(Article 3 of 3 in the Kingdom of God series)
As we saw in the previous article (“The Kingdom of Heaven Is the Kingdom of God”) Matthew called it the Kingdom of Heaven for a reason. He wanted his Jewish readers to understand that the gospel was about entering the eternal spiritual Kingdom where God has always reigned and not just about the physical restoration of the kingdom of Israel on this earth (which we know will take place during what is called the Millennium).
Besides pointing his Jewish readers to God’s eternal spiritual realm by calling His Kingdom “the kingdom of heaven”, throughout his gospel account Matthew is constantly pointing his Jewish readers toward heaven. Oftentimes Mark, Luke and John will refer to God, but Matthew identifies Him as the God or Father “in heaven”. A quick look at the KJV translation of the text as “in heaven” shows Mark and Luke using “in heaven” 6 times, John once and Matthew using it 27 times! An example of this addition can be found in what is called “the sermon on the mount”. In Matthew’s account he wanted his Jewish readers to know that not only will there be a reward, but that their reward is “in heaven” (Matt. 5:12). He also quoted Jesus as saying, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:20). Their reward, treasure and inheritance was in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus talks about those entering the kingdom of heaven as being those who do the “will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Besides constantly referencing “heaven” in his gospel account, Matthew also makes reference to God as our Father. In the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Mark’s account references God as Father only 5 times, Luke 14 times, but Matthew does so 40 times. Parallel words of Jesus seen in places like Mark 10:40 & Matt. 20:23 shows shows Jesus adding the words in Matthew’s account “by My Father.” Mark 3:35 has Jesus talking about practicing the will and desire of God, while Matt. 12:50 says the same thing only Jesus calls God “My Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew wanted his Jewish readers to focus on this new relationship with God as our Father and constantly pointed the Jewish readers toward heaven. At the same time, in Matthew’s account six times he gives the Jews a warning concerning the post-millennial time during the Judgement when, rather than being a part of that spiritual realm, “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). Mark and John left this warning out and Luke cites Jesus as saying it only once (Luke 13:28). Matthew’s message to the Jews was about eternal life or death. It wasn’t about the messianic kingdom, bringing back the glory days of Solomon, having universal world peace with each man living under his vine & fig tree and the law going forth out of Zion. Matthew’s focus was on God’s heavenly kingdom.
It was entering into this spiritual realm that is to be the hope and desire for all Christians living in all time periods. Again, those flesh and blood human beings living on the earth during the millennium will still be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, confessing that they too are strangers & pilgrims in fleshly tabernacles, looking to that city coming down as a bride whose builder and maker is God.
The true Gospel has always been about the spiritual Kingdom in which dwells perfect Godly righteousness that flesh and blood can’t inherit (read I Cor. 15:35-50; John 3:3-5). By the end of the millennium everyone will realize that the physically restored Kingdom of Israel here on this earth, even at its best, falls way short of the spiritual Kingdom of God that is still to come down from Heaven with everyone living the true lasting righteousness of God. Man’s righteousness from trying to keep the Torah law as a physical human being (even during the millennium) is not the same as the righteousness of God by faith (Phil. 3:9). Those living during the millennium in the “wonderful world tomorrow” will say just like Paul did, “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven… that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (II Cor. 5:2-4).
After the 1000 years are finished, Satan is loosed from the bottomless pit for a little season to deceive the nations into battling the Lamb of God (Rev. 20:3, 7-9). During this terrible time when Satan is released those who are not deceived by him will also still be praying the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) to “Our Father which art in heaven…”, praying for the Father’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Unlike Luke’s account of the Lord’s prayer, in Matthew’s account he adds the words “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:13). Their prayer will then be answered after Satan is defeated and those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life receive eternal life.
Today we know there is an everlasting spiritual Kingdom in which dwells true righteousness that we who belong to God will inherit at Christ’s return when we which are alive at that time are changed or raised from the dead if we had died in Christ (I Thes. 4:14-17). Those of us blessed to be in this first resurrection will be spirit beings (I John 3:2; Phil. 3:21) spending the first “day” of our eternity during the millennium with Christ. After the thousand years are finished, “the rest of the dead” (Rev. 20:5) are raised, the judgment is complete, all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will join those who were raised in the first resurrection, then Heaven is coming to earth. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death… then the Son Himself will be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (I Cor. 15:24-28). The New Jerusalem (spiritual) will come down as a bride to a new replaced earth. All spiritual new creatures in Christ will live with Jesus and the Father in this spiritual Kingdom forever. The Lord’s example of prayer to our Father who is in heaven will be answered, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Jesus in His prayer to the Father in Matt. 6:13 was partly quoting what David prayed in I Chron. 29:11. It was true then, it’s true now and always will be true. “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.” The royal law of this heavenly Kingdom that has come to this new earth is that of agape love, for God is agape love and God will be all in all.
