Christ Enthroned, Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) | Source: Pre Raphaelite Art
There are scholars today who teach there is a difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Proponents of Dispensationalism are the main disseminators of this teaching, since it requires two kingdoms to make its ‘end times’ theory plausible.
Personally, I was taught the ‘Kingdom of God’ is spiritual and in the world today. The Kingdom of Heaven is a future millennium kingdom on earth. Jesus is not King at this present time, He is our Prophet, Priest, and coming King.
A Quote from Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truth (currently available on the Blue Letter Bible website)
‘The “Kingdom of God” is the “Reign of God” in the Universe over all His created creatures, and includes time and eternity, heaven and earth. It is spiritual and “cometh not with observation.” Luke 17:20,21. It is entered by the “New Birth,” (John 3:5); and is not “meat” and “drink,” but “Righteousness and Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”Rom. 14:17.
The “Kingdom of Heaven’,” is a New Testament term, and is found in Matthew’s Gospel only, where it is mentioned 32 times. Its character is described in the 12 “Kingdom of Heaven Parables” given in Matt. 13:1-50; 18:23-25; 20:1-16; 22:1-14; 25:1-30. From these Parables we see that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is limited as to its Time and its Sphere. Its Time is from the First to the Second Coming of Christ, and its Sphere is over that part of the world that we call Christendom. In the “Kingdom of Heaven” there is a mixture of good and evil, of “Wheat” and “Tares,” of “Good Fish” and “Bad Fish,” of “Wise Virgins” and “Foolish Virgins.”‘
In my opinion, the ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are synonymous titles appertaining to the universal Reign of God. There is one spiritual Kingdom.
In defence of my assertion of only one Kingdom, I have selected a few examples to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.
‘The Kingdom of GOD ‘cometh not with observation [outward show]’ (Luke 17:20), but is chiefly that which is inward and spiritual (Romans 14:17); while the Kingdom of Heaven is organic, and is to be manifested in glory on the earth.’ – Lewis Sperry Chafer – The Kingdom in History and Prophecy
The Kingdom Suffereth Violence
The Scriptures reveal the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ existed during the time of John the Baptist and Christ’s ministry.
Consider the following Scriptures:
Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16 are two Gospel accounts of the same conversation.
Mat 11:12-13 KJV And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
‘kingdom of heaven’ For the Kingdom of Heaven to ‘suffereth violence’ it must have already existed during the ministry of John the Baptist. Therefore, it was not a title reserved specifically for a future millennium kingdom.
Luk 16:16 KJV The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
‘kingdom of God’ Luke recorded the same conversation and used the equivalent title ‘Kingdom of God’.
It is likely Matthew when writing to the Jews simply preferred to use ‘heaven’ rather than ‘God’.
Preach the Kingdom
Once again, we have two Gospel accounts of the same incident recorded by Matthew and Luke.
Mat 10:7-8 KJV And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
‘preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven’ This is another example of the Kingdom of Heaven being synonymous with the Kingdom of God.
Luk 9:1-2 KJV Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. 2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
‘preach the kingdom of God’ Jesus commanded the twelve disciples to preach and heal the sick, Matthew wrote ‘kingdom of heaven’ while Luke used ‘kingdom of God’.
Enter into the Kingdom
Mat 19:23-24 KJV Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 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.
In Matthew’s Gospel both phrases are compatible, surely, Jesus would have expounded further if there were a need to differentiate between them.
Mar 10:24-25 KJV 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! 25 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 applied ‘Kingdom of God’ on both occasions when he recorded the same conversation.
The Kingdom Is Synonymous with the New Covenant
Heb 12:24 KJV And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Covenant change was the theme of the Epistle to 1st century Hebrews during the ‘transition period’.
The Old Covenant was about to be removed, deferring to the full establishment of the New Covenant. The Church was about to enter fully into New Covenant.
Heb 12:28 KJV Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
The writer to 1st century Hebrews exhorted them to live ‘with reverence and godly fear’ because they were not only recipients of the New Covenant, they were about to receive the ‘Kingdom’.
Nevertheless, John MacArthur insists the Kingdom has been postponed for 2000 years and counting:
What is the Kingdom of Heaven?
A Quote from John MacArthur, Grace to You Website,
John MacArthur explained Dispensationalism’s interpretation of the Kingdom of Heaven, and began with the tenuous statement ‘Although the precise phrase is not found there, the kingdom of heaven is basically an Old Testament concept.’ He continued with the following:
‘Had God’s people Israel accepted their King when He first came to them, there would be no interim kingdom. The kingdom at hand would have become the kingdom of a thousand years, which, in turn, would have ushered in the eternal kingdom. But because they killed the forerunner of the King and then the King Himself, the millennial kingdom, and consequently the eternal kingdom, were sovereignly postponed. – John MacArthur
The Spiritual Kingdom
Luk 17:20-21 KJV And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
The Jews believed Gentile dominance would end by setting up Christ’s throne in Jerusalem. However, Jesus was about to end the Jewish polity completely, at His return in AD 70.
Joh 6:15 KJV When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
The Jews were willing to make Jesus king, but He avoided their intentions. If He had come to reign over a material kingdom from Jerusalem, the opportunity was there for the taking.
Joh 18:36-37 KJV Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Jesus was born into the world that He might establish the spiritual Kingdom.
Isa 9:7 KJV Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Jesus returned in AD 70 and gathered His elect into the Kingdom and judged those who rejected Him. The Scriptures proclaim His Kingdom will continue to grow. The prophet said ‘Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end’.
The natural mind cannot perceive the progress of the Kingdom of God, its growth in the world is a process of pervasion in the spiritual realm… Matthew 13:31-32
1Pe 2:9 KJV But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
The titles of the Kingdom are synonymous and describe one spiritual Kingdom.
Christ’s government is ever increasing.
Jesus is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords!
What do you think?