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THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

WHAT IS IT? WHERE IS IT? WHEN IS IT?

We will consider the following subjects in connection with our study of the kingdom of Heaven:

The term “kingdom of Heaven”

Why is the term “kingdom of Heaven” used in Matthew’s Gospel only?

The parables of the kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom of Heaven and the millennial reign.

Cut off from Israel

Conclusions

THE TERM “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”

As we begin our study of the kingdom of Heaven it would be helpful to know that one of the more important things to understand about it, is that the term “kingdom of Heaven” is used in the Gospel of Matthew only. In parallel passages the term used is “kingdom of God”.  Compare, for example Matthew 11:11 with Luke 7:28.  The passage in Matthew 11 reads, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he””.  The parallel passage in Luke reads, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

How do we account for the fact that Matthew uses one term when quoting our Lord and Luke uses a different term?  The answer to that question, according to E.W. Bullinger,  lies in the fact that while on earth, our Lord spoke in Aramaic.  When Matthew translated the Aramaic into Greek he used the figure of speech Metonymy.  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.

WHY IS THE TERM “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” USED IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL ONLY?

Why, we might ask, is Matthew the only one to translate the phrase as “kingdom of Heaven” while the others translate the same Aramaic phrase “kingdom of God”? (For a study of the differences and the sameness of the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God please see the paper on this web-site A Study Of The Terms For God’s Kingdoms.) The answer to that question lies in the fact that each of the four Gospel writers present Christ as one of the four “Branches” written about in the Old Testament.  Each of these “Branches” refer to Christ.  Let us examine those four passages.

Jeremiah 23:5 reads, “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land”.  It is not coincidental that Matthew,  in his genealogy of Christ, traces His line through David, because the King of Israel was to come from the lineage of Judah through King David.  Matthew then, presents Christ as the King of Israel.

Zechariah 3:8 reads, “….I am going to bring My Servant, the Branch”.  Note that Mark gives no genealogy of our Lord, this is because Christ is presented in Mark’s Gospel as God’s Servant and servants have no written genealogy.

Zech. 6:12, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘Here is the Man whose name is the Branch, and He will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord, and He will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne…..”.  Luke’s Gospel records our Lord’s genealogy all the way back to Adam because he presents Christ as the Son of Man.

The genealogy of John’s Gospel makes it abundantly clear, in my opinion, that John presents Christ as God.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God“.  The reference to the Branch is not as obvious as in the other Gospels but we read in Is. 4:2, “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious”. Only God is glorious. The Branch of the Lord is Christ, Who, as God, is “beautiful and glorious”.

In short, 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 key point for this present study is that Matthew presents Christ as the King of Israel.

So far we have learned two things about the uniqueness of Matthew’s Gospel. 1) Matthew presents Christ as King of Israel and 2) he is the only one of the four Gospel writers to use the phrase “kingdom of Heaven”.  This suggests a close connection of Israel to the kingdom of Heaven.

THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Before we draw any conclusions from just those two facts we will study the parables as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel and also a phrase that appears almost exclusively in Matthew’s Gospel.  That phrase is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

No study of the kingdom of Heaven would be complete without a study of the parables, for they have as their subject the kingdom of Heaven.  When asked by His disciples why He spoke to the crowds in parables Christ answered, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them”. (Matt. 13:11)  This tells us that when we study the parables, if we are to understand them correctly, we should look for the secret concerning the kingdom of Heaven as revealed in each of the parables.  (May I say at the outset that it is not my intention to give a comprehensive study of each of the parables.  For the purpose of this paper I will offer a very concise explanation of what are, in my opinion, the secrets revealed about the kingdom of Heaven in a few  of the parables). For a complete study of the parables please see the paper on this web-site, A Study Of How To Interpret The Parables Of Jesus Christ.

 Matt. 13:24-30 records the telling of the parable.of the weeds.  The explanation of the parable is given in verses 37-39. ” The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are the angels”. In the following passage, (verses 40-43) the parable is alluded to, and describes what will actually take place. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, He who has ears, let him hear.” The secret revealed in the parable of the weeds is, in my opinion, that the kingdom of Heaven will be such that no unrighteousness will be allowed in it.

There are several things about this parable that we should also keep in mind as we continue our study of the kingdom of Heaven. “The good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom” (13:38).  Who are the “sons of the kingdom”?  That question is answered in Matt. 8:5-13.  A centurion came to our Lord and asked Him to heal his servant.  When Christ said that He would go and heal him, the centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed’.   When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven.  But the children of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

In this passage the faith of the centurion is contrasted with those of Israel.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who are all present at the feast at the kingdom of Heaven, are the fathers of the nation of Israel. The children of kingdom then, are Israelites.  This is why Matthew, who presents Christ as the King of Israel, is the only Gospel writer to use the phrase “kingdom of Heaven”.   Obviously not all of Israel will be allowed into the kingdom, but only the faithful of Israel. The unfaithful of Israel will be “thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 Although the children of the kingdom of Heaven are Israelites, it is clear that faithful Gentiles (except those of the present dispensation who have been promised a heavenly, not an earthly, calling) will also be allowed into the kingdom as well. Is. 56:6-8  reads, “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant, these I will bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  The Sovereign Lord declares –  He who gathers the exiles of Israel; I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered”.

