Christian Debatorial Works
The Kingdom Of Heaven
The Kingdom Of Heaven
What is the Kingdom of Heaven and whom does it include? In answering this question, many Christians today would provide one of the following answers:
1. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Christian Church, beginning on Pentecost.
2. The Kingdom of Heaven is the future reign of Christ over the nations of the earth, from Davids' Throne, in Jerusalem.
However, problematic passages of Scripture have to be dealt with in defending both positions.
Passages which support the theory that the Kingdom of Heaven is the Christian Church:
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.
(Here, sowing the seed is considered to be the spreading of the Gospel)
29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me,
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Passages which contradict the theory that the Kingdom of Heaven is the Christian Church include:
43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
(Indicates that Israel had claim to the Kingdom before the Church began)
21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
(Shows that members of the Church were yet seeking to enter the Kingdom)
2 Peter 1:10-11
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Again, shows that believers were yet waiting to enter the Kingdom)
Additionally, it can be stated that it is the main duty of the Church to point people to the kingdom, and thus, Church and Kingdom are not the same.
Passages which support the theory that the Kingdom of Heaven is the future reign of Christ on earth, from Davids' throne in Jerusalem:
44 "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.
(The "time of those kings", here being seen as future, as it involves 10 kings ruling the Roman Empire at the same time, an event that never historically occured. See Dan.7:24)
27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'
21 "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
(Indicating that entry into the Kingdom does not take place until judgement day)
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
(indicating that entry into the Kingdom takes place after the return of Christ)
34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
(indicating that entry into the Kingdom takes place after the return of Christ)
29 He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever."
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
(a yet future event taking place after the 2nd coming of Christ)
Passages which seem to contradict the theory that the Kingdom of Heaven is the future reign of Christ on earth, from Davids throne in Jerusalem:
28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
Note: Some commentators claim that this passage refers to the Transfiguration on the Mount, which, in the Gospels, occurs immediately after this statement. This is problematic, however, as Jesus clearly indicates that only some of His disciples would be alive to see the inaguration of the Kingdom, and none had died before the Transfiguration occurred. As well, it states that they would see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom, which is not what took place at the Transfiguration, for at the Transfiguration, Jesus gave us a glimpse of His eternal glory. He was not seen coming to anywhere, from anywhere.
However, the central problem with both of these theories is the the Kingdom is limited to earthly and external criteria. A better understanding of what the Kindom of Heaven is comes from this passage:
20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, `Here it is,' or `There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."
Now, while it seems unreasonable that the Kingdom would exist within the hearts of the Pharisees, to whom Jesus was speaking in this passage, the heart of His answer is this: the Kingdom is spiritual, in nature.
While the Church is the body of believers, collectively, the difference between the Church and the Kingdom is that while believers enter the Church, the Kingdom enters the believer.
Another excellent way to understand the Kingdom of Heaven is to consider the Jewish understanding of it:
The Jews believed all time was to be divided into 2 parts: The Present Age and the Age to Come.
The Present Age involved the dominion of Satan, the effects of sin, and the sinful nature of man, as inherited through Adam. The Age to Come corresponded roughly with the Kingdom of Heaven, which would be inaugurated after Messiah would come. It involved a period of peace on earth, where the people of God would rule the nations from Jerusalem.
By the Christian reckoning, the Incarnation of Christ 2000 years ago caused an overlap in both these time periods. Currently, Christians live in this overlap. So while, to the Christian, the Kingdom has been initiated, it has not yet fully commenced, and the effects of sin are still felt. This is the most suitable method of reconciling all passages relating to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament.
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
This passage indicates a change in the Kingdom from defensive to offensive. This began with John, preaching repentance, in preparation of the coming of the Messiah. The offensive position of the Kingdom worked rapidly, for shortly thereafter, when the disciples went out preaching in the towns of Judea, Jesus made the statement that He had witnessed Satan fall like lightning from the heavens, indicating a serious blow had been dealt.
While passages such as:
29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
...seem to indicate the Church is the Kingdom, notice this passage describes an apparent 2 Kingdoms, so, in some respects, the Church may be considered as a type of Kingdom, but should never be understood as the sum total of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus made several analogies to the effect of God's Spirit on the heart and soul of the one who responds to His message, the streams of living water springing up unto eternal life for the woman at the well being a case in point. Ultimately, this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is: it is the effect God has on the heart and soul of the one who responds to His calling.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Kingdom of Heaven passages also cannot be confused with the Millennial Kingdom, which is evidenced by visible signs on earth preceeding the Second Coming. One must be diligent in their study of the Word to differentiate the two phases of the Kingdom.
In this passage:
2 Tim 4:18
18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.
...Paul refers to heaven as a Kingdom, which indeed it is, but again not to be confused with the Kingdom of Heaven, which has its emergence in the hearts of living believers, as evidenced by an abundance of passages which present the Kingdom of Heaven as being near or upon living believers.
As a final note, it should be said that while men could not enter the Church until after Pentecost, men still were saved and became part of the Kingdom before then. This is shown by passages such as:
11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.