HEAVEN, OR THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.


There is considerable confusion today concerning the difference between Heaven and the Kingdom of God. Also, some are maintaining that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different kingdoms.

It appears the idea of the place called "Heaven" as being the goal of salvation is not only unscriptural but has a negative influence on the growth of the Christian.


HEAVEN, OR THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17—NIV)

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:14,15—NIV)

There is considerable confusion today concerning the difference between Heaven and the Kingdom of God. Also, some are maintaining that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different kingdoms.

It appears the idea of the place called "Heaven" as being the goal of salvation is not only unscriptural but has a negative influence on the growth of the Christian.

Before we proceed further I would like to clear up once and for all the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different kingdoms. As we think about the two passages above we can see how unlikely it would be that Jesus preached "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near," and at the same time to the same people preached "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news," while referring to two different kingdoms.

I am pressing this point because once we are satisfied that Jesus, while referring to the same Kingdom, sometimes said "Kingdom of Heaven" and on other occasions "Kingdom of God," it will make our further discussion clearer.

Let me give two more passages:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11—NIV)

"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:28,29—NIV)

One feast for the Kingdom of Heaven and another feast for the Kingdom of God? I think not!

Also, you may notice that Matthew refers to the parable of the sower as a parable of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, while Luke refers to the same parable as a parable of the secrets of the Kingdom of God.

Now we can continue with our discussion of the difference between Heaven, and the Kingdom of God without the vague notion in the back of our mind that somehow the Kingdom of Heaven refers to something different from the Kingdom of God.

Heaven is a place. The Kingdom of God, or of Heaven, is the rule of God through Jesus Christ.

Heaven is never within us, except in a poetic sense. The Kingdom of God, while it has an external feature, is first and most importantly within us. It is God in Christ in us.

We can see instantly that Heaven is a place while the Kingdom of God has to do with a change in our personality.

Jesus told us we could neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God without being born again. Jesus never told us we could neither see nor enter Heaven without being born again.

Moses and Elijah were in Heaven, apparently, when they were speaking with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Yet we know they were not born again at that time because no individual every was born again of Jesus Christ until Christ rose from the dead. The Lord Jesus is the Firstborn of the new creation, the Kingdom of God.

We preach today that we must be born again to enter Heaven. This is unscriptural, misleading, and has, as I mentioned previously, a negative effect on our Christian growth.

When we preach that people must be born again in order to enter Heaven we are preaching error—a destructive error at that. I will explain in a moment. First I want you to see that the Kingdom of God and the place called Heaven are not at all the same thing.

The Lord Jesus told many parables. The parables of the Lord have to do with the Kingdom of God. No parable has to do with Heaven as a place.

The Apostles did not preach about going to Heaven. They did preach about the Kingdom of God, about the importance of inheriting the Kingdom of God. They did not preach about the importance of going to Heaven.

We do not enter the Kingdom of God in order to go to Heaven. This idea is not scriptural.

How can we prosper when we have departed from God’s Word?

Notice carefully:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5—NIV)

"Will not inherit the kingdom of God." "Has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Now look at the above two passages carefully. Do you see anything in them about going to Heaven?

The two passages are not isolated verses, they are characteristic of Paul’s preaching.

What does it mean to inherit the Kingdom of God. Do we know?

What is the Kingdom of God? Is it the place called Heaven?

Paul says the Kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom is not a place but a condition of our personality.

Now, why is it important that we understand the difference?

When we preach that our destiny is to go to Heaven as to a place, our Christian life becomes primarily one of waiting. When we advocate the usual Christian teaching that accepting Christ is a "ticket" that guarantees our entrance into Heaven when we die, we have a philosophy that works against our growth as a Christian.

Why do we need to grow? Do we need to prepare ourselves that we may be worthy of Heaven? If we follow the Christian teaching that we are worthy because of Christ’s worthiness, the logical conclusion is there is nothing of significance that we really have to do in order to go to Heaven. We are saved by a sovereign grace.

The concept that we go to Heaven on the basis of Christ’s worthiness is destructive of God’s program of salvation, although is sounds very scriptural and devout.

Let’s think about the Kingdom of God for a moment. We shall see at once the enormous difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the gospel of going to Heaven when we die.

We are not saying by this that there is not a place called Heaven, or that God, Christ, the saints, and the holy angels are not there. There certainly is such a place. This is where we are to place our treasures. This is where our citizenship is. This is where we hope to go when we die. This is where the Kingdom of God is at the present time.

