The Kingdom of Heaven by Norman Bilton
The idea that we go to heaven when we die comes from Greek philosophers, not from Bible teaching. Search the Bible as much as you want and you will not find one single promise that you or anyone can go to heaven after death (see, for example, John 3:13 and Acts 2:34).
Why, then, do we find Matthew's gospel record using the expression "the kingdom of heaven"? Yes, if you hadn't noticed, that phrase is exclusive to Matthew. You won't find it in Mark, Luke, or John, or anywhere else in the New Testament. Other inspired writers always refer to
"the kingdom of God". Yet Matthew uses the phrase in question 32 times. Why?
Did Matthew wrongly believe in heaven going? Certainly not! There are no errors like that in Scripture. Is he saying that God's Kingdom, when it is established on earth, will be like Heaven is now? Certainly not!
In Heaven there are no:
"vines and fig trees" (Micah 4:4);
no "grain" (Psalm 72:16);
no "cities" (Luke 19:17); and so on.
The simple and satisfying answer lies in the fact that the gospel writer Matthew was a Jew, and that he was writing especially for Jews. That is the reason why he quotes or refers to the Old Testament Scriptures some 60 times altogether - more than the Old Testament references in the other three gospels put together. And several times he puts Hebrew or Aramaic words in the Greek text, knowing that his readers will not need any translation, although we do.
But should his nationality, or that of his intended readers, make any difference to the language he uses? It does. For Orthodox Jews, even today, dislike using the name of "God", lest they break the Fourth commandment, which says: "You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain" (Exodus 20:7).
Jews take that commandment so literally that, whenever they can, they try to substitute something else in its place. Here's a Scriptural example of the language changes they were inclined to make.
The Jewish rulers once asked Jesus: "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" (Mark 14:61). Instead of asking him if he were "the Son of God", they substituted the word "Blessed" and, to accommodate their sensitivities, Jesus replied: "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (14:62).
We can be absolutely certain that the "Kingdom of God" and Matthew's "Kingdom of Heaven" are identical expressions by turning up identical incidents recorded by the other gospel writers. For example, here's Mark 1:14, which tells us that -
(1) "after John (the Baptist) was put in prison"; (2) "Jesus came to Galilee"; (3) "preaching ... the Kingdom of God".
While Matthew 4:12 & 17 tells us -
(1) "when John hod been put in prison"; (2) "Jesus departed to Galilee"; (3) "preaching ... the kingdom of heaven".
Or look at Luke 6:20, which reads: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God", while Matthew's account reads
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
Again it can be seen that this is just a difference of terminology, not one of meaning. And there is one place where Matthew surprisingly uses both words "God" and "heaven", and confirms the situation:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to 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"
These were such hard words that his disciples were "greatly astonished", but the Lord assured them that "with God all things are possible" (v 26).
How to Enter?
Matthew chapter 13 records a collection of parables that Jesus taught about the coming Kingdom, all with the same dominant theme. If we really want to be in God's Kingdom - the heavenly kingdom which is to be established on earth at the Coming of Jesus - we need to act now. We must hear the word, understand it, and bear fruit (13:23); be righteous (v 43); search for hidden treasure
(v 44); and seek one pearl of great price (v 45).
If these also seem hard words beyond our reach, then remember what the Lord said elsewhere:
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
How much pleasure will it give our Father? That very same Greek word is translated elsewhere (in Romans 10:1) in a sentence that is full of earnest longing. The apostle Paul there wrote: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved", and you can just feel the earnestness of his desire on behalf of his fellow countrymen.
If we can make the Kingdom of God - or, as Matthew calls it, the Kingdom of Heaven -
our "heart's desire", because that is what God also wants for us, we can then be assured of a wonderful future with Him.
The Real Millennium by F W Porter
The Gospel of The Kingdom
The Millennium [The 1000 year reign of Christ] will really begin when the Lord Jesus Christ
returns from heaven to Jerusalem, there to reign as King of the whole earth.
Jesus Christ - Coming King
The coming reign of Christ, when he will "bless all nations" is good news indeed. It is the good news — the Gospel — which Christ himself preached when: "he went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:1).
As he said himself: "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent"
The connection between the Kingdom of God and Christ's reign on earth is seen when we comprehend the nature of the Kingdom of God. This is what the prophet Daniel was referring to when he said that, at a future time, which has not yet arrived:
"the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (2:44).
In this remarkable prophecy, ... the establishment of the Kingdom of God is brought before us, including the fact that it will replace and remove all existing earthly kingdoms. When is this to take place? Daniel tells us, a little later in his prophecy, that it will happen at Christ's coming. Daniel says he saw, in vision, one like the Son of Man coming, and that there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom:
"I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. Then to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13,14).
