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Some assert the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God refer to the same thing while others say they are different. Which is accurate?

For example: Luke 17:21 uses Kingdom of God while Matthew 11:11 uses Kingdom of Heaven.

Inspired by this question: Is synoptic parallelism a valid hermeneutic?

  • The "Kingdom of Heaven" is the inauguration of the New Covenant on earth without the activation of the visible theocracy of God on earth. The "Kingdom of God" is the visible theocracy of God on earth, whether in the past (under the Old Covenant) or yet in the future (under the New Covenant). – Joseph Feb 27 '13 at 4:48
  • Jonathan Pennington has a monograph on the topic. He argues against the widely accepted idea that it is merely a circumlocution. Here is a condensed summary he wrote as well. – Soldarnal Jun 13 '15 at 20:36
  • This commentary provides a cogent "argument" that the two terms are distinct and that the term "son of man" is used in particular contexts as well: amazon.com/Matthew-Anchor-Bible-Commentaries-Volume/dp/… – user10231 Oct 4 '15 at 19:37
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The phrases “the kingdom of God” (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ) and “the kingdom of Heaven” (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) occur eighty-six (86) times in the Textus Receptus (1550) Greek manuscript of the gospels.

Line Graph - Kingdom of God v. Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospels

The phrase “kingdom of Heaven” occurs thirty-two (32) times and only in the Gospel of Matthew. The phrase “kingdom of God” occurs thirty-two (32) times in the Gospel of Luke, the most of any book in the Bible.

An examination of Synoptic parallels will demonstrate that the two phrases refer to the same idea.

  • “the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) || “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15)

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:3) || “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20)

  • “Among those born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than him.” (Matt. 11:11) || “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist, but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than him.” (Luke 7:28)

  • “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11) || “the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11 cp. Luke 8:10)

  • “the kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed” (Matt 13:31) || “the kingdom of God...is like a grain of mustard seed” (Mark 4:30-31 cp. Luke 13:18-19)

  • “The kingdom of Heaven is like leaven” (Matt. 13:33) || “the kingdom of God...is like leaven” (Luke 13:20)

  • “Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4) || “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15)

  • “Allow little children, and do not forbid them to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 19:14) || “Allow the little children to come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14 cp. Luke 18:16)

  • “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 19:23) || “How hardly shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24)

In other words, “kingdom of God” = “kingdom of Heaven.” If this is so, then “God” = “Heaven,” which leads us into my next point.

“Heaven” as a Circumlocution or Substitute for “God”

The reason why Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of Heaven” more often than “kingdom of God” (which he uses only five (5) times in his gospel, although there are textual variants) is because he wrote to a Jewish audience, and the Jews did not pronounce the Tetragrammaton יַהְוֶה (Yahveh), and sometimes not even the word אֱלֹהִים (elohim). For example, today, Jews do not say אֱלֹהִים (elohim), but rather, אֱלֹקִים (elokim), and certainly never the Tetragrammaton. Rather than pronouncing those, they used “substitutes.” Some of these substitutes include:

  • מָקוֹם (makom), i.e. “Place”

Jastrow, p. 830, on Hebrew מָקוֹם:

Jastrow, p. 830, Hebrew מָקוֹם

  • גְּבוּרָה (gevurah), i.e. “Power”

Jastrow, p. 205, on Hebrew גְּבוּרָה:

Jastrow, p. 205, Hebrew גְּבוּרָה

  • שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), i.e. “Heaven”

Jastrow, p. 1595, on Hebrew שָׁמַיִם:

Jastrow, p. 1595, Hebrew שָׁמַיִם

Jastrow, p. 1595, on Aramaic שְׁמַיָּא:

Jastrow, p. 1595, Aramaic שְׁמַיָּא

The Hebrew word שָׁמַיִם (shamayim), which is translated into English as “heaven,” is used on certain occasions as a כִּנּוּי (kinnui), or a “substitute,” "nickname.”

For example, when the prophet Daniel wrote שַׁלִּטִן שְׁמַיָּא,1 it doesn’t mean that “the heavens rule,” but that “Heaven rules,” for the Aramaic שְׁמַיָּא, like the Hebrew שָׁמַיִם, was used by Daniel as a substitute for the Tetragrammaton. Thus, there is evidence that this practice began in the Babylonian captivity, long before the 1st century A.D.

