Are the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven the same? Is the Kingdom of Christ also the same as these?
The response to your question will be divided into three parts. First, we will look at the phrase “Kingdom of God.” Then we will look at both the “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God.” When we look at both phrases together, we want to see if the phrases are used interchangeably.
The phrase “kingdom” occurs sixty-two times in the New Testament all by itself. For example, in Matt. 6:10 we read,
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (NASB) Matt. 6:10
This example occurs in the model prayer that Jesus gave to the disciples. One should notice that the passage indicates that a kingdom already existed in heaven and that the disciples were to ask God the Father to have it come to this earth! The table below reveals that a kingdom existed back at the time of King David before Jesus was born into this earth in human flesh. That is, a spiritual kingdom already existed when Jesus arrived.
When Jesus started His ministry at about the age of thirty years, He announced the arrival of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23). Since a spiritual kingdom in heaven already existed, Jesus was offering another kingdom – an earthly one! Every true Christian will some day live in God’s earthly kingdom during Jesus’ 1,000 year reign. It will be a wonderful, righteous kingdom. That is the message of the following passages,
While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. (NASB) Luke 19:11
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (NASB) Acts 1:3
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (NASB) Acts 1:6
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. (NASB) 1 Cor. 15:23-24
These passages, especially the last one, clearly tell us that a physical kingdom of God is a future event and not something that exists now. Both Matthew 19:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:50 tell us that the kingdom of God will include life eternal – our eternal home in heaven. Christians will reign with Christ in the earthly kingdom (Rev. 20:6).
Kingdom of God
The expression “Kingdom of God” occurs in all four gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians. It is a very common phrase used in the New Testament. It occurs 19 times in Matthew, 6 times in Mark, 13 times in Luke, and 3 times in John. Then the word occurs 21 times in the rest of the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 6:10 and Galatians 5:21 say that the unrighteous cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, and 1 Corinthians 15:50 reveals that mortals cannot occupy this kingdom. Ephesians 5:5 indicates that the Kingdom of God also belongs to Christ; that is, it is also the Kingdom of Christ. If we compare Matthew 26:28-29 to Mark 14:25, we discover that the Kingdom of God belongs to God the Father. By comparing Matthew 16:27-28 with Mark 9:1 we discover the Kingdom of God belongs to Jesus Christ. That is, the Kingdom of God belongs to both of them.
Kingdom of Heaven
The expression Kingdom of Heaven occurs 32 times in the gospel of Matthew and in no other place in the New Testament. The first time the expression occurs is in Matthew 3:2.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (NASB) Matt. 3:2
These are Jesus’ words. He was calling His listeners to repent and to get ready for the kingdom. The phrase appears again in Matt. 4:17, then 5 times in the Sermon on the Mount, and 8 times in the kingdom parables (Matt. 13). The other 16 times are in Matt. 8:11; 10:7; 11:11-12; 16:19; 18:1, 3, 4, 23; 19:12, 14, 23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; and 25:1.
So what is the difference between the two phrases Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven? Matthew frequently exchanged the expression “Kingdom of God” for “Kingdom of Heaven.” This was a common practice among the Jews because they did not want to refer to God directly by using His name, so they would use heaven. The following table will reveal that there is actually no difference between the two phrases.
Notice that Matthew used “Kingdom of Heaven” and Luke used “Kingdom of God” interchangeably in the same thought. Matthew also interchangeably used both expressions in two sentences.
Another example occurs in the following table.
Again we see that the expressions have the same sense. The only difference between the passages are the two expressions. This occurs in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says that the poor in spirit are blessed (Matt. 5:3 and Luke 6:20). It occurs again in Matt 8:11 and Luke 13:29 about “reclining with Abraham” and then in Matt. 11:11 and Luke 7:28 when Jesus was talking to His disciples about being the greatest in the kingdom. In Matthew 13, we discover that Jesus says that the kingdom currently includes true Christians and those who claim to be Christians since the kingdom is universal. But some day the false Christians will be removed from the kingdom.
The following table lists the kingdom parables found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The kingdom exists today both in heaven (Matthew 6:10) and here on earth in a spiritual sense in the hearts of Christians. Is there is a difference between the two expressions kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven? Some have concluded that the kingdom of heaven includes both true and false Christians, but the kingdom of God includes only true Christians. This conclusion is difficult to support since the parable of the sower of the seed includes four soils. Three of the soils represent false Christians, but only the fourth one represents true Christians. Then one must remember that the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke include the parable (Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-25; Luke 8:5-15). The phrase kingdom of God is used in Mark and Luke in the parable. Therefore, it not correct to say that the kingdom of God only includes true believers since Mark and Luke include the parable in describing the kingdom of God. Matthew includes the parable when describing the kingdom of Heaven. It should be noticed that within the parable, Matthew 13:11 refers to the kingdom of heaven while Mark 4:11 refers to the kingdom of God and so does Luke 8:10. This implies that both the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God include false and true professors.
The solution to the question, is there a difference between the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God is not that one expression has some unique meaning. Instead, the two kingdoms are identical and only those who believe in Jesus Christ will spend eternity with God. The kingdom of Heaven obviously emphasizes the future life of Christians in heaven and the kingdom of God emphasizes that God the Father owns the kingdom. Some believe that Matthew used the expression kingdom of Heaven due to Jewish sensitives about using the word God. That might be, but it is speculative and it should be noted that Matthew uses the expression kingdom of God four times. That reveals he used the phrase anyway.
God’s kingdom already exists now, will physically exist on the earth for 1,000 years at some time in the future, and will continue forever in the new heaven and new earth. It is eternal. There is no difference between the expressions kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven. The phrase Kingdom of Christ is used to refer to the same kingdom. Since the 1,000 year kingdom is initially given to Jesus, it can also be called the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5). The kingdom belongs to both the Father and to Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom even existed in their presence because He, as the king of the kingdom, was present among them (Luke 17:20-21). May the desire of our hearts be to share Jesus with others so that they may enter into the kingdom of God too!
Suggested Links:Peace With God
Parables of the Kingdom
Why did Jesus say the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven was in their midst?