The “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God” are synonymous, they are one and the same. The Apostle Matthew used the term “the kingdom of heaven” primarily because it was a term his Jewish audience would better understand.
These are the major questions we are trying to answer:
1. What is the character of the people who belong to God’s Kingdom?
2. What does entrance into this kingdom require of us?
3. What is the nature of God’s Kingdom?
4. WHAT is the Kingdom of God/The Kingdom of Heaven? Are they synomonous?
— Clues to the answers of these questions will be noted below by question number and parallel passages are grouped together.
Let’s look at the clues:
Matthew 3:2 John the Baptist tells us something major is about to happen, to turn from our wrongdoing.
Matthew 4:17 Jesus tells us to turn from our wrongdoing, listen to Him, He is about to reveal something major to us.
Mark 1:15 The first indication that I found showing that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God are synomonous. (4)
Matthew 5:3 Jesus tells us that those of us who are deeply aware of our spiritual poverty and conscious of our utter dependence on God, will, because of our complete dependence on God, know the key to living in His Kingdom. (1)
Luke 6:20 Another indication showing that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God are synomonous. (4)
Matthew 5:10 Jesus tells us that when we live according to the will of God we will often find ourselves at odds with the world around us. However, by persevering in God’s will, we will realize the kingdom of heaven. (1, 2)
Matthew 5:19 Jesus tells us that those of us who ignore or don’t listen to God’s wisdom (follow His Laws) and those who teach others to do the same will be considered least in His kingdom, while those who understand and apply God’s wisdom, Jesus teachings, as well as teach others or share this insight will be greatest in the kingdom. (1)
Matthew 5:20 Jesus tells us that unless we apply God’s wisdom to our lives, the key word is “apply”, not just speak it with our mouths, we will not enter the kingdom. (1, 2)
Matthew 7:21 Jesus tells us that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God, we must honestly and sincerely love God and obey His will. That doing the Father’s will involves first believing, then obeying His Words. (1,2)
Matthew 8:11 The phrase “kingdom of heaven” as used by Jesus does seem include the “place” – heaven – the place where saved souls go after death, or a place of post mortem bliss. However, Jesus let’s us know that just because a person is “religious” or is by birth a Jew, that this does not necessarily guarantee them a seat at the table. What DOES guarantee you admittance is your faith in Him. (1, 2, 4)
Matthew 10:7 We see by its use in the same story as told by Matthew and Luke that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are synomonous. Jesus tells the disciples to preach this message, “The kingdom of heaven is near” and to preach “the kingdom of God”. John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus’ Kingdom by preaching “the kingdom of heaven is near” and Jesus began His earthly ministry with the same message as recounted in Matthew 4:17. In this sense, it is hard for me to see the “kingdom of heaven” strictly in a sense of a “place”. This phrase seems to point more toward the fact that Jesus, was establishing His kingdom here on earth (as it is in heaven?), in the hearts of His followers and that one day the kingdom would be fully realized in heaven (the place). (3, 4)
Luke 9:2 Another indication that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God are both the same thing (4)
Matthew 11:11 & 12 The greatest in the kingdom, are those who know and follow Christ. It is those who follow Christ that witness the kingdom’s reality. There is more to the kingdom than just believing……we must follow and do. God’s wisdom is seen in Jesus’ deeds and His teaching. (1,2)
Luke 7:28 Another indication that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God synomonous (4)
Matthew 13:11 Jesus tells us that only believer’s, those who put their trust and faith in Him will understand what he has to say as He reveals the secrets of the kingdom. All others, though seeing, will not see and though hearing, will not hear or understand. (1)
Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10 Still more indications showing that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God are one and the same. (4)
Matthew 6:33 (NLT) / Luke 12:31 (NLT) By seeking the Kingdom first, Jesus tells us to seek Him, to seek God first in our life. He, in turn, will provide for our needs. As Lord and Creator, he wants to help provide what you need as well as guide how you use what He provides. The Kingdom is a place that is close to God, close to Jesus. It is a place where God desires us to be. (1)
Matthew 12:28 / Luke 11:20 The real enemy to be conquered is Satan. That fact that Jesus was casting out demons by His own authority revealed that the kingdom of God had begun. The Kingdom begins with Jesus. (2, 3)
