Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven Part 1

“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” (Matthew 13:10-11)

One of the themes of Jesus’ teaching was the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. This theme is also prevalent in many of the Parables of Jesus. In our text the disciples of Jesus asked why He spoke to the people in Parables and Jesus gave them a twofold answer. It was granted to them, the disciples of Jesus to know the mysteries of Heaven and to those of unbelieving hearts the mysteries are not granted. Because of the importance of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven in the Parables and His overall teaching we will start our study on a careful look at the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There are two Kingdoms mentioned in the gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. We must first look to see if there is a difference between the two. There are commentators that have made a distinction between the two but if we compare them side by side to each other we will see that in the gospels they refer to the same Kingdom.

First we must ask is there a difference between to two. The explanation that I have heard is that they are separate. That the Kingdom of Heaven comes beneath the umbrella of the Kingdom of God. That God’s Kingdom is above all other Kingdoms including the Kingdom of Heaven. For a space of time I accepted that theory but have found no Scripture to support its conclusion. So the question remained is there a difference between the King of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us compare three Scriptures that are speaking on the same subject but use the two Kingdoms.

In Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-15 Jesus was calling the people to repent. For the Kingdom is at hand. In Matthew the writer states that it is the Kingdom of Heaven and Mark says the Kingdom of God. Both Kingdoms referred to require repentance to enter into. In Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20 are quotes from Jesus’ teaching which is speaking of the poor in spirit. In Matthew the poor in spirit shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven but in Luke it is the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 13:31 and Mark 4:30-31 the writers are comparing the Kingdoms to a mustard seed. Again in Matthew it is the Kingdom of Heaven and in Mark the Kingdom of God.

All three writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are quoting the words of Jesus speaking on the same topic under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I can only conclude then their use of the two Kingdoms are referring to the same Kingdom. The difference in the term then is only written in the freedom of expression that the writers were to use. Much the same as the use of Los Angeles and the City of Angels in California. Still the question why the different expressions must be asked.

The more probable reason is that the gospel writer Matthew was writing his gospel primarily to a Jewish audience. The Jewish people out of reference to God would not use His name for fear of taking it in vain. Therefore Matthew being a Jew of the Levite family and writing to the Jews used the expression of the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the Kingdom of God. Another reason for the language of the writers is that the Jews had a misunderstanding of the coming Kingdom. They were looking for a physical kingdom to be established here on earth. The word Heaven means heavens and this would emphasizes a spiritual kingdom.

There are four related concepts involved in the Kingdom of Heaven that we must look at. First is the reign of God. For the Jews the use of the word kingdom is the idea of a reign and not confined to a geographical area which has specific boundaries. This may be the idea that Jesus was using in the Gospel of Luke. “Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21) This is also the same idea that Jesus used in the Lord’s Prayer. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

The Kingdom of God or Heaven is established where ever the reign of God is manifested. The Kingdom of God has always existed even before the beginning. “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” (Psalms 103:19) In another since the reign of God was establish with the coming of His Son Jesus as the Prophet Daniel foretold. “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. “Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.” (Daniel 2:44-45) This kingdom was also prophesized by the New Testament Prophet John the Baptist, “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!” (Matthew 3:1-3) And preached by Jesus. “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

The Reign of God is manifested today by the person of Jesus Christ. “Which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” (Ephesians 1:20-22)

The Kingdom of God would make itself know in spiritual ways. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) The Kingdom of God would manifest itself in the body of Christ the Church. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 18:18) The Kingdom of God is both present now and in the future. Jesus spoke of its future. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) Paul spoke of it to the Corinthians. “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:50) And the words of Peter. “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2 Peter 1:10-11) Peter also spoke of how the future Kingdom would appear. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, September 16, 2016

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