Tuesday, December 23, 2014

One King, One Kingdom

In one of my recent posts, I ventured to state that I had found the answer to a minor point of curiosity on my part dealing with the presence of two similar terms used in the Bible, those terms being "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God". My answer, based on two verses in the Gospel of Matthew was that they are the same.  A reader was quick to point out to me that there is indeed a distinct difference between them in that the kingdom of heaven is a literal physical kingdom that the Jews will inherit while the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom that the Church will inherit. In this post I would like to attempt to imitate those of Berea and search the scripture to see if this is so.

As we look at the occurrences of the two terms, it becomes evident that if they are not two names describing the same kingdom, then at the very least both kingdoms share a number of striking similarities.

For instance, from Matthew 13:10-11 and Mark 4:10-11, we can see that truths about both the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God were revealed by Jesus in parables so that only those who were chosen to understand, would understand. In fact from these verses we also must conclude that the same parable of the soils can be used to reveal the same mystery regarding each kingdom.

Matthew 13:31-32 coupled with Mark 4:30-32 inform us that both the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are like a grain of mustard seed.

Mark 10:14 and Matthew 19:14 together inform us that both kingdoms are made of those who share the characteristics of little children.

From Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28 we may glean that he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the baptist, ...and that so is he that is least in the kingdom of God.

Now, the fact that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God share these four characteristics does not by itself prove that they are one in the same, but it should at the very least make one take it into consideration.

If one were to take the position that the kingdom of heaven is to be the inheritance of the Old testament Jews and the kingdom of God will be made up of New Testament saints, then one must consider that Jesus, as recorded in Mark 1:14-15, preached repentance and that the kingdom of God was "at hand." But John the baptist, in Matthew 3:2 preached "repent" for the kingdom of heaven is "at hand." This poses a bit more of a problem for the two kingdom view. It is easy to see a spiritual kingdom as being at hand (or "drawn near", as some translations put it), but how would one apply being "at hand" to a literal physical kingdom for the Jews. If anything concerning such a kingdom was at hand, it was its destruction by Titus in 70 A.D. The absence of anything resembling a Jewish kingdom for nearly 1900 years can hardly be something easily reconciled with "at hand." Was John mistaken or could both he and Jesus have been describing the same kingdom with different words?

Perhaps just as puzzling would be the conversation between Jesus and Niccodemus as recorded in John chapter 3. In verse 3 Jesus says "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Okay, if there are two kingdoms, that tells us that the spiritual kingdom occupied by the New Testament believers can only be seen by those who are born again. That is all well and good, but a few verses later Jesus expresses surprise saying "Art thou a master (teacher) of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Well, ...at least I guess you could read that as surprise. I personally don’t believe that Jesus was ever surprised; I see that statement as more of a chastisement. But either way, why should a teacher in Israel be expected to know about a new kingdom that was just coming into existence? Odd.

Another piece of scripture that does not quite seem to fit in with a two kingdom view can be found in Matthew 16:19 where Jesus announces that he will give the keys to the kingdom of heaven to the disciples. Now this verse has often been used (and too often abused) to assert power given to the church. But was Jesus real purpose to teach that the church will have power over the physical kingdom occupied by Old Testament saints?

In my original post on this subject, the scripture that I presented in support of my understanding of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God being one in the same was Matthew 19:23-24. Here is what my argument consisted of: In verse 23 Jesus exclaims how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and then in verse 24 he goes on to say "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Emphasis mine). I postulated that by using the term "again" Jesus made the terms interchangeable, else he would have used the world "also." Of course this argument rests on the reliability of the translation of the Greek word "palin" which it appears could in some cases be translated as "furthermore" instead of "again." However, I am not aware of any translation which uses any word except "again" in this verse. I am pretty sure the translators are smarter than I am and very likely got it right.

The objection I received to my use of this verse to support my case was that one should not build a doctrine on a single verse. I agree completely; thus the study that went into this post. I do have one more argument to offer though, and I believe it to be the strongest one, when taken in conjunction with what I have already presented here. That argument comes from Matthew 8:11 "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." Now consider Luke 13:28 which says: " There 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."

The fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are said to be in the kingdom of heaven and in the kingdom of God, taken alongside everything else I have presented here, leads me to the inevitable conclusion that those kingdoms are one in the same. One King, One Kingdom.

I am thankful for the "nudging" which I received to search the scriptures for a proper understanding, but I must add that much more than that, I rejoice that I will someday be able to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.


fred said...

Interesting post Lee, however, limiting your study to just the gospels leads you to a conclusion that you can not support when you consider the other 62 books of the bible.

There are TWO eternal Kingdoms spoken of in the Bible.

A. These two kingdoms are SIMILAR in some ways.
1. God established both kingdoms and they will endure forever! (Psalm 145:13; 2Peter 1:11)
2. God has absolute power over both kingdoms. (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:35)
3. God rules over each kingdom through a man of
His choosing. (1Chron. 28:4, 5; Eph 1:20-22)
Psalm 2:6 Yet have I set my king
upon my holy hill of Zion.
1Samuel 10:24; 12:13...See ye
him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king...behold,
the Lord hath set a king over you.
1Samuel 15:1...The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the
voice of the words of the LORD.
4. God’s Word is the final authority in both kingdoms. (Deut. 17:14-20). Ecclesiastes 8:4
Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou? (It is no accident that God has preserved His Word in the English language in the only translation authorized by a King, the King
James Bibles!)

fred said...

