As we have seen, The “kingdom of heaven” is mentioned 30-32 times in the Bible, all in the Gospel of Matthew. The “kingdom of God” is mentioned 65-69 times in the Bible, all in the New Testament and of these, 4-5 times in the Gospel of Matthew. So, what, if any, is the difference between the meaning of the two phrases? Having not completed this study, I am not prepared to give what I would consider is a definitive answer. However, I have found some clues:
— The Gospel of Matthew was primarily written for a Jewish audience. In writing to a predominantly Jewish audience, he used language that they would most likely understand, that would bring out the full meaning to his readers. The “kingdom of heaven” was typical Jewish terminology.
— Secondly, out of reverence, Mathew may have used the “kingdom of heaven” rather than the “kingdom of God”. I notice that my Jewish readers today on my blogs often will not type the name of God, rather they use G*d or similar substitution.
In the Old Testament, the word “Kingdom” and the thought behind it was often used in a secular sense, indicating a sphere of authority. First, the universe is God’s kingdom, He exercises sovereign rule over all things. Secondly, it is used often in a futuristic eschatological sense. While Jesus teaches and speaks of the “kingdom” in a future as well as present tense, He emphasizes lifestyle and moral attributes. Jesus speaks also of the Kingdom being right here right now.
I find it interesting that in the very beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist is preaching adamantly to repent because the kingdom of heaven is near. We know that he was telling us that God was about to break into history, that He was about to act in a bold, fresh way. John the baptist told us that the kingdom was coming……Jesus announced that it had arrived! (see Matthew 12:28).