“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for there is the kingdom of heaven”. Matthew 5:1-10
These are the teaching of Jesus as spoken to his disciples. The kingdom of heaven came into being when God came to earth in the form of his own son, Jesus Christ.
Is the kingdom of heaven the same as the kingdom of God? It is most likely that they are one and the same, in fact, the reason that Matthew spoke of the kingdom of heaven as opposed to the kingdom of God is probably due to the reverence Jews have to God’s name and their reluctance to use it. As his gospel was written to the Jews this makes perfect sense. So, they are both the same but what is it?
Four different concepts can be identified in defining the Kingdom of Heaven:
1. The Reign of God
Kingdom in this sense does not mean a realm defined by geographical boundaries; rather it refers to the area of God’s dominion wherever that may be. Therefore we could say that the Kingdom of God has always existed but in our terms, it was foretold by Daniel (Dan 2: 44-45), “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” and also of course by John the Baptist (Mt 3:1-3) “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”. Jesus himself preached it, and it is in the person of Jesus Christ that the Kingdom of Heaven is manifest today.
2. Spiritual Realm
The kingdom would not be found in the form of a physical kingdom but rather as a spiritual one and would show itself in spiritual ways (Ro 14:17) “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”.
3. Visible Today
The kingdom is also visible in today’s church. The church, of course, is a community of like-minded souls who share the belief that God is the ruler of this kingdom. In fact, the terms church and kingdom are interchangeable, Jesus used both to mean the same thing (Mt 16:18), “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, and it also applies to those who were in the churches of Asia (Re 1:4, 6, 9) “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever, I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ”.
4. Is a Kingdom of the Present and the Future
The kingdom of heaven applies to the future as well as the present? Jesus, Paul, and Peter all speak of this, with Peter speaking of its future state (2 Pe 3:10-13) “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”.
All four concepts should be considered when thinking of the kingdom of heaven, failure to do so could easily lead to misconception. In the present sense, the kingdom can be found wherever men have taken God into their hearts and in this sense, it is a spiritual rather than a physical kingdom. At the present time, its physical manifestation is the church and it came into being on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2:36), “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”. The kingdom of the future will arrive with the coming of the Lord, in other words, the return of Jesus Christ. Both Peter and John describe this as a new heaven and a new earth in which “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them” (Re 21:3). This kingdom will only be experienced by those who are submitting to God’s will as in Matthew, “the will of my father in heaven” (Mt 7:21-23). When Jesus spoke, his parables often spoke of the kingdom of heaven in both its present and its future forms. Of course to enter the kingdom one needs, like Jesus, to be re-born as John explains; “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”, (Jo 3:3-5).
What can we expect from the kingdom of heaven?
We should realize that the kingdom of heaven is already here, if we are following the teachings of Jesus then we are already part of it. What is it like? (Ma 4:30), “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?”, in many of the parables of Jesus it is compared to a seed, for example in the parables of the sower, the mustard seed and the wheat. The analogy here is that if the seed of God is planted within our hearts it will grow and multiply, to be in the kingdom of God we need to truly believe and in doing so we should carry out God’s work whenever we can. To enter into this kingdom we need to remember that it is the spiritual aspect of ourselves that is important, not the physical as recorded by John. If you are worried about not being one of God’s chosen people then be assured that for everyone it is possible to be chosen, (Ga 3:26-29), “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as having been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye is all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.
No-one is saying it is easy to enter, but if you are true to your faith and follow the teachings of the lord then you are following the right path. Earlier it was mentioned that the kingdom of heaven existed in the present and in the future and that the kingdom of the present was in you, it is how you leave your life and what you believe in. But what of the future? What is the kingdom to come going to be like? You may ask how do we know, the answer is simple we have been told about it. When God came to earth as Jesus he explained all, after all, he is the way, the truth, and the life. We must love God wholly and love our neighbor as ourselves because this will be the foundation of life in heaven. Heaven is a place of ‘no mores’, there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering (Re 21:4) “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away”. Death will be conquered so there will be no more separation (Re 20:6) “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”. Above all this, though is the fact that we will be in the presence of God for all eternity. The likeliest scenario is that the earth shall be reborn but without sin and that this will be the kingdom of heaven.
Finally, when Jesus arrived on the coasts of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples a question: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Ma 16:13-19)