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Defining The Kingdom Of Heaven

Discussion in 'Parables of Jesus' started by Chad, Mar 20, 2008.

  1. Defining The Kingdom Of Heaven (Mt 13:11)

    INTRODUCTION

    1. In our introductory lesson, we observed that the general "theme" of Jesus' parables was "the kingdom of heaven"
    a. Many of the parables start with "The kingdom of heaven is like..." - Mt 13:24,31,33,44,45,47
    b. In explaining why He spoke in parables, Jesus made reference to "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" - Mt 13:11
    2. We also noted that "the kingdom of heaven" was the theme of...
    a. Jesus' itinerant ministry - Mt 4:17,23
    b. His sermon on the mount - Mt 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10,33; 7:21
    3. Because "the kingdom of heaven" is such a prominent subject in the parables of Jesus (as well as His overall preaching)...
    a. I thought it might serve a good purpose to preface our study of the parables with a careful look at what "the kingdom of heaven" means
    b. With a proper definition of "the kingdom of heaven" fresh in our minds, we are more likely to benefit from our Lord's teaching on this wonderful subject!​
    [Let's begin our effort to define "the kingdom of heaven" by comparing it with "the kingdom of God"...]

    I. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN vs. THE KINGDOM OF GOD

    A. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

    1. Some try to make a distinction (e.g. Scofield Reference Bible)
    2. But a quick comparison of the gospels indicate that the terms refer to the same thing
    a. Cf. Mt 4:17 with Mk 1:14-15
    b. Cf. Mt 5:3 with Lk 6:20
    c. Cf. Mt 13:31 with Mk 4:30-31
    B. WHY THE DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS?

    1. We find that Matthew used the expression "kingdom of heaven" almost exclusively, while the other gospel writers used the phrase "kingdom of God"

    2. It may be that since Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews, he chose to used the phrase "kingdom of heaven"...
    a. Because of the Jews' reluctance to use the name of God (out of reverence)
    b. Because of the Jews' misconception of the coming kingdom​
    1) Many anticipated a physical kingdom
    2) The expression "heaven" (literally, "heavens") would emphasize a spiritual kingdom ​
    [So our first observation is that any effort to distinguish between the "kingdom of heaven" and the "kingdom of God" is really without warrant.

    Let's now consider what Jesus meant when He spoke of the "kingdom of heaven"...]

    II. IT INVOLVES FOUR INTER-RELATED CONCEPTS

    A. THE REIGN OF GOD...

    1. The term "kingdom" as used by the Jews often stressed the abstract idea of "reign" or "dominion", not some geographical area surrounded by physical boundaries
    a. Possibly used this way by Jesus in Lk 17:21
    b. It is used this way by Jesus in Mt 6:10 ("Thy kingdom come; thy WILL be done")​
    2. Thus, the "kingdom of heaven" (or "kingdom of God") is wherever the REIGN or DOMINION of God (who is in heaven) is manifested
    a. In one sense, the kingdom of God has always existed - cf. Ps 47:2; 103:19
    b. But in a special way was the rule or reign of God to be manifested with the coming of Christ
    1) As foretold in the time of Daniel (ca. 500 B.C.) - Dan 2:44-45
    2) As proclaimed by John the Baptist - Mt 3:1-3
    3) As preached by Jesus - Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15
    3. Indeed, it is in the Person of Jesus Christ that the "reign of God" is being expressly manifest today - cf. 1 Co 15:23-26; Ep 1:20-22; 1 Pe 3:22; Re 1:5

    B. SPIRITUAL IN NATURE...

    1. The kingdom (or reign of God) would not be found in the form of a physical kingdom - Jn 18:36
    2. It would manifest itself in spiritual ways - Ro 14:17

    C. VISIBLY MANIFESTED TODAY IN THE LORD'S CHURCH...

    1. What is the Lord's church?
    a. It is a community of souls
    b. In whose hearts God is recognized as Sovereign -- Thus the church can properly be referred to as the kingdom of God today​
    2. That the terms "church" and "kingdom" can be used interchangeably, consider:
    a. How "church" and "kingdom" were used by Jesus - Mt 16:18
    b. Comments made to those who were in the church - Co 1:13; 1 Th 2:12
    c. The description of those in the churches of Asia - Re 1:4, 6,9
    D. BOTH PRESENT AND FUTURE...

