THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
P.C. Johnson U.K.
THE kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are often thought to refer to the same kingdom. This is not so. The two kingdoms have many similarities and will eventually merge. But it is necessary to understand the difference between the two of them especially at this time near to the second advent.
The kingdom of heaven is to be Messianic and Davidic and refers to the future heavenly rule over the earth by our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ and King. The kingdom will first be established over a regathered and converted Israel, restored to the 'promised land' with Jerusalem as the capital. Isaiah tells us in chapter 11 in parts of verses 11 and 12:
"... the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people".
"... and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah".
Ezekiel 37:21 confirms the same message:
"... Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land."
Jeremiah makes an interesting statement in chapter 3 verse 18:
"In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers".
Many of the twelve tribes of Israel must be resident in that area today. The present occupants of the holy land, except perhaps a small minority, cannot therefore be the true children of Israel. Isaiah 62:2 indirectly confirms this:
"..thou (Israel) shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name".
The characteristics of the kingdom of heaven are to be righteousness and peace. It is to be heavenly in origin and authority and will spread over all the earth. It has the object of proclaiming the gospel of salvation - the kingdom of God - throughout the whole world. When this is achieved, the two kingdoms will be one glorious one on earth ruled by the divine King Jesus.
The kingdom of God embraces people of all time and nation who are willingly subject to the supreme will of God, that is, they had perfect faith in God prior to the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, or after that time, those who are true believers in the salvation of Jesus the Christ. The members of this kingdom would be the angels, the true church spiritural with its saints of past and future times. John tells us in recording the words of Jesus in John 3:3:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God".
This new birth will be manifested by the resurrection of the 'sleeping' faithful and true christians and the 'changing' of the living true christians at the time of the second advent of Jesus the Christ.
John 3: 16 describes God's salvation:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life".
It should be noted that the word 'perish' here denotes 'marred' or 'lost', or in other words, no use for the original purpose. It does mean mortal death, but not cessation of existence or annihilation.
The kingdom of God comes not with outward show, (Luke 17:20) but is inward and spiritual. The kingdom of heaven however, will be manifested in great glory on the earth. Paul's words of I Corinthians 15:24-28 refer to the final merging of these two kingdoms:
"...when he (Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father... and put all enemies under his feet... "
The time for the setting up of the kingdom of heaven will be the second advent. In the wonderful light of scriptural prophecy we are being made aware now, that this second advent will soon take place. In the same time frame, the redeemed true children of Israel, the twelve tribes united as one nation, will be identified from among the nations of the earth. They will return to the holy land as promised, and resume their God ordained role as God's servant nation. Isaiah 61:6 tells us:
"But ye shall be named the priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God:"
Let us now recall a few of the numerous prophecies detailing the second advent.. I Thessalonians 4:16,17 describes the event: .
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump(et) of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord".
Mark 13-26 relates:
"And then shall they (all Peoples) see the Son of man (Jesus) coming in the clouds with great power and glory".
Acts 1:10,11tells us about what happened at the end of the first advent, when Jesus ascended up into heaven:
"And while they (the apostles) looked steadfastly towards heaven as he (Jesus) went up, Behold, two men (angels) stood by them in white apparel: Which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven".
Dr Scofield points out that the second advent is positively an EVENT and certainly not a process gradual or otherwise. It is of vital importance to understand this.
The time of the second advent is not revealed in scripture. But we are given several descriptions of the world at that time, which remind us of our present day
world. Matthew 24:37,38 informs us:
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall the coming of the Son of man (Jesus) be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered intothe ark".
At that time, even as today, God and his precepts were generally ignored by all people (except Noah and his family) in spite of warnings. So retribution came, the people perished in the flood. They were no longer any use in relation to their original purpose for being on the earth. Luke 12:40 warns us:
"Be ye therefore ready also (for the second advent) for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not".
Luke 18:8 prophecies:
"... nevertheless when the Son of man cometh shall he find faith in the earth?"
This question gives its own answer - NO. This reference is to belief in the whole body of truth especially salvation as revealed in the bible - God's word. Certainly true belief by people is 'rare' today.
Corinthians 15:51-53 tells us how all true believers will be affected:
"Behold I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep (be dead) but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality".
When considering all scripture, it is well to remember that God never has and never will change his mind. All biblical prophecies are certain to be fulfilled. Romans 11:29 confirms this:
"For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (change of mind) "
Again, Daniel 2:45 in a different context, says that a prophecy is certain and its interpretation sure. In relation to the continuance of the existence of the true children of Israel, God thunders out his message in Malachi 3:6:
"For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed"
We must therefore understand that the second advent will surely come - and soon. It will be unexpected by the vast majority of mankind, very sudden, like lightning as Matthew 24:27 says, in great glory, and as Isaiah 40:5 says, all mankind shall see it together. It will be in answer to part of the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:10:
"..Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven...".
The kingdom of God is to be an everlasting kingdom as Daniel tells us chapter 7:14:
"And there was given him (Jesus) dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed".
