A STUDY OF THE TERMS USED OF GOD’S KINGDOMS
There are many terms that describe God’s rule. They include “the kingdom of Heaven”, “the Kingdom of God”, “the kingdom of His dear Son” etc.. Some believe that all these terms refer to the very same thing. But if that is true, why did the Holy Spirit use different terms? And are these kingdoms different from each other? And if they are not different why is there more than one term for the same thing? These are questions that only a study of the terms will answer. And it is that study that I will present in this paper.
We will study the following terms:
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
THE KINGDOM OF THEIR FATHER
MY FATHER’S KINGDOM
KINGDOM OF CHRIST
KINGDOM OF HIS DEAR SON
HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM
KINGDOM OF OUR LORD
KINGDOM OF OUR GOD
APPENDIX: FIVE OCCURRENCES OF THE TERM “KINGDOM OF GOD” IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
I believe that the kingdom of Heaven is the reign of Christ over Israel in the millennium. We know that Christ will reign over all the nations of the earth in His millennial reign, but in my opinion, the term “kingdom of Heaven” refers specifically to His reign of Israel. As we continue in this study, we shall see that the kingdom of Heaven is limited geographically, i.e. it does not refer to a kingdom that is over the entire earth.
Matt. 13:41-43 is part of the explanation our Lord gave of one of the parables of the kingdom of Heaven. We read in that passage that when Christ returns He will “send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity: and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father….”.
We learn from this passage that some will be cast out of the kingdom ” into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”. Many believe that the phrase “furnace of fire” is in reference to hell. Let us examine that thought. To begin, I must say that I believe that the concept of hell contradicts the teachings of the Bible. The paper on this web-site called A Study Of Hell gives the Scriptural evidence for my belief.
Let us consider the ” furnace of fire”. Does this term refer to a huge literal furnace somewhere? There is no Scriptural evidence to support that notion. I believe that the “furnace of fire” is a figure of speech. All figures of speech are used to enhance a truth. What truth is being enhanced by the phrase “furnace of fire”? I believe it is used to enhance the truth that there will be great suffering outside the kingdom of Heaven. Whether that suffering be mental or physical we shall discover as we continue in this study.
As mentioned above, I believe the furnace of fire refers to the area outside the Land of Israel. I say that because, although it is a little understood fact, the nations outside the land of Israel will not enjoy millennial blessings that those inside the land will enjoy. So when some are cast out of the kingdom of Heaven, they are cast out of the Land of Israel into the Gentile nations.
Let us first establish from Scripture that the nations outside of Israel will not enjoy any of the millennial blessings enjoyed by those righteous ones inside the Land.
The millennial reign is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ps. 2:7-9, “I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are My Son, today I have become your Father. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter, you will dash them to pieces like pottery‘”. This is not consistent with the picture of perfect peace we all know of the millennial reign. That’s because the blessings of peace are to be enjoyed in the Land of Israel, but not outside the Land. Let us consider just a few of the many prophesies about the millennial reign.
Is. 60:18, “No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise”.
Is. 60:2, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you“. The phrase “the peoples” refers to the Gentile nations.
Is. 33:24, “No one living in Zion will say, ‘I am ill’; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven”.
Is. 32:18-20, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your oxen and donkeys range free”. Note some catastrophes will occur, but not in Israel where those in the Land will enjoy “undisturbed places of rest”.
Is. 60:5, “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you riches of the nations will come“.
Is. 60:10,”Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you”.
Is. 60:11-12, “Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations– For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined”.
Is. 61:5-6, “Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast”.
We have learned thus far that Israel will enjoy the riches of the nations, that the nations will come to Her or perish, that the kings of the nations will serve Israel. (Is it any wonder that Satan will be so successful after the millennium in gathering the nations to attack Jerusalem?)
There are a number of scriptures which speak of unbelievers, or wicked ones being cut off from the Land of Israel in the millennium. These scriptures substantiate the suggestion that the Land of Israel is only for the righteous and all others will not be allowed entrance.
Ps. 37:9, “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”. While it is very true that the phrase “cut off” may refer to being killed, it is often used to mean cut off from the nation of Israel. Note for example Prov. 2:21-22, “For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the blameless will live in it”.
Ps. 37:34 reads, “Wait for the lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to possess the land: when the wicked are cut off, you will see it””.
