. . . fully after the LORD                  I Kings 11:6                      by Steve Flinchum

Chapter 6


    Just as there are clear and definite differences in the family of God and Jesus' kind of ekklesia, His congregations or bodies, it is also to be noticed that there are many and similar differences between the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, and Jesus' congregations which are His ekklesias.

    It seems that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are most often thought to be synonymous, but it is to be admitted that two different words were used by Jesus. Out of love and respect for truth, we must not take it upon ourselves to equate the two. While both will be spoken of here, it is not with the intention to use the two terms interchangeably.

    First it is to be noted that a kingdom of any description is by definition a monarchy, the domain of a ruler or king (king-domain). That being the case, any kingdom must be something other than the kind of congregation Jesus said that He would build, because, as pointed out earlier, it is a democracy. Also, as already noted, the Lord's congregations have the authority and the obligation to exclude disorderly members, but such authorization has not been given concerning the kingdom of heaven nor the kingdom of God. In fact the Lord's congregations have no authority over those who "followeth not us" (Mark 9:38-39 and Luke 9:49-50). The Lord's congregations are not to "forbid" or to exercise rule or control over any other group, organization, or government, nor are His congregations to be controlled by others or to unionize with them. Many appostate and spurious congregations and organizations of professing Christendom have tried to advance their doctrines by force and persecution, but the Lord's congregations do not. Members of the Lord's kind of congregations have in fact been the true champions and defenders of religious freedom in every century. Ecclesiastical separation is a must for the Lord's congregations. In Matthew 15:13-14, Jesus said:

Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

    One need only read the first two-thirds of the first book of the New Testament to see that there are problems presented by trying to equate the kingdom of heaven with the Lord's kind of ekklesia. To make the two synonymous is to have Matthew 18:15-17, which clearly teaches the resposibility of discipline in the Lord's congregations, contradicting the teaching of the parable of the tares in Matthew 13:24-30. The Lord's congregations are not given the responsibility of gathering the tares out of the kingdom of heaven, but to keep themselves, as a body of Christ, pure. These differences demonstrate why, as I stated earlier, that we cannot interpret the New Testament with true consistency while using the definitions given these terms under a "universal church" theory. It was previously shown that the Lord's congregations are likened to and spoken of as a body, but such reference is never made of a kingdom in the New Testament, nor would it be sensible to speak of any kingdom as a body. It was also shown the absurdity of obeying Jesus' instruction in Matthew 18:17 to "tell it to the church," if "the church" includes all the saved, or all who are saved and baptized, or even all of a certain denomination. The costs of postage, phone calls, travel, time, etc., would make it a physical impossibility to obey such an instruction. I John 5:3 says:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

The same applies here as well. Neither the kingdom of heaven, nor the kingdom of God, can be synonymous with ekklesia.

    When one gives new and different meanings to God's words, additional false doctrine and lies are required to support it, and must ultimately lead to the rejection of the entire Bible.

    It was shown earlier that all who are saved, the family of God, being saved solely by God's grace, are eternally saved. That being so, no one can be cast out of the family of God. The same cannot be said about the kingdom of heaven, because in Matthew 13:42, and again in verse 50, as well as in other places, we read of some being cast out of the kingdom of heaven and "into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." The family of God and the kingdom of heaven cannot be the same. To make them so is to invent a false doctrine which contradicts every aspect of the doctrines of grace. The God of the Bible is completely sovereign. To teach of or believe in a God that is only a little bit sovereign is to teach of or believe in a different god. The salvation of the Bible is by grace and through faith in Christ. To teach or believe that that salvation must be in some way supplemented is to teach of or believe in another "Christ" and another gospel. Think about it.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

    Although there are several statements in the Bible about the kingdom of heaven that are very similar to statements made concerning the kingdom of God, there are also some very clear and definite differences. If there is even one difference, then we must say that they are different. Jesus used some very similar parables in teaching about each, but a closer look will show some differences. We may use some very similar terms, examples, and illustrations to explain or describe our state government and our federal government, but the two are definitely not the same. For example, a lot could be said about the executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch of government that could apply to both our state and the United States, but that does not make them the same thing. A presidential candidate may win an election by a landslide in our state, yet lose his bid for the presidency of the United States.

