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The Kingdom of Heaven

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What is the 'Kingdom of Heaven' spoken of in scripture? The answer to this partly explains why BTM does not believe in a literal 1000 year reign (millennium) on this earth by Jesus Christ. It will become evident that this 'kingdom' is not a physical realm, but is a spiritual state. ('Heaven' as the abode of God is not dealt with in this paper).

Some believe that the 'kingdom of heaven' is different from the 'kingdom of Jesus Christ' and the 'kingdom of God', etc. This is not so, for the same Greek word is used for all of them (and more), and they each bear the same description. They, are, then, synonymous terms.

In 2 Peter 1:11 we find that the 'kingdom' is not confined to a physical, 1000 year reign, but is eternal: "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." A 1000 year reign would only last 1000 years, but here we are told Christ's kingdom is 'everlasting', and the only state this can refer to is a spiritual one. For us, it means a newly created state; we are 'new creatures' who will enter an everlasting state after our earthly life. Indeed, Paul speaks of us as being already partly in that new state. Obviously, if we are on this earth and are in this world, and yet we are ALSO in another, different state (that there is a difference is implied by Paul's words), then that different state can ONLY be a spiritual one.

This message is repeated in Hebrews 12:28, "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved..." It cannot be moved! This is no ordinary or earthly kingdom. See in scripture what God says about earthly kingdoms! They will all fall. But, His own kingdom will never be moved, because it is eternal and spiritual (others might disagree with this definition).

2 Timothy 4:18 refers to the kingdom as "... his heavenly kingdom." It has been suggested that this 'heaven' is a region of space or sky. That is, a physical geographical region. This, though, does not appear to tie-in with the meanings of 'heaven'. Rather, it appears to mean a place separate from what we know as being 'physical'. (It is entirely possible that 'spiritual' - a term we hardly understand - includes a form of 'physicalness' that we are presently unaware of; whatever 'spiritual' really means, it is outside of our earthly ability to understand and it is not what we call 'physical').

In 2 Thessalonians 1:5 there is an implication that the kingdom is within: "... that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer." Thus, the people this was written for are worthy of the kingdom NOW and suffer for it NOW. This means the kingdom was already present at the time of writing. Other texts similarly, and more strongly, tell us the 'kingdom' is within every one who is saved, and is not merely a future, physical, sovereign state. If it was physical, those who died before a 1000 year reign would not be a part of that reign, yet here they are told they are presently worthy of being in that kingdom. We are "... called unto his kingdom and glory." (1 Thess.2:12). This is present reality, not a future event. Also, Col.1:13 tells us that we have already been "... translated... into the kingdom of His dear Son."

Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 4:20, that the 'kingdom' is not just 'in word' but is evidenced in 'power'. This is an extremely important fact to acknowledge and show forth. The 'power' spoken of in this text mainly applies tospiritual virtues, such as righteousness and holy living. This non-physical reality (spirituality) is found in Romans 14:17, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." That is, it is not earthly or physical, but is a spiritual state.

Our entry into that kingdom is not by physical means, for "... we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22) This is more about the state of suffering than about physical pain. That the 'kingdom' is not physical is plainly explained by Jesus Himself: "My kingdom is not of this world... but now is my kingdom not from hence." Not physical, but spiritual. He tells us that if His kingdom were physical, then His servants would fight for it physically! (And that is what believers in a 1000 year reign do today: they fight against those of us who do not accept such a proposition, and even shun us; the very thing Jesus said would happen, but in a more 'social' way).

In every text quoted above the same word is used for 'kingdom'. It is basileia. Biblically, this can mean (a) The kingdom of God, of heaven, of any kingdom, of evil kingdoms, 'Thy' kingdom, the kingdom, 'My' kingdom, plus 18 miscellaneous usages. It can also mean an actual kingdom or territory. (b) It can refer to royal power, kingship, dominion and rule, and to the rule of the Messiah. Believers of a literal reign on this earth will hold to these meanings as 'proof', but that is where they are wrong, for in the New Testament the word 'kingdom' does NOT mean a literal reign. The word points to the authority and right to rule over a kingdom (which Jesus said was 'not of this world'), and NOT to an actual kingdom on this earth. There is no way you can get around this!

This is reinforced by the root of basileia, basileus, which can mean: an ordinary king, or King of the Jews, God or Christ, or a king of Israel. Thus, the person and not a place. This is probably rooted in basis which has the 'notion of a foundation of power': a state or condition and not a place. Basis is rooted in baino (to walk) and it means sole of the foot, a stepping or walking; the foot. Baino is used to describe the 'way' or 'walk' of a Christian. That is, his Christian character and life, the way he acts because of his salvation: he has been 'shaped' by the Holy Spirit and so his spiritual walk is the result of what happens in his spirit. It does not refer to a physical walk.

We can say, then, that the 'kingdom' into which we have been translated, is a spiritual state and not a physical reign… otherwise we would be in that kingdom right now! The main purpose of this paper is to show the present reality of this spiritual state. In showing this, we also touch upon the idea of a 1000 year reign. This appears to have been cast aside by the very meanings given to basileia in scripture itself. Just as it is true that we have been saved in eternity, saved in our own history, and will be utterly saved in heaven, so we were destined for the kingdom before the world began, and were translated into the kingdom when we were saved, and will be present with God in His kingdom in eternity.

Whilst we can acknowledge that God is already in some kind of kingdom (which must be spiritual for He is spirit, as are His holy angels), we cannot go so far as to suggest that it is limited to space and time (for it is eternal) and therefore to physical existence. Thus, whilst we are on this earth we are in a state of heaven, but not yet in the 'place' of heaven. (That we will later be in a 'place', whatever final form that will take, spiritual or not, is evident from scripture). This is why Paul was able to say that we are already partly in that place, whilst still on this earth... we have the authority and promise to be there, but do not yet know the actual presence.

We cannot speak with certainty of what the final state will really be, although we know we shall have a 'new body' like that of Christ. In constitution, Christ's new body was very different from His earthly body, though it looked similar to his old one. Our new body shall be the same kind of thing, but however it will be constituted, it will not be 'physical' according to our earthly understanding of 'physical'. More than that we cannot say.

However, we should note 1 Kings 8:27, which says, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee..." Rather, God says, verses 29,30: "... My name shall be there...", in the Temple(not Himself), and: "... and hear thee in heaven thy dwelling place...". A literal 1000 year reign, yet God cannot be contained either in the Temple or in the heavens? This all indicates a place other than what is made... it cannot be on earth.

© May 1996

Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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