"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them ..." (Luke 18:16-17)

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17)

Why is Jesus talking about children?

Here is the situation, and what Jesus is responding to:
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. (Luke 18:15)
This statement by Jesus brings up two questions:

1) What is so special about a "little child"?

2) How can a person "receive" the "kingdom of God"?

These two questions may be confusing for those who identify the self as the physical body. Due to this, their interpretations of scripture convolute the true meaning of these and other verses.

For example, a person who identifies the self with the physical body will imagine the physical body floating up to heaven. They will imagine that they will retain their names, families, positions and other characteristics of their current bodies - in heaven.

Can a physical body go to heaven?

But how can a body that will decompose or be cremated float up to heaven? The reality is, we leave the physical body behind at the time of death - together with all of its characteristics, including its family.

Jesus confirmed this when he was asked what would happen in the hypothetical situation where a woman married seven brothers. They asked him:
"Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" 
Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:33-36)
The point Jesus is trying to make - despite confusion created by translating αἰών (aiōn) to "age" instead of "lifetime" - is that one leaves behind the physical body at the time of death - "the resurrection from the dead."

What does Jesus mean by 'resurrection'?

The word "resurrection" is translated from the Greek word ἀνάστασις (anastasis), which means "to rise" and "to rise up." So what is rising up? The spirit-person is rising from the physical body and leaving it behind. This is the full meaning of ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν - which is being translated to "resurrection from the dead." The spirit-person is rising from the dead body - and in Jesus' reference, returning to the spiritual realm.

Jesus clarifies the substantial difference in composition between the physical body and the person who rises and returns to the spiritual realm: They "will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels."

Thus we see that the spirit-person is essentially being described by Jesus to be an angel. He is also stating that this angel-like spirit-person is eternal: "they can no longer die."

Jesus is also clarifying that the spirit-person is not associated with the identity of the physical body. Otherwise, there would be some continuing relationship between the hypothetical wife of the seven brothers and these seven brothers after she died. But since Jesus denies this association by stating that she won't be married to any of the brothers, we can understand that the spiritual realm does not maintain the family relationships of the physical world.

This might come as a surprise to many who have followed those who preach the importance of family.

Didn't Jesus teach the importance of family?

Actually, he didn't. We see a number of other comments by Jesus regarding family. Jesus in fact, disavowed the importance of the family of the physical body. And he requested that his followers reject their families in order to follow him:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." (Matt. 19:29)
He also told one of his students who wanted to go to bury the father of his body:
"Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:60)
He also rejected the importance of the family of the physical body in his own life:
Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Luke 12:47-50)
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:21)
It wasn't that Jesus didn't believe in family. But it is his spiritual family that Jesus values - those who take shelter in the family of the Supreme Being. Outside of honoring mother and father, he wanted his students to reject the families of their temporary physical bodies.

The family of the physical body might be compared to a family of a TV show. They pretend to be family members while they are filming, but once the filming is over and they are off the set, they are no longer family. In the same way, we think that our physical body's family is so important, but as soon as the body dies, those family relationships completely disappear.

Yes, spirit-persons within a family often incarnate together. Their relationship can continue as they evolve together. But this doesn't mean they will play the same role in the next life. The mother of a family may end up being a son in the next lifetime. Or a brother in a family may end up being a father in another lifetime. This means that our relationship with them is not bound to or based upon this physical body.

But this is not Jesus' concern because Jesus wants his students to return to the spiritual realm after the death of their body. As such, staying close to the family members of ones physical body can deter a person's spiritual progress. By identifying oneself as a family member one can easily forget one's relationship as a child of the Supreme Being. Always thinking that the family of our body is our only family can help us forget our real family - our family of the Supreme Being.

(This doesn't mean a family who is worshiping God together cannot make spiritual progress together as well. As long as we understand those family relationships based upon the physical body are temporary.)

'Like a little child'?

With these points in mind, we can better understand the meaning of Jesus' statement about being "like a little child." Jesus isn't talking about becoming younger, or smaller like a baby. Jesus is not speaking of the physical body at all in fact.

Rather, Jesus is speaking of humility. Little children - basically babies - are known for their humility because they haven't figured things out yet. So they are a little more innocent. And this often makes a baby naturally humble.

