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Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God
The Doctrinal Differences

The Kingdoms

Knowing the doctrinal difference between the terms "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God" is the key to understanding the complete time line of Biblical history past, present, and future, the proper place of the Church and the prophetic future of Israel.

The Bible is about the struggle for a Kingdom; the Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom with its Capital City (Jerusalem) on this Earth. Israel rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah when He first came because the religious rulers of Israel were only looking for a political Messiah King who would make Israel the ruling kingdom of the world. (See Jeremiah 23:5, Psalms 48:2). They were expecting a warrior leader who would deliver them militarily from the Romans and the rest of the heathen. They were expecting carnal deliverance. Because of their hardened hearts, and their legalistic and ritualistic zeal for works, they were blind to their need for spiritual deliverance and the true righteousness of God, which must be born into the heart. That is what led them to ask this of Jesus:

"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: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
(Luke 17:20-21 KJV)

In that statement, Jesus was declaring a spiritual truth that Israel did not see. But on another occasion, when asked about His Kingdom by Pontius Pilate, He gave a somewhat different answer:

"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."
(John 18:36 KJV)

In this particular passage the word "now" is not speaking about the spiritual Kingdom of God (within the heart of the redeemed), but of a literal political Kingdom yet to come on this Earth. You should also take note that the word "now" has been removed from many newer Bible translations (NASB, AMP, NLT, ESV, CEV). The reason is because most of the translators of today's "Bibles" are Amillennial in their position on prophecy. In other words, they do not accept the literal return of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign on the Earth for a thousand years, as foretold in Chapter 20 of the book of Revelation.

Although that truth is rejected by a major portion of "Christianity" today, His Jewish disciples knew what He was speaking of and they pointedly asked when the literal Kingdom would come:

"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
(Acts 1:6-8 KJV)

The disciples were clearly asking about a literal Kingdom, and the Lord says it is not for them to know the time when that literal Kingdom (the Kingdom of Heaven) will take place. Until that time the disciples were given power to preach the Kingdom of God; righteousness through faith in the atoning work of the risen Savior who will one day return and rule over the whole Earth from Jerusalem.

This is one of the most hated and least understood doctrines of the Bible, yet one of the most important in rightly dividing the truth; the separation of Church Age doctrine from Tribulation doctrine. Some churches do not want to hear this, because they think that the Church has replaced Israel. Certainly the whole world reviles at the prospect of hated Israel becoming the head of the Kingdoms. There is a hatred of Christians and Jews on a spiritual level that is beyond the unsaved world's comprehension. Satan hates the Jews, and this present evil world (see Galatians 1:4) is under Satan's spiritual control. Hate and envy are the root reasons the word "now" is removed from John 18:36 in some translations. The unsaved world does not want the Lord Jesus Christ to return and rule over them. That is why the religious Jews killed their King the first time He came. Here is what their King will say about that when He returns:

"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay [them] before me."
(Luke 19:27 KJV)

There will be a big attitude difference between the Lord's first coming as the gentle Lamb of God and His Second Coming as the warrior King, the Lion of Judah:

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."
(Revelation 19:11-13 KJV)

The Lord Jesus Christ came to His own and preached a dualistic message: To the Jews, the heirs of the promised political Kingdom, the Lord preached the Gospel of the "Kingdom of Heaven" - a literal physical Kingdom soon to come:

"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
(Matt. 4:17 KJV)

To the Jews and the entire Gentile world, He preached the coming "Kingdom of God" - righteousness and holiness in Christ:

"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."
(Mark 1:14 KJV)

Because the Lord used the terms "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God" interchangeably in places in the four Gospels, most Christians think they are one and the same. They will be, but not until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ when He rules the world for a thousand years on the throne of His father David (In the flesh, Jesus was in the bloodline of King David; in His Deity, Jesus was begotten by the bloodline of God the Father).