    1. The "kingdom of heaven" has a future element as well as a present one
    2. Its future aspect is spoken of by:
    a. Jesus in Mt 25:34
    b. Paul in 1 Co 15:50; 2 Ti 4:18
    c. Peter in 2 Pe 1:10-11
    3. Peter described the coming of its future state in 2 Pe 3:10-13 -- Therefore the kingdom of heaven involves the "new heavens and new earth"

    [These four concepts or elements must be kept in mind whenever we think of the "kingdom of heaven". Failure to remember all four can easily lead to misconceptions about the nature of the kingdom.

    In an effort to clarify this subject even further, consider...]

    III. A SUMMARY DEFINITION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

    A. IN THE "PRESENT" SENSE...

    1. It is found wherever the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD is accepted in the hearts of men
    2. It is a SPIRITUAL KINGDOM, for God rules in the hearts of men
    3. Its outward manifestation today is the LORD'S CHURCH
    4. The kingdom was "INAUGURATED" on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 - cf. Ac 2:36

    B. IN THE "FUTURE" SENSE...
    1. The kingdom will be "CULMINATED" with the coming of the Lord
    a. When Jesus "delivers the kingdom to God the Father" - 1 Co 15:24
    b. "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." - Mt 13:43
    2. It will be that "NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH" described by Peter and John
    a. "In which righteousness dwells" - 2 Pe 3:13
    b. In which "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God." - Re 21:3
    3. It will be experienced only by those in the church who are submitting to God's will
    a. Those who do "the will of My Father in heaven" - Mt 7:21-23
    b. Those who are "diligent to be found by Him in peace" - 2 Pe 3:13-15a
    CONCLUSION

    1. As we get into the parables of Jesus, we will find many references to the "kingdom of heaven"
    a. Sometimes it appears Jesus refers to the "present" aspect of the kingdom
    b. But then, at other times He has reference to the "future" aspect of the kingdom​
    2. Hopefully, this effort to define "the kingdom of heaven" will help us appreciate more what Jesus has to say concerning "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven"!

    One principle concerning entering kingdom that was a mystery to Nicodemus at first was the need to be born again (Jn 3:3-4). But then Jesus explained that the new birth was one of water and the Spirit (Jn 3:5).

    Is that still a mystery to you? Then consider Acts 2:38 and Titus 3:5...
     
  2. #2 NoHype, Jan 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
    Very good Chad, especially how you suggested reasons the phrase "kingdom of heaven" was used more in Matthew.

    There is one area in that I don't fully agree with, the idea of a spiritual kingdom only for today's times. By my saying that, I realize what you offer that sometime in the future there will be a literal kingdom reign by our Lord Jesus at His return, which I agree with too.

    God gave a prophecy long ago to Jacob that his seed would become "a nation, and a company of nations" (Gen.35). That promise of a company of nations was then transferred to Joseph's son Ephraim whose seed was to become "a multitude of nations" (Gen.48).

    And in Gen.49:10 Jacob gave a prophecy for his 12 sons regarding the latter days. It revealed how Judah would keep the royal sceptre all the way to Christ's (Shiloh) return when He would inherit it and gather the people. In 2 Samuel 7, God promised David there would be one of his seed to sit upon his throne before God unto all generations and forever.

    In the New Testament Scripture we are shown that our Lord Jesus ascended to sit on the right hand of The Father's throne, and not the throne of David which we are also told Jesus is to inherit forever (Luke 1; Heb.12:2).

