What is the difference between “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of Heaven?”

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Can you please tell me to the best of your ability about the differences between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven?”

My friend, I would be delighted to help you better understand these two biblical concepts. First, we will introduce some general information, and then we will delve into the details. A survey of scores of verses is necessary, but we will try to keep it simple for sake of clarity and brevity. Since this can be an intricate topic, you may want to read the conclusion first, and then read the study to see the logic behind the conclusion. To the Scriptures we go!

GENERAL OVERVIEW

When the term “the kingdom of God” appears in the Bible, it is a general reference to God’s domain, the realm of His influence (the righteous world system, Christians, and heaven). This term can apply both to redeemed Israel and the Church the Body of Christ. The phrase “the kingdom of God” is in contradistinction to the realm in which Satan and his cohorts operate (the evil world system, lost [unregenerate] mankind, hell, the lake of fire, fallen angels, et cetera). A person enters “the kingdom of God” when God rescues/saves him or her from Satan’s realm—having sins forgiven, being declared righteous before God, fellowship with God, able to participate in His will, not going to hell anymore, and so on. You can refer to Matthew 21:31, Luke 17:21, and Colossians 1:13.

Now, the other term, “the kingdom of heaven,” goes back to a concept first introduced when Moses wrote about “the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). Moses referred to the day when God’s earthly kingdom would be established through Israel. Companion passages are Job 19:25-27, Isaiah chapter 11, Isaiah chapter 33, Isaiah chapter 35, Isaiah chapter 61, et cetera. There would be no sickness and the curse of sin would be lifted. It would literally be heaven on Earth! All of God’s saints would be bodily resurrected to enter that kingdom. In that day, the God of Heaven would have His kingdom present on Earth for all to see. It would be a literal, physical, visible earthly kingdom, modeled after the reigns of King David and King Solomon. The Prophet Daniel, when interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, said in Daniel 2:44: “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 for ever.” This is yet future, dear friend. Jesus Christ is coming again to destroy all of this world’s evil governments and He will establish His righteous kingdom on this planet!

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (cf. Luke 12:31). Before Israel could receive her material blessings from God (food, drink, clothing, shelter, et cetera), she first needed to have spiritual blessings from God (her sins forgiven and a right standing before God, or justification). Israel, entangled with an apostate religious system at Christ’s time, needed to first seek salvation in and through the Lord Jesus, her citizens needed to become saints (citizens of the kingdom of God), she needed to be delivered from the power of darkness (Satan and sin), before she could enjoy material prosperity in that earthly kingdom that Jesus Christ would establish. Israel needed to be redeemed (spiritually cleansed) before going into a cleansed land, the Promised Land. Otherwise, she would pollute that purified land.

With these few introductory comments, we can get into the “meat.”

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD”

The phrase “the kingdom of God” appears 69 times in our King James Bible: Matthew 6:33, Matthew 12:28, Matthew 19:24, Matthew 21:31, Matthew 21:43, Mark 1:14, Mark 1:15, Mark 4:11, Mark 4:26, Mark 4:30, Mark 9:1, Mark 9:47, Mark 10:14, Mark 10:15, Mark 10:23, Mark 10:24, Mark 10:25, Mark 12:34, Mark 14:25, Mark 15:43, Luke 4:43, Luke 6:20, Luke 7:28, Luke 8:1, Luke 8:10, Luke 9:2, Luke 9:11, Luke 9:27, Luke 9:60, Luke 9:62, Luke 10:9, Luke 10:11, Luke 11:20, Luke 12:31, Luke 13:18, Luke 13:20, Luke 13:28, Luke 13:29, Luke 14:15, Luke 16:16, Luke 17:20, Luke 17:21, Luke 18:16, Luke 18:17, Luke 18:24, Luke 18:25, Luke 18:29, Luke 19:11, Luke 21:31, Luke 22:16, Luke 22:18, Luke 23:51, John 3:3, John 3:5, Acts 1:3, Acts 8:12, Acts 14:22, Acts 19:8, Acts 20:25, Acts 28:23, Acts 28:31, Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 5:21, Colossians 4:11, and 2 Thessalonians 1:5. In your personal study, you can look at all of these references. We will look at only some of them here.

“THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”

The term “the kingdom of heaven” appears 32 times in our King James Bible, it only appears in the book of Matthew, and it is always a reference to God’s earthly kingdom (commonly called “The Millennium” or “The 1000-Year Reign of Jesus Christ”): Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 5:3, Matthew 5:10, Matthew 5:19, Matthew 5:20, Matthew 7:1, Matthew 8:11, Matthew 10:7, Matthew 11:11, Matthew 11:12, Matthew 13:11, Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:33, Matthew 13:44, Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:47, Matthew 13:52, Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:1, Matthew 18:3, Matthew 18:4, Matthew 18:23, Matthew 19:12, Matthew 19:14, Matthew 19:23, Matthew 20:1, Matthew 22:2, Matthew 23:13, Matthew 25:1, and Matthew 25:14. Again, in your own personal study, you can look at these references. We will look at only some of them here.

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” AND “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” CAN BE USED INTERCHANGEABLY IN ISRAEL’S PROGRAM

Mark 1:14-15 says that Jesus Christ went around preaching “the gospel of the kingdom of God,” saying, “The time is fulfilled, And the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Luke 9:2, “And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick,” is similar usage of the term. Luke 9:11 says, “And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” Luke 9:60,62 and Luke 16:16 are other examples. Again, “the kingdom of God” would here refer to both the realm of God’s influence and its visible manifestation (God’s earthly kingdom was on the verge of being established when Jesus Christ showed up). “The kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are so closely connected that it is difficult to separate them in Israel’s program.

Matthew 19:23-24 shows how the terms “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” can be used interchangeably in Israel’s program (please note this substitution is only valid in Israel’s program, not in our mystery program). After all, in Israel’s program, the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God is the literal and physical earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ. “[23] Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] 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.” (Parallel Mark 10:23-25 and Luke 18:24-25.)

“The kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of Heaven” (God’s influence and God’s earthly kingdom) are interchangeable in other verses such as:

  • When Jesus said to the unbelieving Pharisees in Matthew 12:28: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” God’s influence, in the form of that coming earthly kingdom of Christ, was the means whereby God would cleanse Earth of Satan’s influence. The prophet Zechariah said there would be no unclean spirits on Earth and in Israel’s land when God would establish His earthly kingdom (Zechariah 13:1-2). Here, “the kingdom of God” could apply to both God’s influence and that literal, physical, visible earthly kingdom—parallel verse, Luke 11:20, says “the kingdom of God.”
  • “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11)—parallel verse, Luke 8:10, says “the kingdom of God,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field” (Matthew 13:31)—parallel verse, Luke 13:18, says “the kingdom of God,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “Another 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)—parallel verse, Luke 13:20, says “the kingdom of God,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:” (Mark 4:11).
  • “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;” (Mark 4:26).
  • “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” (Mark 4:30).
  • “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1)—parallel verse, Luke 9:27, says “the kingdom of God.”—and other parallel verse, Matthew 16:28, says “the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” That would be a reference to Jesus Christ returning to establish that earthly kingdom.
  • “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14)—parallel verse, Luke 18:16.
  • “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15)—parallel verse, Luke 18:17.
  • “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).
  • “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also” (Luke 4:43).
  • “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20)—parallel verse, Matthew 5:3, says “the kingdom of heaven,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “But he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than [John the Baptist]” (Luke 7:28).
  • “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,” (Luke 8:1).
  • “And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9).
  • “Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:11).
  • “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,” (Luke 18:29).
  • “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(John 3:5).
  • “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:” (Acts 1:3).
  • “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” IS SOMETIMES ONLY THE EARTHLY-KINGDOM ASPECT OF GOD’S KINGDOM

In some verses, “the kingdom of God” stresses only the earthly kingdom of God’s influence since the language of these verses is restricted to the physical realm:

  • “The kingdom of God” would refer to the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ in Matthew 21:43—the Pharisees wanted that kingdom but they did not want the King or His righteousness, so they would not be allowed to enter that kingdom. Remember our opening comments how that Israel must be redeemed before she can enter the Promised Land.
  • Mark 9:47 (“it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”)—the establishment of the visible kingdom on earth.
  • Mark 14:25 (“I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God)—the establishment of the visible kingdom on earth—parallel Luke 22:16-18.
  • Mark 15:43 (Joseph of Arimathaea waited for “the kingdom of God)—the establishment of the visible kingdom on earth—parallel Luke 23:51.
  • “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” (Luke 13:28).
  • “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 13:29).
  • “And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God (Luke 14:15).
  • “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:” (Luke 17:20).
  • “And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11).
  • “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31).
  • “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 (John 3:3).