Ps. 37:22, “Those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off“.
We read in Ezek. 20:33-40 of the gathering of Israel at the return of the Lord to be judged in the wilderness as to who will be judged worthy of entrance into the land for Christ’s millennial reign. We read in verse 38, “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel“.
I think we can now understand that the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” which is spoken of in connection with those cast out of the kingdom of Heaven refers to what will happen when the unfaithful are cast out of the kingdom into the darkness. They will be forced to live, not in Israel where there will be many blessings, but among the nations where “darkness will be over the peoples”(Is. 60:2).
Scripture teaches that those living outside the Land of Israel will not enjoy millennial blessings. And only the righteous will be allowed entrance into the land. Because eternal life is one of the blessings of the righteous there is no doubt that there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth from those living outside Israel who, unlike those in the land, are destined to die.
Those who will be cast out of the kingdom of Heaven are those who will live outside the Land of Israel and will not enjoy millennial blessings. Those who are allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven are allowed entrance into the Land of Israel. We must conclude therefore, that the kingdom of Heaven is the Land of Israel during the millennial reign of Christ. While it is true that Christ will rule all the nations of the earth in His millennial reign, the term “kingdom of Heaven” refers to the reign over Israel.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Before we begin the study of the kingdom of God I would like to draw the reader’s attention to a principle that is, in my opinion, overlooked, to at least some degree, by most dispensationalists. That is the principle that some passages are not written nor do they refer to individuals as part of a nation or as members of a church, they are written to and/or refer to people as human beings apart from their dispensational standing, i.e. apart from their national origins. For example, we read in Rom. 6:8, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him”. It is true, of course, that this verse is written in an epistle that was written during the Acts period and therefore written to those of the previous dispensation. It is also true that this verse is equally true of believers in the present dispensation.
My point is that we must consider more than just to whom or in which dispensation a passage is written if we are to correctly understand what God has for us. We must also bear in mind that some passages are written to people as human beings totally apart from whether they are part of a nation or nations, or whether they are part of the church.
To emphasize the importance of this principle I ask the readers indulgence as we consider Israel’s Old Testament lo-ammi period. We read in Hos. 1:9 of the prophecy of Israel becoming lo-ammi, i.e. “not My People”. That prophecy was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and carried away captive many of Israel. We know that Daniel who along with his three friends and Esther and her uncle Mordacia were all believers who were faithful to God and to His law. But they too were carried away captive. If we see the term “lo-ammi”, i.e. “not My People” as referring to individuals we must assume that Daniel and the other believers and faithful of Israel were no longer God’s. What does that mean? Does that mean that they were no longer His children? Does it mean that He no longer cared for them? Does it mean that they lost their salvation? I believe the answer to those questions must be a resounding “no”. Once one is a child of God he is always a child of God, and God always cares for him as such, and once one is saved he is always saved.
Here’s my point: Israel as a nation was “not My people”. But individual believers of Israel who had remained faithful to Him were still His children, His loved ones etc. If we do not see the difference between individuals and a nation we can be led to great error in our understanding of God’s Word.
We are now ready to begin our study of the kingdom of God. As we begin that study I should point out that where Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of Heaven”, the other Gospel writers use the phrase “kingdom of God”. While on earth, our Lord spoke in Aramaic. When Matthew translated the Aramaic into Greek he used the figure of speech, Metonymy of the Subject. But when the other Gospel writers translated the Aramaic they translated the phrase literally. Dr. Bullinger writes in his Appendix number 114 in the Companion Bible, “Now heaven is frequently used by the Figure Metonymy (of the subject) for God Himself, Whose dwelling is there”. Examples of the use of this figure of speech are found several times in the Old Testament. Daniel 4:26 for example reads, “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules”. It is clear that “Heaven” is put for God, Who rules. And in the New Testament we read in the parable of the prodigal son, “The son said to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. …..” (Luke 15:21). He sinned, not against a place, but against a Person, God.
As mentioned above, Matthew is the only writer to use the term “kingdom of Heaven”. But because Mark and Luke use the term “kingdom of God” to translate our Lord’s words in Aramaic, many are led to the false conclusion that the term “kingdom of God” is always used in reference to the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. both terms always refer to the exact same thing. I would like to address that thought.