On the Greek word οὐρανός, the equivalent of the Hebrew word שָׁמַיִם, Joseph Henry Thayer wrote,2

Thayer, p. 465, οὐρανός

In his commentary on Matt. 3:2, John Lightfoot wrote,3

Lightfoot, p. 48-49, Matt. 3:2

Textual Variants

In the King James Version, 1769 edition, the phrase "kingdom of God” occurs five (5) times in the Gospel of Matthew:

On Matt. 6:33, Constantin Tischendorf noted,4

Constantin Tischendorf, Matt. 6:33

There are many witnesses that lack τοῦ θεοῦ and instead have τῶν οὐρανῶν, including Justin Martyr (2nd c. A.D.) in his Apology on behalf of Christians to Antoninus Pius (a.k.a. First Apology):5

But seek the kingdom of Heaven, and all these things shall be added to you.

ζητεῖτε δὲ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

On Matt. 19:24, Constantin Tischendorf noted,6

Constantin Tischendorf, Matt. 19:24

Again, he notes many witnesses which have τῶν οὐρανῶν (or its Latin equivalent) rather than τοῦ θεοῦ, including the Vulgate, Clement of Rome, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine.

There are no relevant textual variants on Matt 12:28, 21:31, or 21:43, but that does not mean the original manuscript did not have τῶν οὐρανῶν rather than τοῦ θεοῦ. It only means that we’ve not found any manuscripts that contain it, and we may never will. It’s evident that the “kingdom of Heaven” phrases in Matthew’s gospel match the “kingdom of God” phrases in the other Synoptics. Personally, I don’t think any of the occurrences of vkingdom of God” in Matthew’s gospel are legitimate; I believe they eventually crept into the text through emendations from scribes who were not familiar with the circumlocution. More importantly, the two phrases are identical, and it’s a fact that the Jewish people spoke or wrote the word “Heaven” (it’s Hebrew or Greek equivalent) as a circumlocution for the Tetragrammaton or other words specifically referring to God (i.e., like the word "God” itself).


References

Jastrow, Marcus. A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature. London: Luzac; New York: Putnam, 1903.

Justin Martyr. “Apology on Behalf of Christians to Antoninus Pius” (Ἀπολογία ὑπὲρ Χριστιανῶν πρὸς Ἀντωνῖνον τὸν Eὐσεβῆ). Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Græca. Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 6. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857.

Lightfoot, John. Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae (Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations). Vol. 2. Trans. Gandell, Robert. Oxford: UP of Oxford, 1859.

Wilke, Christian Gottlob. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Ed. Grimm, Carl Ludwig Wilibald. Rev. ed. New York: American Book, 1889.

Tischendorf, Constantin. Novum Testamentum Graece. Vol. 1. Lipsiae: Giesecke, 1869.

Footnotes

1 Dan. 4:26
2 p. 465
3 p. 48-49
4 Vol. 1, p. 24
5 Ch. XV, p. 352
6 Vol. 1, p. 119

  • 1
    Just curious, would your argument be strengthened or weakened by the idea that Matthew, or at least an early version of it, was first written in Hebrew or Aramaic? My limited understanding suggests to me this would support that idea and that Luke, writing first in Greek would have been more likely to use Theos. Is that fair? – Joshua Jun 18 '16 at 15:38
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    @SimplyaChristian In addition to the 5 uses of God in Kingdom there are 52 other uses of God in Matthew. If Matthew used Kingdom of Heaven to avoid using God then why does he use God in other places? For example, why is the throne of God (5:34 & 23:22) acceptable? Or the things of God (22:21)? Or the power of God (22:29)? Or children of God (5:9)? What is the rationale for Matthew's inconsistency? Kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God may be synonymous but given the number of times God is used in other contexts, it seems unlikely kingdom of heaven is used to avoid offending their sensibilities. – Revelation Lad Nov 29 '16 at 7:44
  • @RevelationLad—Good point. – user862 Nov 29 '16 at 8:09
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Some say the "Kingdom of Heaven" refers to the a physical/political kingdom on earth while the "Kingdom of God" is the spiritual, coming reign of Christ.

Arguments against the two being the same often come down to hair splitting and misinterpretation of verses. For example, the site listed above relies on a single verse in an attempt to say they are different. In Luke 17:21, Jesus says "the kingdom of God is within you" (KJV). They then argue that since Matthew 11:12 says the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and is taken by force that the two cannot be the same (who can take the kingdom from within you?). The site only addresses where the terms are used interchangeably to blow them off by saying "they will be the same in the future."

