THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Before you begin this section there is an assignment that would add
to your overall study in this area. In appendix five you will find a listing
of all of the references to the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God.
Take time to look these references over for yourself. Find out what the
two kingdoms are in your own mind before going on with the study.
There are several thoughts on the relationship between the two terms,
Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God. A few charts will depict these thoughts:
__________________________________ | | | .........|... KINGDOM OF HEAVEN | | PROFESSION | _______________________ | | | | | | | ....|....|... KINGDOM OF GOD | | | | POSSESSION | |_______________________| | | | | | | | |__________________________________|This view would see the two kingdoms as existing at the same time (The Millennium) with the distinction that one contains only believers, while the other would have both saved and lost for occupants.
__________________________________ | | | ................................|.... KINGDOM OF GOD | | ETERNAL - ALL | ______________________ | CREATION | | | | | | .....................|........|.KINGDOM OF HEAVEN | | | | EARTH AND MAN ONLY | |______________________| | | | | | | | |_________________________________|This position would view the Kingdom of God as the rule of God over His entire creation of all eternity, while the Kingdom of Heaven would be His rule over man and the earth during the time beginning with creation and ending with the start of eternity.
Others would picture the two kingdoms as two overlapping circles. While
there are differences there are similarities where the two kingdoms overlap.
Others would see no distinction between the two terms and would use them
J. Lewis Smith reportedly held that the two kingdoms were the same and
that the kingdom was equal to the church. He felt that John The Baptist
began proclaiming the kingdom, and that it came into being at Pentecost.
He felt that it would run through the return of the Lord.
The "INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA" suggests that the terms
are completely interchangeable. The author of the article equates the term
heaven and God. The two are the same in his thinking.
Larkin suggests that the kingdom of heaven is earthly - the Millennial
rule of Christ on earth. The kingdom of God will be merged into God's eternal,
heavenly, and universal kingdom, the kingdom of God. Ironside, as I read
him, viewed the kingdom of God as the eternal kingdom, while viewing the
kingdom of heaven as the period from the ascension to the second coming.
Barnes sidesteps the issue as far as I can find in a brief search. Matthew
Henry seems to hold the idea that the kingdom of heaven was present from
the day of Pentecost and ran on into eternity.
This study will discuss the thought that the two kingdoms are referring
to the Messianic - 1000 year kingdom in the end times, while understanding
there is a slight difference in the two.
SOME TERMS TO CONSIDER:
MILLENNIAL KINGDOM: This is the kingdom of the end times which comes
to us under different terms: The Millennium, the Davidic kingdom restored,
the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth and at times the mediatorial kingdom.
The term mediatorial seems best reserved for the idea which follows.
MEDIATORIAL KINGDOM: The mediatorial kingdom would be the thought of
God's rule over man, either via spokesmen or directly. This would include
the rule of God through the priestly, kingly and prophetic systems, while
also the rule of the church (kingdom in mystery form), and ultimately the
rule of Christ in the Millennium.
UNIVERSAL KINGDOM: This is not a Biblical term but will help us understand
the kingdoms, or the different ways in which God rules over man. This kingdom
is the overall rule of God over all that is in His domain. This would be
the pre-creation rule over the angelic host, as well as the post creation
time of eternity.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: Specifically this term is introduced in the Gospels
and seems to refer to the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth in the end
times. There may be three aspects to this kingdom. 1. The Kingdom was offered
to the Jews by Christ, and was rejected by the Jews. This would have been
the Messianic kingdom. 2. Some view the kingdom in existence at this time
in mystery form. The kingdom in mystery form is the time between the cross
and the second coming, or as we know this time - the church age. 3. The
kingdom is future and is the Millennium. The emphasis in the gospels seems
to be on the millennial kingdom.
KINGDOM OF GOD: This is the kingdom of only believers that God is ruling
over. Again there may be several aspects to this kingdom, though the gospel
emphasis seems to be on the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth.
