Kingdom; Kingdom of God; Kingdom of Heaven

Concise Bible Dictionary:

In Daniel 2:44 it is predicted that “In the days of these kings [the ten divisions of the fourth kingdom, the revived Roman Empire] 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” (compare also Dan. 7). The “kingdom of heaven” was announced by John the Baptist and by the Lord as “at hand” (Matt. 3:2; Matt. 4:17), but the Lord declared that the “kingdom of God” had come (Matt. 12:28). In many respects the two expressions are identical, but the “kingdom of heaven” occurs in the gospel by Matthew only, and stands in contrast to the Messiah on earth. It refers to the rule of that which God has set in heaven, and commenced when Christ went to heaven. It may be illustrated by the lights which God set in the heavens to give light and to rule on earth. The “kingdom of God” is more connected with the moral state established in man.
The Jews having refused their king, the kingdom was not set up in manifestation at that time and it is still held in abeyance. In the meanwhile it is “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9). Christ is represented as having gone to receive a kingdom, and to return (Luke 19:12). In the meantime the kingdom has been produced, and goes on in its mysterious form (compare Matt. 13:11). There are multitudes who profess obedience to God and to the Lord Jesus, and who look to heaven as the throne from whence come all their blessings, while they are passing through a world of which Satan is the god and prince; but to the saints the kingdom of God is very real. They by faith anticipate the kingdom in power. Righteousness, peace, and joy, characteristics of the kingdom, are already theirs in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17). In this sense the kingdom of God is often referred to in the Epistles. A person must be born again really to enter into it (John 3:3, 5), but this idea is distinct from the form which the kingdom has taken, and the dimensions it has attained in the hands of man.
The parables in the gospels describe the form and objects of the kingdom while the Lord is away. In Matthew 13 the Lord spoke four parables to the multitude; then He dismissed the people and explained the parable of the Wheat and the Tares to His disciples, and added three parables bearing on the secret character of the kingdom. It is shown that evil would be found in the kingdom, but that Christ will eventually send His angels to gather out of His kingdom all things that offend; then it will be established in power by the Lord Jesus sitting on His own throne, and reigning supreme as Son of Man over the earth, ending by His ultimately giving up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24,28). The moral characteristics suitable to the kingdom are given in the Sermon on the Mount, and its principles and order in Matthew 18.
The kingdom must not be confounded with the church. In the kingdom the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest; but in the church a wicked person is to be put out (1 Cor. 5:13). There may appear to be a similarity between the professing church and the kingdom; but the ideas are not the same. The kingdom is the sphere of Christ’s rule; whereas the church is the dwelling place of God by the Spirit. Neither will the duration on earth of the church and the kingdom be the same; the kingdom will be set up in power after the rapture of the church, and will continue during the millennium. The Christian, besides sharing in the privileges of the church, has also the privileges and responsibilities attaching to the kingdom. To each individual is entrusted a pound (Luke 19:12-24); or, in another aspect, one or more talents (Matt. 25:14-28), which he is responsible to use for his Lord and Master, and for which he will have to give an account in a future day. His place in heaven is by grace apart from his works, but his reward in the kingdom will be according to his faithfulness to his Lord.

From Anstey’s Doctrinal Definitions:

This term has to do with the sphere of the Lord’s authority in connection with men in various ways on earth. There are at least ten different expressions in Scripture regarding the kingdom depicting its different aspects. It is not that there are ten kingdoms, but rather, ten aspects or distinctive characters of one kingdom (Precious Things, vol. 3, p. 272):
1) The Kingdom Of God
This term (mentioned over 70 times in Scripture) has to do with the moral state that God forms in the subjects of the kingdom. That is, when this term is used, it is emphasizing the moral order that should be found in the walk and ways of those in the kingdom. In Romans 14:17, the Apostle Paul defines this aspect of the kingdom as not being outward religious rituals and ceremony (“meat and drink”), but rather as being moral characteristics (“righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”) that God produces in His people.
This is seen in the answer that the Lord gave to those who were looking for the kingdom of God to be set up. The people thought that it would come in with an outward display of political power and material blessing. However, the Lord explained that it had already come and was on display "in the midst" of them, as demonstrated in His life, because He exemplified the moral features of the kingdom perfectly in His walk and ways (Luke 17:20-21).
