Brief Notes

The Meaning of
“the Kingdom
of the Heavens”

by | 13 July 2022

Today God is in
heaven, but He desires
to bring His kingdom
to the earth

The preaching of the gospel in the New Testament begins with these words from John the Baptist:

“Repent, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand!”
— Matthew 3:2

We need to see that, in the New Testament, we are called to repent not just to be forgiven, but so that we may enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.

Yet, do we even know what the Kingdom of the Heavens is?

In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Himself defined it in a very straight-forward way. He told the disciples to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come;
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
— Matthew 6:9-10

So, the Kingdom of the Heavens is when the will of God is done “on earth as it is in heaven”—that is, when the heavens rule over the earth.

Still, we need to explain this a bit.

God created man in His own image and likeness so that man could rule over the earth on His behalf (Gen. 1:26-28). But, this ruling is carried out in different arrangements, called “dispensations.” God establishes these different arrangements based on man’s condition before Him.

The first of these arrangements was the Age of Innocence, before Adam fell. This was not the Kingdom of the Heavens, because at that time God walked with man on the earth (Gen. 3:8), and so man was under the direct ruling of God’s very presence.

After the fall came the Age of Conscience, which lasted until the Flood, and then the Age of Human Government, which lasted until the Tower of Babel. Neither of these was the Kingdom of the Heavens either, since, as their names indicate, in these ages man was under the ruling first of his own conscience, and then of human government.

Then in Genesis 12 came the calling of Abram (whose name God later changed to Abraham). This age prefigures the Kingdom of the Heavens, for God in heaven was indeed ruling over at least one man on the earth; therefore it could be said that God was the “Possessor of Heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:9). But, it was too limited in scope to be the actual Kingdom of the Heavens.

Then there was the Age of the Law, when there was an entire nation that was called to live under God’s authority. Yet, not even this was the Kingdom of the Heavens, because at that time God dwelt among the Children of Israel and ruled over them on the earth, first from the Tabernacle and then from the Temple.

Then came the church age, with the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Is this the Kingdom of the Heavens? Yes, because under this arrangement Christ calls us, as His believers, to live on the earth as those who are under His ruling from the heavens.

Of course, this hidden ruling of Christ from the heavens today is the mysterious aspect of the Kingdom of  the Heavens. However, at the end of this age Christ will return and set up His kingdom on the earth for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-6). This will also be the Kingdom of the Heavens, for God will still be in heaven at that time. But, then it will not be hidden as it is today. Rather, it will be openly manifested for all to see.

Finally, after the Millennium there will be the Eternal Age, but this will not be the Kingdom of the Heavens either, for at time God will dwell with man on the earth for eternity (Rev. 21:3,10).

So, the Kingdom of the Heavens, that arrangement when the heavens rule over the earth, exists in only two of the seven different dispensations of human history: in this one, the church age, in a hidden way, and in the next one, the Millennium, in an open, manifested way.

And now we can understand the difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Heavens, and the relationship between the two. The former refers in a general way to God’s ruling over the universe from the time it was created to eternity future, while the latter is much more specific. That is, the Kingdom of the Heavens is included within the Kingdom of God, but it specifically refers that part of the Kingdom of God when He is ruling from heaven over men on the earth, namely, in this age and the next.

And today the Lord calls us into the Kingdom of the Heavens, telling us, just as John the Baptist did before Him:

“Repent, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand!”
— Matthew 4:17

He wants us to be those who are under His ruling even now so that He may gain His kingdom on the earth while it is still in its hidden, mysterious stage. This will prepare us to rule with Him as co-kings after the end of this age, when the time comes for His kingdom to be openly manifested for all to see.

“Lord, we want to be those who are truly living under Your authority so that You can gain Your kingdom on the earth today! Your kingdom come; Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven! Amen”

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— 13 July 2022 —