What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

Is the Kingdom of Heaven different from the Kingdom of God?


"Kingdom of heaven" is a term used exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew. The apostle Matthew used "kingdom of heaven" 32 times in his account about Jesus Christ's life and teachings. However, Matthew uses the terms "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God" interchangeably. In Matthew:19:23-24 he uses the terms together in consecutive verses, clearly implying that they were synonymous. Often he calls it simply "the kingdom" (Matthew:6:13; 8:12; 13:19, 38; 24:14; etc.)

Comparing passages like Matthew:5:3 and Luke:6:20 shows that the terms meant the same thing:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven "(Matthew:5:3).

"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God " (Luke:6:20).

Why did Matthew use the term "kingdom of heaven"? The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary explains that Matthew "was a Jew writing to his own race and respected their custom of using the name of God as little as possible and therefore spoke of the kingdom of heaven" ("Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven," 1998).

The New Bible Dictionary agrees. "The use of 'kingdom of heaven' in Matthew is certainly due to the tendency in Judaism to avoid the direct use of the name of God. In any case no distinction in sense is to be assumed between the two expressions" (Second Edition, "Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven," 1982).


clovelyme's picture

I completely disagree with the above. Due to the fact that the Kingdom belongs to the children of Israel not Jewish people. And in Judaism they don't even believe in Christ so how would they possibly know what Matthew or Christ was talking about. Plus Christ always said to the jew first which ment any man or woman that was born from the line of JUDAH. in rev. it has the name of ALL the children of Israel on the gates. So I think it is literal when speaking of the Kingdom being a actual place.

Malachi 3_16-18

Malachi 3_16-18's picture

Hi CLovelyMe,

Yes, the Kingdom is a literal place, and its main fulfillment is future, with a King, rulers under Him; a territory; loyal subjects; and laws (Zech:14:9; Isa:11:9; Isa:2:1-4; Rev:5:10).

Ultimately, God doesn’t limit anyone from being converted and being in His Kingdom, if upon His calling and opening of the mind (Jn:6:44) they are willing to change from their own ways to His. This is basically what Christ was saying through Paul, in Rom:2:9-11, when He states, “…to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” For the most part, the Jews rejected Christ and His message, but God has a plan for all to come to Him (2 Pet:3:9; 1 Tim:2:4). Most people are not being called in this age. Had the Jews in Christ’s day understood His message, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor:2:8).

Strictly speaking, the Jewish people are part of Israel, as the tribe of Judah was one of the original 12 tribes. They were often referred to separately once Jeroboam and ten of the tribes rebelled against the rule of King Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 kings 12:19-21). At the time, Rehoboam retained Judah and Benjamin. But in the future, Judah will again be included in the 12 tribes – hence the names of all the children of Israel (Jacob) on the gates of the city of New Jerusalem would include that of the tribe of Judah (Rev:12:12).

Also, a spiritual application of the term Israel describes all - even from a non-Israelite nation - who have been converted to God’s way of life (Rom:9:6-8, and verses 24-26).

Lena VanAusdle

Lena VanAusdle's picture

While it is true that Jews do not recognize Christ as the Messiah, many of the early Christians were, in fact, Jewish! Matthew was showing them respect for their beliefs by following this tradition. It has nothing to do with who the Kingdom belongs to (the saints of God, whether from the tribe of Judah or not).

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