We read in the section above on the kingdom of Heaven the explanation in Matt. 13:42-43 of one of the parables of the kingdom of Heaven explaining that some will be cast out into outer darkness. Let us assume for the moment that the term “kingdom of Heaven” always refers to the kingdom of God. Otis Q. Sellers, who believes that the term “kingdom of God” always means the same as the term “kingdom of Heaven”, defines the kingdom of God in his article number 27 as, “a period of time when this earth and all nations upon it would be governed by God”. If that is true then where will those of the parables be cast? That is to say, if, the kingdom of God is God’s reign over the earth, there is no place to be cast. But when we see that the kingdom of Heaven is Christ’s millennial rule of Israel wherein will live only believers, and that the term “kingdom of God” is sometimes used for the kingdom of Heaven then all is clear.
In short, sometimes the two terms are meant to be understood as referring to the Land of Israel in the millennial reign of Christ. But sometimes it is to be understood differently (that will be explained below). The fact that the two terms sometimes refer to the same thing, does not mean that the two terms are always meant to be understood in just one way.
In the New Testament the phrase “kingdom of God” is used in two different ways. It is used 1) of Christ’s reign over the nation of Israel, i.e. the kingdom of Heaven. And it is used 2) of Christ’s reign over individual believers as human beings, apart from their dispensational standing or national origins. Let us look at the Scriptures which speak of the two ways in which the phrase “kingdom of God” is used.
1) It is used of Christ’s reign over the nation of Israel.
As we compare Matthew 4:17 with Mark 1:15 we shall see that both Gospel writers recorded the same event. But where Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of Heaven” Mark uses the phrase “kingdom of God”. Matthew 4:17, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘repent: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand'”. Mark 1:15, “…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel”. Matthew translates the words of Christ figuratively as the “kingdom of Heaven”, but Mark translates the same discourse given at the same time literally as the “kingdom of God”. Obviously, in this passage, the kingdom of God is used in the same sense as the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. Christ’s reign over the nation, as opposed to individuals.
Why does the Holy Spirit, at times, use different terms for the same thing? The answer to that question lies in the fact that each Gospel writer presented Christ in a different office. The paper on this web-site The Kingdom of Heaven presents the Scriptural evidence that Matthew presented Christ as the King of Israel, Mark as the Servant of God, Luke as the Son of Man and John as God. Christ in His office of Servant, or of Son of man or of God does not, primarily, have any impact on the millennial reign over Israel. Christ in His office of King of Israel, does, of course, impact the millennial reign over Israel, and that is why Matthew uses the term “kingdom of Heaven, and Mark and Luke do not use that term, but use the term “kingdom of God” instead. (The Appendix of this paper discusses the five times in which Matthew does us the term “kingdom of God”.)
Compare also Matthew 13:11 with Luke 8:10 . Matthew 13:11, “…it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given”. Luke 8:10, “….. unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables…’. Again, Matthew translates the words of Christ figuratively as the “kingdom of Heaven”, but Luke translates the same discourse given at the same time literally as the “kingdom of God”. Obviously, in this passage also, the kingdom of God is the same as the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. Christ’s reign over the nation, as opposed to individuals. ..
It is clear therefore, that because the term “kingdom of God” is sometimes used in the same way as is the term “kingdom of Heaven”, that the term “the kingdom of God” is sometimes used of Christ’s rule over Israel as a nation. Let us examine a few other passages which use the phrase “kingdom of God” as referring to God’s reign over the nation of Israel, i.e. the kingdom of Heaven.
In Matthew 5:3 we read “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven“. This verse comes at the beginning of Christ’s sermon on the mount. In Luke 6 our Lord gives a very similar sermon, but this time He is not on the mount, but on a plain (see verse 17). In this sermon we read in verse 20, “…blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God“. I believe that, even though this is not the exact same sermon as given in Matthew, we may conclude that our Lord had the same aspect of the kingdom in mind, i.e. His reign of the nation of Israel.
In Matthew 13 we read of the parables of the kingdom of Heaven. Verse 31, “….The kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed.…”. and in Luke 13: 18-19 we read, “Then He said, ‘Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his garden….”. Again, I believe that the same aspect of the kingdom is in the mind of our Lord when He compares it to a mustard seed, i.e. the kingdom in which Christ reigns over His nation, Israel.
