Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God
When reference is made to the kingdom of heaven, the rule of God in the earth is contemplated. This is in marked contrast to the kingdom of God, which includes His rule throughout the universe and over all beings who are in subjection to Him.
Of necessity, there is much in common between these spheres of authority, which fact accounts for the interchange of these terms; what in Matthew is predicated of the kingdom of heaven, and he alone employs the term, is in Mark and Luke predicated of the kingdom of God. This interchange has been made the basis of a supposition that these terms are identical in their representation,
The difference between these spheres of authority will not be discovered within the range of their similarities, but rather in the range of those instances in which they differ. The kingdom of heaven, since it embraces the rule of God in the earth, is subject to various modes of manifestation in Israel’s history and that of the world.
(1) The theocracy of the OT was a form of divine rule in the earth, and hence an aspect of the kingdom of heaven. (2) The covenant with David is the kingdom of heaven in covenant form. (3) Prophecy concerning the scope and character of the kingdom of heaven is that rule in prophetic form.
(4) The announcement of that kingdom by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1, 2), by Christ (Matt. 4:17), and by the disciples (Matt. 10:5–7), was the kingdom of heaven offered. (5) The subsequent rejection and postponement of the kingdom of heaven became a phase of that kingdom. (6) The present dispensation [more accurately a heavenly parenthesis], though so wholly without comparison with that which went before or which follows, does, nevertheless, include a form of divine rule in the earth.
The purpose of the present dispensation [sic] is the realization of those features which are styled mysteries, that is, hitherto unrevealed divine purposes. God is now ruling in the earth to the extent that He accomplishes all that is embraced in these mysteries. This dispensation [sic] thus becomes the kingdom of heaven in its mystery form (cf. Matt. 13:11). In the last analysis, there is nothing in the realm of authority which is outside the permissive will of God.
(7) The final form of the kingdom of heaven is that which will be set up in its full manifestation in the earth [millennial], and in compliance with all that God has spoken. What that final form is to be is disclosed in the predictions, covenants, and promises of God.
It has been a constant disposition on the part of certain writers to invest the OT saints with the same positions, qualities, and standing as those which belong to the believers who comprise the Church; and there is more recently a propensity to carry the same realities which belong to the saved of this dispensation [sic] over into the kingdom age, and to Jews and Gentiles alike. Such assumptions are avoided when it is recognized that to the Church alone is accorded the heavenly position and glory.
Of the Church alone it is declared that each of her members who make up Christ’s Body is made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. What enters into the earthly purpose, though of knowledge-surpassing character, is to be precisely what the Scriptures, which deal with the past and future dispensations [or ages], declare. — L.S. Chafer
That form of interpretation which rides on occasional similarities and passes over the vital differences is displayed by those who argue that the Kingdom of heaven, as referred to in Matthew, must be the same as the Kingdom of God since some parables regarding the Kingdom of heaven are reported in Mark and Luke under the designation, the Kingdom of God.
No attempt is made by these (mainly Covenant) expositors to explain why the term Kingdom of heaven is used by Matthew only, nor do they seem to recognize the fact that the real difference between that which these designations represent is to be discovered in connection with the instances where they are not and cannot be used interchangeably, rather than in the instances where the interchange of terms is justified.
Closer attention will reveal that the Kingdom of heaven is always earthly, while the Kingdom of God is as wide as the universe and includes as much of earthly things as are germane to it. Likewise, the Kingdom of heaven is entered by a righteousness exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), while the Kingdom of God is entered by the new birth (John 3:1–16).
So, again, the Kingdom of heaven answers the hope of Israel and the Gentiles, while the Kingdom of God answers the eternal and all-inclusive purpose of God. To be more explicit: Matthew 5:20 declares the condition upon which a Jew might hope to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Matthew 8:12; 24:50, 51; 25:28–30 indicate that children of the Kingdom of heaven are to be cast out. Neither of these truths could apply to the Kingdom of God.
Further, the parables of the wheat and the tares, Matthew 13:24–30; 36–43, and the parable of the good and bad fish, Matthew 13:47–50, are spoken only of the Kingdom of heaven. However, the parable of the leaven is predicated of both spheres of divine rule; leaven, representing evil doctrine rather than evil persons, may corrupt, as it does, the truth relative to both kingdoms.
Such contrasts might be cited at great lengths, but the important objective has been gained if it has been made clear that there is an eschatology of Judaism and an eschatology of Christianity; and each, though wholly different in details, reaches into eternity.
One of the great burdens of predictive prophecy is the anticipation of the glories of Israel in a transformed earth under the theocratic reign of David’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God. There is likewise much prediction which anticipates the glories of the Church in heaven. — L.S. Chafer
One of the contributing factors to the kingdomization of the Church is the breakdown of the distinction between the “kingdom of God,” and the ‘”kingdom of heaven.” During the last 20 years or so dispensational leaders have been forsaking the distinctiveness of the kingdom of heaven as set forth in Matthew, more and more making it synonymous with the kingdom of God. But when the kingdom of heaven is no longer considered to be strictly Israel’s coming Messianic Kingdom, there emerges a loss of the scriptural separation between earthly Israel and the heavenly Church. Grace is made to partake of law. — M.J. Stanford
Yes, there are no dispensations in heaven. What does it mean when someone speaks of an alleged church age as "a heavenly age"? In the [Scofield] age-ism scheme, ages and dispensations are equated. The "heavenly age," then, is a heavenly dispensation. There are no dispensations in heaven. There is no heavenly dispensation on earth. The talk about an earthly age being a "heavenly age" is but an attempt to preserve the heavenly character of the church while imposing an age-ism scheme upon dispensational truth. It is an attempt to circumvent the objection that the idea of "a church age" makes the church an earthly age among the earthly ages. [Because] that is exactly what it does; and inserting the word "heavenly" in front of the word "age" does not change its true character.
Defect, or feebleness, in view may not apprehend some of these things. But it should be obvious that neither the Jews nor the Gentiles are being tested in an age whose beginning and ending coincides with the time during which God is gathering a heavenly people out of the world.
Long before this time [Pentecost to the Rapture] when God is gathering a heavenly people, He removed government from Israel and gave it to the Gentiles. The period during which government is in the hands of the Gentiles is called "the time of the Gentiles" (nations) by our Lord in Luke 21:24. "The times of the Gentiles" is depicted by the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2). This period runs from the time of Nebuchadnezzar until the "smiting stone" smashes the image on its feet1, which smiting depicts the coming of our Lord from heaven, at His appearing in glory, to smite the nations and set up the Kingdom [Age]. That Kingdom is symbolized in Daniel 2 as the smiting stone becoming a great mountain and filling the whole earth.
Simultaneous to the transfer of government from Israel to the Gentiles, the nation of Israel was pronounced Lo-ammi (meaning, "not-my-people"). See Hosea 1. The nation remains in that status until the appearing of the Lord in glory to set up the Kingdom--at which time all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), the rebels having been purged out (Ezekiel 20; Zechariah 12-14). Then Israel will be the center of earthly government once again. — R.A. Huebner
1 The fact that the nation, Israel, was [re-]established in 1948 does not mean "the times of the Gentiles" is over. The worst time for the Jews in that land is yet to come (Matthew 24:21-22).
65MB (1,500+ pages) Copyright © 1996-2013 WithChrist.org Last updated: July 04, 2013