Matthew 13:24 The kingdom is growing and thriving alongside a world of evil, and that there will be an “end of the age” at some point in the future and angels will cast out everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (3)
Matthew 13:31 / Mark 4:30 / Luke 13:18 The kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God began in a relatively small city, in a small country and has become a world-wide kingdom composed of people from all walks of life and all nationalities. (3)
Matthew 13:33 / Luke 13:20 As the parable of the mustard seed addresses the extent of the kingdom’s growth, this parable concerns the power and process of its growth. Like leaven working its way through the dough, the kingdom message spread across the entire world. (3)
Matthew 13:44 / Matthew 13:45 Both of these parables tell of a joy in finding peace with God. Both men, the one who stumbled upon the kingdom and the one who was seeking the kingdom, realize when they find it that it is the answer to their hopes and dreams. There is a tremendous value in becoming a true citizen of the kingdom of God. (2)
Matthew 13:47 While we see from Jesus’ other teachings about the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God, that the kingdom is right here, right now, and we in this kingdom will coexist with evil, there will be a time when the evil will be separated out and cast away. (3)
Matthew 13:52 We have been given the keys to this kingdom. We should continue to learn and grow in Christ. In my mind, this is a form of worship. What we know about the kingdom (treasures old and new) should not be kept in the storeroom of our mind but should be shared with all. (1)
Matthew 16:19 Jesus tells us that He will build His church (assemblies of people who gather in His name) and gives the apostle Peter the authority by Jesus to interpret and make judgments about what would be permitted or forbidden in the church, the body of believers. (3)
Matthew 18:1 / Matthew 18:3 / Matthew 18:5 Jesus tells us that to be great in the kingdom of heaven/ kingdom of God, that we must be humble like a child, that we must adopt an attitude of humble servanthood. (1, 2)
Matthew 18:23 Jesus illustrates the need for unlimited forgiveness in the body of Christ. If our forgiveness is in direct proportion to what we have been forgiven, then we must always forgive. I would note that there looks to me, from what Jesus was saying, that there is a penalty for unforgiveness. (1,2)
Matthew 19:12 Some have been given the Spiritual gift of celibacy in order to serve God. (1)
Matthew 19:14 / Mark 10:14-15 / Luke 18:16-17 Jesus explained that little children have the kind of faith and trust needed to enter God’s kingdom. They came to Jesus in humility and received his blessing as a gift. They had no authority or rights, but they came to him in trust and love. (1,2,4)
Matthew 19:23 / Mark 10:23, 24, & 25 / Luke 18:24 & 29 Jesus tells us that it is hard for us to enter the kingdom of heaven when we trust other things in our life and not God. We must put our faith in Jesus, and not ourselves. In the end, it is God who graces us with eternal life , not US who achieves it. (2)
Matthew 20:1 Jesus tells us that entrance into the kingdom of heaven is not earned, but given freely only because of God’s great generosity, which goes far beyond our human ideas of what is fair. (2)
Matthew 21:31 Jesus tells us that those who reject God’s message but who come to repentance will enter the kingdom ahead of the pious self-righteous who hear Jesus’ message but who do not obey, thinking themselves above others. (1, 2)
Matthew 21:43 Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God shall be taken from those who reject Jesus’ message and indeed Jesus Himself, and given to those that repent and follow Christ…those who receive the message. We must recognize that Jesus is the cornerstone, the capstone, in our lives. (1,2)
Matthew 22:2 / Luke 14:15 Jesus tells us that the invitation to the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God is offered to ALL people (all races, all nationalities, people of different social standings, reputations and moral character…..ALL people, good and bad). Yet, not all who are invited accept, and some who do, accept superficially. Jesus teaches us here that many of those invited will not actually be among those chosen by God. (2)
Matthew 23:13 Jesus tells us that hypocrisy; following man-made traditions rather than God’s Word; involving ourselves in small details of God’s Word rather than what is really important…..justice, mercy and faith; keeping up appearances while our private world is corrupt; and acting spiritual to cover up sin, all have the effect of keeping others from entering the kingdom of heaven……..as well as keeping ourselves from entering the kingdom. (1)
Matthew 25:1 Jesus tells us that our relationship with God is our own, we are responsible for our own spiritual condition. Jesus will come again and the kingdom of heaven will extend into eternity….but we must be prepared….if we are not…the door will close and we will be denied entry and will miss out completely. Further, Jesus will come when we least expect it for we will not know the “the day or the hour”. (1,2)