2) The phrase “Kingdom of God” is also used of God’s reign, not of a nation, but over individual believers apart from their dispensational standing.
In John 3:3 for example, it is clear that what was intended was that only believers, i.e. individuals apart from their national origins can see the kingdom of God. “….unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. The phrase is used in the same way in John 3:5, “…unless a man is born of spirit and water, he cannot see the kingdom of God”. These verses obviously have to do with individual salvation unto eternal life. Salvation is an individual matter of faith, not a national matter of blessings. Therefore, when we read of the kingdom of God in relation to salvation, we are reading of His reign over individuals, not His reign over a nation. (Some believe that Jn. 3 is a passage about the re-birth of the nation of Israel. I believe that the paper on this web-site on being born again will prove from Scripture that this passage is not about the nation of Israel, it is about individuals as human beings apart from their dispensational standing.) Let us examine other scriptures which speak of the kingdom of God as His reign of individuals, as opposed to a nation.
Mark 10:14-15, “….He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. Again, this passage concerns salvation, and salvation is always and individual matter.
Mark 10:23. In verse 17 we read of the man who asked of our Lord, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” It is clear from that question, that he was asking as an individual. Our Lord answered, in part “…sell whatever thou hast and give to the poor..”. And when he could not agree to that, Christ said, in verses 23, “….How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God?”.
Acts 8:12 is an important verse because we find the two aspects of the kingdom of God, i.e. national and individual. “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized…”. I believe that Philip preached the kingdom of God as the reign of the nation of Israel, i.e. the kingdom of Heaven. But Philip also preached the individual aspect of the kingdom of God. That is, when he spoke of “the name of Jesus Christ” he was preaching the message of salvation, the acceptance of which allows one entrance into the kingdom of God in its individual aspect.
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”.
II Thess. 1:5, “….that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer”. Verse 4 ( “…because that your faith growing exceedingly…”) makes it clear that Paul is addressing individual believers as human beings, not the nation of Israel.
Further proof that the term “kingdom of God” is used for a kingdom that is universal, ( i.e. it is not used only of the earthly kingdom) is found in Col. 4:11 which reads, “…….. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God which have been a comfort unto me”. Colossians, being a prison epistle, i.e. written after Israel was set aside as God’s chosen nation in Acts 28, would not be speaking of the land of Israel in the millennium.
We have then, the following uses for the phrase “kingdom of God”. It is used: 1) of the reign of Christ over the nation of Israel. And it is used: 2) of the reign of individual believers, apart from their dispensational standing or national origins.
We come now to Acts 28:23 and 28:31. We read in both these verses that Paul preached concerning the kingdom of God. Was what he preached concerning the kingdom of God before Acts 28:28 the same thing he preached after Acts 28:28? We are not told specifically what he preached, but I believe that the context will help us to answer that question.
We read in Acts 28:17, “Three days later (after Paul had arrived in Rome-verse 16) he (Paul) called together the leaders of the Jews”. We read in verse 20 that it was “for the hope of Israel” that Paul was bound. There are two things to note in this context.1) It was the leaders of Israel that Paul called together. The fact that Paul spoke with the leaders of Israel indicates that it was not the kingdom of God in its individual aspect that was his message to them. That is to say, he did not preach to them concerning their salvation because their salvation was no more important to Paul then the salvation of any other person. What was important for the leaders of Israel to understand, was that they must accept their risen Messiah and in so doing make way for the national blessings of the kingdom of God.
The second thing of importance is that Paul explained to these leaders that it was for the hope of Israel that he had been bound. That gives us a clue as to what he wanted to talk to them about. The hope of Israel was the return of Christ so that He might reign as the King of Israel in the kingdom of Heaven.
When we combine these two clues I believe that it is clear that Paul was preaching the message of the kingdom of Heaven. May I remind the reader that the term “kingdom of God” is often used in the sense of the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. the millennial reign of Christ over Israel.
Now let us try to determine what Paul was preaching when, as it is said in verse 31, he preached the kingdom of God. Again, there are two clues in the context. One, Israel was set aside at Acts 28:25-28. (For the Scriptural proof of that statement please see the paper on this web-site Is The Dispensational Boundary Acts 28:28 or 28:25? ). We know that the kingdom of Heaven centered on Israel. Therefore the kingdom of Heaven was no longer an appropriate message after Israel was set aside.
