POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

The Real Kingdom of Heaven

With much talk about the Kingdom of Heaven in the world of movies, I thought it might be helpful to mention a bit about the Kingdom of Heaven in the view of Jesus of Narareth. What was "The Kingdom" to Jesus? The phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is used thirty-one times in the gospel of Matthew and zero times in the other gospels. The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ (KOG from here forward) is used only five times in Matthew, but is found forty-seven times in the Mark, Luke, and John (NASB). This surfaces some questions for consideration:
Are we to think Matthew’s gospel means something different when he spoke of the KOH? Or did he mean the same thing that Mark, Luke, and John meant using the phrase KOG?
A Central Passage Matthew 19:16-26
23And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."[i]
Jesus use of both the KOH and the KOG in this passage reinforces the idea that Jesus himself spoke of these two concepts synonymously in the immediate context of his discussion with the young man. These two kingdoms are one and the same; the kingdom which the ‘rich man’ man will have difficulty entering. But what is this Kingdom of Heaven...a nation state, an ethereal concept of the imagination, a real realm of rulership? A Kingdom is defined as follows:
“A politically organized community or major territorial unit having a monarchical form of government headed by a king or queen and a realm or region in which something is dominant, an area or sphere in which one holds a preeminent position.”[i]
The king of the KOH of heaven is none other than Jesus himself. Matthew first introduces Jesus to his readers with a strong genealogy linking him directly to David, the covenant king of Israel. This imagery introduces Jesus to the reader right away as the coming covenant king who will sit on the throne of David in an eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:15,16). When a people are ruled in a kingdom the central questions asked by them would be about the authority and character of the king. Matthew goes into great detail to describe to us both the authority and character of King Jesus, the ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is presented as one with utmost authority exercised with astonishing virtue. History has taught humanity, that an authoritative king without virtue quickly becomes a tyrant and a virtuous king without true authority lacks any power to accomplish his agenda. In stark contrast to each of these scenarios, Matthew reveals Jesus to us as a king with absolute sovereignty yet who acts with complete benevolence. Matthew accomplishes the task of presenting Jesus’ sovereign authority in the following ways: He demonstrates the king’s authority over the natural realm in Jesus’ healing of diseases and the calming of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 8:23-27). He presents Jesus as the promised hope of Israel as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in order to present him as having authority in the religious life of Israel (Matthew 5:17-19). He presents Jesus as one who has authority in the spiritual realm with his driving out of demons (Matthew 9:33, 12:28). And finally, Jesus is presented to have the ultimate authority, the authority to do that which only God could do, forgive the sins of human beings (Matthew 9:6). Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ virtuous character is just as decisive. He presents Jesus declaring God’s heart to care for and feeds his subjects, providing for them as his own children (Matthew 6:25-33). Jesus is the compassionate preacher of “good news” to his people who were harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:35,36). Jesus values those doing the work of his kingdom, even knowing the number of hairs on their heads and illustrating to them of their supreme value in God’s eyes (Matthew 10:30,31). Jesus is presented the gentle one, humble at heart desiring to give rest to the souls of the subjects of his kingdom. And finally, in the parable of the debtors and the parable of the vineyard workers, Jesus the king shows his forgiveness, equity and generosity in ruling his subjects (Matthew 18:23-35, Matthew 20:1-15). Who is this king of the kingdom of heaven? He is the Jesus who reigns over every facet of creation, yet at the same time remains humble, gentle, loving and kind to his subjects. This is the type of ruler and leader that the hearts of men long for…complete sovereignty, with equitable justice and mercy for all. Whereas the rulers of this world are so often power hungry and oppressive, the KOH will have a meek king, a king who is a shepherd who cares for his sheep. A Kingdom not only has a ruler, but it also has subjects. Just who are the subjects of the Kingdom of Heaven? The kingdom of heaven presented in Matthew’s gospel not only provides a description of Jesus the king, but also a portrayal of the character of kingdom subjects. Just as Jesus is different than the rulers of this world, the subjects of the KOH are to be different as well. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he describes the subjects of his kingdom as humble, needy, pure, forgiving, hungering for righteousness, merciful, and even persecuted (Matthew 5:1-16). He tells of a people who should not be religious show-offs, but humble in generosity, fasting, and prayer. His subjects are to be different, to seek the KOH its principles and not just the things of this world (Matthew 6). They are to follow the king and do his business with self-denying devotion (Matthew 10:38,39 and Matthew 16:24-26). Finally the subjects should find rest for their souls in the king’s character and leadership for their lives (Matthew 11:29:30). Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the KOH is this relationship between the king and his subjects. Jesus is not far and distant from his subjects or their plight in this world; he is intimately involved with his subjects as they humbly respond to his authority. In this kingdom there is no strife between the people and its government; there is a harmonious relationship made possible by the loving actions of the king and the reciprocal response of his subjects. Stay tuned for more on the Kingdom of Heaven...up next we will talk about the "Trans-temporal nature of the Kingdom" [i] Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, (Online Dictionary http://www.m-w.com/ - Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 2001 [i]The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Books, 2001.