Thus, the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are a unique aspect of
the mediatorial kingdom, while all of these are within the universal kingdom.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS GOD'S RULE OVER SAVED PEOPLE IN THE MILLENNIUM.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS THE RULE OF CHRIST OVER ALL PEOPLE, SAVED AND
LOST DURING THE 1000 YEAR KINGDOM.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS DELIVERED TO GOD BY CHRIST AT THE END OF THE 1000
YEARS. I COR 15:24
GOD WILL REIGN FOREVER. REV 11:15
Now we need to concentrate on the topic of the kingdom of heaven and
the kingdom of God. There are basically four differences between the kingdom
of heaven and kingdom of God. 1. In the Kingdom of God there is no mixture
of good and bad. On the other hand the kingdom of heaven has a mixture.
2. The kingdom of heaven is all inclusive - all that are in under God's
control. (this includes the angels.) The kingdom of God seems to contain
believers only. 3. The means of entrance into the kingdom of God is via
the new birth, while all are automatically in the kingdom of heaven. 4.
The Kingdom of God is inward and spiritual while the Kingdom of Heaven
is outward and physical.
BIBLICAL EVIDENCE: The concept of the kingdom is an Old Testament concept.
The Kingdom of heavens is mentioned in Ps 103:19, "The Lord hath prepared
his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all." This suggests
that the rule is over lost as well as saved and is clearly in the heavenly
The God of heaven will set up a kingdom yet future according to Daniel
2:44, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a
kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left
to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms,
and it shall stand for ever." This will be an ongoing kingdom that transcends
There are many references to God's kingdom in the Old Testament. Zech
14:9, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall
there be one Lord, and his name one." This seems to be an earthly kingdom.
Zech 14:16, "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of
all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year
to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of
Tabernacles." Again, we see an earthly kingdom. Thus, we should not be
surprised that the term kingdom is not defined in the New Testament. The
New Testament Jew knew what was being spoken of, when people spoke of the
kingdom. The thought of a coming kingdom was uppermost in the Jewish mindset.
Christ and John the Baptist both used the terms in the Gospels without
giving definitions to them. Indeed, the disciples, nor the people questioned
them as to what they meant. From this we must assume that the kingdom mentioned
in the Old Testament is the kingdom offered by Christ and John The Baptist.
The question is this. ARE THE TWO KINGDOMS THE SAME? (Kingdom of God
and Kingdom of Heaven) We need to consider this for a time.
PARALLEL PASSAGES IN RELATION TO TIME
The Gospels seem to use the two terms interchangeably.
1. The preaching of the kingdom. Matt. 4:17, "From that time Jesus began
to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Mark
1:14-15 "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee,
preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
It seems that these are the same event and both terms are used.
2. Mystery of the kingdom. Matt. 13:11 (vs 11-17) This passage tells
us that the parables were given to keep some from understanding the Mysteries
of the kingdom. Mark 4:11 Is the same. Again this seems to be the same
sequence of events and both terms are used. (Luke 8:10 may also be the
same event.) (The order of events in Matthew depict Christ by the seashore,
Christ then entered the ship, the parable of the sower, the call to hear,
the purpose of teaching in parables, the beginning of the teaching on the
The idea of keeping them from understanding is not a refusal on God's
part to allow them to be saved, but rather a refusal on God's part to allow
them entrance into the kingdom they had rejected. An illustration might
help. The Jews were in the wilderness 40 years wandering around. This was
not entirely for the purpose of punishing the Jews. It was also an opportunity
for God to allow the Amorites dwelling in the promised land time to turn
to God. The Israelites at the end of the forty years then entered the land
destroying the Amorites, the people who God had judged due to their rejection
of Him. God kept the Israelites from the Land because they were not worthy
of receiving from Him that which they had rejected. Matt 13: was a condemnation
of the Jews because of their rejection.
