Mark 10:23-25, three more references to kingdom, say about the rich young ruler’s response to Jesus: 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ?How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!? 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ?Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.?.
1. From the young ruler’s question (v. 17), we can infer that “eternal life” and “kingdom” are connected terms. This does not mean “kingdom” means “heaven” since “eternal life” is a dynamic expression of the life of God at work in Jesus and his people that carries into eternity. Still, the question the rich young man asked was about inheriting eternal life. I doubt the man was asking about a better life on earth; I doubt he was asking about a relationship with God; I doubt he was asking about a dynamic in the now. I suspect, in other words, he was asking about entrance into life with God beyond the grave. This is the implication at the end of this passage for sure.
2. Or, perhaps, he is inquiring about Jesus’ well-known message about the coming kingdom of God, which he may have understood as earthly/millennial type of thing, and he was asking about that. I take that to be just as likely. Still, the man’s question is about the future manifestation of God’s kingdom.
3. Jesus said it was difficult, very difficult, nearly impossible, perhaps impossible, for the rich to enter into the kingdom because their riches were an obstacle. For Jesus, since he thinks anything too heavy must be discarded, the singular call for this rich man was to give up his riches to the poor if he wanted to enter into the kingdom (when it arrived).
4. For Jesus entrance into the kingdom required a moral rigor or a level of commitment or a deep discipleship … I know of no other way to say what Jesus is getting at here. He says it is very difficult to enter the kingdom and the only ones who do are those who have given up all to follow him. The disciples of Jesus are even taken aback by Jesus’ words.
5. Once again, kingdom is future in some sense and it is also entered only by those who do what Jesus says. This is a gift from God (v. 27). Jesus reveals that those who are giving up things for Jesus will be blessed by God both now and, in the future, with eternal life.
6. Here kingdom refers to eternal life, to salvation, carried forward into the present and flowing into eternity. Kingdom refers to that society wherein God’s will holds sway and those who do what Jesus teaches enter into that kingdom. King, will, society.