Is there a difference between the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven”?

The ultra-dispensational view of E.W. Bullinger makes a distinction between the “kingdom of God” (heavenly) and the “kingdom of heaven” (on earth). However, we believe that as they are used in Scripture, these are synonymous terms that both refer to the Millennial Kingdom. It is not unusual in the Bible for something to have different names. For example, Jerusalem is called by many different names in the Bible. It is called “the City of David” (2 Sam. 5:7), [1] the City of God (Ps. 46:4), Salem (Ps. 76:2), Zion (Ps. 76:2), the Lord Our Righteousness (Jer. 33:16), Sodom (when its people were caught up in sin, Ezek. 16:46), the city of the Great King (Ps. 48:2; Matt. 5:35), Ariel (Isa. 29:1,2,7, either “Lion of God” or “Hearth of God”), etc. Cities, kingdoms and people often have more than one name in Scripture.

If the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are called by different names in the Bible, why would it be surprising that the future kingdom is called by different names? The future kingdom on earth is called “the kingdom of heaven,” “the kingdom of God,” “the kingdom of our father David” (Mark 11:10), “my kingdom” (Luke 22:30), “the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5), “the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col. 1:13), “his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18), “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ” (2 Pet. 1:11) and by other names as well. Surely no one believes that there are a dozen or so future kingdoms. There is one King, Jesus Christ, and there will be one future kingdom. Furthermore, the New Earth is the final destination for redeemed man, regardless of what administration a person lived in.

The reason that John the Baptist preceded Jesus by saying, “the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2), is because he was announcing the arrival of the King, and the Kingdom that was thought to follow shortly after. However, instead of crowning Christ as the King, they killed him, and this Kingdom for Israel is now being held in abeyance until Jesus comes again to the earth. We know from Scripture that when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven to earth to set up his Kingdom, the Church will come with him, and therefore we also will participate in his Kingdom.

Endnotes

[1] Not only can one thing have many names, but also different things can have the same name. We are used to that with people, but in the Bible it is true of cities also. Bethlehem was called “the town of David” (Luke 2:4 and 11), just as was Jerusalem. David was born in Bethlehem and moved to Jerusalem.

4 comments

  1. One of the biblical research principles I use to better understand the significance of a word or an expression is to check where it is first used (Old or New Testament). In the case of “kingdom of heaven” it cannot be found in the Old Testament and has been defined in the following verse, which is the first usage in the entire Bible.
    Matthew 3:1-3
    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.
    3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

    1. The concept of “First Use” is a mistaken premise for Biblical Interpretation. What do you do when there is only one use? This is in the same line of thinking, that many were taught, that the “Bible interprets itself.” The Hebrew and Greek were words used in everyday language and when Paul and others wrote and spoke, people knew exactly what they meant. Words have meaning,a nd the meaning of the words in the Bile are related to the meaning they had in common use of the people who they were directed towards.

      1. Thank you Mr. Gallagher. I always thought that “the kingdom of heaven” meant “the king from heaven” or specifically when Jesus Christ was and will physically be on the earth: 1. During his ministry on earth, and, 2. During the Millennium on earth.

      2. Thank you Mr. Gallagher. This is just me but I believe that when there is just one use of one word it makes the meaning of that word extremely more important – like the Greek word “theopneustos”. But I am definitely not a Bible scholar.

Leave a Reply to Dan Gallagher Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.