Thoughts For Christian Thinkers
Comparing the “kingdom of God” & “the kingdom of heaven.”
Yesterday I was on the phone to somebody and we were talking about waking the conscience because Christ is a light that lighted every man that cometh into the world.
This person was asking about why people seem to self-destruct in the Christian faith. I was telling her about how we have to put the kingdom of God 1st and that the only thing stopping us doing this is ourselves. Not our environment or our genes but our current state of being.
In the course of this I turned to the gospel of Matthew and read about the man who sells all that he has to buy the field in which he has found treasure.
I said that you have to do want Jesus Christ to be your Lord and you have to believe in him, trust him and follow. In the course of the conversation the question of whether the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are the same came up.
Now let us lay aside considerations of the future fulfilment of various prophecies and what is going to happen when Jesus Christ comes back, in person, to this planet earth.
In my mind and understanding there is no doubt that he will set up a literal kingdom and at this present time his kingdom is not of this world.
So is there a difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God? I asked this question in relation to our walk with the Lord whether we are from Jewish or Gentile roots.
Mind you we are all pretty well of mixed-race these days especially here in Australia where multicultural marriages and children are the norm.
How did Jesus use these 2 terms and what did he mean by them?
I will put simply Matthew is the only one uses the term kingdom of heaven and sometimes uses the term kingdom of God. All the other Gospels do not mention “kingdom of heaven” and only speak of the “kingdom of God.”
There is one passage in Matthew where Jesus uses the term kingdom of God and in the next verse the term kingdom of heaven without making any difference in the context between them.
Matthew 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [KJV]
Matthew 19:24 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. [KJV]
I think, to be fair, looking at these 2 versus that they are both describing exactly the same kingdom and the disciples were talking about being saved.
As far as I can see the Lord Jesus considers the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God to be the same.
Actually his kingdom is both within us now and will be manifested as a literal kingdom on this earth after his return.
I would like to point out several of the scriptures where Matthew describes an account using the term the kingdom of heaven and other Gospels describe the same account that use the term the kingdom of God.
The only sound conclusion to this is that as far as the Gospels and the New Testament Epistles in teaching our everyday experience with God, are concerned the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are the same.
Compare these references:
Matthew 11:11-12 KJV
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.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Luke 7:28 KJV
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.
Matthew 13:11 KJV
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Mark 4:11 KJV
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
Luke 8:10 KJV
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
Matthew 13:24 KJV
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
Mark 4:26 KJV
26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
Matthew 13:31 KJV
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Mark 4:30-32 KJV
30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
Luke 13:18-20 KJV
18 Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?
19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.
20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?
Matthew 13:33 KJV
33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Luke 13:20-21 KJV
20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?
21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Matthew 18:3 KJV
3 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.
Mark 10:14-16 KJV
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Luke 18:16-17 KJV
16 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
Matthew 22:2-14 KJV
2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
Luke 13:29-30 KJV
29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.
In each instance Matthew uses the phrase the ” kingdom of heaven” while Mark and/or Luke uses the phrase ” kingdom of God.”
Clearly the 2 phrases refer to the same thing.
The difficulty for some who believe in a sort of hyper-Grace is the several instances in Matthew where you obviously have to do something to enjoy the benefits of the kingdom of heaven.
Of course, I believe the Scripture clearly tells us that we absolutely have to repent along with believing and repentance means to turn away from the sin that we know that we have done.
To me the evidence of my living faith is my practical “every day” righteousness that I am able to live because Jesus himself lives in me and has freed me from unrighteousness through his death and resurrection.
Jesus said the kingdom of heaven/God is like a mustard seed and when we plant it in our hearts it grows into a large tree in which birds or people in our case can find refuge.
We all receive a knowledge of the kingdom of heaven/God when we are born again and, as we study the manufacturers hand book and commune with our Father, the knowledge grows and grows, so that what you know about the kingdom of heaven/God now will be different (greater) to-morrow.
Mark 4:31 & Luke 13:19 also tell the same thing to us.
In Matt 17:20 Jesus talks about faith as a mustard seed.
Knowing what He said about the mustard seed in ch 13-31-32 it would be quite safe to assume that faith is supposed to grow in the same way as our understanding of the kingdom of heaven/God.
In Rom 12:3 the manufacturers hand book says that we have all been given the measure of faith which is supposed to grow as we use it.
One thing is certain we won’t have our knowledge of the kingdom of heaven/God enlarged if we do not seek God and follow the manufacturer’s instructio¬ns. Neither will we have great faith if we do not trust God in our daily lives.