"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."
(John 18:36 KJV)

If you rightly divide the Bible, you will see that Jesus was preaching about two (2) components of the Kingdom. He preached that the political kingdom (Kingdom of Heaven) was coming, and if the Jews had accepted Him after His death and resurrection, He would have come back and established it after seven years of tribulation, as foretold in the prophecies:

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, [that] from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince [shall be] seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof [shall be] with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make [it] desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
(Daniel 9:24-27 KJV)

In fact, when Stephen was preaching to the Pharisees as they were stoning him, the Lord Jesus was standing up from His seat in the third heaven ready to come back at that moment, save the Jews, and establish the Kingdom:

"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."
(Acts 7:55-56 KJV)

To show by the Scriptures the difference between the terms "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God," the Holy Spirit has put this little nugget of truth within the Gospel of Matthew:

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."
(Matt. 11:12 KJV)

Ask yourself this question: If the "Kingdom of God" is within you, and if the "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" are one and the same, how could anyone take it out of you by violence? And if that righteousness (i.e. the Kingdom of God within you), could not possibly be there until after the cross and the resurrection, what is Jesus saying to the Jews here BEFORE the cross and the resurrection? The answer is the Kingdom of Israel, which is God's people and Jerusalem, the Lord's chosen place from which He will one day rule:

"But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King."
(Matt. 5:34-35 KJV)

Israel rejected their King when He came the first time. In the two millenniums since then, His Kingdom has been in a MYSTERY form; the Lord Jesus Christ reigning in the heart of the believer and yet seated on the right hand of the Father in the third heaven...

"[Even] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:"
(Colossians 1:26-27 KJV)

...while Satan still holds the physical throne over this present world:

"And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine."
(Luke 4:6-7 KJV)

Although Satan has now lost the war, the final battle for physical possession is yet to come. This is the present status of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the two millenniums since His own people rejected His salvation, God has been chastising Israel while blessings and salvation have gone out to the Gentiles. However, God is not finished with Israel, but He is just about finished with the Gentiles. The Gentiles' time is running out. The Apostle Paul said this:

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:"
(Romans 11:25-26 KJV)

We are living in the last days of the blessing to the Gentiles. The Jews are back in the land of Israel (although the Arab world does not recognize it as "Israel" but insists on calling it "Palestine"). Regardless of the name, it is still the land that God promised to Abraham and his seed through Isaac and Jacob, not through the line of Ishmael. That is the ancient root of contention still festering today over the issue of the land.

The Jews have returned to the land as prophesied in the Scriptures, but they are still mostly in unbelief about Jesus. Although they are the enemies of the Gospel of Grace by the Lord Jesus Christ, they are still God's people and He will use the present evil world to chastise them, open their eyes to the truth they rejected, and bring them again to Him.

"As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:"
(Romans 11:28-30 KJV)

That is the truth of the matter - a truth that is bitterly denied by the whole world. Jerusalem and the Middle East is the crucible and iron furnace that will soon wax hotter as the prophecies unfold before us.

Beware! There are two things to watch for which must come to pass before the Lord's return. First (and this is directly related to relationship of Jerusalem between Israel, the Arab world and the Palestinians) there will be some kind of contract among all parties on the matter of Jerusalem in an effort to establish peace. This is spoken of by the prophet Daniel:

"Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land. At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter. For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate."
(Daniel 11:28-31 KJV)

Second, there is going to be a new Temple built in Jerusalem in the future. Notice that the context above is about the exploits of the coming Antichrist, whom unbelieving Israel and the unbelieving world will welcome as the Messiah. Take note about the "daily sacrifice" and the sanctuary, and the abomination that "maketh desolate." There cannot be a daily sacrifice without a Temple. This is a cross reference to what the Apostle Paul spoke about in 2 Thessalonians:

"That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
(2 Thess. 2:2-4 KJV)

These things are future and yet to be fulfilled, but they will come to pass. The Holy Bible says so. Believe it!

The entire theme of the Holy Bible is about the battle over a Kingdom and the rightful ruler of that Kingdom. This controversy goes back long before Abraham and long before Adam's day. It began sometime after the Lord first created the heavens and the Earth. Lucifer (Satan) was the first steward under God in the Kingdom of Heaven from ancient time. His rebellion brought ruin to the ancient heaven and earth.

"Thou [art] the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee [so]: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou [wast] perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee."
(Ezekiel 28:14-15 KJV)

When he rebelled and sinned against God, unrighteousness was introduced into the physical realm and death came upon the ancient world (Genesis 1:2).

Remember, the story of the whole Bible from the very beginning until the end is about the spiritual battle for the Kingdom. The eventual triumphant ruler of that Kingdom, both in the literal world and over the spiritual forces, will be the KING of KINGS, the Lord Jesus Christ; the Son of the Living God of Israel, who first came as a Lamb but will soon return as the Lion of tribe of Judah.

A comprehensive study of the Kingdom is available here: The Kingdom in History and Prophecy

In the next section we will briefly study questions about the Angels:

Next: links man and angels

Who and What are the Angels?





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Gaines R. Johnson, D.D., D.Th.
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