But the place called Heaven is not our destiny. It is a staging ground while the Lord is preparing to invade the earth and establish His Kingdom here. God’s will yet shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven!

The gospel of going to Heaven teaches, as we have said, that we are given our "ticket" by grace so when we die we will be admitted to Heaven on the basis of Christ’s worthiness.

Inheriting the Kingdom of God is an altogether different matter.

Entering the Kingdom of God begins the moment we are born again. It is not a ticket to anywhere. It is the bringing forth of a new creation within our personality. We do not wait to die for it to begin. It is being pressed on us now, especially as we are approaching the end of the Church Age.

As soon as we begin to realize the difference between Heaven as a place, and the Kingdom of God as a change of what we are, many verses that before seemed to have limited application to us suddenly make sense.

For example:

And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (I Peter 4:18,19—NIV)

Why would it be hard for the righteous to be saved if the goal is to go to Heaven when we die, and we go there by sovereign grace apart from any change on our part? This simply makes no sense at all and ought to tell us something is seriously amiss with contemporary teaching.

And what does suffering according to God’s will have to do with entering Heaven, if entering Heaven is what it means to be saved?

As far as I can see, these questions are impossible to answer, given current teaching.

But if we view salvation as inheriting the Kingdom of God, and if we enter the Kingdom of God through suffering and hardships, and if the Kingdom of God requires a radical and sometimes objectionable transformation of what we are, then these questions are answered easily.

Notice the relationship between suffering and the Kingdom of God:

Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. (Acts 14:22—NIV)

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:5—NIV)

What precisely does it mean to enter the Kingdom of God, and why is being born again necessary for such entrance?

The Kingdom of God in its purest sense is the Lord Jesus Christ.

No prophet of old, no matter how mighty, had been born again. It was not possible for anyone to be born again until the Word of God became flesh, was crucified for our sins, and then was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father.

The new covenant is the entering of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, into the human personality. The new covenant is not a change of our mind about the meaning of life, although such a change results from the new covenant. The new covenant, the Kingdom of God, is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since none of the prophets had Christ in him, he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist or any of the other prophets.

He who has Christ in him has the Kingdom of God in himself. It has been born in him. This is what it means to be born again.

The moment Christ is born in us, the Substance of Deity is born in us, the Spirit is ready to lead us from the adamic life to the life of a son of God. Every moment of our time is packed with opportunities to change from a mere human to a child of God. We are being transformed if we are participating in the new covenant. It is the transformation that is salvation

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18—NIV)

"Are being transformed into his likeness."

We are not being transformed into Christís likeness so we can go to Heaven. There is no scriptural basis that any aspect of the plan of salvation is for the purpose of bringing us to Heaven.

Does this surprise you? Read the Bible and see if this is the case.

We are entering an age of moral darkness without precedent in the history of mankind. There have been many instances in history when rulers have been corrupt and surrounded with corrupt courts. The government of the United States seems to be heading in this direction with its suspect practices.

But never before has there been so much sin on the part of the people at large. Always before the rulers and their courts wallowed in the flesh while the peasants suffered. But now entire nations are corrupt. I think the Western nations are due for Divine punishment.

Because of the moral corruption the spiritual atmosphere is growing dark and oppressive. The only word, the only truth that is dependable, to which we can cling, is the Bible. And if we are not adhering closely to the Bible we are going to stumble and fall. We shall not survive spiritually because of the abundance of spiritual darkness and evil.

We Christians claim to be fundamentalists. But a fundamentalist is someone who believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

We are not teaching the Bible. We are teaching our traditions, such as our destiny is to go to Heaven to live in a mansion. A careful study of the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John reveals that the second verse, supposedly having to do with mansions in Heaven, is actually referring to our living in Christ in God.

Why then is it necessary for us to be transformed? We are transformed so we can have fellowship with God and so we can participate in our predestined role in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that soon is to come to the earth.

Why is it true, as Paul insists, that if we as a Christian walk in the flesh we will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Paul did not say we would not go to Heaven if we continue to sin, he maintained that we would not inherit the Kingdom.

The reason for Paul’s statement is, there is no sin in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven.

There is no fornication, no lying, no slander, no rage, no witchcraft, no drunkenness, no strife, no backbiting, no malice, in the Kingdom of God. The part of our personality that is doing these things is not of the Kingdom of God.

