What Is the Kingdom ofthe Heavens?
This is a simple term,
yet it is also quite profound,
and to understand it
properly we need to
briefly look at the
To understand what the Outer Darkness is, we first need to see what the Kingdom of the Heavens is, because these two things are closely related. In both cases the only explicit mention of them is in the Gospel of Matthew, and to be even more specific, whenever the Outer Darkness is mentioned, it is directly related to the Kingdom of the Heavens (8:12, 22:13, 25:30).
(For a fuller discussion of this relationship see my earlier Note, “The Kingdom and the Darkness.” See also The Christian Faith Radio Hour podcast, #9, “The Kingdom and the Darkness; The Wise and Foolish Virgins.”)
So, what is the Kingdom of the Heavens?
To answer this question we need to be clear first of all as to what it is not: that is, it is not “going to heaven.” (This needs to be said, because some Christians may actually have this concept.) We know this because when both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself began to preach, their message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of the Heavens has drawn near!” (Matt. 3:2, 4:17).
So, rather then being about going to heaven, the Kingdom of the Heavens is about bringing the heavens to the earth.
So again we need to ask, what is the Kingdom of the Heavens?
The simplest way to understand this term is to allow it to define itself. To do that, we can alter one word and refer to it as “the Ruling of the Heavens.” Thus, the Kingdom of the Heavens is the ruling of the heavens.
But, ruling over what? Obviously, it is the ruling of the heavens over the earth. And so, in the Gospel of Matthew, which is the Gospel that deals with the Kingdom of the Heavens, the Lord shows us what the Kingdom of the Heavens is when He tells us to pray in this way:
Our Father who is in the heavens,
Hallowed be Your name;
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is the heaven.
— Matthew 6:9-10
In brief, then, the Kingdom of the Heavens is when the heavens are ruling over the earth, so that the will of God is done on the earth as it is in the heavens.
This is the concise answer to the question, What is the Kingdom of the Heavens? However, to understand this answer correctly we now need to ask a further question; that is, When does this happen? When do the heavens rule over the earth? And to answer this question we need to briefly consider the various arrangements God has made for ruling over the earth.
The Bible shows us that God has had several of these arrangements, or “dispensations,” for dealing with man on the earth. However, it is only in the present dispensation, the dispensation of grace, and in the next dispensation, that of the kingdom, that the heavens rule over the earth.
In the first dispensation, before the fall, God did not rule from heaven; rather, He walked with man on the earth (Gen. 3:8). In the next two dispensations man was not directly under God’s ruling at all; rather, he was under the ruling, first of his conscience, then of human government. After that was the dispensation of the patriarchs, which is actually something of a miniature of the heavens ruling over the earth, but only over individuals, not over an actual kingdom. Then came the dispensation of law, during which God did have a kingdom on the earth, among the Children of Israel. At that time, however, He did not rule from the heavens; rather, He was Himself also dwelling on the earth, first in the tabernacle and then in the temple.
And in the future, in eternity, after the end of the kingdom age, God will no longer dwell in heaven; rather, He will come down to the earth and dwell with man upon the earth (Rev. 21:2-3), which is what He intended from the very beginning.
In none of these other dispensations, therefore, do the heavens rule over the earth. Only in the present dispensation, when Christ is in heaven and His church is on the earth, and in the next, before the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, does that happen.
So today we as the believers in Christ have the Kingdom of the Heavens in a hidden, mysterious way; when the Lord returns, the entire world will see the Kingdom of the Heavens openly manifested as God rules from the heavens over the entire earth.
Thus, we may ultimately define the Kingdom of the Heavens in this way: It is the temporary arrangement God has established in this age and the next for bringing His kingdom from the heavens to the earth.
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— 15 April 2023 —