The Aspects of the Kingdom: Chapter 3

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An object may be looked at from different points of view, or presented in different relative positions to other surrounding objects, and thus assume a somewhat different appearance, though the object itself may not be changed in the least, but remain precisely the same throughout.
So in like manner the kingdom, which is ever regarded as one and the same unchangeable RULE OF GOD, in every representation of it, when looked at in relation to various dispensational circumstances, or the character and condition of the persons addressed, is presented in different aspects, under the four names in which it is referred to in the Word: “the Kingdom of God,” “the Kingdom of heaven,” “the Kingdom of the Son” and “the Father’s Kingdom.”
But these various names do not appear to be employed to set forth any essential difference of meaning in either the constitution or the character of the kingdom itself, but rather to mark the various applications as aspects in which it is presented with reference to different external circumstances, or to different classes of persons addressed. Thus, it is presented in a general and comprehensive way to the world at large as the Kingdom of God, to the Jews dispensationally as the Kingdom of heaven, and to the saints of the present era in a special and confidential way as the Kingdom of the Son and the Father’s Kingdom.
Hence the phrases “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of heaven” - which have substantially the same meaning - are often used interchangeably (and therefore are equivalent) in the Gospels, as the following instances clearly show.
In the first column, under “the Kingdom of heaven,” the passages quoted are from the Gospel of Matthew, and in the second, under “the Kingdom of God,” from Luke and, in a few cases, from Mark also.
The Kingdom of Heaven
The Kingdom of God
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:1717From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)).
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:33Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)).
“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:1111And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11)).
“When ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God. ... And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28, 2928There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:28‑29)).
“And as ye [the twelve] go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:77And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 10:7)).
“And He sent them [the twelve] to preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:22And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:2)).
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:1212And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)).
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:1616The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16)).
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:3333Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)).
“Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Luke 13:20, 2120And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Luke 13:20‑21)).
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:33And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)).
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:1414But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14)).
It will be observed that in the several corresponding pairs of the foregoing parallel passages from Matthew and Luke the very same events and teaching of our Lord are respectively referred to, this conclusively proving that the phrases “the Kingdom of heaven” and “the Kingdom of God” are used interchangeably in certain cases, and therefore mean precisely the same thing in these instances. Consequently, we arrive at the conclusion that there is no difference in the thing described -that is, the kingdom - either as to its nature, constitution or purpose, but only in the different aspects from which it is viewed, or in the mode and circumstances of its presentation.
The Kingdom of God
In this view the kingdom appears to be looked at and represented in its widest and fullest aspect, and presents to us the entire rule of God throughout all ages. The whole Kingdom of God is thus seen as originated and sustained by the infinite love, wisdom and power of God Himself, embracing all the forms and developments of His rule in every stage of the history of believers, from the beginning to the end of the world.
In its full comprehensiveness it includes all the other aspects: the Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of the Son and the Father’s Kingdom. It is the generic term of the whole series of expressions employed.
Hence we see how the more comprehensive term, “the Kingdom of God,” can be used interchangeably with the other aspects (as in the instances quoted above), because the greater includes the less, so that in certain cases what is true of the Kingdom of God must also be true of the Kingdom of heaven, although in some other cases this interchange might not be used exactly in the reverse way, though the meaning of both phrases may be intrinsically the same in each case.
It is, moreover, in this aspect that it is most commonly presented to the world at large in a general way in contrast to the kingdoms of men on the earth.
Of all the forms of expression used to set forth this wonderful rule of God, the words “the Kingdom of God” are most frequently employed, especially if the passages containing the word “kingdom” alone - which appears to have exactly the same application - both in the Old and New Testaments are included.
The Kingdom of Heaven
In this aspect the ruling power of the kingdom is looked at as originating in, and coming down from, heaven, and thus heavenly in character, though exercised on the earth.
It has mainly a twofold dispensational application: first, to the spiritual and invisible rule of God in the hearts of believers during the present interval, and, second, to the visible reign of Christ in the millennium. In both these applications the rule is looked at as from the heavens above, and therefore called the Kingdom of heaven. Having thus a distinct dispensational aspect, it is more limited than the wider one of the Kingdom of God, that covers all periods.
Another peculiarity of this aspect is that it is specially represented in this form to the Jewish nation, chiefly in view of its ultimate establishment on the earth, when the Jews as a nation shall be restored under the reign of their Messiah. Hence we do not find the words “the Kingdom of heaven” in any other book of the Bible than in the Gospel of Matthew, which we know is more particularly addressed to the Jews, and bears a Jewish character throughout.