A person enters the kingdom of God by new birth (John 3:5). Receiving a new life and nature from God (through new birth) enables a person to live according to the moral order of the kingdom. Apart from this, a person cannot rightly display the moral features of the kingdom of God in his life, nor can he understand and appreciate them displayed in others (John 3:3). While a person must enter the kingdom in reality by new birth, it is possible for one to put on an outward display of the moral features of the kingdom of God without being a real believer at all. Luke 13:18-21 indicates this hypocrisy. A great outward show of faith has developed among men in the Lord’s absence, mixed with much evil doctrine. In the millennial day, the kingdom will be marked by the appropriate, moral features in its subjects.
2) The Kingdom Of The Heavens
This is a term that is found in Matthew’s gospel only—occurring 33 times. It refers to the kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament Scriptures which the Messiah of Israel would set up on earth, having its seat of rule in the heavens (Gen. 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:12-13; Dan. 2:44). It is not a kingdom up in heaven, as commonly thought, but rather, a kingdom on earth with the seat of its government being in the heavens (Psa. 103:19). Israel’s prophets describe this kingdom as having incredible utopian conditions. (See The Millennium.)
Scripture indicates that on account of the Jews’ rejection of their Messiah, the setting up of the "the kingdom of the heavens" with its outward blessings would be postponed (Dan. 9:26; Mic. 5:2-3; Zech. 11:4-14). History attests to this fact. For almost two thousand years since the Jews crucified their Messiah, virtually nothing has materialized for them in the way of the kingdom being established as promised in the Old Testament.
God has not been frustrated by this rejection of Christ; He has ordered that, in the meantime, the Lord Jesus would set up “the kingdom of the heavens” in a mystery form. This can be seen by tracing the outline of Matthew's Gospel. In chapters 1-10, the Lord presented Himself to the nation as their Messiah. These chapters demonstrate that He had all the credentials as well as the power to bring in the kingdom according to the description given by the Old Testament prophets. However, the common people (chap. 11) and the leaders (chap. 12:24-45; Mark 3:22) rejected Him. Consequently, in chapters 12-13, in a number of symbolic actions and teachings, the Lord indicated that He would sever His connections with the nation (temporarily) and bring in the kingdom in this mystical character. Hence, the kingdom of the heavens would pass through a mystical phase (Matt. 13:10-17) before it would eventually be established in a public manifestation at the Appearing of Christ, as promised by Israel’s prophets. These two phases can be distinguished as:
•  The kingdom in mystery (Matt. 13:11).
•  The kingdom in manifestation (1 John 3:2 – J. N. Darby Translation footnote).
The parable in Luke 19:11-27 indicates that the Lord received the kingdom when He ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection. The “nobleman” in the parable (Christ) went into “a far country” (heaven) to receive a kingdom (vs. 12). Thus, the mystery phase of the kingdom of the heavens had its beginning at that time. Being in a mystery form at this present time, it does not look as though there is a kingdom in session. From all outward appearances it seems that God is not doing anything in this world at all. It is in a mystery form today because:
•  It is without a visible King.
•  It is without an earthly, geographical, administrative center.
•  It has no national boundaries.
•  Most of its professed subjects do not regard the authority of the King and live as if there were no King.
Regardless of these peculiarities, faith sees the King (the Lord Jesus) on His throne today in His kingdom. As good subjects in the kingdom, faith leads the believer to live according to the principles of the kingdom, as given in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), until the time comes when the kingdom passes into its public manifestation phase.
A person enters the kingdom in its mystery form by making a profession of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, but the formal way of entrance is through baptism. Thus, “the kingdom of the heavens” is the realm of Christian profession. It includes those who are real believers and those who are merely professing faith in Christ. From Matthew 13 to 25, the Lord gave ten similitudes of the kingdom of the heavens in its mystery phase. These similitudes present a comprehensive description of the character the kingdom would have in this present day when the King is absent. The point of these special parables is not to reconcile the Christian revelation of truth (given in the epistles) with what is presented in the similitudes. Each similitude has a salient point that the Lord intends for us to understand, but they do not necessarily incorporate all of the doctrines of Christianity into them. For instance, God is seen as the King rather than the Lord Jesus in the 7th and the 9th similitudes. Also, in the 9th and 10th similitudes, believers are seen as guests invited to the wedding, and not the bride. The bride in both similitudes is not the focus of the Lord’s teaching, and thus is not in the picture. Therefore, it is important to focus on the salient point which the Lord is emphasizing in each, rather than to try to reconcile Christian doctrine with the details of each parable.
