THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND ISRAEL’S FUTURE
It is the purpose of this article to demonstrate that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” cannot refer to everyday life in heaven itself and must refer to life on earth.
When Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven is like,” He was describing how life should be under God’s rule on earth. Some of the 32 references apply to current life during the “mystery” phase of the kingdom of God. However many of the 32 references can only be logically explained as how life will be during the future theocratic kingdom rule of Messiah on earth. Since sin is often involved, most of the “kingdom of heaven” phrases cannot refer to heaven itself.
All 32 references to the “kingdom of heaven” are in Matthew, the Gospel to the Jews. As a covenanted kingdom it is the national hope of Israel (2 Sam 7:4-17). John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles announced that the kingdom of national Israel was "at hand." That offer was rejected and, in its earthly manifested form, was postponed until Christ's second advent. According to Matthew 13 the present gospel age only represents the mystery form of the kingdom. If there is to be no future kingdom of God’s direct rule on earth, then Jesus’ phrase “the kingdom of God is like” makes no sense.
Matt 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
Matt 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
John was telling Israel that the Messiah was about to appear and acceptance of the Messiah would quickly usher in the long-promised and long-awaited theocratic Kingdom in which God would rule over the entire earth from Jerusalem.
Matt 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was teaching that those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake will be rewarded in the future kingdom of God on earth.
Matt 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven .
Matt 5:20 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.
Verse 19 is not describing sin in heaven itself. Those Jews with only an outward righteousness will not be resurrected to live in the future kingdom on earth.
Matt 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
While this is also true of Christians, salvation and eternity in heaven itself, the immediate context is Jesus’ Jewish audience (of Matthew) and its hope of being resurrected to live in the Messianic kingdom on earth (Dan 7:18; 12:1-3).
Matt 8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
Jewish eschatology was completely associated with the idea of a kingdom reign of Messiah on earth and not one in heaven. When Jesus promised a home in heaven to His disciples in John 14:1-3 He was addressing the nucleus of something altogether unheard of by the Old Testament saints. He was talking to His mystery body, the Church.
Matt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
Matt 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matt 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
See comments at Matthew 3:1,2. The “kingdom of heaven” was primarily a Jewish promise of an earthly kingdom under God’s direct rule.
Matt 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Matt 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Ever since John had announced “the kingdom of God is at hand” he had been severely rejected and the teaching that God was ready to establish His kingdom-rule on earth at that time had been rejected. Jesus was not describing heaven above.
Matt 13:11 Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
In the parable of the sower (Mt 13:1-23) Jesus described how the righteous rule of God will take from unbelievers and reward true believers. This will not happen until the direct kingdom-rule is established on earth.
Matt 13:24, 36-43 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.
In the parable of the tares (Mt 13:24-30) the wicked live alongside the righteous during the kingdom reign on earth. Whereas here the wicked will be gathered first, in the parable of the net, all are gathered at the same time (Matt 13:48).
Matt 13:31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Mt 13:32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
In the parable of the mustard seed (Mt 13:31-32) Israel, one of the smallest of nations, will rule the entire earth.
Matt 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Since leaven (sin) affects both the mystery form of the present kingdom and also the future kingdom on earth, this parable is also a parable of the kingdom of God. These are not descriptions of heaven above which has no sin (leaven). This must apply to a kingdom on earth.
Matt 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
The parable of the hidden treasure (Mt 13:44) is a description of the righteous rule of God during His kingdom reign on earth. Men are digging in the ground.
Matt 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls.
Matt 13:46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
The parable of the pearl of great price can only fit a literal kingdom on earth where God rules. It is not a description of heaven itself.
Matt 13:47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
Matt 13:48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
Matt 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world (eon: age): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just
Matt 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The parable of the net (Mt 13:47-50) parallels Matthew 24:29-31, 37-41). Parables are not always to be interpreted literally. Unlike Matthew 13:30 which is interpreted by Jesus, here both good and bad are gathered at the same time. According to Revelation 19-20 the Second Coming of Christ in glory will be followed by the Millennial reign of Christ on earth.
Matt 13:52 Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
The parable of the householder is yet another parable which will occur in the future on earth as the scribes accept new teachings.
Matt 16:19 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. (Compare 18:18.)
The Greek tense of the verbs is Future-Perfect (“shall be – having been bound/loosed” already). God’s people who are living under God’s kingdom rule on earth declare what God has done already in heaven.
Matt 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Matt 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
Matt 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matt 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matt 18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
One must remember that Matthew’s audience is Jewish and the Jewish concept of afterlife was living in the kingdom of God’s direct rule on earth.
While the parables of the kingdom of heaven often describe sinners within that kingdom, only converted true believers will initially enter that kingdom at the second coming of Christ as seen in Matthew 24:28-31 and Revelation 19.
Matt 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
The parable of the unjust servant (Mt 18:23-35) describes how God will deliver righteous punishment during His kingdom reign on earth. This is not a description of events in heaven.
Matt 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
During the kingdom reign of God on earth, simple faith like that of small children will be rewarded by salvation.
Matt 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
This could apply to either the mystery form of the kingdom of God during the Church age or to the events of Revelation. In the last days, a real Christian could not possibly hoard money during the events of the last seals, trumpets and vials.
Matt 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
The parable of the laborers (Mt 20:1-16) is an example of how God rules according to His own priorities.
Matt 22:2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
Matt 22:3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
The parable of the wedding feast (Mt 22:2-14) points out that most Hebrews will not enter into the Millennial kingdom reign and will be replaced by others. Compare the 144,000 with the great multitude of Revelation 7 and 14.
Matt 23:13 woes
Matt 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
The parable of the virgins (Mt 25:1-13), in context, is more about constant readiness under God’s direct rule than it is about the second coming of Christ. During the kingdom reign on earth, failure to always be ready brings fast and dreadful consequences.
Matt 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
Matt 25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
The parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30) teaches than those under the direct rule of God should use our gifts and talents wisely during the kingdom reign on earth.