Apologetics for the Masses - #385; Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God

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The Kingdom of Heave vs. the Kingdom of God - one or two kingdoms?


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General Comments

Hey folks,

     To keep you up to date with the Balaam's Ride TV program, this week's episode is on Baptism and the Bible.  You can watch it, and all the past episodes, on the HTV10 website here: https://www.htv10.tv/balaams-ride.  And, as always, if you have questions for me that I could answer on the show (and I would greatly appreciate any such questions), you can email them to me: info@biblechristiansociety.com (put "Balaam's Ride" in the subject line); or you can call them in: 833-632-4253 (833-63BIBLE) - just give your first name and where you're from and then ask your question.  We'll air it on a future program. 


     There are a number of folks out there who are what we call, Dispensationalists.  They have a theology that divides salvation history up into sometimes 6, sometimes 7, different time periods known as dispensations.  In each dispensation there are different rules and regulations by which God governs us human beings.  I'm not going to get into dispensational theology here, but suffice it to say, that it goes way beyond just an Old Covenant/New Covenant division of salvation history. 

     Anyway, one of the dispensations is the Kingdom Dispensation, which will occur, according to this theology, at some point in the future after the Rapture and the Great Tribulation.  The Kingdom Dispensation is the 1000-yr. period when Jesus will supposedly reign over a physical kingdom - the Kingdom of Heaven - here on earth.  One of the means by which the Dispensationalists twist Scripture in order to derive the tenets of their theology, and come up with this Kingdom Dispensation from the Bible, is by making a clear distinction between two terms used in the New Testament.  Those two terms are: the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. 

     The Kingdom of Heaven is used exclusively in Matthew.  And, since Matthew is the most "Jewish" of the Gospels, the Dispensationalists say that the Kingdom of Heaven is what Jesus came to set up on earth for the Jewish people, but since the Jews rejected Him, God went to Plan B - the Church - and that the Kingdom of Heaven is now scheduled to come after the Church Dispensation...or something like that (you get different versions depending on which author/website you are reading).  So, the Kingdom of Heaven is a physical kingdom here on earth that will exist for a specific period of time and contains only human subjects.

     The Kingdom of God, however, is a spiritual kingdom.  It is the kingdom that God has always ruled and will always rule.  It is a spiritual kingdom. It is an eternal kingdom.  It has both human and angelic subjects.  All true believers belong to the Kingdom of God.

     Given all of that, I thought I would show, using just the Bible, how fairly ridiculous it is to make a distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God.  That, according to the Bible, they are one and the same thing.


     Before getting the discussion on the Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God, there is one more thing I want to talk about regarding Dispensationalism.  There is an aspect of Dispensational theology that I have heard Protestants call hyper-Dispensationalism.  Also known as the "Right Division" of Scripture.  It is Dispensationalism on steroids as it divides the Church Dispensation, which we are in now, into 2 separate, but concurrent, dispensations - one started by Peter (for the Jews) and one started by Paul (for the Gentiles).

     "Right Division" of Scripture is a perverse teaching that got its start, near as I can tell, around the early 1900's.  It seems that it developed because you had folks who wanted to believe in salvation by faith alone, and in once saved always saved, and that there were no consequences to sin, and a bunch of other such things that went along with the dogma of Sola Fide, but there was a problem.  You see, you had all these passages in the New Testament that directly contradicted your favorite dogma.  So, what is a Sola Fide believer to do?  It's obvious, you have to get rid of those passages.

     Well, one of them pounced upon a phrase in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible that says this: "'Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," (2 Tim 2:15).  Aha!  We must "rightly divide" the Word of God!  So, there are parts of the Bible meant for us - the Gentiles - and other parts that were meant for the Jews, but not for us.  So, since the Bible says Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, and that Jesus came for the lost sheep of Israel, then that must mean we Gentiles go by what Paul says, and not by what Jesus says.  Boom!  Problem solved. 

     We can get rid of all those pesky references Jesus makes in the gosepls to works and to the consequences of sin and so on, because the gospels were written for the Jews, not for us Gentiles.  We Gentiles need only go by Paul's letters and nothing else.  (Well, they still have to deal with all of those pesky "works" passages and "sin" passages and "losing your salvation" passages that are found in Paul's letters, but at least they got rid of all the ones in the gospels and the Letters of Peter, James, John, and Jude and the Letter to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation.) 

     But, here's the thing, that there are only two bibles that I know of - the KJV and the Geneva Bible - where that Greek word in 2 Tim 2:15 is translated as "rightly dividing."  The Geneva Bible was first published in the late 1500's and the KJV in the early 1600's, which means that Christians had to wait at least 1500 years - until the Bible was "rightly translated" - in order to know that the Bible needed to be "rightly divided".  That's a problem. Furthermore, neither the Calvinists, who heavily influenced the Geneva translation, nor the Anglicans, who did the KJV translation, believed "rightly dividing" meant what the hyper-Dispensationalists think it means. 

     So, the "Right Division" of Scripture folks have absolutely no tradition, no history, within Christianity to support their version of "rightly dividing" the Bible.  And I mean literally dividing the Bible.  They have one Bible verse, from one or two particular Bible translations, to back up their "Right Division" hyper-Dispensationalist theology, and that's it.  So, for 1500 years, 2 Tim 2:15 was not properly translated, but then it took another 400 years for someone to properly understand this "rightly dividing" translation.  In essence, God let Christians go for 1900 years before they understood that they were to "rightly divide" Scripture.  Why would He do that?