The ten similitudes can be divided into three groups: the first group (#1 through #3) tells us what Satan is doing in the kingdom. The next group (#4 through #6) tells us what the Lord is doing in the kingdom in spite of Satan’s work. The last group (#7 through #10) tells us what we should be doing in the kingdom as good subjects.
•  Similitude #1—Satan is introducing evil persons ("tares") into the kingdom (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43).
•  Similitude #2—Satan is introducing evil spirits ("fowls") into the kingdom (Matt. 13:31-32).
•  Similitude #3—Satan is introducing evil doctrines ("leaven") into the kingdom (Matt. 13:33).
•  Similitude #4—The Lord is securing individuals (a "treasure") for Himself (Matt.13:44).
•  Similitude #5—The Lord is calling the Church (the "pearl") at a great cost to Himself (Matt. 13:45-46).
•  Similitude #6—The Lord is saving souls by the gospel (the "dragnet") and putting them in local assemblies ("vessels") (Matt. 13:47-50).
•  Similitude #7—We should maintain a right state of soul in relation to the Lord and have a forgiving spirit toward our brethren for fear of the governmental dealings of God in our lives (Matt. 18:23-35).
•  Similitude #8—We should willingly serve in the Lord’s vineyard without competition, jealousy, or complaint (Matt. 20:1-16).
•  Similitude #9—We should spread the gospel to the world, even though the Lord is rejected (Matt. 22:1-14).
•  Similitude #10—We should be looking for the imminent return of the Lord (Matt. 25:1-13).
As mentioned, “the kingdom of the heavens” will pass into its manifestation phase at the Appearing of Christ (Dan. 2:31-45; 7:9-28). The kingdom in this aspect will be brought in by the power of God through judgment (Isa. 26:9; Acts 17:31). The first thing the Lord will do is cleanse the kingdom of the heavens of the mixture that has existed in it for many centuries. Those who are merely professing believers and those who have abandoned faith in God (apostates) will be taken out in judgment by the angels (Matt. 13:40-43; 24:40-41; Rev. 19:20). Many of these have professed subjection to the King, but have not believed the gospel of the grace and glory of God.
3) The Kingdom Of The Son Of Man
When the kingdom of the heavens passes into its full manifestation in the Millennium, Christ will reign publicly as "the Son of Man" (Matt. 13:41). There will be two departments in the kingdom—a heavenly sphere and an earthly sphere. The earthly side of the kingdom is called the kingdom of the Son of Man (Matt. 13:41; 16:28; 19:28; 20:21; Luke 22:30; 23:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 3:21; 20:4) and will be composed of the remnant of Israel and the Gentile nations (Zech. 2:11; Rev. 2:26-27; 21:24).
4) The Kingdom Of Their Father
—This term refers to the heavenly department of the kingdom in the day of Christ's public reign in the Millennium (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27 – J. N. Darby Trans.; Matt. 6:10; 13:43; 26:29; 1 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 12:28). In Matthew 13:43, the Lord used the figure of the “sun,” which is a heavenly orb, to describe those in the heavenly side of the kingdom. The “righteous” who will “shine forth” are not those who will be left on earth after the angels take the wicked out in judgment, but those who have been gathered into the “barn” in heaven (Matt. 13:30). This heavenly department of the kingdom will be composed of resurrected Old Testament saints ("the spirits of just men made perfect" – Heb. 12:22-23; Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28), those who have died under the age of accountable responsibility and have been resurrected (Matt. 18:10), the resurrected martyred portion of the Jewish remnant (Rev. 11:11-12; 14:13; 20:4), and the Church—the "dead in Christ" who will be raised and the living saints who are raptured (1 Thess. 4:15-18; Phil. 3:20-21). These heavenly saints will reign with Christ over the earth in the millennial day (Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 3:21). The reigning time of the heavenly saints will close at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:4). Revelation 22:5 confirms this, stating: "They shall reign to the ages of ages," which is, to the Eternal State.
5) The Kingdom Of The Son Of His Love—(Col. 1:13).
This term describes the one prevailing rule of life for those in the kingdom now who have the special place of being "sons"—i.e. Christians (Rom. 8:14-15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). They are as near to God as the Son Himself (Eph. 1:6) and are loved by the Father as the Son Himself (John 17:23).
6) The Kingdom Of The World Of Our Lord And His Christ—(Rev. 11:15).
