Two specific realms are in view as the doctrine of kingdom receives consideration:
1. The Kingdom of God, which includes all intelligences in heaven or on earth who are willingly subject to God.
2. The Kingdom of Heaven, which embraces any sort of empire that God may have on earth at a given time. The kingdom of heaven appears then in various aspects through the centuries, as—
a. theocratic. First the rule was exercised by divinely appointed leaders, judges, and patriarchs.
b. covenanted. It thus became the national hope of Israel (2 Sam. 7).
c. predicted. Much prophecy anticipates a glorious kingdom for Israel on the earth.
d. announced. The ministry of John the Baptist, Christ, and the Apostles was to announce the kingdom unto the nation as at hand. That offer, however, was rejected.
e. postponed until christ returns. One of the greatest errors of theologians is an attempt, as essayed now, to build a kingdom on the first advent of Christ as its basis, whereas according to the Scriptures it will be realized only in connection with the second advent. All Scriptures conform to this arrangement, strange though it may look.
f. mystery. According to Matthew 13:11 the present conditions in Christendom are a mystery form of the kingdom. Since the kingdom of heaven is no other than the rule of God on the earth, He must now be ruling to the extent of full realization of those things which are termed "the mysteries" in the New Testament and which really constitute the new message of the New Testament.
g. realized. Not until the millennium will the kingdom of heaven come to realization.
A distinction should be made between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. It is to be observed that Matthew employs the terminology kingdom of heaven and that Mark and Luke, when presenting much of the same teaching, use the phraseology kingdom of God. Some have assumed on this basis that the two kingdoms are one and the same. However, the differences seem more important than the similarities. Entrance into the kingdom of God is by a birth from above (John 3:3), for instance, whereas to the Jew of Christ's day and in anticipation of His earthly kingdom entrance to the kingdom is based upon righteousness. Matthew 5:20 declares this: "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
As for another impressive difference, Matthew 8:12; 24:50-51; 25:28-30 declare that "the children of the kingdom" may be cast out. This retribution cannot be applied to the kingdom of God and its members (John 3:18). The parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) and that of the good and bad fish (Matt. 13:47-50), significantly enough, are spoken only of the kingdom of heaven. However, the parable of the leaven (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:21) is predicated of both kingdoms. Leaven represents evil doctrine rather than evil persons, and evil doctrine may and does corrupt both kingdoms.
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