    Concerning the kingdom of heaven in the parable of the tares and the parable of the net, in Matthew 13, we read of people being gathered out or cast out, but we do not read of anyone being cast out of the kingdom of God. First, lest there be any misunderstanding, the kingdom of heaven is not a kingdom in heaven, but the kingdom of heaven. Of the parable of the tares, Jesus said:

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.                  (Matthew 13:41-42)

Of the parable of the net, Jesus said:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.    (Matthew 13:47-50)

In Matthew 8:11-12, Jesus said:

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 13:28-29 sounds very similar, in speaking of the kingdom of God, but a careful comparison shows them to be different.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.      (Luke 13:28-29)

    The previous verses from Matthew 8 and Matthew 13, leave no doubt but that people will be cast out of the kingdom of heaven. Although Luke 13:28 could be interpreted as saying the same thing about the kingdom of God, I believe that those spoken of as "thrust out" in this verse are those to be "gathered out" and "cast out" of the kingdom of heaven, having thought that they were part of the kingdom of God, yet, in truth, will have never actually been in the kingdom of God. I believe this interpretation is supported and clarified by a comparison of the following verses. In the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25:29-30, Jesus said:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In the parable of the pounds, in Luke 19:26-27, Jesus said:

For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Jesus also made similar statements in Matthew 13:12 and Mark 4:25. In Luke 8:17-18, Jesus explained the taking from those who hath not, with these words:

For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

It is clear that what is to be taken away is what the people only think they have.

    The desired objective here is not to see if a verse can be made to say something different, but to know the true interpretation. Any interpretation must be consistent with every verse of the rest of the Bible if it is to be accepted as truth. If Luke 13:28 was the only mention made in the Bible of the kingdom of God, we might be hard pressed for solid ground to distinguish between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God, but much is said about each, and it is important that we not make one verse contradict any other.

    Consider the following survey. Matthew 3:1-2 says:

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Immediately after Jesus' baptism and His forty days of temptation in the wilderness, according to Matthew 4:17:

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

In Matthew 10, we find Jesus sending out the twelve, and in verse 7 he said:

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Then in Matthew 11, John was in prison, and Jesus said in verse 12:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Now look at what Mark said about the change at that point in Mark 1:14-15:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

From that time, the kingdom of heaven is spoken of differently.

    Notice that in Matthew 11:12, Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven being taken by force. The kingdom of God cannot be, has not been, and will never be taken by force or any other way, by the violent or anyone else.

    Careful comparison and consideration of the various parables and statements concerning the kingdom of heaven reveals that the kingdom of heaven refers to all who profess Christianity. It includes not only those trusting in Christ alone, but also those who profess to trust in Christ in the various dilutions and mixtures of the denominations. It includes he that hath, and he that only thinketh he hath. That is why there are bad fish and tares to be gathered out and burned. It includes those who are in the kingdom of God, and those who only claim to be, or only think they are in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of heaven is presently visible in that we can observe the many professions of Christianity, the "many wonderful works" done in Christ's name, and the prophesying in His name, but we cannot always tell the tares from the wheat.

    The kingdom of God is not presently visible to the natural man. In Luke 17: 20, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." In John 3:3, Jesus said:

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

In Luke 9:27, Jesus said:

But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

In Mark 9:1, Jesus said:

Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

In John 17:1-2, as that promise was about to be fulfilled, Jesus prayed:

Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

In Matthew 28:18, Jesus had risen, demonstrated His power over death:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

In Romans 1:16, Paul said:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

In I Corinthians 4:19-20, Paul said:

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

In Philippians 3:8-11, Paul again speaks of the power of Christ's resurrection:

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

I Peter 1:3-5 speaks of God's ability to keep us by that same power:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Hebrews 2:14-15 says:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Now read about the end, when Jesus "shall have delivered up the kingdom to God" in I Corinthians 15:20-28.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Jesus "must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." When the tares and bad fish have been gathered out of the kingdom of heaven, and death has not only been conquered, but destroyed, the "wheat" that will have been gathered out of the kingdom of heaven will be "delivered up" as the kingdom of God (verse 24). Then the kingdom of God will be fully visible, as described in Revelation 12:10-11.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

    It is of extreme importance that we not give new and different meanings to God's words. When that is done, it leads to a "domino effect" of twisting and changing the rest of the Bible, and the labeling of many verses and chapters as "difficult passages" because they just don't fit in to the man-made doctrines. It is difficult to poke a square doctrine into a round hole. As a result, there are more truths that have been abandoned than have been preserved among most of the professors of Christianity.

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