This term refers to Christ's Lordship authority being established over the whole world by the power of judgment at His Appearing. This aspect of the kingdom correlates with "the day of the Lord" when He publicly asserts His universal power and authority over all men (Isa. 2:10-22; Jer. 46:10; Joel 1:15; Zeph. 2:2-3; Mal. 4:5; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:8-10).
7) The Kingdom Of Christ And Of God—(Eph. 5:5).
This aspect of the kingdom has to do with the display of Christ's glory in the Millennium. It correlates with "the day of Christ" which emphasizes the manifestation of His glory and the manifestation of the rewards of the heavenly saints (John 8:56; 1 Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 2 Thess. 1:10).
8) The Kingdom Of Our Father David—(Mark 11:10).
This aspect of the kingdom sees Israel as the center of God's earthly operations.
9) The Heavenly Kingdom—(2 Tim. 4:18).
This has to do with the destiny of the heavenly saints.
10) The Everlasting Kingdom Of Our Lord And Saviour Jesus Christ—(2 Peter 1:11).
This aspect of the kingdom emphasizes the longevity of the kingdom. It will literally go on to the end of time, unrivaled by men. “Everlasting” in this verse does not mean eternal, but rather what goes on to the end of time. That is, the kingdom will exist for as long as time will run—which will be to the end of the Millennium. (The word “forever” is used in the same way in many places in the Old Testament.) Thus, the reign of the saints with Christ in the government of the world to come will continue “to the age of ages,” which is, to the Eternal State (Rev. 22:5 – J. N. Darby Trans.). When the Eternal State begins, there will be no need for reigning and controlling adverse powers that might rise up, as a kingdom implies.
G. Davison said, “This title assures us that once the kingdom has been set up in power, it will never be succeeded by another, as it will last as long as time lasts. It does not mean that the kingdom will go on forever in the eternal state, but rather that it will not have a successor. Kingdoms are established to keep adverse powers in subjection, as well as protect their subjects. Indeed one is the outcome of the other, but as there are no adverse powers in the Eternal State, the kingdom will not be needed. This is clear from 1 Corinthians 15:24-26” (Precious Things, vol. 1, Answers to correspondence –July/Aug).
At the end of time, the Lord will deliver the kingdom to the Father, in order to devote Himself to His bride (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Having received the kingdom from God, He will deliver it back to Him with an enhanced glory. Every administrator in history has failed to maintain the sphere of authority in which he has reigned; neither Adam, nor David, nor Solomon, nor any Gentile monarch has done so. However, when the Lord takes the kingdom, “all enemies” will not be all “put down,” but when He delivers it up to the Father in "the end," they will all be in complete subjection to God. This sets Christ apart from all others as the greatest Administrator.
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Many Christians confuse the kingdom with the Church, and consequently use unscriptural phrases such as, “The kingdom of the Church.” However, the kingdom is not synonymous with the Church for the following reasons:
Firstly, the kingdom in mystery spans a greater period of time than the Church’s time on earth. It is longer in duration, having its beginning ten days before the Church began, when the Lord went back to heaven (Luke 19:12; Acts 1:9-11). And it will also continue in its mystery phase after the Church is taken to heaven, to the end of the 70th week of Daniel, some seven years after the Rapture.
Secondly, the kingdom is broader than the Church as far as its subjects are concerned. As we have seen, the kingdom at the present time has both “tares” (mere professors) and “wheat” (real believers), whereas the Church consists of true believers only. People may join a so-called church denomination and be on its official register, but if they are not saved through faith in Christ, they are not a part of the Church of God.
Thirdly, Christ is the King in His kingdom and we are His servants, but in Scripture He is never spoken of as being the King of the Church. Rather, He is Head of the Church and believers are members of His body (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Col. 1:18).
Fourthly, Matthew 16:19 tells us that Peter was given “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens,” not the keys of the Church. These keys are baptism and discipleship. By these two things, one enters into the kingdom outwardly, but they do not make a person part of the Church. Entrance into the Church of God is only through being born of God and being sealed with the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; Eph. 1:13; 4:4).
Lastly, in the fellowship of the Church, we are to put away leaven by excommunicating the person or persons in whom it is found (1 Cor. 5:11-13). In the kingdom of the heavens (in mystery), evildoers and the leaven are not removed, but are permitted to go on "until the harvest" (Matt. 13:28-30).
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