3. The preaching of the 12 disciples. Matt 10:7, "And as ye go, preach,
saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Luke 9:2, "And he sent them
to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." The events are very
similar and both terms are used.
4. John the Baptist in prison. Matt 11:11, "Verily I say unto you, Among
them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the
Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater
than he." Luke 7:28, "For I say unto you, Among those that are born of
women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that
is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." As before, we see the
same context with the different terms used almost interchangeably.
PARALLEL PASSAGES IN RELATION TO TEACHING
1. Entrance into the kingdom: Matt. 7:21-23 mentions that entrance into
the Kingdom of Heaven is by doing the will of God. Only a believer can
do the will of God and understand God's will.
Entrance is also linked to conversion in Matt. 18:2-3, "And Jesus called
a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily
I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is linked to acceptance
in Luke 18:17, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the
kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." Both
terms used in the same context.
2. The problem of the rich: Matt. 19:23-24, "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 of God. Mark 10:23-25, "And Jesus looked round about, and saith
unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the
kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus
answereth again, and saith unto them, 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."
Verse 23 of both texts are identical passages and both terms are used.
Indeed in Matthew the statement is made in two ways using both terms.
3. The time of the Kingdom of God: Luke 16:16 seems to indicate that
John the Baptist's appearance on the scene introduced a new emphasis, that
of the preaching of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 11:20; Matt. 12:28) In Christ's
time it was presented.
4. The poor - an integrated part of the kingdom: This may be linked
to the fact that the poor and the down trodden are often more receptive
to the message of the Savior. He offered peace and good in the next life,
even if there were neither in this life. (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Matt. 8:11;
5. The expectation of the kingdom: The Jews were looking and waiting
for the Davidic kingdom. Mk. 15:43 mentions that Joseph of Arimethia was
waiting for the Kingdom of God. He was an Old Testament believer. (Luke
6. The kingdom and the Lord's table: Matt. 26:28-29 Christ won't partake
of it again until in "my" Father's kingdom. (Mk. 14:25 and Luke 22:18 both
mention this in ref to Kingdom of God.) THIS KINGDOM IS YET FUTURE!
7. The relationship of the living disciples to the kingdom: The transfiguration
was a glimpse of this kingdom, which tells us that it was yet future as
well as that it will be quite glorious. (Matt. 16:28; Mk. 9:1; Luke 9:27)
THE USE OF THE TERM "KINGDOM OF GOD" OUTSIDE THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS
1. In Jo. 3:3 it states that rebirth is the requirement for entrance
into the kingdom. In verse 10 Nicodedemus asked Christ a question concerning
the kingdom, and Christ confronted him with the fact that he taught Israel
and did not understand the kingdom. This shows that the Old Testament saint
should know of the kingdom.
2. Acts 1:3-6 shows that the kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of God
are the same and yet future to the ascension.
3. Acts 8:12 shows there are two parts to the message. "But when they
believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and
the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." It seems
that the apostles saw no clear distinction between the kingdom message
and the claims of Christ. They were involved in preparing the world for
the kingdom that was yet to come. Even in the last chapter of Acts, Paul
is preaching the coming kingdom. (Acts 28:30-31)
Paul saw the kingdom as coming, yet future, and directly linked to the
claims of Christ. ( Acts 14:22 also shows it future.)
4. Acts 19:8 Shows that the message of the Kingdom of God was to the
5. Acts 28:23,31 Indicates that the kingdom in question is the kingdom
of the Old Testament. He spoke to them of Christ, and the kingdom from
6. I Cor. 6:9-10 lists many that won't be in the Kingdom. (Gal 5:21
MATTHEWS USE OF THE PHRASE "KINGDOM OF GOD"
1. CHRIST USED THE TERM WHEN SPEAKING TO ALL JEWISH PEOPLE. It is used
in 6:33 where he is speaking to multitudes and the disciples. There is
no indication that Jewish leaders were present thus indicating that the
message was for the masses as well as the national leadership.