When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ into our personality we receive the Divine Nature into our personality. This is the Kingdom of God.

The part of our personality that is of Christ does not sin. It cannot sin because it has been born of God.

Meanwhile our sinful nature continues to desire expression. Isn’t this true?

God sends both glory and suffering upon us so we will be able to put off the sinful nature and put on the new Christ-Nature. This is a moment by moment transformation. This is the manner in which the new covenant operates.

There never is a moment in our Christian discipleship when the transition is not taking place. Christ is growing in us and our wicked inward nature is being cast off as we keep on deciding, with the help of the Lord, to do what we believe to be God’s will concerning us.

Suffering greatly aids this process. As Peter said, suffering helps us to stop sinning.

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2—NIV)

The reason we suffer, the reason it is difficult for us to be saved, is that salvation is the process of Christ increasing in us and the sinful nature being rejected. Our whole adamic nature fiercely resists the death of our sinful nature. Our adamic nature clings to its love of the world, its passions and appetites, and its self-will. Many intense fires and generous portions of the Divine nature are required if we are to make the transition from the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God.

Keeping what I have stated in mind, it is easy to see how the concept that accepting Christ is a ticket that admits us to Heaven is so destructive of the true Gospel.

When the believer of today reads the words of Christ or His Apostles concerning the necessity for turning away from sin, he says to himself: "I know this is what the Bible says but I am saved by grace." He means by this that by believing in Christ he has a ticket that will admit him to Heaven when he dies, and so the warnings of Christ and His Apostles do not apply to Him.

He does not realize the program of entering the Kingdom of God is taking place now and has little to do with going to a better place when he dies. While he is waiting to die and go to Heaven he is not paying sufficient attention to the warfare in which he should be engaged. He is not overcoming sin through the Spirit of God. He is waiting, trusting in "grace" to provide entrance into Heaven.

Can you see the enormous difference between these two gospels? One is a waiting to go to Heaven, to a place in the spirit realm. The other is a daily transformation of the adamic nature so a new creation is brought forth—a creation in which the old nature has passed away and the Nature of Christ has taken its place.

Again: we are not transformed so we become worthy of life in Heaven. We are transformed so we can serve God in His Kingdom wherever it is.

Heaven is a place. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God through Christ in the personality of the believer. Heaven and the Kingdom of God are related only in the fact that at the present time the King of the Kingdom and most of His subjects are in the spirit realm, waiting to return to earth, to regain their bodies, and to install the Kingdom of God among the nations of the earth.

How long will it be before we change from our traditions to the words of the Scriptures? Who among us cares enough, or has integrity enough, to abandon that which is not scriptural in favor of that which indeed is scriptural?

We are not supposed to be preaching the gospel of Heaven. There is no gospel of Heaven found in the Scriptures. The gospel of Heaven is found in the Muslim religion, other Eastern religions, and that of the American Indians (the happy hunting ground). But the true Gospel from God is the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Good News that God has not forsaken the earth but shall return in power and glory to establish righteousness among the nations of the earth. This is taught by both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The parables of the Lord Jesus reveal that the Kingdom of God is something that is born in us, that grows in us.

After we are born again we are not to wait to go to another place. After a baby is born is does not wait to go to another place. It begins to grow.

After we are born again we are to begin to grow. If we are to grow in Christ we must pray every day, read our Bible every day, turn away from the malice and wickedness that are in the world, meet with fervent believers (if we can find any), seek the Lord for a place of service in His Kingdom, give of our means as we are able, and do all else associated with wholesome Christian living.

Each day we will be presented with problems. Each day we will be given Divine grace to enable us to overcome those problems through Christ.

When we continue to make our decisions according to our fleshly desires and understanding we remain an adamic creation. We remain unchanged. No salvation has taken place. The Kingdom has not prevailed in our life.

When we turn away from our fleshly desires and understanding and look to Jesus for our decisions we are changed. Adam dies. Christ is formed in us. Another living stone in the eternal Temple of God comes closer to completion.

The process of salvation, of entering the Kingdom of God, takes place hour by hour, line upon line, command upon command, here a little and there a little. We are the flesh being made the Word, as Christ is formed in us. This is the Kingdom of God.

Matthew tells us that in the last days the angels will come and gather out of His Kingdom all that offends God. The angels will not gather out of Heaven all that offends God but out of the Kingdom, according to the Scripture.