However, it can be seen that Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God refer to the same thing. "Kingdom of Heaven" is found 31 times, only in the Gospel of Matthew. "Kingdom of God" is found 62 times in ten books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians).

When the parallel accounts in the synoptic gospels are compared, whenever Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven, the other will use Kingdom of God. Given the Jewish nature of Matthew's Gospel (Matthew never explains Jewish customs and traces the genealogy of Christ to Abraham where Luke, written for a gentile audience, continues back to Adam) and the Jewish habit of circumlocution in references to God*, "Kingdom of Heaven" would be preferable for the author and his intended audience.

*See especially the note about ultra-orthodox Jews never pronouncing the names.

Compare the following verses (all taken from the NET Bible):

Matthew 11:11 “I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it.

Luke 7:28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.”


Matthew 13:11 He replied, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not.

Mark 4:11 He said to them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those outside, everything is in parables,

Luke 8:10 He said, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.


Matthew 13:24 He presented them with another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field.

Mark 4:26; He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground.


Matthew 13:31 He gave them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.

Mark 4:30, 31 He also asked, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to present it? It is like a mustard seed that when sown in the ground,

Luke 13:18, 19; Thus Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden.


Matthew 13:33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”

Luke 13:20, 21; Again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.” 


Matthew 18:3 and said, “I tell you the truth, 1  unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!

Mark 10:15 I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

Luke 18:17; I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

In each instance, Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of heaven” while Mark and/or Luke used “kingdom of God.” The obvious conclusion is that the two phrases refer to the same thing.

Within Matthew, the terms are used interchangeably on occasion. After the rich young ruler has left, Jesus says to the disciples, 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 19:24 Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” Clearly, even Matthew considers the terms parallel.

  • @H3br3wHamm3r81, I removed the reference to "within/among." Interesting article. Just in reference to your final statement, I used to be astonished by how indisputable things were disputed by people disputed but am no longer surprised. – Frank Luke Feb 20 '13 at 19:02
  • @SimplyaChristian The link for the article you posted is no longer active do you have another link? – mrhobbeys Nov 29 '16 at 4:27
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Kingdom of heaven is found only in Matthew and it is normally said that Matthew used that phrase because he was writing to a Jewish audience. Two reasons are given why the nature of the audience is significant.

One is linguistic as George Eldon Ladd says:

The difference between the two phrases is to be explained on linguistic grounds. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Semitic form and the Kingdom of God is the Greek form of the same phrase. Our Lord taught in Aramaic, a language very similar to Hebrew, whereas our New Testament is written in Greek. Jesus, teaching Jews, probably spoke of “the Kingdom of the Heavens”1 which would be the natural Jewish form of expression. We have extensive evidence from Jewish rabbinic literature that this phrase was in common use. To the Greek ear, these words would be meaningless; and when the phrase was translated in our Greek Gospels for Greek readers, it was uniformly rendered “the Kingdom of God.” In the Gospel of Matthew, which was probably written to Jewish believers, the original phrase "the Kingdom of the Heavens" was usually retained. The terminology in Matthew 19:23-24 makes it quite clear that the two phrases are interchangeable and that no difference of meaning is to be sought between them. 2

Matthew 19:23-24 cited by Ladd states:

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again 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.” 3

While this passage indicates the two kingdoms are interchangeable, it is obvious either Matthew or Jesus chose to make a distinction and recorded them differently. In fact, the passage is purposeful to make the point there is something of significance which is different between the two.

A second reason offered is that Matthew substituted Heaven for God to avoid offending the Jewish people who do not use “God” or His Name. A thorough analysis of this reason is found in this answer: [“Heaven” as a Circumlocution or Substitute for “God”] This approach fails to explain why Matthew still uses “God” (frequently) and in some cases where “Heaven” should be used:

But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, (5:34 also found in 23:22)

Not only is God used (offending the audience), the instruction is not to take an oath by heaven (singular) not heavens (plural) which seemingly misplaces the throne of God in heaven not in His Kingdom (of the Heavens).

This suggests there is at least some measure of difference between the two kingdoms. Differences do not preclude similarities. As Ladd notes:

The Kingdom of God is basically the rule of God…The Kingdom of God is, then the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessing, However, it is a clear teaching of the New Testament that God’s will is not to be perfectly realized in this age. 4

Hence the prayer, “…thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” The will of the Father is not always done on the earth as it is in heaven.