Jesus is wanting his students to become humble and innocent - like babies. It is not that they should start crying or throwing tantrums. Rather, just as a child is more accepting and trusting, Jesus wants his students to trust and accept the Supreme Being.

This is more precisely called taking shelter. When a person takes shelter in the Supreme Being, they come to understand that they have no real control and they are reliant upon the Supreme Being. We need God. We need Him as our Protector and our Best Friend. Where else can we find protection? Where else can we find shelter? Everyone else around us will get old and die.

Just think of how a baby comes to rely on mom and dad. During those tender years, a baby will want to stay close to mom and dad and not want to be left alone without them. This dependency on mom and dad is what Jesus is talking about - as he requests their approach to God.

This relates precisely to the notion of "receiving" the "kingdom of God" ("Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child..."). How can a child "receive" a place? Especially a place as large as God's kingdom?

The problem again is that without knowing our composition as spirit, one could see the "kingdom of God" as a physical place - a place for the old physical body.

We can immediately know that this is not what Jesus is speaking of. If one is interpreting this as a place: If one accepts that God is the Supreme Being, then there is no part of His kingdom that He is not the Controller of. He is the Creator and Controller of every place. As such, one must accept that His kingdom is everywhere.

Now if every part of creation is part of God's kingdom, then we must accept that even this part - the physical world - is part of the kingdom of God.

If we understand this then we must also understand that Jesus could not be speaking of a place at all with this statement. It is not that he is speaking of a physical place where one gains entrance into - since we are already in the kingdom of God.

We can thus come to the conclusion that Jesus is not speaking of a physical place at all. So what does Jesus mean by "kingdom of God"?

What does 'kingdom of God' mean?

The word "kingdom" is being translated from the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia) which means, according to Thayer's lexicon: "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom"

Thus Jesus is speaking of accepting ("receiving") God's authority over our lives. Jesus is speaking of us coming to rely upon the Supreme Being.

During Jesus' times, people of towns and territories would voluntarily or by force seek the protection of a particular king. Such a king would be accepted (received) based on his ability to protect the populace from invasion by foreign armies from surrounding areas. Such a process - of accepting the authority of a particular king - was considered to be "taking refuge" in that king. 

In such a condition, the people who took refuge in a strong king with a big army would be considered safe. But a person who took refuge in a weak king would be subject to a losing battle with an invading army, likely resulting in their village being burnt down.

It is within these circumstances that Jesus - and his teacher John the Baptist - used the terminology written in Greek as βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ - typically translated to "kingdom of God."

While this translation is not necessarily wrong if is interpreted broadly, it does confuse the issue, and make it seem that Jesus is speaking of a place. What Jesus was actually speaking of is taking shelter in God. So a better translation might be:
"Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the shelter of God like a little child will never enter it."
We can receive the shelter of God simply by seeking it. Once a person takes refuge in God, that refuge - that protection - will be provided by God.

The word εἰσέρχομαι (eiserchomai) is being translated to "enter" here. Yes, the word can mean "enter" - but both physically and metaphorically. When the word is being used metaphorically - as Jesus was - its definition according to the lexicon is:
"of entrance into any condition, state of things, society, employment - to arise, come into existence, begin to be - to come into life - of thoughts that come into the mind."
Thus we can conclude that there is an entrance of sorts - but the entrance is not to a physical place: It is the entrance into God's shelter. God's protection.

As we've discussed, we are already in the kingdom of God because His kingdom is everywhere.

Jesus is speaking of coming to rely on the Supreme Being. To accept His authority over our lives. To accept that He is our only savior and our only real friend and permanent companion.

In such a condition - such a state of being - we can be anywhere - either in the physical or the spiritual realms - and be with God. We can be carrying out Jesus' mission of loving and serving the Supreme Being with all our mind, heart and being.

Jesus' "first and foremost commandment" was not to go to heaven: It was not to be saved. It was not to have my leg healed or become rich or serve the family of this physical body. Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’" (Matt. 22:37)
But how does one come to love God? By getting to know Him through the praising of His Holy Names. Find out the scriptural evidence for this.