incentives are necessary, first, because of the weakness of our flesh; second, they are necessary because of the difficulty of the way; third, they are necessary because of the opposition of the enemy. Fourth, they are given by the grace of our God. It is Reformed to speak of incentives: “The consideration of this benefit should serve as an incentive to a serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works, as appears from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints” (Canons 5:12). So, dear reader, when you feel like giving up, when you ask yourself, “What is the point in adding to my faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity?” then remember the incentive, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The promise of verse 11 concerns an entrance into the kingdom of Christ. Our first task is to identify that kingdom. At its most basic the Kingdom of Jesus Christ—called here “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”—is the rule of Jesus Christ. The kingdom, then, is not so much a place/location, as it is a sphere of authority/power. The kingdom is wherever Jesus Christ rules as the king. That is how the Word of God, especially the New Testament, presents it. In the Old Testament the kingdom of God was the whole universe, and especially the nation of Israel; in the New Testament the kingdom of Jesus Christ is still the whole universe, and especially the church. But the meaning cannot be the universe. We are already in the universe, as are the wicked. The meaning also cannot be the church. We are already members of the church. An entrance into that kingdom is not the promise here.
In fact, in a certain sense we are already in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. We entered the kingdom, or the kingdom entered us, at regeneration. In Colossians 1:12-13 we read, “Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Jesus says about the kingdom: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) and “cannot enter the kingdom” (v. 5). But the text speaks of a future entrance into the kingdom of Christ; therefore, regeneration cannot be the meaning: “for so an entrance shall be ministered.”
In another sense, we are always entering the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.” If we are already in the kingdom—as the disciples were—and if we already have the righteousness of God in justification—as the disciples did—then there must be another sense in which we seek the kingdom/righteousness. We seek the kingdom by deliberately, consciously, and repeatedly placing ourselves under the rule of Jesus Christ; by seeking to bring our whole lives into conformity to the righteous rule of our Savior out of gratitude to him. Part of that activity in the kingdom is adding to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.
Another example of our entering the kingdom is found in Acts 14:22. We read, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Paul and Barnabas had just witnessed the conversion of Gentiles: these people were already in the kingdom, and they were seeking the kingdom and God’s righteousness, but that does not prevent the exhortation: “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” The reference is not to regeneration: tribulation comes after regeneration and because of it. The reference is to the Christian life: do not, say Paul and Barnabas, expect an easy, carefree life, but expect opposition, trials, and painful circumstances to accompany you as you make your way to the kingdom.
The reference, then, is not to regeneration or to the Christian life lived under the rule of Jesus Christ with its tribulations, but the reference is to heaven itself: we might paraphrase, “For in this way, or in this manner, heaven shall be opened to you.”
About heaven we learn a number of things. First, heaven is the kingdom of Christ: “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 11). We do not always view heaven in those terms, and the world of the ungodly certainly does not view heaven in those terms. If you ask the world, “What is heaven?”, you will receive many answers. Some will say, “Heaven is a happy place, a place of no pain/suffering.” Others will say, “Heaven is a beautiful place of light and glory.” Still others will say, “Heaven is where my friends and family are; it is a place of never ending pleasure and fun.” But how few view heaven as “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”?
Heaven is more than a beautiful garden, rivers of living waters, a splendid city, streets of gold: it is where Jesus Christ rules perfectly and completely. Jesus Christ rules in this world too: all power in heaven/earth is his. But here Christ rules over rebels and in the hearts of imperfect believers. Imagine a place where Jesus Christ’s rule is so perfect that every citizen of that happy place is perfectly, and willingly, in submission to Jesus Christ, so that every thought, word, and deed is in perfect harmony with the will of Jesus Christ, and where nobody—whether man or angel—rebels against Jesus Christ. Imagine a place where everyone perfectly loves God and his neighbor as himself, and where there is no sin, because sin is permanently banished. That is heaven: “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
That kingdom is the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That means that those who are in the kingdom are saved by the king. The kingdom was purchased by Jesus Christ for us. The king descended from his exalted throne; he took to himself our human nature; he placed himself under the law of God in order to obey it; he suffered the penalty of the law; and he shed his blood on the cross so that we might be in his kingdom. Therefore, the kingdom is not earned/merited by works, but purchased/earned/merited/obtained by Jesus Christ for us.
Yes, it is true that only believers enter the kingdom; yes, it is true that only the holy shall inherit the kingdom and that without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14); yes, it is true that the one who expects to enter heaven must add to his faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity; but those things do not earn/merit the heavenly kingdom. Jesus the Savior—and only he—obtains the kingdom for us. The kingdom is prepared for the elect, purchased on the cross, and given by the Holy Spirit; it is in its entirety the gift of God’s grace.
