Are the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven the same? Is the Kingdom of Christ also the same as these?
The answer people give to the question “Are the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven the same?” is heavily determined by one’s theology about future things or eschatology. Therefore, in order to arrive at the correct answer, we must hold Scripture as our authority and not the theological system that we were taught. Therefore, we must desire to know the truth and not be seeking affirmation of what we have already been taught. The answer to the question will be divided into three parts. First, we will look at the phrase “The Kingdom.” Then we will look at both the “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom — Past, Present, and Future
The phrase “the kingdom” or “kingdom” occurs sixty-two times in the New Testament all by itself. In the Old Testament, we are told that the Lord had a kingdom and His kingdom covered the nations of the earth.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth. 1 Chronicles 16:31
For the kingdom is the LORD’S
And He rules over the nations.
Psalm 22:28 (NASB)
God reigns over the nations,
God sits on His holy throne.
Psalm 47:8 (NASB)
The message is that Yahweh reigns as king over all the earth and heaven. God’s kingdom is universal (Psalm 145:13). In fact, His kingdom included everything that He created. His kingdom would have included heaven since the saints live there too (2 Kings 2:1; 2 Samuel 12:21-23). Heaven is part of His kingdom.
Now we will examine some verses that reveal God’s kingdom existed at the time the Psalm was written.
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom . . . Psalm 145:12-13 (NASB)
The next two verses reveal that His kingdom exists now.
“. . . nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (NASB) Luke 17:21
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” John 18:36 (NASB)
Jesus says that He has servants who are ready to fight for Him. That is, His kingdom existed at the time Jesus was speaking to Pontius Pilate.
We are also told His kingdom will exist on the earth for a while.
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority . . . Acts 1:6-7 (NASB)
Jesus’ kingdom is not yet a physical one on earth, but it is coming. We are also told that God’s kingdom is an eternal one.
. . . for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:11 (NASB)
So, the Father’s kingdom has been existing. It is existing, and someday will exist on earth with Jesus on David’s throne, and then continue for eternity. His kingdom is eternal and will continue to exist into the new heaven and new earth.
In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the Father’s kingdom Matthew 6:10,
You kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (NASB)
This example comes from Jesus’ teaching about how to pray. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. It is our model prayer. One should remember that God’s kingdom already extends from heaven and down to the earth. So, we are to pray that His will is done on earth as it is done in heaven. The disciples were to ask God the Father to have His kingdom come to this earth! But notice first that Jesus referred to the future version of the Father’s kingdom which will exist on earth.
When Jesus started His ministry at about the age of thirty years, He announced the arrival of the kingdom (Matthew 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. Luke 19:11 (NASB)
This is a very important passage because it is clear the disciples were looking for an earthly kingdom. So, why did Jesus not just tell them the kingdom already existed? Because the Father’s kingdom was going to come to earth for a period of time. The next verses indicate the same truth.
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. Acts 1:3 (NASB)
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6 (NASB)
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. 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 (NASB)
These passages, especially the last one, clearly tell us that a physical kingdom of God on earth is a future event and not something that exists only in the hearts of believers. 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 (Revelation 20:6).
Kingdom of God
The expression “kingdom of God” occurs 66 times in the New Testament, including all four gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians. It is a very common phrase used in the New Testament. It occurs 4 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 32 times in Luke, and 2 times in John. The word occurs 14 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, the kingdom of Christ and God. 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 the Trinity.
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 Matthew 4:17, then 5 times in the Sermon on the Mount, and 8 times in the kingdom parables (Matthew 13). The other 16 times are in Matthew 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.
The Kingdoms Compared
So what is the difference between the two phrases, kingdom of God and kingdom of Heaven? The answer is given by comparing Matthew 19:23-24 with Luke 18:24-25. Here are the two passages,
And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24 (NASB)
And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:24-25 (NASB)
Notice that Matthew used both kingdom of Heaven and kingdom of God. But Luke used kingdom of God twice. That is, the phrases, kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are interchangeable. They communicate the same thought. 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 the word heaven.
A second example is Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; and Luke 8:10.
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.” Matthew 13:11 (NASB)
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: Mark 4:11 (NASB)
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. Luke 8:10 (NASB)
Once again we observe that all three gospels used kingdom of God for kingdom of heaven interchangeably. There is no difference in meaning.
A third example is Matthew 13:31; Mark 4:30-33; and Luke 13:18-19.
He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . Matthew 13:31 (NASB)
And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God . . . It is like a mustard seed . . . Mark 4:30-31 (NASB)
So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God . . . It is like a mustard seed . . . Luke 13:18-19 (NASB)
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 said that the poor in spirit are blessed (Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20). It occurs again in Matt 8:11 and Luke 13:29 about “reclining with Abraham.” It also occurs in Matthew 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 said that the kingdom currently includes true Christians and those who claim to be Christians since the kingdom is universal. But someday the false Christians will be removed from the kingdom.
So, is there 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 (Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-25; Luke 8:5-15) includes four soils. So, the kingdom of heaven clearly includes both true and false Christians. But we must notice that Mark and Luke use kingdom of God when referring to the parable of the Sower of the Seed too! So, the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God obviously includes both true and false Christians too! We should remember that within the parable of the Sower of the Seed, 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 answer to the question, ” Are the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven the same?” is no! The two expressions 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 God the Father’s universal reign that will extend to Christ’s earthly reign over the millennial kingdom, and then into the eternal state. 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 did use the phrase at times.
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:Searching For God
Parables of the Kingdom
Why did Jesus say the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven was in their midst?