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Defining Heaven vs. the Kingdom of Heaven or God
The gospels frequently mention both the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. Reading the King James Version, one might think these are two separate places, but there is a reason for the difference in language.
Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven exclusively. This is to be expected of a Jew who dares not mention the name of God. Even today you will read statements from Jews who carefully put a hyphen or underline between G and D (G_d or G-d) as to not breathe the name of the Almighty. On only five occasions in Matthew the Kingdom of God is used. Luke and Mark use the term Kingdom of God exclusively. The book of John uses the Kingdom of God only twice.
Kingdom of Heaven & Kingdom of God the Same
So what is it? The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God refer to the same place but Heaven is a separate place. In heaven, God is in charge. Jesus prayed for this version of heaven, that is where God is in charge come to earth so we can enjoy it here and now, not wait until after we die. From the Lord’s prayer:
Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. We are to seek it first so we can enjoy it here.
Jesus’ parables about the kingdom emphasized that with the proper attitude you could enjoy the kingdom right now.
Matthew 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
What is The Kingdom
The Kingdom of God is defined in Romans 14:17. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
No, we do not need to wait until we die to have righteousness, peace and joy or any part thereof.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
The Kingdom is Won by Our Spiritual Warfare
Having sought the kingdom, how do you know you have a portion of it? You know you are a kingdom person by your warfare against the demonic world.
Matthew 12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. I feel sure the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ time scratched their heads over this one. In fact they called him names!
The kingdoms of heaven (God) are distinct from Heaven, a place distinct from planet earth, our final reward. While we have the demonic to deal with here and now, in heaven Satan and his henchmen are conquered. In fact, because there is no evil in heaven, there is no reason for them to be there. Evil is God’s way of requiring us to make a decision – on earth – of whom we are to worship and obey.
Today’s Victory is Over the Demonic World
The victory of the kingdom of God (heaven) is the victory over the demonic world. This is shown in the scripture about Peter being given the keys to death and hell.
Matthew 16: 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Read Peter 1 and 2
Now that I know that Peter was given the keys to handling the demonic world, I think I shall read the two books of Peter again. I do not want to miss the Kingdom if it is so close by.
“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 covetous, nor drunkards, nor extortionist, shall inherit the kingdom of god.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
This passage makes no reference to salvation. It speaks of a 2nd step – the kingdom of God. There is quite a big difference between salvation and the kingdom of God. The Kingdom is the place where Christ is King and it starts inside you.
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17 Salvation is a process involving first being saved by the blood, and then being changed by the spirit and the name.
Years ago the children took some pots into the backyard to play. In the winter I found them out there. They were encrusted with dirt, sand, mud and leaves so I brought them into the house and put them in the sink for a good scrubbing. No one can expect to use the pans in that condition.
It’s the same with God’s vessels. He finds us in the sin and the dirt of the world, some a lot worse than others, and he brings us into the house of God where we can clean up. Just saving us from sins does not get us cleaned up. This process is called sanctification. You often hear new Christians balk and complain about feeling condemned. They blame the church. But all it is only those past flaws coming out to annoy the new believer.
We are making a mistake if we think that Jesus is ever going to use us when we are filthy with the stains of the world, flesh and devil. Those who refuse to be cleaned up will not be properly used up by God. Their ministry, potential or real, is always hampered by that piece of disobedience. They may think they are being used. They may be used in small ways. And un-sanctified Christians are nagged by doubts, fears and concerns about their status with God. This is unnecessary.
When numbers of believers occupy a church they then are able to handle newcomers who are out of sync with God because the body of Christ is like our own physical body. We have germs in us at all times, also we ingest pesticides so when the body gets trouble inside it sends white corpuscles to the site of the infection and we can slough off the problem most of the time. In the body of Christ it is the same.
Poisonous Christians can enter but we should have enough power to correct them or cause them to leave. Today we don’t see correction in the Church of Jesus Christ and many believers have left. Churches are not doing their God-given job.