The second clue was that Paul “taught them about the Lord Jesus Christ”. Because he was not preaching the message of Christ’s reign over Israel, I believe that Paul was preaching Jesus Christ as the Savior. That is to say, he was preaching the kingdom of God in its individual aspect, not in its national one..
As was mentioned above, Acts 8:12 also speaks of the two messages of the two aspects of the kingdom of God, so this, in my opinion, sets a precedence for the dual nature of the preaching of the kingdom of God in the same context.
In my opinion, the context will simply not allow the conclusion that Paul preached the same message after verse 28 as he did before verse 28. Not only does the immediate context not allow for the same message being preached, but the broader context will also not allow it.
Let us now compare the kingdom of Heaven with the kingdom of God. As was shown above, sometimes the term “kingdom of God” is used for the kingdom of Heaven. But when it is not used of the kingdom of Heaven it is used of believers in Christ apart from dispensational standing. When it is used of believers in Christ it is certainly not limited geographically. But the kingdom of Heaven is limited geographically. Therefore, we must conclude that the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God are not always the same thing.
THE KINGDOM OF THEIR FATHER
This term is found in Matt. 13:43 where we read, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father…” Verse 43 comes at the end of one of the parables of the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore I believe the term “kingdom of their Father” is used to describe a particular nuance of the kingdom of Heaven. Descriptive nuances are used very often in the Bible. For example, the Holy Spirit has been referred to as “the Comforter” in order to bring out that particular characteristic of the Holy Spirit. So too, it is not at all surprising to read different titles of the same kingdom. In this case the “kingdom of their Father” refers to the special relationship that the righteous in the kingdom of Heaven will enjoy with God, i.e. the relationship of children to their Father.
MY FATHER’S KINGDOM
We read this term in Matt. 26:29, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom”. This term again has a special nuance of the kingdom of Heaven. It emphasizes the fact that all things are given to Christ by His Father, hence the term “My Father’s kingdom”.
KINGDOM OF CHRIST
Eph. 5:5 reads, “For this ye know that no whoremonger, nor unclean person nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”. The Greek word translated “and” in this verse is “kai” and is often translated “even”. I believe that in this case “even” is the better translation because Christ is not a separate Person from God, He is God. So this verse should, in my opinion, read, “….has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, even God”. That points us to the kingdom of God. We read much the same thing in Gal. 5:21, “Envying, murders, drunkenness, revealings, and such like; of the which I tell you before……they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. Therefore, I believe that in Eph. 5:5 Paul is referring to the kingdom of God. But he reminds us that the kingdom of God is Christ’s kingdom, as Christ is God.
KINGDOM OF HIS DEAR SON
Col. 1:12-14, “Giving thanks unto the Father, Which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. In Whom we have redemption through His blood even the forgiveness of sins”.
These verses are non-dispensational in character. That is to say, they speak of truths that pertain to all believers. All believers are “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”. And all believers have been redeemed through His blood. Therefore, I believe that the “kingdom of His dear Son” is another name for the kingdom of God when that term is used in its broadest sense, i.e. of the kingdom of all believers.
In this passage we are told that it is the Father Who has “made us meet” to be partakers of the inheritance, and it is the Father Who delivered us from the power of darkness. So the term “kingdom of His dear Son” reminds us that the Son came to do the will of the Father and it is by the act of extreme grace on the part of the Father Who “sent His only begotten Son….” that we might be accepted into the “kingdom of His dear Son”. The term “Father” is used to remind us of the great love that God, as Father expressed by sending His Son, in Whom we have redemption.
“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28). I believe that the context will show that in this passage, “His kingdom” refers to the kingdom of God in its broadest sense, i.e. a kingdom of believers. We read in verse 26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (life-see verse 25)? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul (life)?” While it is true that Matthew speaks more of the kingdom of Heaven than any other New Testament writer, Matthew does not totally neglect the fact that Christ came to save the lost individual. In this verse the term “His kingdom” refers to the kingdom of “the Son of man”. Adam represents all mankind, not just Israelites. That also points to the reference to “His kingdom” in this instance as the kingdom of believers.
I Thess. 2:12
“That ye would walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory” (I Thess. 2:12). The note in the Companion Bible reads, “His own kingdom”. This term seems to tell us that God is the ruler of His own kingdom and no other force or person will rule it apart from Him.
