"Kingdom of God" in Luke's Gospel, and "Kingdom of Heaven" in Matthew's.

1874 122 Inquiry is often made as to the distinction of meaning between these two terms, the "kingdom of God" which always occurs in Luke; whereas in Matthew "the kingdom of heaven" most frequently appears, that is, thirty-two times, against the "kingdom of God" only four, with one case (chap. xix. 24), where the critics differ owing to a variation of reading as to which list, whether "of heaven" or "of God," it belongs.

In commencing it may be said that sometimes the terms are equivalent, or apparently so. Compare Matthew iii. 2 with Mark i. 15; again Matthew 5:3 with Luke vi. 20; Matthew vi. 33 with Luke xii. 31; and Matthew xiii. 11 with Luke viii. 10, with many other examples. When this identity fails, the difference of meaning arises from the term "kingdom of heaven" having more specific features given to it, whether of good or evil, over that area where the gospel is now preached, or was once preached, and which area is characterized by a departure from the truth originally set forth, the king, mark, being in heaven.

This departure is alluded to, when our Lord says, Matthew xiii. 11, "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," after delivering the parable (ver. 3) of the sower, as this parable is followed by six others, where we find things distinctly good, as the pearl and the hid treasure; things distinctly bad, as the mustard seed growing into a large tree, and the leaven leavening the whole lump; and a mixture, as the tares among the wheat, and the drag net with good and bad fish; whilst in Luke xiii. 18 (following five chapters after the same parable of the sower) we have the parables of the leaven and of the mustard seed under the expression, "Unto what is the kingdom of God like," but none others. Whilst then the sphere of Luke's "kingdom of God" may be equal to Matthew's "kingdom of heaven," there is more detail of evil in the latter. In fact the "kingdom of heaven" known in its mysteries, comes into a state, or forms itself into a condition, characterized by a departure from God in those things, which the positive arrival of our Lord in heaven introduced, namely, the church and its cognate truths, which were brought about by the descent of the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascent into heaven. Speaking in the large, "kingdom of God" is a more general term in the Gospels, implying power whether morally or personally (compare Luke 20; xviii. 27); whereas, "the kingdom of heaven" is more dispensational and has peculiar earthly aspects. Compare Matt. xviii. 23-31; Matt. xx. 1-16.

At the same time it must be allowed that if "the kingdom of God" (Luke xiii. 18, 20) necessitates the same interpretation, as the similar parables in Matthew xiii., we must connect this term also with a departure from God: only the features would not be wrought out into such details.

Whilst then, the two phrases "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven," were in a certain sense identical in the beginning, yet "kingdom of heaven" is rarely, if ever, spoken of as a thing of power as to a man's own conversion, nor was present existence the thought but rather it is mentioned "as at hand," eggike. To Peter therefore were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whilst the kingdom of God had a fresh beginning by the preaching of our Lord. "If I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come unto you." (Luke xi. 20.) But Peter opened the kingdom of heaven in the case of Cornelius and his companions, on whom the Holy Ghost descended; and thus the term may be held as including, in connection with its mysteries, every form which Christendom puts on during the time in which the gospel is preached; but in the millennium also passing into a two-fold division perfectly good, described in the words, "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity. . . Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father." (Matt. xiii. 41, 42.) "Kingdom of God" is a more general term, and "kingdom of heaven" more dispensational, with the sense of responsibility. The details of failure and apostasy pertain more to the latter; as well as descriptions of its future success. See in Matthew xxv. the parable of the ten virgins.

Hence we see why the apostles never preached the kingdom of heaven, whereas the kingdom of God was common, especially to Paul. (Compare Acts xx. 25.) "And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more." Again Acts xxviii. 30, Paul "received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus." It is clear that he could not have preached the kingdom of heaven, for it might have been a bad thing and had, in part at all events, the earth for its sphere — and rarely had the idea of power connected with it, like the kingdom of God, which "is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. xiv. 17; 1 Cor. iv. 20.)

As to the derivation of 'E basileia ton ouranon "the kingdom of the heavens," neither it nor "kingdom of God" are found in the Old Testament, although the reigns of the kings of Judah foreshadowed both; and such language as "'The kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor among the nations" (Ps. xxii. 28), pointed to them.

Probably we should find their origin (especially "the kingdom of heaven") in Daniel, clothed in such words as "the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" (Dan. ii. 41); again, "after that thou shalt know that the heavens do rule" (Dan. iv. 26); and more particularly in the vision of the Son of man (the title belonging to our Lord in the Gospels and under which He dies) coming "with the clouds of heaven," when a dominion is given to Him, and a kingdom "not to be destroyed." (Dan. vii. 13, 14.) We know that being presented to Israel He was refused, rejected and crucified; but that we look for Him, received up into glory, to come again. Meanwhile, during the time He is in heaven, everything as to its proper manifestation is in abeyance. The kingdom of heaven is in a mystery; but all will be clear when He takes it in person. He ought to have been received when on earth and the kingdom to have begun, but He was not; and so, the king being in heaven, its mysteries are going on now. We must not then lose in the term "kingdom of heaven," the fact of the king, who is to have the earth, being now in heaven.

Questions concerning such apparently minute subjects may appear trivial to some; but such an examination wonderfully unfolds the character of the Gospels — each an independent witness for Christ, both in His person and character. It was never, we are persuaded, in the mind of the Holy Ghost, that we should force these witnesses into one mould, as is the manner of most harmonies and diatessarons. Each evangelist has his own particular view of our blessed Lord, whilst the four form a combined and admirable portraiture. Our conception of Him, must embrace the traits of them all, and thus we take in the whole mind of God, who has not written one word in vain. W. W.