Another thing to keep in mind about this parable is that the “field is the world”.  Israelites as the “sons of the kingdom” are gathered from the world.  The gathering of Israel is what our Lord was speaking of when He said,  “many will come from the east and the west”.  There are many passages in the Old Testament concerning the gathering of Israel.  Isaiah 11:12 reads, “He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered  of Judah from the four corners of the earth”.  Is. 43:5, “I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west”.   Jer. 23:3 reads, “I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number”.

What we have learned so far is that faithful Israelites will be gathered from the four corners of the earth to be part of the kingdom of Heaven.  Unfaithful Israel will be gathered only to be thrown out of the kingdom.

The parable of the net is recorded in Matt. 13:47-48.  “….the kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in the baskets, but threw the bad away. The explanation of the parable is recorded in verses 49-50, “this is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  This parable reveals the same secret as does the parable of the weeds; that even though all Israel will be gathered, not all will be allowed into the kingdom of Heaven, for the kingdom of Heaven will have no unrighteousness in it.

 The message of the parable of the wedding banquet is found in Matt. 22:14, “For many are invited, but few are chosen”. This parable has many interpretations, but unfortunately, they are not based on the principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture. It would take us too far off our subject to discuss this parable, but I encourage the reader to see the paper on this web-site, A Study Of How To Interpret The Parables Of Jesus Christ for an in-depth study of this parable.

The parable of the ten virgins, in conjunction with the parable of the weeds, is very important in telling us when, in the end times, to expect the kingdom of Heaven.  The message of this parable is found in Matt. 25:13, “therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”.  The day or the hour of what?   The day or the hour of the coming of the bridegroom. The point of this parable is that one is to watch and be ready for the coming of Christ. The secret concerning the kingdom of Heaven then, is that the kingdom of Heaven will be established at the return of Christ.

The parable of the ten virgins is about the kingdom of Heaven, and the message is that one needs to be ready for the coming of the Bridegroom. As we have already seen, the parable of the weeds refers to two things that connect the kingdom of Heaven with the second coming of Christ. They are 1) the angels that come to gather the weeds at the time of the second coming and 2) the gathering of the children of the kingdom of Heaven at the return of Christ. We have seen several things that connect the kingdom of Heaven with the coming of Christ.  Putting all of these together, I think that we may conclude that one can expect the kingdom of Heaven with the return of Jesus Christ.

I believe that it might be helpful at this point to list the things that have been revealed in the parables of Matthew’s Gospel concerning the kingdom of Heaven.

1) No unrighteousness will be allowed in the kingdom of Heaven.
2) The children of the kingdom are Israel.
3) Not all Israel will be allowed entrance.  Some will be cast out.
4) Faithful Gentiles will also be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.
5) The kingdom of Heaven will be established when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to reign.

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND THE MILLENNIAL REIGN

So far we have answered the question of when to expect the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. when our Lord returns. We know that when the Lord returns He will reign as King for 1,000 years, i.e. the millennial reign. “They (the martyrs of the great tribulation) came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4b).

If the kingdom of Heaven comes at the same time as the millennial reign, are they the same thing?  No.  The kingdom of Heaven refers to the rule of Christ over the Land of Israel.  The millennial reign refers to the 1,000 year reign of Christ over all  the nations of the earth. As we continue with a consideration of the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” I believe the difference between the kingdom of Heaven and the millennial reign will be understood. I believe the reader will see that the kingdom of Heaven is limited to Christ’s reign over believers who will be in the Land of Israel, while the millennium is Christ’s reign over all the other nations of the earth wherein will live only unbelievers who will not enjoy the blessings enjoyed in the land. So even though the kingdom of Heaven and the millennial reign are simultaneous, they are not the same.

(Before we begin our study of this phrase, may I say that I understand that many readers believe that the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” refers to the torment of those suffering in hell. May I respectably suggest to those readers that they look at the paper on this web-site A Study of Hell I believe it will show that the traditional view of hell is unscriptural.)

The first occurrence of the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” occurs in the story of the faithful centurion as recorded in Matt. 8:1-13.  Having looked at that passage earlier in this paper we learned that the children of the kingdom are Israelites gathered from the four corners of the earth, but that some of those children will be cast out into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The next occurrence of the phrase is found in Matt.13:42.  Matt.13:40-43 reads, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear”.  From this passage we learn once again that only the righteous will be allowed into the kingdom of Heaven and that the others will be cast out.

The third occurrence of the phrase is found in Matt. 13:50 where the parable of the net is recorded, “this is how it will be at the end of the age;  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  Again, we see that the unrighteous will not be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.

Matt. 22:13 records the end of the parable of the wedding banquet, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For many are invited, but few are chosen”.  This parable is about the kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore, I believe that the invitations to the wedding banquet represent the invitations (the gathering of Israel) to the kingdom of Heaven and, once again, the message is that not all will be allowed into the kingdom of Heaven.