These two kingdoms are very DIFFERENT in some ways. Knowing the differences between them is one of the most important keys to rightly dividing the Word of truth.
1. The Kingdom of Heaven.
(a) The Kingdom of Heaven is a
physical, material kingdom. Heaven is a physical place, a
created part of the material
universe (Gen. 1:1). In the kingdom of heaven, God rules
over “people, nations, and languages” in the earth.
Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Daniel 7:13-14
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all
people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Psalm 72:11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations
shall serve him.
Zech. 9:9-10 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: ...and
his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
(b) The Kingdom of Heaven primarily relates to Israel. The expression “kingdom of heaven” is found only in the gospel of Matthew, a book written to the Jews. Israel is at the center of the Kingdom of Heaven and one day will dominate all the other nations of the earth.
Jeremiah 23:5, 6 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah
shall be saved, and Israel
shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be
Zechariah 2:11 And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
Revelation 12:5 And she [Israel]
brought forth a man child, who was
to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

fred said...

2. The Kingdom of God.
(a) The Kingdom of God is a
spiritual, invisible kingdom. Its workings cannot be observed with human eyes because it is like God, who is a spirit (John 4:24). It is God ruling from WITHIN the believer, where the Holy Ghost dwells.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy
in the Holy Ghost.
Luke 17:20,21 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with
observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of
God is within you.
1Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
(b) The Kingdom of God relates primarily to the sons of God
(John 1:12), those who have
received Jesus Christ and in whom the Spirit of God
dwells (1Cor. 3:16; John 14:17).
John 3:3,6,7 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...That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be
born again.
Matthew 12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then
the kingdom of God is come unto you. (When one is saved, God casts out the evil spirits and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the believer. See Eph. 2:1-2; Mark 5:15).
Colossians 1:12-13 Giving thanks unto the Father...Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.

St. Lee said...

Fred, Congratulations on one of the finest examples of eisegesis I have seen. You have once again offered a plethora of scripture which for the most part support the one kingdom position BETTER than your own position UNLESS you read INTO them the doctrine you bring with you. What you have not offered is a single explanation or refutation for the two strongest scriptural arguments I have given as evidence that there is only one kingdom: one being Jesus words in Matthew 19:23-24 where he equates the two terms by using the word "again", and the other the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will all be in the kingdom of God (Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28)

Please explain why those arguments are wrong from the Bible rather than ignoring them and flooding the comments section with notes from the Scofield Reference Bible. I am sorry if that sounds harsh - it is only meant to be firm.

fred said...

Lee...first of all, let me state, that I did not 'flood' the comments section with anything from anyone's bible. What I am guilty of is posting large amounts of scripture (from a study that I was present for in its entirety) to refer to the subject of the two kingdoms in the bible comparing and contrasting how they are the same and how they are different. I gather from your response that you neither read them nor referenced the verses that I cited.

Even though the subject of the entire bible is about the King and His kingdom, you have chosen to limit yourself to the four gospels to attempt to prove your point. Honest bible study does not have a preconceived 'point' but rather the exhaustive search of scripture should reveal a truth to a person, not picking and choosing verses out of context so that you can say that you are right.

Since I have outlined for you (I did the work, all you have to do is read the verses) the differences between the kingdoms and you state that what I wrote proves that they are the same only tells me that you did not read anything I wrote, nor did you look at the verses I gave you.

Since you are still evidently confused about the kingdoms, I suppose that you will also tell me that the salvation offered to the Jews during pentecost (Acts 2:38) is the same as the salvation offered to whosoever will (Eph 2:8-9) during the church age.

So...answer me this: What is your final authority in spiritual matters?

St. Lee said...

Once again, you still have not offered a single explanation or refutation for the two strongest scriptural arguments for only one kingdom: Matthew 19:23-24 and Matthew 8:11 along with Luke 13:28

You have instead offered another rabbit trail ( the salvation offered to the Jews during Pentecost )which I will have to try to find time to answer; but when I do, it will be in the other comments section where you first brought up dispensational salvation.

As for my not reading the scripture references you gave, you are wrong. I read them when you first posted each comment. I then read them at least a couple more times before answering your comment. Honestly I have lost count of exactly how any times I have completely read over all your comments. In none (zero, zilch, nada)of them have I seen anything approaching a "proof" for your contention that there are two kingdoms.

You ask what is my final authority in spiritual matters? Since the strongest support I gave for one kingdom consists of Jesus' words as found in 3 sections of scripture I believe the answer to that is plain.

Until you address the scriptures which plainly and unambiguously show that there is only one kingdom, anyone reading this is likely to conclude that your final authority in spiritual matters is Cyrus Scofield by way of the person who lead the study you refer to.

So, how do you answer Matthew 19:23-24 and Matthew 8:11 along with Luke 13:28 ?