A little later, Daniel reminds us of the promised inheritance which is be given to those who now faithfully follow the Lord Jesus:
"The saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever ... Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (7:18,27).
So, it can be seen that the "Kingdom of God" and the "Reign of Christ on Earth" are practically synonymous terms - the thousand years' reign of Christ being the first stage of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
In the Past
There is one aspect of God's Kingdom which is easily overlooked but which gives us a real insight into what the Coming Kingdom will be like. God's Kingdom has already existed on earth. The "Kingdom of Israel" as it was once constituted was the Kingdom of God. It is described in the Scriptures as just that - "The Kingdom of Yahweh" (1 Chronicles 28:5), and the throne of that Kingdom was therefore described as the "throne of Yahweh" (1 Chronicles 29:23).
For the Kingdom of Israel was a Kingdom of Divine origin. All its constituent parts - the land, people, metropolis - were all divinely chosen, and its laws and appointments were given directly by God. If it had continued according to Divine guidance and subject to Divine Law it would doubtless never have ceased. But things went badly wrong and the Kingdom collapsed ignominiously, first when 10 tribes were deported to Assyria in 722 B.C., then when Jerusalem fell under Babylonian control in 586 B.C., and its inhabitants were deported to Babylon.
It is part of God's purpose that the Kingdom shall exist again. This time, however, it is not to be confined to the land of Israel, but will extend over all the earth. When he was preaching the "Kingdom of God", as we saw he was, Christ preached the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. For we learn from the New Testament that he is to reign "over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:33). He promised his disciples positions of authority in that Kingdom, when restored. For, in answer to Peter's question, about the reward of the disciples who had followed him, the Master said:
"Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28).
It's no surprise, then, in view of the promise that they were to share rulership over the restored Kingdom of Israel, that we find the disciples asking Christ, previous to his departure from the earth: "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). To which Christ replied that it was not for them to know the times or the seasons which the Father had put in his own power. They were right to ask the question; the answer, however, was not available at that time. Indeed, we are still waiting for that very fulfilment, nearly 2000 years later.
Restoration and Revival
When you start to look for them, there are many references to the coming Kingdom being the ancient Kingdom revived and restored. The apostle Peter, speaking at Jerusalem, clearly associated its restoration with Christ's second coming when he promised that God would: "send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:20).
The apostle James was confronted by a disagreement in the early church about the new relationship of believing Jews and Gentiles. He settled the dispute by referring to some words of the prophet Amos, who had quite a lot to say about the position of both Jews and other nations before God. Amos predicted, and James now endorsed, that:
" 'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek Yahweh, even all the Gentiles who are called by my name', says Yahweh who does all these things." Then he added, "Known to God from eternity are all his works" (Acts 15:15-18, citing Amos 9:11,12).
This hope, known in Scripture as "the hope of Israel" was the very hope which had once been Israel's hope, and which now New Testament believers had also embraced.
The World for Christ
It follows that before the Lord Jesus Christ can reign over all the earth, this ancient Kingdom must be re-established; an important work that Jesus will do at his appearing. For the Millennial reign of Jesus will be a Divine takeover of all previous world governments. These great changes which are to take place at this period are referred to in the Apocalypse in the following words:
"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15).
The present rulers cannot retain their position when Christ appears to rule the world. So their Kingdoms will be wrested from them, and the dominion and authority thereof will be given to Christ ...
Do you know where it is that Zechariah ... describe as the centre of his [Christ's] Government? ...
"All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin's Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananeel to the king's winepresses. The people shall dwell in it; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (Zechariah 14:10,11).
This is what all the Scriptures promise - that it will be from David's former capital that Jesus Christ will rule.
"At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of Yahweh, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of Yahweh, to Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 3:17);
"Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; for Yahweh of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his elders, gloriously" (Isaiah 24:23);
"I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of Yahweh, do not keep silent, and give him no rest till he establishes and till he makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth"
No wonder Jesus forbade people to swear by Jerusalem, saying that it was "the city of the great king" (Matthew 5:35).
For the city which once witnessed the humiliation and the sufferings of Christ is destined to become the scene of his exaltation and glory. There is only one place to be when these Millennium celebrations occur - in Jerusalem with the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Law out of Zion
"Out of Zion"
It was the prophet Isaiah who was inspired by God to make this declaration. Referring to the position of this city in the last days, he foretold:
Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem
Here is a characteristic of the true Millennium. When it comes, no human law will then govern the world - no longer shall men in every nation devise laws according to their own wisdom. There will be one code of law for the whole earth, proceeding from the metropolis of the world, and issuing from the righteous king who will then occupy David's ancient throne.