In verses 14-16 Paul writes of the suffering endured both by himself and the saints at Thessolonica from the Jews who persecuted them. Could the reason Paul used the phrase “His own kingdom” be to say in effect, “Don’t concern yourselves too much with this present persecution, because one day you will enter into “His own kingdom” where only God will reign and there will be no one to persecute you any longer”? I am not sure, but because believers of every dispensation are expected to suffer persecution, I believe that in I Thess. 2:12 the term “His own kingdom” refers to the kingdom of God as used in its broadest sense, i.e. the kingdom of believers apart from their dispensational standing.
II Tim. 4:1
“I charge thee therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom”. In order to understand this verse correctly we must address three questions: 1) when will this judgment take place, 2) who will be judged, and 3) why did Paul use the phrase, “the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom“?
1) When will this judgment take place? We are told quite specifically that it will take place “at His appearing, i.e. at His coming.
2) Who will be judged according to this particular verse? We do not read of any judgment of unbelievers until after the 1,000 year reign, i.e. at the great white throne. Therefore this judgment of II Tim. 4 must refer to believers. We know from II Tim. 2:12 that “if we endure, we will also reign with Him”. This implies a judgment of the believer at resurrection. Therefore, I believe the judgment of II Tim. 4 refers to a judgment of believers in respect to their rewards.
We are specifically told that those to be judged will include those who are alive at His coming and those who are dead at His coming. I believe that it is logical to conclude that the dead of this verse will not be judged until they are resurrected.
3) Why did Paul use the phrase, “the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom“?
I believe those who will be alive at His coming are those of Israel and grafted in Gentiles, and those who will be dead at His coming will include members of the church which is His body. Let us consider this suggestion.
The fact that Paul mentions “His appearing and His kingdom” is significant. What did Paul mean by this phrase? If we understand the phrase “His kingdom” as the kingdom of all believers irrespective of dispensational callings, then we have some insight into what Paul was referring. Let me explain. As the reader will see in the paper on this website called The Church In The End Times the church will have ended at the end of the dispensation of the mystery, when Israel is taken back as God’s chosen people. Israel will have been taken back before the second coming of Christ. Therefore, those who are alive at His coming will be Israel and grafted in Gentiles, and those who are dead at His coming will include members of the church.
In short, when Christ returns He will judge Israel (some of whom will be alive) with respect to their rewards, and He will also judge those of the church, who will be dead at the time of His coming, with respect to their rewards. So the term “His kingdom” in II Tim. 4 refers to the kingdom of God in its broadest sense, His rule of all believers of every dispensation and calling.
HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM
We find the term “His heavenly kingdom” in II Tim. 4:18, “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Is this the “kingdom of Heaven”? Is it the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven? Is it the kingdom of God as used in its broadest sense of believers of every dispensation? Is it a kingdom that is unique to the dispensation of the mystery? Let us consider each of these questions.
Is “His heavenly kingdom” the same as the kingdom of Heaven? It cannot be the same because, as we have seen above, the kingdom of Heaven is Christ’s rule over the land of Israel on earth during His millennial reign. But II Timothy, in which we find this phrase, was written to the church of the dispensation of the mystery whose calling is to heavenly places, as is stated in Eph.2:6 “And hath quickened us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. (The paper on the calling of the church proves from Scripture that the church is indeed called to heaven.) Note that in II Tim. 4:18 Paul includes himself as being preserved unto “His heavenly kingdom”. Therefore, because Paul, nor any other believer, will be called to both heaven and earth, we must conclude that the term “His heavenly kingdom” does not refer to an earthly kingdom. Also, Israel had been put aside at the end of the Acts period, and Her calling had been put in abeyance. So “His heavenly kingdom” cannot refer to the kingdom of Heaven.
Is “His heavenly kingdom” the New Jerusalem? I don’t believe it is for two reasons. 1) The term “His heavenly kingdom” is used in a prison epistle and Israel had already been set aside at Acts 28 when it was written. Therefore, the New Jerusalem being Israel centered, cannot be the kingdom for which Paul hoped. Consider the description of it in Rev. 21. Verse 12 tells us that it will have “twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel“. Verse 14, “and the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in the the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”. The measurement of the city is “twelve thousand furlongs….and the length and breadth and the height of it are equal”. The number twelve is, of course, the number of Israel. The church which is His body has no place in an Israel centered New Jerusalem.