Matthew 25:14 / Luke 9:27 Jesus tells us that the person who diligently prepares for the return of Christ, the Messiah, by investing his or her time and talent to serve God will be rewarded. The person who has no heart for the work of the kingdom will be punished. God rewards faithfulness. Those who bear no fruit for God’s kingdom cannot expect to be treated the same as those who are faithful. (1,2)
Mark 4:26 Here is the mystery of the kingdom: Jesus came and the seed was sown, by Him as well as his followers after him, the apostles and indeed….us, His disciples, we continue to sew seed. The Word takes root and grows in the hearts of God’s people. Then, at a time only God knows, he will re-enter the world, and harvest the “crop,” . (2, 3)
Mark 9:1 / Luke 9:27 Jesus is clearly stating here that the kingdom of God can be realized in our life here on earth! Again, this kingdom, the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God is not JUST an eternal “place” to be realized upon our earthly death. It is a realm of consciousness in which we daily follow Christ and seek a relationship with Him by conversing with Him (prayer), by seeking His wisdom and listening to Him (by studying and understanding God’s very Words to us in Scripture), and by applying His wisdom in our daily lives, even when the world seems to feel or teach otherwise. The culmination of this IS an eternal presence before God in heaven (an extension of this realm after our earthly death). (3,4)
Mark 9:47 Jesus tells us that we should renounce anything that would cause us to sin or turn away from the faith. The action of surgically cutting sin out of their lives should be prompt and complete in order to keep from sin. While none of us can ever be completely sin-free, what God wants is an attitude that renounces sin instead of one that holds on to sin. Entering life, entering God’s Kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, is so important that even the most radical means should be taken to avoid whatever would us person out. Nothing that we do is worth eternal separation from God. (1,2)
Mark 12:34 I believe that Jesus tells us again that the kingdom is a realm of consciousness in this life in which we daily follow Christ and seek a relationship with Him by recognizing that love is central and that true obedience comes from the heart. (1, 3)
Mark 14:25 / Luke 22:16 / Luke 22:18 Jesus tells us that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until the kingdom of God comes. I believe that the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God was inaugurated under the New Covenant upon the death and resurrection of Jesus. (4)
Mark 15:43 / Luke 23:51 Joseph of Arimathea was waiting for the kingdom of God to come, he sought the fulfillment of God’s kingdom and wanted Jesus to reign over him. This attest to the fact that the Jews had a kingdom mentality and additionally, that even some pious high ranking Jewish leaders recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.
Mark 4:43 Jesus’ primary mission was to bring people to a place of decision to have faith in God, not merely to remove their pain. The kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God is Good News! It is good news because it means freedom from slavery to sin and selfishness. The kingdom of God is here and now because the Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of believers. Yet it is also in the future because Jesus will return to reign over a perfect kingdom where sin and evil no longer exist. (1, 3)
Luke 8:1 We see again that Jesus’ primary mission was to bring people to a place of decision to have faith in God, by proclaiming the Good News of the coming of the kingdom of God. (1, 3)
Luke 9:11 Again, we see again that Jesus’ primary mission was to bring people to a place of decision to have faith in God, by proclaiming the Good News of the coming of the kingdom of God. We see that the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God is among us, is embodied in Christ and that it is in the hearts of believers who believe in Jesus. (1, 3)
Luke 9:60 / Luke 9:62 The message of the kingdom of Heaven/the kingdom of God is important above all else. It is a commitment of all of our heart, body and soul. True discipleship requires instant action. We cannot put off the kingdom until there is a better time….the time is now. We must be ready to serve God and to serve others now. (1, 2)
Luke 10:9 / Luke 10:11 Jesus was clear that not all would receive the Gospel message. However, just because some don’t believe….this doesn’t change the message. Even if they don’t believe…..the kingdom of God is still near. Healing and proclaiming the kingdom of God are linked together. Look at Luke 9:1-2 (where Jesus calls the twelve disciples together) and Luke 9:11. This is the heart of Jesus’ message. Can we heal the sick? We can…not only the physically ill, but the spiritually ill as well. We can offer aid, we can share God’s hope and message of grace and forgiveness, we can listen to broken hearts and tell them about the great healer. (1, 2)