"Out of Zion shall go forth the law" is the ancient promise. For that to happen, the earth must be in subjection to Christ, and must quietly and submissively wait for his commands to go forth. That is the repeated testimony of Scripture.
Elsewhere the prophet says of the coming Messiah:
"He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for his law"
It is manifestly clear that the law to proceed from Zion will be in every respect a desirable one when we consider from whom it will proceed. Who is it that will be enthroned in Jerusalem? Jesus, the Son of God - a King all-wise, omniscient and infallible; whose law must be characterized by the highest wisdom and righteousness.
He will be a King who knows the needs of the world; who has himself drunk of "the brook by the wayside" (Psalm 110:7), and who will, therefore, devise unerring law which will be wholly fitted for the wants of men and women. That law will secure permanent well-being and total good. The prophet Isaiah testifies to the rule of Christ that:
"The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh. His delight is in the fear of Yahweh, and he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, nor decide by the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth" (Isaiah 11:2-4).
Man to Rule the World
We only have to reflect upon the character of the coming King to realise the blessings that will prevail under his gracious rule. Not only is the Lord Jesus all-wise and unerring, but he is merciful and pitiful. He can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
His rule, therefore, will not be actuated by motives of selfishness, but will be framed for the benefit of those who need - whose real wants are neglected and unheeded by the rulers of the present age.
The law of Christ will be ... one adapted in all respects for every human being who is favoured to live in so glorious an age. A special characteristic his law will be its absolute perfection. The laws devised by man are weak and imperfect, and require continual reform and amendment but, as the psalmist said many years ago, "the law of Yahweh is PERFECT" (Psalm 19:7). There will be no defects in that law. It will require no amendment; but, being devised by Divine wisdom, it will go forth from Zion a perfect law for the obedience of the world.
Rule of Right not Might
Not only will Christ's rule be infallible, but it will be omnipotent. The universal Monarch of the earth will have power to enforce the execution of his wise decrees. However beneficial the laws of man may be in their inception, they fail to secure the desired result. Owing to the difficulties connected with the administration of the law, and the inability of the rulers of the world to compel strict obedience, even to laws that are righteous, nowadays evil continually triumphs, and wickedness abounds.
People who think seriously about life are appalled and dismayed at the evils of the situation, and the hopelessness of true reformation by any human agency. We need a Government with absolute power to compel righteousness and justice among men, but those who administer such a state would need to be entirely above suspicion. Both these things will be special features of the reign of Christ.
"Rod of Iron"
Such will be the power of God wielded by the Lord Jesus that the Scripture says of his command over the nations that: "He himself will rule them with a rod of iron" (Revelation 19:15). His government will be absolute and vigorous, firm and irresistible, enforcing obedience, and compelling submission. It will be pointless for the oppressor, the tyrant, the unrighteous, and the evil, to try to evade his law. The Scripture says that: "every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people"
An illustration of the power in Christ's hands to enforce obedience is seen in regard to the execution of one of the decrees that will go forth from Zion. All nations will be commanded to go up from year to year to Jerusalem, to worship the king in the glorious temple to be erected there, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. What if any refuse to comply? How will the King deal with them? In a very summary and effectual way. He will withhold the rain from their territory.
"It shall be," says the prophet Zechariah, "that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, on them there will be no rain" (Zechariah 14:17).
Who will dare to resist a King whose authority prevails to such an extent as this - One who has "all power in heaven and earth"?
All Nations to Jerusalem.
The Government of Christ will be recognised and appreciated by all nations - there will be no exceptions - and they will gladly comply with the command to pay their homage to the King who reigns in Mount Zion, or else!
Speaking of Jerusalem in its redeemed and glorious condition, the prophet says that:
"All nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:2,3).
God's Golden Age
The nations will concur in his appointments; they will cheerfully submit, and flow in joyful crowds to the centre of the Kingdom of Christ, rejoicing in the blessings that result from his rule. It will be said in that day:
"the extortioner is at an end, devastation ceases, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. In mercy the throne will be established; and One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness" (Isaiah 16:4,5).
These are God's promises about the Coming Age - a Golden Age - which will be established on earth when a King rules again in Jerusalem. You need to be ready and waiting for the gracious reign of Christ. Make him your King Now! Let the Scriptures be your guide to life and, living by faith, learn to be obedient to the law of God. There is no better law by which we should live. ...
F W Porter