What is the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven? A Bible Study

by Robert Driskell · Print Print · Email Email

In one sense, the entire universe is God’s kingdom; He rightfully owns everything.  Nevertheless, the idea of ‘The Kingdom of God/Heaven’ carries a special significance in the Scriptures.  In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was a theocracy.  God was Israel’s King and the people of Israel were God’s subjects.  It was a nation directly under God’s rule, with laws governing daily life.  These laws came directly from God, and some carried the death penalty if broken.  God expected Israel to show the rest of the world what a life lived in worship of God looked like.  They failed.

There are also those who believe the Kingdom of God relates only to the end times scenarios.  Some believe that we need to force the Kingdom of God, or God’s rule (theocracy) on our society today.  Many hold ideas that lie somewhere between these two extremes.

Therefore, what does the Kingdom of God mean today?  What does it mean for the follower of Jesus Christ?  Although, this topic is far too complex to exhaust every nuance and question that might arise, let us take a brief look at this most important subject.

The phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” are synonymous with one another.

The phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” was used exclusively in Matthew’s Gospel.  This can be clearly seen when one compares Matthew 11:11-12 with Luke 7:28; Matthew 13:11 with Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10; Matthew 13:24 with Mark 4:26; Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30 and Luke 13:18; Matthew 13:33 with Luke 13:20; Matthew 18:3 with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16; and Matthew 22:2 with Luke 13:29. In each instance, Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of heaven” while Mark and/or Luke used “kingdom of God.”

A quick look at this passage in Matthew illustrates the comparison, “And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24 ESV).  In the space of two verses, Jesus indicates that the phrases are synonymous and uses them interchangeably.

The Kingdom of God should hold a central place in our lives (Matthew 6:25-33).

Jesus concluded His message on trusting God for the necessities of life with this sentence, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV).  Jesus was emphasizing the importance of making God, and His Will, the center of one’s life.  When one is a loyal subject of the King, he or she will desire to please this King in everything he or she says and does.  The Bible promises, when the follower of Jesus lives in this manner, God will supply all our needs…from the very smallest to the very largest.

Continuing in sin and rebelliousness excludes one from the Kingdom (I Corinthians 6:8-10; Galatians 5:19-22).

It is also important to note that sin, rebelliousness, and disobedience have no place in the Kingdom of God.  The Apostle Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV).  We learn at least two things from this passage: (1) the Kingdom is not for the unrighteous and (2) those who continue in willful sin are outside the Kingdom of God.

Related reading: 5 Biblical Consequences of Sin

The Kingdom of God is a heart/spirit matter (John 8:23, 18:36; Romans 14:16-17).

Jesus repeatedly said that His Kingdom was an otherworldly kingdom.  In John 8:23, Jesus says that He is not from this world.  In John 18:36, Jesus tells Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world and that, if His Kingdom were of this world, His followers would be using worldly methods (“my servants would have been fighting”) to defend it.  This, of course, does not mean that Christians have no influence in the world, but that our faith is measured by our relationship with Jesus, not by the standards of the world.

Humanity has been given everything it needs to become part of God’s Kingdom: Jesus made it possible by His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Humanity has been given everything it needs to become part of God’s Kingdom: Jesus made it possible by His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Some Personal Thoughts

[These are my views, gleaned from my study of the Scripture.  My opinions are not infallible and I understand others may hold differing viewpoints and still be part of the Body of Christ as am I]

The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the lives of His people.  It is a fact that God is King; however, it is also a fact that many reject His lordship and rebel against His authority.  This rejection and rebellion does not change the fact that He is King.  Humanity has been given everything it needs to become part of God’s Kingdom: Jesus made it possible by His life, death, burial, and resurrection.  However, we must respond to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness and salvation.  If we continue to reject His lordship and rebel against Him, we will not be a part of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God/Heaven is not a theocracy.  No one can be forced to accept salvation; it is a choice each one makes for himself or herself.  A government can make laws protecting the people and upholding certain moral standards; however, the Bible never instructs us to coerce or force people to worship God.  Forced worship is not true worship at all; if worship does not come from the heart, it is not real.