Other passages mark differences between the two Kingdoms:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (5:20)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (6:33)

Righteousness:
Kingdom of heaven - righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
Kingdom of God - the righteousness of God.

The consequence of righteousness:
Kingdom of heaven - enter the kingdom.
Kingdom of God - all things will be added to you.

Required response to each Kingdom:
Kingdom of heaven - have righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Kingdom of God - Seek first...

In the fourth Gospel Jesus teaches:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (3:5)

The Gospel delineates two means of entrance into a kingdom:

Matthew: Kingdom of heaven - righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.
John: Kingdom of God - be born of water and the Spirit.

A good picture to understand the difference is that the Kingdom of God encompasses all creation, while the Kingdom of the Heavens encompasses less. That is, the Kingdom of the Heavens is a smaller kingdom within the Kingdom of God. As Genesis 1 states, man has some measure of authority over the earth and life on the earth (part of the Kingdom of God). The unchanging nature of God accounts for the similarities and man’s rebellious nature with what God has given man dominion explains the differences.

Simply, the earth (at present) is outside the Kingdom of the Heavens but remains a part of the Kingdom of God. One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth on which the Father's will will be done. Essentially the Kingdom of the Heavens will cease to exist it that it will no longer be distinguishable from the Kingdom of God.


Notes:
1. The correct translation is Kingdom of the Heavens (plural) not Heaven (singular).
2. George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom 1959, p. 32
3. All Scripture using the English Standard Version.
4. Ibid p 24

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TWO KINGDOMS SIMILAR

In the Bible, there are two different kingdoms that are mentioned. These two kingdoms are the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God.

(Matthew 3:1-2 [KJV]) 1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mark 1:14-15 [KJV]) 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

(Matt 13:11 [KJV]) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (Luke 8:10 [KJV]) And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

(Matt 13:33 [KJV]) 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. (Luke 13:20-21 [KJV]) And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Although the statements are similar, it is very important that you understand these two kingdoms are NOT the same!

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE KINGDOMS

Kingdom of God: (Luke 17:20-21 [KJV]) And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

(Rom 14:17 [KJV]) For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Paul said the kingdom of God is not physical like meat and drink, but rather this kingdom is concerning spiritual things like righteousness, peace, and joy which you cannot see!

Kingdom of Heaven: (Matt 11:12 [KJV]) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. The kingdom of heaven is a piece of land that has a man ruling over it as king somewhere on this earth.

THE TWO KINGDOMS DEFINED


The kingdom of heaven is an earthly kingdom with a man as its king that is doing the will of God. Notice what Jesus says about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 6:10. There Jesus said, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” In the millennium, God will establish the kingdom of heaven. Then Jesus Christ will be the King of the world and God’s will shall be done on earth as it is currently done in heaven.

The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom that is present when the righteousness of God is present, thus allowing God to have control. Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

ENTRANCE TO THE KINGDOMS

Kingdom of God: (John 3:3 [KJV]) 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Kingdom of Heaven: (Matt 25:31-33 [KJV]) 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. These are the survivors of the tribulation no new birth required to enter the kingdom of heaven.

POPULATION OF THE KINGDOMS

Kingdom of God: (John 3:3 [KJV]) 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Kingdom of Heaven: (Matt 13:41-43 [KJV]) 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Here some people who are in the kingdom of heaven but get cast into the Lake of fire because of iniquity. If both kingdoms are the same everyone is subject to possibly losing their salvation.

THE DURATION OF THE KINGDOMS

Kingdom of God: (Heb 1:8-12 [KJV]) 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. Kingdom of Heaven: (Rev 20:4 [KJV]) 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

THE PURPOSE OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

(1Cor 15:24-25 [KJV]) 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

1

The phrases "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" originate from the same OT passage. They are found in the synoptic Gospels, but rarely in the Gospel of John.

As others have already said Matthew's Gospel was originally designed for Jews, Papius telling us it was originally written in Aramaic, and "Kingdom of God" was not acceptable to Jews because of their (excessive) fear of taking God's name in vain. In addition "Kingdom of Heaven" was more often used in Matthew because it helps to emphasise to its Jewish readers that this coming kingdom is a spiritual kingdom not a fleshly kingdom like the empires of the world (such as the Roman, Greek, Babylonian, etc). This was an emphasis that Matthew's Jewish readers greatly needed to hear.