2. CHRIST USED THE TERM WHEN HIS POWER WAS IN QUESTION. It is used in
12:28 when Christ is accused of casting out demons in the power of Satan.
3. CHRIST USED THE TERM WHEN HIS AUTHORITY WAS IN QUESTION. It is used
in 21:23-32 when the elders and priests questioned his authority.
4. CHRIST USED THE TERM WHEN HIS PERSON WAS IN QUESTION. It is used
in 21:43 when He is rejected by the nation of Israel.
5. CHRIST USED THE TERM WITH THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. It is used in 19:23-24
when He equates the term Kingdom of God with the term Kingdom of Heaven.
(There may be significance in the passage following this in that the disciples
in contrast have forsaken all to follow Christ.)
We must conclude from these items that this kingdom is of great importance
to and of close connection with the Lord.
1. The Biblical evidence seems to indicate that the Kingdom of God and
the Kingdom of Heaven are referring to the same time, or kingdom, and that
is the physical kingdom of Christ on earth which follows the tribulation
2. These terms were not defined in the New Testament - just used. Both
John The Baptist and Christ began their ministries with the terms as though
everyone knew what they were talking about, and indeed they did. They were
accustomed to the terminology from their spiritual upbringing.
Some might wonder - if the two are so similar why were two terms used?
Matthew used the term kingdom of heaven to Jews for they were looking for
an earthly kingdom, thus he stressed the "heaven" aspect to show that the
kingdom was coming from heaven. Matthew may also have used it as a substitute
for the term "God" which was sacred to the Jewish leaders. The other writers
were not writing to the Jews so they used God. The term heaven has a different
meaning to the Gentile mind of Christ's day. The gentiles had many god's
and they could send a kingdom from heaven, however when the Gospel writers
mentioned a kingdom from God they would know they were speaking of the
God of Jesus.
3. The Kingdom of Heaven will contain both lost and saved. (The lost
come from those born into the millennium.)
4. The Kingdom of God seems to consist of only believers.
5. Matt 19:23 and Mk 10:23 show an interchange of terms within two writers
view of the same statement.
6. Difficulty: On the one hand the scriptures show that the Kingdom
of Heaven has lost and saved, while the Kingdom of God has saved only in
it, yet on the other hand, scripture seems to use the terms interchangeably.
Matt 19 23; Mk 10 23. There are two possible answers:
a. The terms were very general in Matthew and Mark, but took on more
specific meaning later in time. (Matthew preceded Luke and it is probable
that Mark was the first gospel written, so it would have preceded both
Matthew and Luke.) We know John was later so this leaves Matthew and Mark
being written early, using the terms in a general sense, while later we
have Luke and John using the terms more specifically.
b. The Matthew 19 and Mark 10 passages seem to show that the two terms
are used interchangeably and there is no difference between the kingdoms.
It is possible that the Matthew 19:23 and Mark 10:23 texts mention entry
into the kingdom only, and the terms were used generally. There may well
have been a distinction and they were not interested in conveying the thought
of that distinction.
Let us end with a dispensational fundamentalist quoting a dispensational
fundamentalists. Dr. Pentecost in THINGS TO COME (P 144) quotes Lewis Sperry
Chafer's SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY Vol. VII, pp 223-224.
"In regard to the terms kingdom of God and the kingdom of the heavens
it is to be observed that, while not synonymous, they are used interchangeably.
What distinctions there are are not inherent in the words themselves, but
in their usage in the context. Both of these terms are used to designate
the millennial kingdom, the spiritual kingdom, and the mystery form of
the kingdom. While we recognize the distinctions between the earthly and
the eternal aspects of the kingdom program, we must guard against making
the terms absolute. Only the context can determine the meaning intended
to be conveyed by the terms."
The need is to look at the context to see if there is a specific, while
normally using the terms interchangeably.