2) The church which is His body has been promised a calling to where Christ sits in heavenly places. The New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth. Again, Paul is not called to both an earthly and a heavenly calling, and Paul will be preserved unto His heavenly kingdom, therefore that term cannot refer to the new Jerusalem.
Is “His heavenly kingdom” the kingdom of God when used in its broadest sense of God’s rule of believers of every dispensation? Let us review the entire verse, “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”. This verse has three parts, 1) Paul’s deliverance from evil works, 2) his preservation unto “His heavenly kingdom”, and 3) the glory of the Lord. The first two parts, in my opinion, compliment each other. That is to say, that Paul’s statement that he will be delivered from evil works goes with his statement that he will be preserved unto His heavenly kingdom”.
Paul’s being kept from evil works suggests that it is the kingdom of God in it’s broadest sense that is to be understood. That is to say, being kept from evil works has nothing to do with where Paul’s calling is, it has to do with the perfection of righteousness as God reigns over believers of every dispensation. Therefore, I believe the term “His heavenly kingdom” refers to the kingdom of God in its broadest sense as He reigns over believers of every dispensation.
But many will object that because the term includes the word “heavenly” and is found in a prison epistle, it must refer to the calling of the church and (only the church) to heavenly places. But “heavenly” is an adjective, it is not a noun. As we know, a noun is a word used of a person, place or thing, and an adjective is a word that modifies, or describes a noun. “Heavenly” is an adjective, it describes or modifies a noun. In point of fact, as discussed above, the heavenly Jerusalem is not in heaven and neither is the kingdom of Heaven in heaven. Both will be on earth. Therefore, there is no evidence to conclude that “His heavenly kingdom” refers to the place whereunto the church is called.
Because there is nothing in the context that points to the term “His heavenly kingdom” referring to a place, I believe it refers to the kingdom of God in which God will reign over all believers of every dispensation.
KINGDOM OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
II Peter 1:11, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. There are two things that point to the “kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” as the kingdom of God, the kingdom of all believers. 1) The fact that “Saviour” is included in Christ’s title in the term used for the kingdom. That is to say, Christ is the Saviour of believers of all dispensations. And 2) the fact that the context contains truths that are universal as opposed to dispensational. By that I mean that the truths apply to men as men, not as Jews, therefore, they are universal truths. For example consider verses 3-4, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him That hath called us to glory and virtue, whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”.
KINGDOM OF OUR GOD
Rev. 12:10 reads, “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now is come salvation, and strength and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down which accused them before our God day and night”. The note in the Companion Bible indicates that the Greek reads, “the salvation” and NIV Greek Interlinear bears that out. The definite article limits the word salvation. What are we to learn from that?
The book of Revelation is the most Israel centered book in the entire New Testament. Chapter 12 in particular obviously speaks of Israel in the tribulation. Even verse nine which speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven says that he “deceiveth the whole world”. The Greek word translated “world” is “oikoumenee” and means “inhabited world”. “Oikoumenee” is used in Luke 2:1, “… all the world should be taxed”. It is also used in Acts 11:28, “…..through the Holy Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire world”. (The NIV has “Roman World”). It is also used in Acts 24:5, “stirring up trouble among the Jews over the world“. It is clear that where the Holy Spirit uses the word “oikoumenee” He means a very limited part of the world, as the entire world was not taxed (Luke 2:1), there was not a severe famine in the entire world (Acts 11:28) and the Jews did not stir up trouble all over the entire world (Acts 24:5).
Coming back to Rev. 12:9 where we read that Satan deceived the “oikoumenee”. I am not suggesting that Satan, in his workings among man deceived only part of the world. But the book of Revelation is not about the whole world. (Please see the paper on this web-site The Tribulation Is Not World Wide for the Scriptural evidence of that statement.) Revelation is about Israel and the surrounding nations (the oikoumenee). So when we read that Satan deceives the oikoumneee it is because in this particular book the whole world is not in view, only a rather small part of it is in view.
We have learned that verse 10 should read, “now is come the salvation”. Because this verse is in the context of Israel in the tribulation, I believe that “the salvation” refers to salvation from the tribulation. That is to say, when Christ returns the tribulation will come to an end, hence those who survived it, will be saved by His return.