There will no longer be a need for Jesus to make intercession for sinful men in a heavenly temple because John wrote, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light… (there shall be no night there)” (Rev. 21:22-25). No sunrise or sunset for a proper weekly Sabbath observance for the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27) and all mankind, whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, will bear the image of the heavenly. All will have experienced that rest of God (Heb. 4:9-10). There will be no “thou shalt not kill” for death has been destroyed (I Cor. 15:26; Rev. 20:14). There will be no “thou shalt not commit adultery” or “covet thy neighbor’s wife” for we all will be like the angels in heaven neither marrying nor being given in marriage (Matt. 22:30). The “royal law” of love (James 2:8) toward God and one another is the eternal law in everyone’s heart that motivates all righteous living “so we might be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:10) and we will all finally live happily ever after because no one will be trying to “do his own thing” in opposition to God (His perfect love and true righteous way). We all will have been taught by God about His perfect agape love (I Thes. 4:9) and matured (perfected) in His true righteousness (Eph. 3:19; I Thes. 3:12-13; I John 2:5).
Again, this spiritual Kingdom in which godly righteousness dwells is what we are to seek first (Matt. 6:33). We will all be worshiping God in spirit and in truth as our Father seeks (John 4:23-24). God is Spirit. So too is Jesus at His right hand and “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2). We shall “…bear the image of the heavenly” (I Cor. 15:49). We will be spirit beings full of agape love consistently living a godly righteousness in God’s spiritual Kingdom with our Father and Jesus for all eternity. Again, these are much “better promises” for mankind’s future than just rain in due season or lions, lambs & little children playing together or sitting under one’s vine and fig tree as an old man dreaming dreams living a long physical life (unable to even see God and live).
As we saw in the previous article, Matthew called it the Kingdom of Heaven for a reason. The Jews in his time needed to focus on the reality of the existing spiritual Kingdom in Heaven, which realm we are to one day enter, and not on the restoration of the physical kingdom of Israel on earth. The Kingdom of Heavens (plural) as it is in the original and should be translated, means His Kingdom includes all of the physical universe in the heavens above, the entire earth (His footstool), the spiritual universe and any other dimension. The Kingdom of heaven is an all encompassing spiritual realm which was the Apostles’ perspective of the Kingdom of God as revealed to them by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This should be the focus of all Spirit-led Christians today, especially those of us coming from a Worldwide Church of God background. In our desire to stay away from orthodox Christianity’s false concepts of a heavenly reward, we can easily deceive ourselves by ignoring what Matthew, Paul, Peter and John wrote about that heavenly Kingdom. Their messages to the brethren (including Jesus’ message in the Book of Revelation) was honestly not about “the wonderful world tomorrow and what it will be like.” They looked forward to being with Christ and His kingdom, but they didn’t make the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven) synonymous with the Millennium or the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. No matter what your church background may be, we all need to re-read what the Apostles actually wrote and be led by God’s Holy Spirit into true understanding.
In his final epistle Paul wrote in II Tim. 2:10 “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” The good news Paul preached and all he did was for the elect receiving salvation and obtaining eternal glory. Some of his final words Paul wrote for Timothy (and as it turned out, for us) when he knew he was about to die were, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also, I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (II Tim. 4:17-18 NKJV). Shouldn’t we all be looking forward to entering “His heavenly kingdom”?
There is a throne right now where the Most High dwells, and He reigns with Jesus at His right hand. That Kingdom has always existed and always will exist. There are an innumerable company of angels in this spiritual realm that exists today, and they are sent as ministering spirits into our lives (Heb. 1:14). The good news is that through Christ crucified we have access right now to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We have access to that Kingdom today and will actually dwell in that Kingdom when we put off this earthly tabernacle (flesh and blood bodies). This is good news for all mankind.
Paul wrote, “… having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Eph. 1:9-10 NKJV).
He also wrote, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4 NKJV).
In this life, as we sojourn as strangers & pilgrims, we are in the world, but we are not of the world, just like Christ was not of the world (John 17:14-16). The Kingdom we belong to is not of this world, but is in heaven above. Our citizenship, reward and hope is there and when Christ returns He will transform our earthly bodies to be conformed to his glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21). We will be a part of that everlasting spiritual realm forever.
It is a realm far greater than anything we can imagine in a dimension that transcends time and space. When we bear the image of the heavenly our vision won’t be limited as it is now. How we travel from one place to another and our concept of time will be totally different. What we will hear won’t be limited to a certain frequency and how we will be able to communicate with God and others will be unlike anything we can even begin to imagine today. It is going to be absolutely fantastic!
Also, today the Kingdom of God is near. It’s not “2 stars to the right and straight on til morning” in a heavenly never, never land. Jesus even warned about despising “one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Their angel wouldn’t be saying that he can’t see what’s happening with the little ones because Alpha Centauri is blocking his view. Heaven exists in a different dimension that we just can’t see. I’m reminded of the time when Elisha’s servant was worried about the city being surrounded by the Syrian armies and Elisha prayed that the Lord would open his servant’s eyes. “Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (II Kings 6:17). The spiritual Kingdom of God is near. The Lord “is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
If today we set our hearts on things above and try to see things from God’s perspective, then we can see that the trials and difficulties we face in “this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). All the concerns that now tend to overwhelm us and monopolize our attention are going pale in significance to the spiritual Kingdom of God that we will inherit.
For all eternity we will be the praise of His glory forever in a Kingdom where all of creation, past, present and future will truly trust & believe in God, His agape love and His righteousness. Sin will be a thing of the past—dealt with forever. For God is the power, wisdom and glory forever, never again to be doubted or questioned or tested. All will have faith and total trust in God, His love and His righteousness forever. We will praise Him forever.
Written by Lee Lisman