“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17 (TNIV)
1. A Central Theme of Jesus Teachings
The Kingdom of heaven is a central theme in the teachings of Jesus throughout his ministry. It’s difficult to gain the deeper faith and understanding from his message without understanding the kingdom message first.
As you discover the depth to which the kingdom of God message is infused into the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles you have to wonder where in our church history was that message lost? If it was so central to the original message, why did we water it down?
“It may be said that the teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God represents his whole teaching. It is the main, determinative subject of all his discourse. His ethics were ethics of the Kingdom; his theology was theology of the Kingdom; his teaching regarding himself cannot be understood apart from his interpretation of the Kingdom of God” (Dr. F. C. Grant, from “The Gospel of the Kingdom,” Biblical World, 50, pp. 121-191).
The gospel (good news) message is still preached proudly, something from which we can never stray. Jesus is the salvation for the world, He is the final sacrifice for sins, He was crucified and buried in a tomb, He was triumphant over death, He is the mediator of the new covenant. What has been lost I’m afraid is the rest of the story, that Jesus has redeemed us into the Kingdom of God. As Jesus said,
“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached…” (Luke 16:16 TNIV)
– Sermon in Galilee: Matthew 5:3, 10, 19-20; 6:20, 33; 7:21
– Parables started with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47
2. Why the Jews listened and what they heard
Except for very short periods of time the Jews were under the reign of Kings and powers other than the Jews themselves. During the teachings of Jesus the Jews in the regions of his ministry were under the rule of King Herod. The Pharisees and Zealots were especially interested in a Jewish kingdom being established because the former tolerated barely pagan rule while the latter resisted it with violence. Unfortunately the Kingdom they were expecting was not the kingdom Jesus was preaching.
3. The Kingdom of Heaven vs. the Kingdom of God
They are the same thing. Both phrases were used interchangeably in similar contexts between the different gospel writers. Matthew uses the expression “kingdom of heaven” 31 times and it appears nowhere else in the New Testament. The “kingdom of God” is used 63 times throughout the New Testament, only five times in Matthew.
Verse Comparison: See an extensive comparison here
|Kingdom of Heaven||Compared to||Kingdom of God|
|Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”||Mark 1:14 -15After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”|
|Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
|Luke 16:20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
|Matthew 13:31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.||Mark 4:30-31 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.|
It may be that since Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews, he chose to used the phrase “kingdom of heaven”…
– Because of the Jews’ reluctance to use the name of God (out of reverence) [Note: he uses the name 50 other times] – Because of the Jews’ misconception of the coming kingdom, many anticipated a physical kingdom
– The expression “heaven” (literally, “heavens”) would emphasize a spiritual kingdom
4. Four Key Concepts on the Kingdom of God/Heaven
ONE: The Kingdom is the reign of God.
The term “kingdom” as used by the Jews often stressed the abstract idea of “reign” or “dominion”, not some geographical area surrounded by physical boundaries. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever the REIGN of God is manifested.
The Kingdom of God has always existed but was manifest on earth (again) with the coming of Christ which Daniel foretold, was proclaimed by John the Baptist, and was preached by Jesus.
The reign of God is expressly manifested today through Jesus Christ
– Reign or dominion: Luke 17:21, Matthew 6:10
– Kingdom in the past Psalms 47:2; Psalms 103:19
– Prophesy of the kingdom Daniel 2:44-45
– John proclaims the kingdom: Matthew 3:1-4
– Jesus preaches the kingdom: Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-46
– Manifested through Christ: 1 Corinthians 15:23-26; Ephesians 1:20-22, 1 Peter 3:22, Revelation 1:5
TWO: The Kingdom of God is Spiritual in Nature.
– John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (TNIV)
-Romans 14: 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
THREE: Is Manifested Presently in the Church
The church is a community of faithful believers (disciples) who are the dwelling (reign) of God through the Holy Spirit. Because God reigns spiritually in the hearts of believers the church is the present Kingdom of God
– Jesus: Matthew 16:18
– To the early church: Colossians 1:13; I Thessalonians 2:12
– The description of the churches in Asia: Revelation 1:4, 6, 9
FOUR: Will be Manifested soon in a “New heaven and New Earth”
The “kingdom of heaven” has a future element.
– Jesus in Matthew 25:34
– Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50 and 2 Timothy 4:18
– Peter in 2 Peter 1:10-11 and 2 Peter 3:10-13
– John in Revelation 21-22
5. Summary (for further study later)
The kingdom of God was created on earth in the garden, a perfect reign and dominion between the King and his creation (subjects). After the fall God entered into a restoration where a partial kingdom was restored through the Law. The law was made perfect through Jesus Christ and the kingdom was perfectly restored in the church (spiritually) and in the new heaven and new earth to come (physically).