Conclusion

Kingdoms exist only where there is a king.  For the Christian, Jesus is our King, we are His subjects, and we comprise the Kingdom of God here on earth. Although Jesus is truly the Lord of all, and all will someday declare this truth (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10), there are those who currently reject His Lordship and live in rebellion against Him.

Although there are multiple views as to what the Kingdom of God/Heaven means, there are some facts that are clear from the Bible.  The Kingdom is something to be sought; being in the Kingdom means that we are willful subjects of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Kingdom is made up of those who have been made righteous through their relationship with God, in the Old Testament, and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, in the New Testament.  Jesus preached a lot about the Kingdom of God; therefore, we should take it seriously.  When we share the Gospel with a lost and hurting world, we are opening the door to the Kingdom of God.  Let us be faithful in this endeavor.

Another reading: Does the Bible Talk About Karma?

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits December 16, 2013 at 2:25 am

Well said Robert,

I have wrestled with this very topic over the years. There are these different aspects(you so well outlined) of God’s “Kingdom” which are perplexing and ultimately beyond human comprehension, IMO. God’s heavenly Kingdom, His eventual Millennial and New Jerusalem Kingdom, and His Temple Kingdom within our earthen vessels.

Jesus instructed us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven”, and we know that for the believer, that the Kingdom of God is within us and that we will not see it, as you pointed out, as an earthly realm:

“20 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:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Lk 17:20-21)

This passage is very reminiscent of Jesus’s private talk with Nicodemus when He said,

“7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”(Jn 3:7,8)

I think Jesus’s further explained this Mystery when He said:

” Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me,[b] that they may be one as We are….

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn 17:11b,21-26)

The Father in Christ, and the Holy Spirit in us, Christ’s Body, becoming this incredible “One”….which, to me, is His Kingdom…. I have to stop and shout Robert…Glory!! I’m excited!

My daily prayer is, “Father God may your Kingdom come this day. Save souls today through belief in Your Son. Complete your bride, and hasten your return. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus”.

Thank you for reminding me today, that in many different ways, we are in this Blessed Advent Season.

Merry Christmas!

DocReits

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Robert December 16, 2013 at 7:02 am

Thank you for reading and commenting Doc,
I know you always have some great points, some great insight, to offer when you comment. Thank you also for letting me know that, in some small way, I have been of service to God and His people. God bless you richly and Merry Christmas to you too.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

Reply

DocReits December 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Hi Robert,

I was thinking more about God’s Kingdom today and came across, in my daily devotional, another thought about the Kingdom of God.

As I said before, it is a mystery and few are those who enter. When Jesus gave the parable about the sower going out to sow the word of God in Mt 13, Jesus made an interesting statement when asked by His disciples to explain the parable. He said to His disciples:

“It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11). The “them” being the multitudes surrounding Him. But who really were the “them”. “All” of “them”. I would think not as Jesus clarifies below.

Jesus’s parables were cloaked on purpose to be discerned by those upon whom the Holy Spirit was working. Here is why I believe this:

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”(Mt 13:15)

“These people” in the above reference, I believe are the tares, which are growing up with the wheat, but there are also wheat in the harvest(and we do not know which are tares and which are wheat). So we must preach to both the tares and the wheat and God gives the increase as the Holy Spirit wills.

Is that your understanding of these thoughts?

Blessings,

DocReits

Reply

Robert December 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Well Doc, if I understand you correctly, I think you are absolutely right. Oftentimes, men and women act convincingly like Christians, but they are not (tares). And, obviously, they exist amongst true believers (wheat).
I believe that the passage you quoted also shows the immeasurable grace of God in that Jesus states that these tares have closed their own eyes and ears to His teaching, BUT, if at anytime they reopen their eyes and ears, believe Him, and follow Him, He will heal them (and then they would be wheat). Thanks again, Doc, for your insight. It warms my heart. Merry Christmas!!!!
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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