The next occurrence of the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” appears in Matt. 24:51.  We should note that the entire passage under consideration i.e. Matt. 24:36-51, is about the return of Christ.  Our Lord, in this passage, is teaching the same lesson as He does in the parable of the ten virgins, i.e. if one is not prepared for the coming of the Lord he will be assigned “a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  This lesson is consistent with what we have already discovered, that the unrighteous and the unfaithful will not be allowed into the kingdom of Heaven.

In Matt. 25:30 we learn from the parable of the talents that the worthless servant will be thrown “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  Again, this is consistent with what is stated above; i.e. only the righteous will be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.

Luke 13:28 reads, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out”.  This takes us back to Matt. 8:10-12.  Here too we have the mention of the feast of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  In our discussion of the first occurrence of the term “weeping and gnashing of teeth” we learned that the subjects of the kingdom are Israelites.

Now let us see what can be learned from the occurrences of the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

Our first discovery in this paper was that the phrase “kingdom of Heaven” appears only in Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew’s Gospel presents Christ as the King of Israel. Another point we have discovered is that the children of the kingdom of Heaven are of Israel, and it is some of Israel, the unfaithful, who will be cast out.  From these truths we may conclude that the kingdom of Heaven will be Christ’s rule of the land of Israel.  Therefore, to be cast out “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” is to be cast out of Israel.

In order to determine the truth of that statement let us consider the character of the 1,000 year reign as opposed to the character of the kingdom of Heaven.

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”. May I remind the reader at this point that several of the parables had as their revealed secret that no unrighteousness will be allowed into the kingdom of Heaven.  How does this fact fit into the picture of Psalm 2, where there seems to be a picture of forced rule over the nations?  (Note the phrase “dash them to pieces like pottery”.)  Let us consider just a few of the many prophesies about the millennial reign.

Is. 2:4, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore”.

Is. 60:14, “The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you (Israel); all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel”.

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”.

As we continue our study, we will discover that outside the Land, that is to say, in the nations apart from Israel, life will be not so blessed.   Let us search the scriptures for confirmation of that.

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”.

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.

 Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn”.

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”.

Is. 62:2, “The nations will see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory”.

Is. 49:22, “See I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up My banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.  Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens you nursing mothers.  They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet.  Then you will know that I am the Lord”.

Is. 56:6-8, “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer,  The Sovereign Lord declares – he who gathers the exiles of Israel; I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered”.  It is clear from this verse and others that the center of the millennial blessings is the nation of Israel, but Gentiles will also have the opportunity to serve the Lord in His temple.

CUT OFF FROM ISRAEL

Ps. 37:9, “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”. This verse is very important to our understanding of the kingdom of Heaven and is the key to unlocking the meaning of the phrase, “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  While it is very true that the phrase “cut off” may refer to being killed, it is often used to mean cut off from 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”.

There are other scriptures which warn of the danger of being cut off from living in the land.  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”.

I think we can now understand that the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” which is spoken of in connection with the kingdom of Heaven refers to what will happen when the unfaithful children of the kingdom (Israelites) are thrown 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).  From this we can, in my opinion, better understand the parables that have to do with the kingdom of Heaven.  They are about living a righteous life so as to be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.

There are two Old Testament verses that, at the very least, allude to certain ones being cast out of the Land of Israel into the nations of the earth.  Let us consider those.

1) We read in 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”. I believe that the darkness referred to in this verse is that which is over the nations in contrast to Israel. So we have here the connection between the nations outside of Israel and the outer darkness of into which some will be cast.

2) Is. 8:22  may not speak of the millennium, but it would show that first century Jews were not unfamiliar with the concept of being cast out into outer darkness. That verse reads, “And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “driven” reads, “thrust out into”, and the usage of the Hebrew word bear out that suggestion.

CONCLUSIONS

Let us now put all of these things together.
1) The phrase “kingdom of Heaven” refers to the reign of Christ in the Land of Israel.
2)  The nation of Israel will be profoundly blessed in the kingdom of Heaven, to the extent that the Gentile nations come to Israel to serve God and Israel.
3) The nations outside Israel are not so blessed, indeed there is “darkness over the nations”.
4) Those who are found unworthy to enter the kingdom of Heaven will be cast out where they will live among the nations.

Now, I believe we can answer the questions posed in the title of this paper.  What is the kingdom of Heaven? It is the rule of Christ over Israel. It will be a time of great blessing to the nation of Israel and to all those Gentiles who have shown themselves faithful. It will be the reward to all those who are judged to be righteous.

Where is the kingdom of Heaven?  It is on earth and will be in Israel.

When is the kingdom of Heaven?  The kingdom of Heaven will be established when Jesus Christ returns to rule as King of Israel.

The 1,000 year reign refers to the same time period as the kingdom of Heaven but its scope is much broader.  That is to say, while the kingdom of Heaven refers to the rule of Christ in the Land, the 1,000 year reign refers to the reign of Christ over all the nations on earth

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please E-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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