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What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

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“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 Matthew 19:23-24 23 Then said Jesus to his disciples, Truly I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
he uses the terms together in consecutive verses, clearly implying that they were synonymous. Often he calls it simply “the kingdom” (Matthew 6:13 Matthew 6:13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:19 Matthew 13:19When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
American King James Version×
, Matthew 13:38 Matthew 13:38The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
American King James Version×
; Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×
; etc.)

Comparing passages like Matthew 5:3 Matthew 5:3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
and Luke 6:20 Luke 6:20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
shows that the terms meant the same thing:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ” (Matthew 5:3 Matthew 5:3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
).

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God ” (Luke 6:20 Luke 6:20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
).

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).

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    Comments

  • clovelyme
    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
    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 (Zechariah 14:9 Zechariah 14:9And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
    American King James Version×
    ; Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
    American King James Version×
    ; Isaiah 2:1-4 Isaiah 2:1-4 1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
    American King James Version×
    ; Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
    American King James Version×
    ). Ultimately, God doesn’t limit anyone from being converted and being in His Kingdom, if upon His calling and opening of the mind (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
    American King James Version×
    ) they are willing to change from their own ways to His. This is basically what Christ was saying through Paul, in Romans 2:9-11 Romans 2:9-11 9 Tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
    American King James Version×
    , 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 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
    American King James Version×
    ; 1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    American King James Version×
    ). 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 Corinthians 2:8 1 Corinthians 2:8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    American King James Version×
    ). 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 (Revelation 12:12 Revelation 12:12Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.
    American King James Version×
    ). 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 (Romans 9:6-8 Romans 9:6-8 6 Not as though the word of God has taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall your seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
    American King James Version×
    , and verses 24-26).
  • Lena VanAusdle
    @clovelyme 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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