And "Kingdom of Heaven" was not used for Gentile readers, for whom Luke and Mark's Gospel were written, because it is slightly ambiguous.. does it mean in this world or the next world? For Gentiles "Kingdom of God" is more straightforward and obvious.

The other phrase that could have been used for Gentile readers was "the Kingdom of the God of Heaven", but maybe this phrase was not used because it has problems too. Jews had grown up knowing that there is only one God, but Gentiles had not had that benefit, and "the God of Heaven" might suggest to a Gentile reader that there are other gods too, that the god of Heaven is just one of many gods. Much better that Gentiles just read "Kingdom of God". It is plain and obvious what is meant.

In the first century there was great hope and anticipation of the coming of an independent kingdom of the Jews. The Jews believed that this kingdom was prophesied in the Old Testament and they thought/hoped it would be a physical, earthly kingdom in which the Jews would be free from foreign oppression, and maybe in which they themselves would rule the world. Some of them may have also believed that once this kingdom had started it would never end... the Jews would rule forever.

Their great longing for the coming of this kingdom is witnessed by some of the most common names they gave to their sons: such as Simon, John, Jonathan, Judas, Matthew: all of these are names derived from the ruling family of the Maccabbean Dynasty of 150 years before when the Jews were last an independent nation. The giving of these names to newborn baby boys shows they longed for those glory days again. (For more on this see "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" by Richard Bauckham.)

When Jerusalem was badly damaged and its Temple was destroyed in 70 AD these hopes were given a great blow, though they did not fizzle out until the after the Jewish-Roman War of 132-136 AD.

In Mark's Gospel we read how our Lord began his ministry:-

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:14,15).

What should strike us about this beginning of our Lord's preaching is that he speaks of the kingdom of God as if it is something which his hearers are already anticipating, and with which they already have some familiarity. It is also striking that this kingdom of God seems to be predicted as to its timing. The only place in the Old Testament which makes predictions concerning the timing of a coming kingdom is the book of Daniel where it says that this kingdom shall be set up during the empire of the fourth kingdom, the kingdom of iron:

"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." (Daniel 2:44).

It is this national hope of the Jews, which has its roots mainly in the book of Daniel, spoken of in this passage, and expanded on in later passages of Daniel (e.g. Daniel 7:14), to which our Lord is referring. Our Lord made full use of this great desire amongst his hearers to hear about this kingdom: his hearers had been brought to a state of great anticipation concerning it, by the book of Daniel and by their realization that the time must be fast approaching. Seeing that, according to Daniel, "the God of heaven" would set up this kingdom, the full title of this kingdom would therefore be "the Kingdom of the God of Heaven".

But when John wrote his Gospel after the destruction of the Temple, in about 70-90 AD, I suppose that the Jewish earthly hopes of a kingdom could no longer be taken advantage of for the presentation of the gospel because those earthly hopes had deteriorated since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. So John did not make much use of our Lord's preaching about the kingdom in his Gospel.

The use of the terms "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" is yet another marker that the synoptic Gospels were written sometime prior to 70 AD, before the destruction of the Temple while Jewish hopes of a kingdom were high.

Every time we read of our Lord preaching about "the kingdom" we ought to realize that our Lord Jesus was claiming to be a fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies of the book of Daniel: he was and is the "Son of Man" of Daniel 7:13, and he warned of the destruction of the Temple as described (after the Messiah's death) in Daniel 9:26, which Jesus said would happen just as Daniel had described (Mark 13:14) and after his own death.

When the High Priest asked Jesus

"Art thou the Christ the son of the Blessed?" Jesus answered, "I am , and ye shall see the Son of man, sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:61,62).

Here, our Lord is, once again, referring back to what Daniel saw:-

"I saw in the night visions and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.." (Daniel 7:13).

These were almost his last words before his death. So His ministry began with a reference to the book of Daniel ("the kingdom of God is at hand"), and ended with a reference to the book of Daniel, and in preaching often about "the kingdom" he was often speaking of things which related to the book of Daniel.

In short, by all these means Jesus of Nazareth was claiming to be the Messiah promised in the book of Daniel. [Of course, He must be, because the Temple and city could only be destroyed after the Messiah had been cut off (Daniel 9:26). So the Messiah must have come before 70 AD, and Jesus of Nazareth is the only realistic candidate.]

"The Kingdom of Heaven" and "the Kingdom of God" are synonyms which have their origin in Daniel 2:44 and the King of this Kingdom is the one who said

My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here. (John 18:36).