But it is important to observe that while it bears this special Jewish application in one view of it, it does not follow that the Kingdom of heaven in itself is more Jewish in its character than the other aspects of it, as sometimes erroneously assumed. It is only in this particular mode of expression that the kingdom is presented to the Jews, for obvious reasons.
For the Kingdom of heaven aspect, taken as a whole, plainly relates to the three phases of the kingdom, namely, the past phase, the present or Christendom phase (which is the very reverse in every feature of the Jewish order of things), and to the future or millennial phase. When the references to the Kingdom of heaven in Matthew are carefully read, it will be seen that more than half of them refer to the present phase, and the rest to the past and future phases.
Apart from the appropriateness of the phrase “the Kingdom of heaven,” as descriptive of the present invisible rule of God by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, we can, I think, also perceive a very good reason for the employment of these words in setting forth the kingdom to the Jews.
They, in accordance with the covenant made with Abraham and his descendants, were taught to look for an earthly kingdom of blessedness under the rule of the promised Messiah, and they were ever looking forward to the day when He as their King should come to sit on the throne of His father David, and reign over them as a nation on the earth. And though their prophets clearly declared the divine origin and character of the Christ or Messiah that should come (Isa. 9:6, 76For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6‑7)), they often seemed to drift away from this important truth, and concentrated their thoughts more on the earthly side of Messiah’s reign than on its heavenly character.
Some great prince of the house and lineage of David, and a prophet like unto Moses of human origin, came to be the uppermost thought in the minds of many Israelites, so that they needed to be reminded again and again of what their prophets had told them, that Christ the Son of God was to come down from heaven to be their Saviour and King. Hence we see how often our Lord presented the truth that He came down from heaven, the sent One from God the Father in heaven. “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:1313And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)).
John the Baptist likewise testified to the same truth. “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all” (John 3:3131He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. (John 3:31)).
Throughout the Epistles, also, this fact is continually emphasized, that “Jesus is the Christ”; “the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
We can, therefore, understand how necessary and important it was to direct the attention of the Jewish people (who had become so much occupied with the earthly glory of the kingdom) to its true heavenly character, and that the rule of Christ, either in the present Christian dispensation or in the future reign on the earth, should ever be regarded as entirely the rule of God from the heavens above. In view of these considerations we are led to perceive the appropriateness of thus representing the rule of God to the Jews as the Kingdom of heaven, and especially so to them in its future or millennial phase.
The Kingdom of the Son
In this view the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, appears, taking His place as the sovereign ruler of the kingdom committed to Him from the beginning by His Father, and is chiefly seen prospectively in His kingly character reigning over the earth. For, of the passages in which this aspect is given, only three (Eph. 5:55For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5), Col. 1:1313Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:13) and 1 Thess. 2:1212That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)) appear to relate to the present Christian phase of the kingdom, while all the rest directly refer to His future reign.
One very marked and interesting feature of this presentation of the Kingdom of the Son is that nearly all the references to it are addressed directly to believers, or the saints who should be partakers with the Lord Himself in His glorious reign, when He comes to establish His kingdom on the earth.
In this representation we particularly see the amazing love of Christ shining forth so graciously, as He thus is pleased to associate His beloved ones with Himself in all the blessedness of His future reign.
“And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29, 3029And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29‑30)). “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1111For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:11)). “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne” (Rev. 3:2121To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21)).
The Father’s Kingdom
In this aspect the Lord Jesus presents the kingdom especially to His disciples as the Father’s, for it ever is God the Father’s Kingdom, over which Christ has been appointed by the Father as its King and Administrator, in its future establishment on the earth. And in the few passages in which this aspect is given (there are only four, all plainly relating to the millennium), our blessed Lord’s particular purpose in uttering these gracious and comforting words to His disciples appears to be to point them to the marvelous assurance that they should be partakers with Him in the coming glory of the kingdom, in the same relationship to the Father as Himself, and as helpers in the administration of His and their Father’s Kingdom - a millennial verification of the memorable words in John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17), “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.”
In connection with the statement referred to above, that the Father in His eternal counsels and purposes had appointed His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the sovereign Ruler or King of this kingdom for a certain period of time (Luke 22:2929And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (Luke 22:29)), we have the additional fact stated that when all the purposes of God shall have been fully accomplished - some time after the expiration of the millennium - the earthly reign of the Lord shall come to an end, and the kingdom shall then be delivered up to God the Father. “Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. ... And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:24-2824Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24‑28)).