Introduction: The "Kingdom of heaven" or "Kingdom of God" in New Testament terminology stands for and is indicative of the blessings of God (Mk. 10: 25, 26). Hence, a serious study of this great truth is of the utmost importance.
I. The Kingdom of heaven
A. The term "Kingdom" is used 126 times in the gospels. "Kingdom of heaven" or its equivalent is used 80 times. Matthew uses "Kingdom of heaven" alone 32 times (he used "Kingdom of God" four times).
II. John the Baptist came preaching the Kingdom of God (Matt. 3: 2, "at hand" shows the Kingdom was "new" and not then in existence)
A. It was Jesus task to preach the kingdom of God (Lk. 4: 43). In fact, the Kingdom constituted the centrality of Jesus teaching (Matt. 4: 17, 23). Jesus appointed his apostles to teach the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 10: 7, Lk. 10: 9). The apostles continued to teach the Kingdom after Jesus death (Acts 8: 12, 14: 22, 19: 8, 20: 25, 28: 23, and 31).
III. The Kingdom of heaven in prophesy and in reality
A. You often read in the gospels of the Kingdom being futuristically viewed (Matt. 3: 2, Mk. 1: 15, Matt. 10: 7, Lk. 10: 9). As late as the crucifixion and the ascension of Jesus, Joseph waited for the Kingdom and the apostles anticipated the Kingdom (Mk. 15: 43, Acts 1: 6).
B. In the dream Nebuchadnezzar experienced, the Kingdom was to come "in the days of these kings" (Dan. 2: 36-45, see vs. 44). A careful study of Daniel chapter two reveals four secular world kingdoms: the Babylonian (600 B.C. to 536 B.C.), medo-Persian (fell in 360 B.C.), Macedonia (fell in 323 B.C.), and Rome (world power in 30 B.C.). These kingdoms are found in verses thirty-one through thirty-three of Daniel chapter two (see also verses 31-45). God planned on "setting up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed" in the "days of these kings" (Dan. 2: 44). "These kings" refers to the fourth kingdom Rome.
C. The Kingdom was to come in the lifetime of those addressed by Jesus in Mark 9: 1. "Verily I say unto you," Jesus taught, "that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." Jesus commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature (Mk. 16: 15, 16). The word they preached was (is) the "seed of the Kingdom (Lk. 8: 11, Matt. 13: 19). Shortly before his death, Jesus said, " Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16: 18). Jesus then interchangeably used "church" and "kingdom" (Matt. 16: 18, 19). The Kingdom or church came into existence in Jerusalem, 30 A. D. (Col. 1: 13, Heb. 12: 28, Acts 2: 14-47, 5: 11). The Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Macedonia, and Roman kingdom fell, but the Kingdom of God continues ("shall never be destroyed").
IV. The nature of the Kingdom of heaven
A. Gods kingdom is not secular (Matt. 20: 25-28). This is what Jesus meant when he told Pilate, " my Kingdom is not of this world " (Jn. 18: 36). Gods Kingdom "is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14: 17). Meat and drink are insignificant in Gods Kingdom because Gods Kingdom is spiritual in nature and work (I Tim. 3: 15, cf. Jn. 6: 26, 27, Acts 2: 42)).
B. The meaning of Kingdom of heaven. The term Kingdom (Greek, basileia) basically has four nuances or shades of meaning as used in the New Testament. There is Gods reign (Kingdom involves the King, I Tim. 6: 15, Lk. 6: 46). God reigns in the hearts and lives of individuals. Many of the Jews could not understand this truth (Lk. 17: 20, 21). Kingdom is sometimes used of the subjects (Mk. 10: 25, 26). Kingdom denotes the church (ekklesia), the subjects over whom God reigns (Matt. 16: 18, 19). The ekklesia (church) is viewed as the church universal (no "location" or organization, Matt. 16: 18, only "one" ) and local (I Tim. 3: 15, see context regarding appointment of elders and deacons, cf. Acts 14: 22). Kingdom is also used regarding future bliss (Matt. 25: 34).
C. The expression "kingdom of heaven" is revealing. Heaven is the origin of the kingdom (Dan. 2: 44, Matt. 16: 18), heaven is the ultimate "end" of the Kingdom (I Cor. 15: 24), the King is presently reigning in heaven (Acts 2: 34-36), and the Kingdoms laws are heavenly (Phili. 3: 20).
V. Admission into the Kingdom
A. The word of God is the seed or germ of life of the Kingdom (Matt. 13: 19, see Jas. 1: 18-21). Humility and trust are prerequisites to being in the Kingdom. Jesus said, " Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18: 3). Jesus told Nicodemus in unequivocal terms: " Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (Jn. 3: 3, 7).
a. This new birth consists of belief, repentance, confession of Jesus deity, and water baptism for the remission of sin (Acts 2: 36, 37, 38, Rom. 10: 9, 10, Acts 2: 38, 22: 16).
VI. Jesus "likened the Kingdom" to many things in an effort to explain and, sometimes, to conceal the Kingdom (Matt. 13)
A. The Kingdom is compared to mustard seed in that the Kingdom had a small beginning, but grew into the greatest "institution" the world has ever known, the Kingdom is likened unto leaven in that it diffuses itself by its very nature and permeated in its influence, and the Kingdom is compared to great treasure which a man found and sold all in had to obtain it in that the Kingdom is of incomparable worth (Matt. 13: 31, 32, 33, 44).
B. Jesus illustrated that some just find the Kingdom, while others find it as a result of seeking it (Matt. 13: 44, 45, 46). Jesus taught that the Kingdom is like unto ten virgins as far as purity and preparedness are involved (Matt. 25: 1-13, in the case of the five wise virgins).
VII. Some startling truths about the Kingdom
A. The church and the Kingdom are referring to the same people. The only difference is the "church" is considering Gods people in the sense of the called out (meaning of ekklesia) and "Kingdom" (basileia) is identifying Gods people in the sense of those over whom Jesus reigns (see Matt. 16: 18, 19). To those who deny the church and the Kingdom are the same and that the Kingdom is yet future, this is a startling truth.
B. There are many shocking truths (shocking to some) regarding the Kingdom. For instance, the immoral have no part in Gods Kingdom, the Kingdom is not meat and drink, and the tares (hypocrites) shall be gathered out of the Kingdom and burned (Gal. 5: 17-21; Rom. 14: 17; Matt. 13: 39-42).
Conclusion: The Kingdom/church is the most wonderful institution the world has ever known. This is what Jesus meant when he said, " Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt. 11: 11).