Because the context of chapter 12 is so Israel centered, and because the context of verse 10 in particular is also Israel centered, I believe that in all probability the term “kingdom of our God” refers to the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. Christ’s reign over the land of Israel in the millennium.
As I indicated in some sections, I cannot say with certainty as to what some of these titles may be referring. But what, in my opinion, is the more important issue, is the idea that the Holy Spirit did not use these titles of God’s rule without purpose. That is to say, they all refer either to different things or they suggest different nuances of the same thing. This is a principle that is found throughout the Bible. In short, every word in the Bible is exactly the word the Holy Spirit chose in order to convey a particular thought.
APPENDIX: FIVE OCCURRENCES OF THE TERM “KINGDOM OF GOD” IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL
Matthew used the term “kingdom of God” five times when quoting Christ. But as I hope to show as we consider each occurrence, our Lord was speaking about the kingdom of Heaven in its dispensational and national aspects, but what He said has universal and individual applications, and that is why Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of God” rather than his usual “kingdom of Heaven”.
1) The first occurrence of the term “kingdom of God” in Matthew’s Gospel is found in 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. Let us consider the parallel passage in Luke 12:22-31. We read in verse 32, “fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. One enters into the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of Heaven will be given to Israel. In other words, Luke uses the term “kingdom of God” in this parallel passage But it is clearly in reference to the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, the parallel passage in Matt. 6 also speaks of the kingdom of Heaven. The question is then, why did Matthew use the term “kingdom of God”? Let us consider the context.
We read in verse 25, “….take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink….”. And verse 26, “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”. Verses 28-30 reads, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of them. Wherefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you….”. What is the point of this passage?. The point is summarized in verse 34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day in the evil thereof”.
This passage speaks of not worrying about food and drink. Consider Phil 4:6-7, “Be careful for nothing; (don’t worry) but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. In short, this is a universal truth, it is applicable in all dispensations. My point is that Christ had in mind the kingdom of Heaven (that’s the interpretation), but because this passage is applicable to all dispensations, Matthew used the term “kingdom of God”.
2) Matt. 12:28, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you“. Christ’s coming unto them as their King means that He is ready to set up the millennial reign. That is consistent with how Matthew presents Christ.
But here again, even though Christ had in mind the dispensational and national kingdom of Heaven, I believe that it has application to the kingdom of God in its universal aspect, and that is why Matthew used that term. Consider for example verse 31, “Wherefore (this word tells us that we are about to get the point that is being made) I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men”. The paper on Matt. 24:34 proves from Scripture that Christ chose to not know of the dispensation of the mystery. Therefore, I’m not sure we can say that this verse is applicable to the present dispensation, but it is applicable to individuals in the time Christ was on earth, and will be again when He returns.
3) Matt. 19:24, “And again I say unto 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”. I believe our Lord had in mind the kingdom of Heaven. Note the preceding verse, i.e. verse 23, “….a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven“. Then verse 24 begins “Again, I say unto you….”. My point is that verse 24 makes the same point as does verse 23. Because verse 23 speaks of the kingdom of Heaven, so too, in my opinion, does the next verse, i.e. verse 24 speak of the kingdom of Heaven.
However, here again, I believe that there is a “universal truth”. That is to say, couldn’t the same thing may be said of all dispensations? In other words, as in the other occurrences of the term, the reason the term “kingdom of God” was used was to indicate its universal aspects.
4) Matt. 21:31 “Whether of the twain did the will of his father? They say unto him,the first’. Jesus saith unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you'”. Again, because this parable is quoted by Matthew, who presents Christ as the King of Israel, I believe Christ had in mind (the interpretation) the kingdom of Heaven. But doesn’t the spirit of this parable apply to every dispensation? I believe that it does.
5) Mat 21:43, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof”.
The phrase “a nation” leads us, in my opinion, to conclude that Christ did indeed have the kingdom of Heaven in mind. But why, in this context, did He use the phrase “kingdom of God”? I believe the answer to that question is given in the next verse, “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomever It shall fall, It will grind him to powder”. What does it mean to “fall on this Stone”? I think it means to reject Christ. We know from Jn. 3:16 that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”. In other words he who rejects Christ will perish but he who accepts Him will live in resurrection. So there is the universal aspect of this passage and that is why Matthew used the term “kingdom of God”.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org