. . . fully after the LORD I Kings 11:6 by Steve Flinchum
A SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE
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:
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:
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.
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:
Of the parable of the net, Jesus said:
In Matthew 8:11-12, Jesus said:
Luke 13:28-29 sounds very similar, in speaking of the kingdom of God, but a careful comparison shows them to be different.
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:
In the parable of the pounds, in Luke 19:26-27, Jesus said:
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:
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:
Immediately after Jesus' baptism and His forty days of temptation in the wilderness, according to Matthew 4:17:
In Matthew 10, we find Jesus sending out the twelve, and in verse 7 he said:
Then in Matthew 11, John was in prison, and Jesus said in verse 12:
Now look at what Mark said about the change at that point in Mark 1:14-15:
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:
In Luke 9:27, Jesus said:
In Mark 9:1, Jesus said:
In John 17:1-2, as that promise was about to be fulfilled, Jesus prayed:
In Matthew 28:18, Jesus had risen, demonstrated His power over death:
In Romans 1:16, Paul said:
In I Corinthians 4:19-20, Paul said:
In Philippians 3:8-11, Paul again speaks of the power of Christ's resurrection:
I Peter 1:3-5 speaks of God's ability to keep us by that same power:
Hebrews 2:14-15 says:
Now read about the end, when Jesus "shall have delivered up the kingdom to God" in I Corinthians 15:20-28.
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.
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.