    In our Lord Jesus' parable of the husbandmen and vineyard of Matt.21, He said His vineyard would be taken away from the rebellious rulers in Jerusalem and given to a nation that would bring forth the fruits. In Isaiah 5 God revealed that His vineyard represents the "house of Israel", which after the split of Israel into two separate kingdoms per 1 Kings 11 & 12, that "house of Israel" represented the ten northern tribes of Israel, i.e., the majority of Israelites.

    Then in Jer.31, God said that if the ordinances of the sun, moon, and stars ceased, then the seed of Israel would cease being a nation 'before Him' forever. When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and the "house of Judah" scattered, that nation of Israel in the holy land ceased to exist until 1948. Did God break His Promise of Jer.31 by that? or His promise to David about one of the seed of Israel always sitting upon David's throne? No.

    There is only one conclusion to draw from these Scripture anchors, even though it is very controversial for many in today's Church. The house of Judah in Jerusalem lost possession of David's throne (king Zedekiah being the last one there). The nation of Israel, meaning seed of Israel, has continued to exist even after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. I'm not talking spiritually either, but literally, physically, and not about unbelieving Jews of the "house of Judah". I'm talking about the "multitude of nations" that the seed of Ephraim was to become, and the "nation" which our Lord Jesus proclaimed as His vineyard that was to bring forth its fruits, that fruit being the care and spreading of The Gospel of Jesus Christ and those God placed in charge among those nations to protect The Gospel so that It might go to all other nations, so that God's Salvation through His Son might be complete.
     
  3. By that comparison, I can state for example:
    1. Apples grow on trees and have seeds
    2. Oranges grow on trees and have seeds

    Therefore, apples are oranges because I can state the exact same thing about both. This simplifies the logic
    used with Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven. Just because there are a few verses that state the
    exact same thing about both, doesn't mean they are the same thing. It just means they have similarities.
    The bottom line is this:
    Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God (the Creator) created the heaven (the creation) and the earth.
    Kingdom of God (The Creator) - Kingdom of the Creator
    Kingdom of Heaven (The Creation) - Kingdom of the creation
    When you make the two kingdoms the same, you make the Creator = Creation.

    In Matt 25, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven. He says:

    Matthew 25:34-35 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father,
    inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (35) For I was an hungred, and ye
    gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

    People are getting in by works. I don't see any reference to being born again, in Matt 25. Works won't get anyone
    into the Kingdom of God, only by the new birth, due to faith in Jesus. God used the two terms, to talk about
    two different kingdoms. And if its the case of Matthew using the term "heaven" instead of "God",
    because he is writing to Jews, then that book shouldn't even be in the Bible, since he changed God's
    word and made God = the creation and he promoted a works based salvation. I, for one, know the power
    of God, and know Matthew used the correct term, since two Kingdoms are being talked about.

    If Matthew changed the Kingdom's name, he's in a lot of trouble right now because he presented a false gospel,
    one based on works alone.
    Galatians 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye
    have received, let him be accursed.

    The case is one of these:
    1. Matthew is right and the rest are wrong, because the rest preached faith based.
    2. Everyone is right and Matthew is wrong.
    3. All were right, even Matthew, which means, Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are two different kingdoms.
     
  4. #4 james1523, Apr 26, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
    Kingdom of God and kingdom of Heaven are both the rule and reign of God - there is no difference there. The difference between the two terms is not an essential nor a spatial difference, it is a temporal and dispensational difference.

    Kingdom of God is God's rule and reign from eternity past to eternity future, both on earth in his creation and in heaven.

    Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of God in a specific period in time, referring to the age of the church from its conception with Jesus's ministry, to the 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth. That's why in Matt 3 Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven had drawn near.. meaning the church age was about to begin, and to enter this church age required repentance and baptism and belief. This does not mean the kingdom of God did not exist until then - the kingdom of God, as His general rule and reign has always existed, and particularly in the nation of Israel and in Heaven.

    Kingdom of God is a general term, but all the gospels except Matthew are not specific, in that they use a general term for a specific meaning (meaning the church age).
    Whereas Matthew uses the specific term for its specific meaning.
     

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