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The Kingdom of God (KOG) implies a person or group of people --the church-- who do the will of God in complete submission. (The individual is the smallest unit of KOG.) No one can do the will of God without the Holy Ghost. So a person or group of people who have the Holy Ghost in him/them and listen to His voice comprise the KOG. In short you are the kingdom of God.

Thus when Jesus taught us to pray "thy kingdom come," the thought is, "make me thy kingdom." In other words, "may I accept you as my king and do only what you want me to do. * At the same time please note that you are not the kingdom of Heaven * , The kingdom of Heaven awaits you after death because Kingdom of Heaven is what God the father has promised and planned for you. That is why it is important to differentiate both.

In the Old Testament, the Kingdom of God had referred to Israel whereas in the New Testament it is the believer or the church. Please note that a believer or the church is the new Israel.

Matt 21:43 (KJV)
43Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

Therefore the New Testament Kingdom of God is the believer or the church.

Rom 14:17 (KJV)
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Matt 6:33 (KJV)
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God , and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

On the other hand, the Kingdom of Heaven (KOH) is used by Jesus when he wanted to reveal the plan of salvation of the Father, or His character. For example -

Matt 11:12 (KJV)
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

The Father's plan of salvation was for the Jews. When Jesus came, many people (besides Jews) had believed in Him for salvation. "Violent people" therefore are those with great faith.

Matt 22:1 (KJV)
1The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn't want to come. Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, Tell those who are invited: Look, I've prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet. But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them. The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city. Then he told his slaves, The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet. So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. So he said to him, Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless, then the king told the attendants, Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen.

The parable discusses the wedding of the son and all whom the father (king) is planning to invite. Please note that it is the father (king) who decides the attendees.

Of course in some parables the kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God are interchanged by the Gospel writers. Kingdom of God can be interchanged with Kingdom of Heaven because the holy spirit life also is a part of the fathers plan,

Matt 04:17 (KJV)
17From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

It means God (the Father's) plan of salvation for his people has come and for he had sent Jesus and the holyspirit. The same way Kingdom of God is near means the Holy Spirit is going to be given to the people of this world and the Holy Spirit is going to dwell in us.

But wherever Jesus wanted to talk about the fathers plan alone we will find that Kingdom of Heaven cannot be interchanged with Kingdom of God . the above instances are examples.

One may take any parable based on KOG (Kingdom of the Holy Ghost) or KOH (God the Father's plan & His nature) and try to interpret them in both ways: either what Jesus reveals concerning the Holy Ghost and/or what He wants to tell us about the Father's nature and plan for us. However the specific ones concerning the Kingdom of Heaven are only to describe the Father's plan of salvation for man.

  • While I do not agree with your summary, I did made some edits to improve the diction and provide the format and links to Bible references. Please use this format in the future. Also, please write with as little assumptions as possible, since many people with different opinions view this site. In other words, please make your statements as "tight" as possible with as little assumptions and conjecture as possible. Thanks! – Joseph Jun 16 '14 at 14:21
  • @Joseph , I have tried to explain further . Let me know your thoughts. – Anoop Koshy Jun 24 '14 at 12:45
  • I made some edits to improve the diction, but you need to tighten the flow of thought - can you edit again to make the thoughts more smooth? I need to eat the food without chewing. Thanks! – Joseph Jun 24 '14 at 12:59
  • I'm pretty sure the use of abbreviation form KOG/KOH is working against you here. Given that you explain them in full in every instance, they are not saving the reader any time and since they are completely non-standard I really just thing they confuse the issue. Just use the full phrases and make this easier to read. As @Joseph pointed out the logic is also hard to follow so you can work on that too, but I suggest making it easier to read in the process by ditching the abbreviations. – Caleb Nov 29 '16 at 8:54
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We can now say that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were substantially based on Mark's Gospel and that additional material the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have in common have come from the hypothetical 'Q' document. John Dominic Crossan, in The Birth of Christianity, page 110-111, speaks of a massive consensus among scholars in favour of Markan priority. He says there is a smaller, but still substantial majority of scholars who believe that the hypothetical 'Q' document was the source of other material on which Matthew and Luke agree.

We can therefore compare the three gospels and look for passages where other gospels use 'kingdom of God' where Matthew uses 'kingdom of heaven'. If such passages exist, they will point to there being no material difference between the two terms, with the choice of 'kingdom of heaven' simply being a stylistic difference.