     And one other thing, the Greek word that is translated as "rightly dividing," - orthotomeo - means to cut a straight path; to hold a straight course; or to teach the truth directly and correctly.  So, "rightly dividing" actually means rightly handling or rightly teaching or rightly interpreting or something along those lines.  Never does it mean to literally divide the Word of God. 

     Okay, now to the Kingdom of Heaven vs. the Kingdom of God.  If you can show a Dispensationalist, and particularly a hyper-Dispensationalist, that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are the same thing, then you may have planted a seed of truth that might start them on a path out of Dispensationalism and into the truth.

     As I mentioned earlier, the phrase, "Kingdom of Heaven," is used only in Matthew's Gospel.  However, he also uses "Kingdom of God" in his Gospel.  Mark, Luke, John, and Paul all use the phrase "Kingdom of God".  By comparing the usage between the gospels, in particular, you can see that these two kingdoms are one and the same thing.

     For example, in Matt 3:2, John the Baptist is preaching, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."  And, after John's arrest, Scripture tells us that Jesus started preaching the same thing, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," (Matt 4:17).  Yet, in Mark 1:15, it says Jesus, after the arrest of John, began preaching, "The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent."  So, which was Jesus preaching after the arrest of John...the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God?  Well, if they are different entities, then the Bible is contradicting itself.  Either that or Jesus was out there confusing the snot out of everybody by preaching two different kingdoms to people.  If they are the same entity, however, then the Bible is being consistent.

     Some more examples: Matthew 19:23-24, "And Jesus said to His disciples, 'Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to 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 man to enter the Kingdom of God."  Here we see Jesus using the two terms interchangeably.  And, very important, notice the word "again" in verse 24.  Jesus said something, and then He said the same thing again.  Which means, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are the same thing.

     More, many more: Matt 13:33, "He then told them another parable, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal...'"  Luke 13:20, "And again He said, 'To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?  It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal...'"  Same exact parable.  One writer reported He used "Kingdom of Heaven" and the other writer reported He used "Kingdom of God".  Either Jesus used the terms interchangeably, or, at the very least, the Gospel writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, used the terms interchangeably.

     Jesus, when explaining the parable of the Sower and the Seeds to His disciples, "To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God..." (Mark 4:11).  When explaining the same parable to His disciples in Matthew, He said this, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven..." (Matt 13:11). 

     The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed (Matt 13:31).  The Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed (Mark 4:30-31; Luke 13:18-19).  Mark 10:14 (and Luke 18:16), "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God."  Matt 19:14, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven."  Mark 10:15, "Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."  Matt 18:3, "...unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

     In all of these passages, and there are more, we see that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are used interchangeably by Jesus and/or by the Holy Spirit-inspired writers.  Some other examples that I will leave to you to look up on your own: Matt 5:3 and Luke 6:20; Matt 11:11 and Luke 7:28; Matt 10:7-14 and Luke 9:1-5; Matt 8:11-12 and Luke 13:28-29.  Over and over and over again we see the two kingdoms used in the exact same way in parallel passages between the gospels. 

     The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are one and the same.  Ask any Dispensationalist, or hyper-Dispensationalist, you come across to explain to you how both the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are like a mustard seed or how both are like leaven put into three measures of meal or how the parable of the Sower of the Seeds can be applied to both kingdoms and so on.  If they even attempt to answer you, listen very carefully to what they say, because it won't make a whole lot of sense, either scripturally or logically.

     And one other thing.  The Kingdom of God is supposed to be completely spiritual.  No material aspects to it.  Yet, in Mark 9:1 it says, "That there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power."  How can they "see" the Kingdom of God if it is purely spiritual?  (Also Luke 9:27.)  And, how can you enter the Kingdom of God, physically, as Scripture talks about in Mark 9:47, if it is a purely spiritual kingdom?  How can Jesus drink the fruit of the vine in the purely spiritual Kingdom of God, as we see Him talk about in Mark 14:25?  Jesus talks about people eating bread in the Kingdom of God (Luke 14:15).  How is that possible in a purely spiritual kingdom?

     Plus, contrary to what the "Right Division" of Scripture folks preach, we see Paul preaching the Kingdom of God to the Jews (Acts 19:8 and 28:17-23, for example) as well as to the Gentiles (Acts 28:30-31, and many other places).  In other words, there was not one gospel for the Jews and one for the Gentiles, Paul preached the same thing to both, as did Peter.

     No, it is exceedingly obvious, for he who has eyes to see, that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are two terms for the same thing - the kingdom over which God is sovereign.  The kingdom over which God is Lord, over which God is King.  It is both a spiritual kingdom and a physical kingdom.  Why?  Because it's King...Jesus Christ...King of kings and Lord of lords...is both spiritual and physical.  He has a body and a soul.  So His kingdom has a physical aspect to it and a spiritual aspect to it.  Dispensational theology is separating the physical from the spiritual.  Separating body from soul.  It has God ruling over our souls in one kingdom and over our bodies in a separate kingdom.  How ridiculous is that?! 


Closing Comments

I hope all of you had a wonderful and holy Thanksgiving holiday and that this Advent, and upcoming Christmas season, will be spiritually profitable to you.



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Apologetics for the Masses