In Matthew 13:24-36 Jesus relates the parable of the tares among the wheat. He goes on to explain the parable in verses 36 to 43 (to be read). There are no tares (children of the wicked one) in the kingdom of God, therefore this parable relates to the kingdom of heaven. The time of the parable will be at the second advent when the angels will separate the tares from the wheat, that is 'the children of the wicked one' from the 'children of the kingdom'. (of God). Jesus tells us that the former are they which do iniquity (the unredeemed) The children of the kingdom are those in whom God imputed his righteousness because they believe in and have faith in Jesus the Christ and his salvation.
Note the reference to 'all things that offend' which are to be removed by the angels.. Mankind is not the only part of creation affected by the second advent. All
creation will be affected animals, fish, vegetation insects etc. and the earth itself. Enormous changes can be expected for the better. So, the parable of the tares and the wheat in Matthew 13 reveals that the redeemed enter eternal life and the children of the wicked one face the 'furnace of fire'.
I believe that the many references in scripture such as the 'furnace of fire' and similar which relate to the consequences of unforgiven sin, are rhetorical, probably in order to emphasize in terms easily understood, the serious nature of the related sins and the fate awaiting children of the wicked one - that is those who have ignored God and his precepts. At the same time however it is just not valid to think that God would contravene his own law written in Genesis 20:6 "Thou shalt not kill". Therefore the 'furnace of fire' and similar phrases in scripture must have a symbolic meaning.
In this same context let us consider also the often repeated phrase in scripture referring to God's 'sharp two edged sword'. The literal inference to this might be the slaying of sinners with a sword. This also just is not valid. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul refers to: "the sword of the spirit which is the word of God". (The bible)
Part of Revelation 19:15-21 refers to Christ at his second advent:
"...out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword... " and "... the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth... "
Obviously the symbolic meaning here is that God's word is meant.
The bible defines all sin and therefore identifies all sinners. Further, Paul says in Romans 6:23:
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"
Note that Paul says 'wages' not 'punishment' What he is saying is that we earn our own mortal death through our own sins. Paul also tells us in Romans 3:23:
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God".
Thus we all suffer mortal death.
Scripture also tells us that Satan is responsible for all sin and all illness as well as death.. Read Psalm 34:21: Luke 13:16; Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:5 and Hebrews
2:4. Except for the restraint God imposes on Satan's activities and God's protection of us, we would all suffer much more from Satan's spiteful attention. Job 1:12 and 2:7 shows how God put restrictions on Satan's nasty attacks on Job. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 relates to the time just before the second advent and reveals:
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (hindereth) will let (hinder)... "
I believe that this reference indicates God's restriction of Satan's activities. We return to this quotation further on.
In connection with the parable of the tares and the wheat, let us consider John's words in Revelation 14:6, contemporary to the second advent time scale:
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people".
Now consider this, if all the children of the wicked one in the tares and wheat parable were to be gathered by the angels for destruction, if, that is, the furnace of
fire were meant literally there would be nobody left for the angel of Revelation 14:6 to preach to. Further, in Isaiah 61:6 above where the children of Israel are
referred to as 'priests of the Lord and ministers of our God' - they also would not have any priestly work to do.
It has to be concluded therefore that not all unredeemed sinners will perish at the second advent. But scripture is also adamant that many others will perish both for and from their sins. Proverbs 2-22 tells us:
"But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it".
Isaiah goes further in chapter 13 verses 11 & 12:
"And I will punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquity: and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious (rare) than fine gold: even a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir".(The latter must have been a rare treasure at that time)
The last sentence of this quotation means that large numbers of people will be removed from the earth at the second advent, leaving few by comparison. This terrible warning by Isaiah is similarly quoted many times in scripture. Returning to the quotation from 2 Thessalonians 2:7 above, Paul goes on to say:
"...he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way".
It is probable that this indicates that the restriction on Satan's activities will in part, if not entirely be taken away.
We have seen that not all unredeemed sinners will perish at the second advent, and that the everlasting gospel will be preached throughout the earth. It would be a reasonable assumption that God in his undoubted infinite mercy would further enable many of the unredeemed the opportunity to repent. May I suggest that those who have never heard of Jesus Christ, as well as perhaps those who have charity in their character and also those who exhibit severe remorse at the second advent, may come into this category. We have to remember God's words in Ezekiel 33:11:
"...as I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live".
Jesus himself shows us in Luke 21-26 the scenario among mankind at the second advent:
"Men's hearts failing them for fear and looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken".
We must therefore conclude that at the second advent, many children of the wicked one will perish through:
(1) The removal of restraint on Satan's activities in causing mortal death. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
(2) Men's hearts failing them for fear. (Luke 2:26)
(3) The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)
In the same time frame as the second advent, many other momentous events will take place, such as the detention of Satan in chains in the bottomless pit, the battle of Armageddon, many great earthquakes etc. But these are outside the subject of this article.
Scripture does give wonderful pictures of the kingdom of heaven, which need no explanation...
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom (of heaven) all things that offend and them which do iniquity".
"Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do... "
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; (Yes, this means that we will fly) they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint"
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: (kingdom) for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea".
"In his (King Jesus) days shall the righteous flourish and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth ".
"And in that day willI make a covenant with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely".
What a glorious picture of peace and righteousness these quotations paint about the kingdoms of heaven and God combined.
John's words in Revelation 22:20,21 are necessary here:
"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all Amen".
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