The Bible makes many references to both the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Are there differences in the two, and if so, what are those differences? An examination of Scripture and the various passages where these two terms appear will help us determine their meanings.
The Kingdom of God is God’s eternal kingdom to which every believer (perhaps even angels) belongs from all dispensations. It is God’s spiritual kingdom, which is entered only at salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. (Matthew 6:33; Luke 13:28-29; John 3:3-7; Hebrews 12:22-23) Within that kingdom there is the Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of the heavens. The Kingdom of Heaven is only part of the entire Kingdom of God, and refers to the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. Since the Kingdom of Heaven is a part of the Kingdom of God, they are sometimes used interchangeably.
It is this earthly kingdom that was announced by John the Baptist and offered to Israel by Jesus Christ and rejected by the Jewish nation. Since it was rejected and the Messiah crucified, the Kingdom of Heaven was postponed until after the Tribulation. Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Millennium are the same period of time. This period will be the time when “David’s greater Son”, Jesus Christ, will rule on earth. It is a time when all the covenants to Israel will be fulfilled. It is a time of peace and prosperity. (Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 1:31-33; Zechariah 12:8; II Samuel 7:7-10)
When John the Baptist announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, it simply meant that the Messianic ruler was on the scene and ready to set up His kingdom on earth. Even the disciples of Jesus thought that the Kingdom of Heaven was going to be set up at that time. (Acts 1:6) In Matthew 13 Jesus teaches the multitudes about the Kingdom of Heaven in parables. These parables and their meanings apply only to the Millennium, not to the Church Age. In the end, the nation of Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah and with the assistance of the Romans fulfills prophecy by crucifying the Savior. (Matthew 27)
Therefore, we see that there is a difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. The first is a spiritual kingdom and the second is an earthly kingdom. Both, of course, are God’s kingdoms.
It is the Kingdom of God into which the Church Age believer has been delivered at salvation. Prior to faith in Christ, the person was merely a part of Satan’s kingdom, the World. A few differences between the unbeliever and the believer help us to realize what we now have as Christians.
|Children of wrath||Children of God|
|Children of darkness||Children of Light|
|Separated from God||In union with Christ|
|Alienated from God||Near to God|
|Under the authority of Satan||Under God's authority|
|Spiritual death||Everlasting Life|
|Without Hope||Full of Hope|
|Minus God's righteousness||Possesses God's righteousness|
|Enemies of God||Reconciled to God|
The fact that God has a kingdom means that there must be a king. We have seen that Jesus Christ will be the king on earth during the Millennium, but who is the king of the Kingdom of God? Remember that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. Therefore, the king of this kingdom must be a spiritual being. The king of this kingdom is also Jesus Christ. He is perfect humanity and perfect deity in one Person forever. Jesus Christ is qualified to be the earthly ruler as part of the royal line of David and He is qualified to be the spiritual ruler as the Second Person of the Godhead. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Jesus Christ is the unique Person of the universe. He is the only Person in history to be both fully God and fully man. The term for this unique union is derived from the Greek word hupostatis meaning essence. In the case of Christ it is both divine and human essence in one Person forever. He is the God-Man. (Hebrews 1:3)
Christ was born of a virgin and without a sin nature. He is superior to man because He is God. He is superior to sinful humanity because He is sinless. Even though His two natures are united in one Person, they retain their separate identities. The attributes of one do not belong to the other. Deity remains deity and humanity remains humanity. Because of this unique union, Christ is the perfect mediator between God and man. Christ was also our prototype, in that He lived an impeccable (sinless) life under the control of God the Holy Spirit. (I Timothy 2:5) Having no sin of His own to pay for, He was uniquely qualified to pay for the sin of the entire human race.
Jesus, as a man, is seated at the right hand of the Father at this very moment. Deity is omnipresent and does not sit; only His humanity sits. And it is His humanity that will return to earth at the Second Coming. Theologically we say that Jesus is undiminished deity and true humanity in one Person forever. He is undiminished deity in that He is as much God as the Father and the Holy Spirit in essence, attributes and character. He is true humanity in that our Lord possesses a body, a soul and a spirit. (Acts 5:31; Hebrews 1:3, 4:15,10:5; I Peter 2:24; Matthew 26:38; Mark 2:8; Luke 23:46; I John 3:3)
Christ voluntarily restricted the function of His deity. This doctrine takes its name from the Greek word kenoo, which means to deprive oneself of a rightful function. This doctrine explains how Christ, the creator of the universe, could leave Heaven and become a man.
II Corinthians 8:9, tells us that even though Christ was rich, for our sakes He became poor. This is kenosis.
We must remember that Jesus Christ is coequal and coeternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He voluntarily subordinated Himself to the Father’s plan of salvation. This means He also deprived Himself of the exercise of His divine attributes. At no time did Christ “empty Himself” of His deity. He was never less than God. He simply restricted the use of His divine attributes voluntarily. (Colossians 2:9)
Jesus was born as a man and had to learn the Scriptures the same way that we do, under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the one who empowered Him and sustained Him throughout His life on earth. As a man, Christ suffered in the same ways that we suffer but much greater, of course. The ultimate humiliation was suffering the divine judgment from God for our sins. (Matthew 24:36; John 8:56, 16:14; Philippians 2:8)
Christ glorified the Father by executing the Father’s plan, not by glorifying Himself. However, the limitation of kenosis ultimately glorified Christ because He was able to execute the plan perfectly, without sin. As a testimony to the fact that God is completely satisfied with the Son, Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father. This impeccable life was our prototype to demonstrate to us the fact that we too can execute God’s plan. (John 19:30; Philippians 2:5-8)
Christ remained free from the three categories of sin: the sin nature, Adam’s original sin and personal sins. The sin nature, as we have studied, is passed down genetically from the father, but Christ had no human father. The virgin birth of Christ assured that He would have no sin nature. (I Corinthians 15:22)
Without a sin nature, Adam’s original sin could not be imputed to Christ since it had no home or target like the rest of humanity. Therefore, the first two categories of sin were already taken care of when He was born. Christ was born physically and spiritually alive, whereas, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead (separated from God). (Romans 6:12)
Christ did, however, have to face the avoidance of personal sin. As deity, He was not able to sin and as humanity, He was able not to sin. This means that the possibility of committing personal sin existed. Christ was tempted to sin in His humanity, not in His deity. God cannot be tempted to sin, but Christ, as a man, could be tempted to sin. How could Christ accomplish the amazing task of a sinless life? The only way He succeeded in not sinning was by residing in and relying upon the power and control of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, our Savior has paved the way for us to execute the Victorious Christian Way of Life. (James 1:13; Hebrews 4:15; I John 3:5; Matthew 4:1-4)
“Able not to sin” emphasizes Christ’s free will to make the right decisions to obey God’s mandates. Satan’s temptations of Christ were real and intense. And remember that Christ in His humanity was personally weaker than Satan, yet He was able to resist him by the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 2:7)
The filling of God the Holy Spirit is much more powerful that Satan, all his demons and this World System. Christ tested and proved the life under the control of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be sinless like Christ, but we can use the same power system that He used. God has given us the Rebound recovery system, something that Christ did not need, in order that we might utilize His power system to our maximum advantage. We, therefore, have no excuse for not living in the same spiritual environment in which Christ lived. We can acquire wisdom, make good decisions from a position of strength, develop a personal sense of destiny, increase our capacity for love, happiness and blessing, have complete control over our lives and bring glory and honor to God by a life filled with virtue and integrity. (I John 4:4)