The Kingdom of Heaven

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 15
The frequent recurrence of this expression in Matthew's gospel (for it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament), and of a somewhat similar one in all the other gospels, and through the whole of the New Testament, cannot fail to strike the careful reader of the word of God, and produce an impression of the importance of having a right understanding, according to God, of what the kingdom of heaven really is.
It is worthy of note that Matthew only uses the phrase; and the more so, as almost every other book of the New Testament speaks of the kingdom: but these invariably associate it with a person, as “the Kingdom of God,” or “Kingdom of Christ.”
The only Epistles where no mention appears to be made of the kingdom, are, 2nd Cor., Philippians, 1st Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 1st Peter, the three Epistles of John, and that of Jude and of these, 1 Timothy speaks of the “King,” and 1 Peter speaks of a “royal Priesthood,” which evidently refers to the thought of the kingdom.
Setting aside for a moment the inquiry as to why Matthew alone, so persistently (though not invariably) changes the form of the expression in general use in the New Testament, the expression itself at once carries us back to the prophet Daniel, where we read of the “King of heaven.” —(chap. 4:37) —and of the rule of the heavens, (4:26).
When God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, it was manifest that the earth was intended of God to be the scene of blessing, with reference to man; and, excepting the statement of an eternal truth by one who was instructed in divine counsels, (Melchisedec, a figure of Him who was to come after—Gen. 14:1919And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: (Genesis 14:19)) it is only with reference to this earth that God makes Himself known, and is known by those who walked before Him But trial after trial only proved the more deeply what came out at the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, that man on his part was incompetent to be the recipient of unhindered blessing flowing out from God.
Adam, Noah, Abram's seed all failed in their time and place; and when God's chosen people Israel—chosen out of the earth to be a witness to Him—not only failed in their place of witness, but set up false gods in place of the True, God appeals to the heavens and the earth to hear the tale of woe (Deut. 32:11Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. (Deuteronomy 32:1), Isa. 1:11The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Isaiah 1:1), &c.), and introduces another witness, who was to come down from heaven to the earth to remedy what had all become involved in evil.
Further, when all that was outwardly connected with God in this earth, had fallen into apparently hopeless ruin, when God's Israel were captives in a strange land, when, moreover, God in judgment had taken the scepter out of the land of Israel, and transferred it to a Gentile monarch; then it is that Daniel's prophecy comes in to tell of the kingdom of heaven—that however God might appear to have lost His kingdom in this earth, it was still a fact that the Most High was ruling in the “kingdom of men,” and that He was also “King of heaven,” and so acknowledged perforce by the head of the Gentile world.
And most needful was such a testimony at such a time; for surely appearances were all against it. It seemed as if Satan had indeed wrested from man the authority committed to him as the chief of God's creation; it seemed as if he had wrested from God the real glory of His kingdom—unhindered joy in His creatures, and His creatures' unhindered communion with Himself. But not so: the promise in Gen. 3 revealed a truth, to be more fully unfolded afterward that in a MAN was to be found a remedy for it all; in effect, that when the KING came—the King after God's own heart—the kingdom should be manifested in divine glory, and in greater glory, and more intimate communion between God and His creatures than ever Eden knew.
But many counsels were to be unfolded first. The principle was made known in Eden in terms suited to the necessity of that time—the Seed of the woman, the Son of Adam, was to destroy the destroyer—but not until the flood had rolled over Eden, in God's first judgment of man's wickedness upon this earth, did the principle begin to be further unfolded; and not until another flood had rolled over that very Seed of the woman, did the full meaning of that revelation become known in another garden.
Still, in that first word itself was wrapt up the whole secret of what was necessary to introduce the kingdom in manifested glory, where everything, as far as man and Satan were concerned, only tended to banish the expectation of it forever.
There was the eternal enmity, and the double bruising, and all connected with a Man (the woman's Seed), so that when that Man really did come to earth, the answering testimony to Him (which, indeed, embodies all this truth in yet briefer terms) is, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
And inasmuch as the kingdom could not be manifested until that first bruising had taken place, which was the means of sin being duly taken away by Him who was the true Lamb, (for surely God's kingdom cannot be where sin is), so the Lord says in John that His kingdom is not of this world, and “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;” and Rom. 14:1717For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17) describes the kingdom of God as “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” But nevertheless it is associated with the King, as of necessity it must be, for what were a kingdom without a King, or a King without a kingdom? Hence, when the King comes, even though in humiliation, the kingdom of God is preached (an expression peculiar to Luke), and every man presseth into it, after the way has been prepared by John the Baptist (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)).
And therefore Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak of the mystery, or mysteries of the kingdom, and state that it is come nigh—wrapt up, as it were, in the person of the Son—the wisdom of God in a mystery, revealed now by the Spirit of God to the “stewards of the mysteries of God,” who know the kingdom to be “not in word, but in power.” 1 Cor. 4:2020For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
Therefore it is said in Matt. 21:4343Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. (Matthew 21:43), that the kingdom of God shall be taken from the Jews and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it. It is so bound up with the person of the Christ, the true King, that it goes with His rejection, and comes with His reception.
And so the Lord declares in Luke 4:4343And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. (Luke 4:43), “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent.” Matthew also distinctly declares His mission to be that of “preaching the gospel1 of the kingdom,” (4:23, 9:35). We see then that “the kingdom” is that which is associated with Christ, or bears His name in the earth.
It is called “the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew, that being the dispensational gospel—setting forth the One who was the Heir of the promises, in connection with that people who were to be the center of blessing on the earth, but whose departure from God and rejection of Christ do not, nevertheless, interfere with God's rule over this earth, as Daniel showed, nor with His final purposes towards it in Christ, however much the rejection of Him may have delayed their accomplishments. When earth has failed, the resource is from above in Him who introduces the “kingdom of heaven” [now in mystery and patience, by and by in manifestation and power].