One parallel in which Mark was the original for the passage in Matthew is Matthew 13:11, which uses 'kingdom of heaven', while the original in Mark 4:11 uses 'kingdom of God':

Matthew 13:11: He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

Mark 4:11: And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

One parallel in which Matthew and Luke have similar passages, from the 'Q' document (where minor differences in wording exist, most scholars believe Luke is closer to the original in Q):

Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 6:20: And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

Examples such as these show that the author of Matthew chose to use 'kingdom of heaven' even when copying a passage that used the term 'kingdom of God'.

However, sometimes our author chose to use 'kingdom of God', in line with his sources, for example:

Matthew 19:24: And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Having copied passages that referred to 'kingdom of God', Matthew's author sometimes chose to use the term 'kingdom of heaven' and sometimes stick with 'kingdom of God', without defining a clear distinction between his use of one term or the other. It seems to be simply a stylistic choice made at the time.

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In rightly dividing the truth, some seek a literal & political Kingdom on earth, while others seek a spiritual realty; hopefully all believers seek the two – spiritual first. For the physical will pass away -

"Heaven and earth will pass away (Physical), but my words will never pass away." Matt 24:35

An example, Judas sought a physical empire, and when his dreams were dashed after the saviors sentence…his internal tortures lead to finding some rope and a tree.

Matt 3:33 states: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God (Spiritual), and his righteousness; and all these things (Physical) shall be added unto you.”

Luke wrote Acts in order to understand the 'Physical' churches beginnings as he stated of his gospel...

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up" Acts 1:1-2.

Further, eyewitness (not Luke / Mark) accounts have seen and touched the Christ, conversely 2nd hand accounts have not. respective each accounts minds are most likely centered on different aspects of earthly and heavenly realms. This does not negate the need or desire to understand both from all gospel writers, but should giveaway to the necessity to amply prescribe clairvoyance to spiritual matters. The basis for my finding's is below.

Matthew is a:

  • 1st hand account of Christ’s life
  • Written circa: A.D. 50
  • Jewish
  • Writes having seen the physical (living, dead, & resurrected Christ) & desires to see the "Spiritual-kingdom"

Example 1: “ …your kingdom come, your will be done on earth (acknowledges the physical) as it is in heaven. (looks for the spiritual)” (Matthew 6:10 NIV)

Luke is a:

  • 2nd hand account to Christ’s life
  • Written circa: A.D. 63
  • Non-Jewish
  • Writes in hopes to understand a physical eye witness testimony, & desires to see the “Physical-Kingdom”

Example 2: “…your kingdom come. (desires to see the physical - no mention of the spiritual)” (Luke 11:2 NIV)

From the Judicial side: The US federal rules of evidence requires lay witnesses to have personal knowledge of the matters they testify about. It is an affidavit that is based on personal knowledge, unless the affiant makes clear that a statement relies on “information and belief”.

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    Are you saying Luke has no interest in spiritual matters? That's not the case. tupamahu.blogspot.com/2007/09/… For example, Luke has 17 references to the Holy Spirit while Matthew only has 12. Just before the Ascension, Jesus tells the disciples they will be clothed with power from on high (24:49). See also Acts 1:1-28:30 for more of Luke's spiritual interest. Luke wrote a whole book on how the Spirit empowers believers. – Frank Luke Feb 20 '13 at 20:02
  • Of course Luke is concerned with spiritual items - It’s ludicrous to think otherwise. My implication takes the text and implies the writers, both 1st and 2nd hand accounts, express different positions from their vantage point. As stated above, "the US Judicai/Federal rules of evidence requires lay witnesses to have personal knowledge of the matters they testify about. – Derek Scott Feb 21 '13 at 19:35
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    Can you explain more clearly how your answer relates to the question? What shows that these kingdoms are the same or different? – Frank Luke Feb 22 '13 at 3:29
  • I believe this is as strong a point as possbile, as this is taken directly from the writer Luke. Luke wrote Acts in order to understand the 'Physical' churches beginnings as he stated of his gospel...“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up" Acts 1. Note changes above too. – Derek Scott Feb 25 '13 at 19:20
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    -1. Luke's explanation for how the Church has grown is centered around the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. See Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 19. And you shouldn't hang your findings on Luke 11:2 when Luke's Gospel speaks more of the Holy Spirit and it's actions than Matthew. – Frank Luke Feb 25 '13 at 21:18

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