Today the Spirit of God has come to the Christian churches, which are the Kingdom of God on the earth, to gather out all that is offensive to God. We are being required as never before to turn away from the pursuit of the world and receive Christ into our personality.

The Lord Jesus is standing before your heart and my heart today. He is asking to be admitted.

If we permit the Lord to really take control of our life as He desires, we shall be able to stand in the days to come. In fact, we shall not only stand but help others to stand. We will become a tree of life, a tree planted by the waters of the Spirit of God.

But if we continue in the traditional American Christian way, holding our ticket to Heaven, trying to do what is right but failing more often than succeeding, neglecting to have a strong time of prayer with the Lord Jesus each day, not taking time to meditate in the Scriptures, waiting for an unscriptural "rapture" to save us from the trouble that everyone can see is upon us, we certainly shall not be able to stand in the pressures and deceptions of the future. Neither shall we be able to help anyone else stand in peace and joy throughout the age of moral horrors.

The recent (March 1999) uproar among Christians concerning the computer glitches predicted for the change of millennium, is indicative of the state of American Christianity. The believers appear to care little for Christ’s opinion of the problem. They are concerned only with taking care of their food and customary comforts. There is no thought of repentance, only of material survival.

What then will be their reaction when some of our major cities are vaporized by nuclear devices smuggled into the country and activated by terrorists? The Christians will be screaming in terror and of no help to their unsaved neighbors. Why is this? It is because they are living in the flesh and trusting in the flesh.

Why are they living in the flesh and trusting in the flesh? It is because of unscriptural teaching. They have been taught that they have their ticket to Heaven and any moment they are going to be caught away from the horrors of the twenty-first century.

But those believers who patiently, moment by moment, have been entering the Kingdom of God, have little fear of their own death or the death of their loved ones. They are not living in the flesh or trusting in the flesh. They are living in Christ and trusting in Christ.

They know full well that over all of the perils of earth there sits enthroned the Lord Jesus Christ. He has control of the whole world. He is well able to protect all who have been serving Him patiently as His Kingdom is being formed in them.

One of the prophets said recently, in the name of the Lord, that while God dearly loves His people they are not His pets. They have not been serving Him and so they shall experience pain and suffering in the days to come.

This is true. Furthermore, God indeed shall watch over and protect those who truly are living in Him and for Him—those whose life He is becoming.

God, Christ, the saints, and the holy angels are now in Heaven as far as we know. When the trumpet sounds, the Lord Jesus Christ and His saints and angels will return and establish their Kingdom on the earth. This means God through Christ through the saints will govern the nations of the earth. Then peace and justice shall flow like a mighty river throughout the land.

In that day, those who are Christians in name only will be terrified. The sinners in Zion shall indeed tremble when God roars through His true saints.

The Lord shall return with thousands of His saints to execute judgment on the fornicators in the churches, those who have gone in the way of Cain (the malice and wickedness of the world); of Balaam (the love of money); and of Korah (self-will and rebellion).

How about you? Are you willing to take the time to search the New Testament and find out if the emphasis is on going to Heaven, or if the emphasis is on taking our place on the cross with the Lord Jesus and rising with Him to walk in newness of life? Are you willing to do this, or are you going to continue in the vain traditions of our day?

You will find that Christ and His Apostles stressed our change from sinful behavior to righteous behavior. This transformation is accomplished as each day we nourish the new Divine Life that has been born in us, and with the help of the Spirit of God turn away from the ways of the fleshly lusts and passions.

If we really serve the Lord in this manner, bringing each aspect of our life, all of our decisions, to the Lord Jesus, the Kingdom of God will be formed in us.

But if we hold our ticket and wait to go to Heaven we will discover we missed the plan of salvation, which was to change us from our old sinful nature to the moral image of Jesus Christ.

The mere fact of being in Heaven will not of itself make any change in us. There is no scriptural basis for the concept that being in Heaven will change us from wickedness to righteousness. After all, sin began in Heaven around the Throne of God.

If we desire to rule with the Lord Jesus in His Kingdom, then we must begin right now to learn through Him how to govern our own personality.

The Kingdom is within us, if we have received Christ. Now our task is to follow the Holy Spirit until we are in the Kingdom that is within us, so to speak. This we do by looking constantly to the Lord Jesus so He may make us a new righteous creation in Himself.

How do you feel about this?