During my theological studies, some Biblical debates have always intrigued me. One of them is the comparison between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. In my mind, as I read the Bible, the two meant the same thing. Well, while conducting evangelical research and living with some local priests, I got further insight into the topic. When I found out they have differences, my mind was blown! Now, as a theology teacher, I have the privilege of divulging all the information I know to my students. Recently, we had a hearty discussion about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven in class. Most students did not see any difference between the two phrases. From my extensive research, I was more than equipped to tackle the age-old Christian discussion of the Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God.
While there are contrasting sentiments regarding the subject, the Kingdom of God is known as the ultimate everlasting reign and authority of the Lord, while the Kingdom of Heaven is a part of the larger Kingdom of God. They are both mysterious, difficult to get into, and for the righteous children of God (Ephesians 5:5).
If you have unanswered questions about the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God, this article will provide clarity. With the help of scholarly resources and Biblical Scripture, we shall compare and contrast the two concepts, while looking at how they are used. This is a great read that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God: Difference in Definition
The definitions of these phrases differ, but according to one source, acclaimed theologian John F. Walvoord, the Kingdom of God is the universal divine reign of the Lord, which has many subdivisions. The Kingdom of Heaven is one of the subdivisions revealed in the book of Matthew, where God has rules on Earth. While different scholars table opposing views on their definitions, it is clear that they are both under God’s authority.
Difference Between Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is large and everlasting, while the Kingdom of Heaven is a part of the Kingdom of God and is yet to come to fruition. Witness Lee, a prolific Christian author, explains in his book, The Kingdom, the distinct difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. He first says the Kingdom of God encompasses a wider scope as it is God’s reign and, ultimately, His existence. Therefore, this Kingdom has no beginning or end, just like the Lord. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Heaven has not yet materialized and will come in the future. He uses Ephesians 5:5 and 2 Peter 1:11 as proof that the Kingdom of Heaven is part of the larger Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven is the future ruling of Christ and has not yet reached completion. That is why in the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches His followers the values, ethics, and practices of this new Kingdom.
Other theologians and scholars have, however, concluded that there is no definite difference between the Kingdom of God and that of Heaven because they are used interchangeably, as we shall see later.
Are There Any Similarities Between the Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God?
Both the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are spiritual planes where God reigns and exercises His ultimate sovereignty. Additionally, to inherit these kingdoms, believers must accept Jesus Christ. As Lee says in his writings, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are inseparable. He uses the analogy of a body and its hand. The Kingdom of God is like the body, which is the whole, while the Kingdom of Heaven is like a hand – one of the crucial body parts. Therefore, they can be contrasted, but cannot be separated. Scholars conclude that both are mysterious, difficult to get into, rapidly grow, and contain righteous souls.
What Does the Bible Say About the Kingdom of Heaven?
According to the Bible, the Kingdom of Heaven is a valuable hidden treasure that is more precious than any possession (Matthew 13:44). For that reason, it should be pursued like merchants looking for priceless pearls. Jesus, in Matthew 11:11-12, also describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a holy place where followers are spiritually reborn. He further states in other scripture that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one must become His child (Matthew 18:3). Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are expected to put their trust in God just as young children trust their parents. Additionally, the Bible uses various parables to define the Kingdom of Heaven, such as that of the fish (Matthew 13:49-50), the vineyard laborers (Matthew 21:31-32), and the seed field (Matthew 13:24-30)
The phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” also only occurs in the Gospel of Matthew 32 times, which is believed to have been originally written in Hebrew (or Aramaic). This is the only Bible Book with insight into the Kingdom of Heaven.
What Does the Bible Say About the Kingdom of God?
The Bible says that the Kingdom of God is His sovereign reign and eternal rule. It is a government established by God and a paradise that has been in existence from the dawn of time with no end. It shall also never fail, as Daniel 2:44 says. Acts 10:34 further says that God and Jesus Christ have fair dominion over subjects who are anyone who accepts God’s words and commands. The Bible also explains that the Kingdom of God is spiritual (John 18:36). It is His rule over our hearts and lives. According to the Holy Book, the Kingdom of God has many facets and will find its final completion in Heaven (Philippians 1:6).
The expression “Kingdom of God” features 66 times across various New Testament books, including the four Gospels, Acts, Galatians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.
Is the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven Used Interchangeably in The Bible?
Yes, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are used interchangeably, especially in the book of Matthew. While some think the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven refer to different concepts, many interpreters believe they are the same thing. Many proponents of this school of thought use Matthew 19:23-24 as supporting evidence. Here, Jesus Christ initially says that it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, then shortly after, in the next verse, explains it is easier for a camel to pass a needle’s eye than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. This is a clear indication that the two phrases are used synonymously. In other Bible Scripture, the phrases are again used interchangeably to recount the same version of events. For example, in Matthew 13:31 and Mark 4:30. Theologians explain that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was used in place of the “Kingdom of God” because God’s name was highly revered in their society. This means scripture written in Hebrew used the former instead of the latter.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.