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” AND PAUL’S MINISTRY

This following section documents how the Body of Christ is associated with “the kingdom of God,” the heavenly aspect, the kingdom God has for us in the heavens (Ephesians 2:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Philippians 3:21). On 13 occasions, the phrase “the kingdom of God” is connected with Paul’s ministry and epistles, and us the Church the Body of Christ:

  • “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). This would be the Body of Christ participating in “the kingdom of God,” experiencing much trouble (persecution) before going to heaven forever.
  • “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8). Seeing as to Paul ministered to Jews here, he spoke about how Israel’s Messiah came according to the Old Testament prophets. He preached of how they rejected and crucified Him just as the Old Testament prophets had also predicted. He was now ministering through Paul’s ministry and offering salvation to them (lost Israel) through a new program (our program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God).
  • “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more” (Acts 20:25). This was spoken to the Ephesian church leaders, members of the Body of Christ, so the Body of Christ is our role/part in “the kingdom of God,” just as “the kingdom of heaven” is Israel’s part of the “kingdom of God.”
  • “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23). Again, seeing as to Paul ministered to Jews here, he spoke about how Israel’s Messiah came according to the Old Testament prophets. He preached of how they rejected and crucified Him just as the Old Testament prophets had also predicted. He was now ministering through Paul’s ministry and offering salvation to them (lost Israel) through a new program (our program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God).
  • “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). Once more, seeing as to Paul ministered to Jews here, he spoke about how Israel’s Messiah came according to the Old Testament prophets. He preached of how they rejected and crucified Him just as the Old Testament prophets had also predicted. He was now ministering through Paul’s ministry and offering salvation to them (lost Israel) through a new program (our program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).
  • “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
  • “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).
  • “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
  • “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).
  • “And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me” (Colossians 4:11).
  • “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:” (2 Thessalonians 1:5). This would be how the Body of Christ is associated with “the kingdom of God,” suffering persecution before being caught up and glorified in heaven.

CONCLUSION

This study involved scores upon scores of verses, but we can reduce them all to the following five brief points:

  1. The term “the kingdom of God” includes all of God’s workings. It is divided into two realms: “the kingdom of heaven” (redeemed nation Israel) and the Church the Body of Christ (Christians from our Dispensation of Grace). The context of the verse determines which of the two spheres is being referenced. In “the kingdom of God,” the God of the Bible is worshipped and served as King. This would immediately rule out lost people (unbelievers) and Satan and his angels. Satan is called “a king over all the children of pride” (Job 41:34).
  2. The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” refers strictly to the literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom of Israel’s program, when heaven is brought down to Earth. Paul never uses the term “kingdom of heaven” to apply to us, the Church the Body of Christ. We have no inheritance in Israel’s earthly kingdom. We are God’s heavenly people, with an inheritance in the heavenly places. The Church the Body of Christ has a role in the government of heaven, as Israel has a role in the government of earth.
  3. Paul applies the term “the kingdom of God” to us, the Church the Body of Christ. Remember, opposite to redeemed Israel, the Church the Body of Christ is the other half of “the kingdom of God.” As the God of the Bible is glorified in redeemed Israel (Earth), so He is glorified in the Body of Christ (Heaven). He works in and through both of them. He is King (Ruler) in respect to both.
  4. In Israel’s program only, “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are sometimes used interchangeably. Remember, for Israel, “the kingdom of heaven” is the literal, physical, visible representation of “the kingdom of God.” In the form of the Messiah/Christ Jesus, Father God will be with Israel, physically, literally, and visibly.
  5. The only aspect of “the kingdom of God” operating today is the Church the Body of Christ. There is no redeemed Israel today (yet future). Israel is currently fallen, and she will be restored after our dispensation. Today, there is no “kingdom of heaven” being preached, no earthly kingdom about to established, et cetera. Hence, Paul never used “kingdom of heaven” with reference to us in his epistles.

kingdom of God - heaven

Also see:
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» What does “My kingdom is not of this world” mean?
» Did the 12 preach the Gospel of the Kingdom after Christ ascended?

5 responses to “What is the difference between “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of Heaven?”

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