Second, heaven is everlasting: “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” “Everlasting” simply means that the kingdom of Jesus Christ never ends. It is different from every other kingdom: the kingdoms of men come to an end. Either the men die, or they are replaced; or the kingdoms themselves perish. Such has been the case throughout history: at one time, Egypt was the superpower; later, it was Babylon; then, it was Persia; later, it was Rome. Men’s kingdoms are temporary: where are the Pharaohs, where is Nebuchadnezzar, where are the Caesars? One day, Antichrist will rule, but only for a short time. Their kingdoms and their kings are not everlasting. But the kingdom of Jesus Christ lasts forever. Daniel 7:14 says, “And there was given him dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Not only is the kingdom itself everlasting, but so is its blessedness and glory. Peter describes it in his first epistle: “An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1:4). The inheritance which awaits us (which is the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ) never spoils; moths/rust do not corrupt it; thieves do not break in to steal it; it never loses its value; it is the same perfect, pristine kingdom forever. How different that it is from the kingdoms of men! They have a heyday when they are in their prime—think of the glories of Solomon; think of the glories of the Roman Empire; think even of the glories of this nation. Earthly glory does not last, but the heavenly glory of Christ’s kingdom lasts forever. And, adds Peter in 1 Peter 2:5 we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” The kingdom is reserved in heaven, the kingdom is incorruptible, and we are kept for the kingdom. Do those words not encourage you to press on: do they not encourage you to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity? Or to ask another question from 2 Peter 3:11: “Seeing all these things—earthly things, but not the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ—shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” The answer is clear: we ought to be the kind of people who add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity; and we ought to be the kind of people who are neither barren (idle) nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; we ought to be those who are diligent to make our calling and election sure; and we certainly ought not to be blind, who do not see afar off, because we have forgotten that we have been purged from our old sins.
A Promised Entrance
Into this kingdom we are promised an entrance: “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly…” (v. 11). An entrance is the way into something. Literally, the meaning of the word that Peter uses is “the way into.” An entrance can be a path leading to a door/gate; it can refer to the door/gate itself; it can be the act/manner of entering; or it can refer to access.
To speak negatively, we need not fear that heaven’s doors will be shut in our face; or that the path to heaven will be blocked; or that we will have no access to the blessedness of the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The promise is, “An entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly.” The believer who trusts in Jesus the Savior shall have an entrance into heaven. The believer who adds to his faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity shall find heaven opened to him. The believer who makes his calling and election sure shall have access to the kingdom. The believer who is neither barren (idle) nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ shall find the way to the everlasting kingdom of Jesus. The believer who is not blind or shortsighted about spiritual things, and who has not forgotten that he has been purged from his old sins shall enter glory. Not because he believes, not because he adds, not because of his activity or fruitfulness, not because of his diligence, but because of the perfect work of Jesus, who is the way to the kingdom of God.
The entrance, writes the apostle, “shall be ministered unto you” (v. 11). “Ministered” is the word that the apostle, guided by the Spirit, deliberately uses. “Ministered” is actually the same word as “add” in verse 5. “Giving all diligence, add to your faith.” Here, “An entrance shall be ministered/added unto you.” And now recall what we learned about that word “add.” The word means to supply lavishly. The word always has the idea of generosity. The word has the idea of supplying a choir or an orchestra.
This means that our entrance into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ is by grace, by grace alone. The source of our entrance is the supply of God’s generous grace. In eternity he planned to give us the kingdom: to lavish it upon us graciously. At the cross Christ purchased the kingdom for us: he lavishes it upon us graciously. In regeneration the Spirit translates us into the kingdom graciously. And on the Last Day he will give us a gracious entrance into his kingdom. We are actually overwhelmed—or should be—by his generosity. We do not deserve to be in the kingdom of Jesus Christ: because of our sins we belong outside—forever excluded. We have no power to get there, for unless the entrance is added to us/supplied to us/lavished upon us we can never go. God supplies everything, just as a patron of the arts supplies everything for his concert, his choir, or his orchestra, so God supplies everything to us.
But Peter is not satisfied to write, “An entrance shall be ministered unto you.” The Spirit prompts him to add a word, to underline God’s grace further. That word is “abundantly;” “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly.” The word “abundantly” means “richly.” Think of a very wealthy choir director putting on a performance. He supplies everything richly. He cuts no corners; he spares no expense; he wants the best performance that he can possibly arrange. Now apply that to our entrance into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ. When we come to heaven, we will not sneak in through the back door, but an abundant, rich entrance and welcome has been arranged for us. God, as it were, wil put out the red carpet for us, to welcome us home. That’s “abundantly.”
Try to picture that by using examples from Scripture. Think of poor Lazarus, the beggar in Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:22: “And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” When we die, our soul will be carried to heaven by angels. That’s a rich entrance. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things: I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21). Entering the joy of our Lord. That’s a rich entrance. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:8-9: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.” A crown of righteousness. That’s a rich entrance. That’s a rich entrance. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Briefly, we return to the words, “for so,” or “so” with which the text begins—those words describe the manner of entering the kingdom. We enter into the kingdom richly or abundantly with lavish supplies of God’s grace. “So” expresses something else. It expresses what we call “in the way of.” In this way, in this manner, a rich entrance into the kingdom shall be supplied to you.
Not in the way of neglecting virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. One who walks without virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity cannot expect—and is not promised—an abundant entrance into the kingdom. Such a person who lacks these things, warns the apostle, is blind, shortsighted, and has forgotten that his sins have been purged.
Not on the basis of, or because of, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, as if by these things we earned/merited an abundant entrance into the kingdom—that would be a denial of the gospel of grace.
But in this way, in this manner, along this path—and only along this path—the abundant entrance into the kingdom is promised. In the way of is the best expression: in the way of adding virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity to our faith; in the way of practicing and cultivating such graces in our lives.
So when we feel like giving up virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity; when we are tempted to the opposite vices; then we remember God’s gracious incentive. There is a gracious end, a glorious end, an abundant and rich end for us after this life: “For so, in this way, an entrance shall be ministered (or graciously supplied) unto us abundantly (or richly) into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”