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What Is the Kingdom of Heaven?

We see throughout the Gospel of Matthew that the kingdom of God is a major theme in Jesus’ message. Kingdom can be thought of as a word made up of two parts: king (a sovereign ruler) and “dom” (a domain or territory). Christ’s victory over death ushered in his kingdom, and he is elevated as Lord over all. The world is now under the now-and-not-yet dominion of Jesus the Sovereign King.

This kingdom was foretold in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. For example,

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13–14, NIV)

This is a kingdom consisting of subjects “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9, NIV) who have believed in Jesus as Lord and submitted to him in obedience. Throughout his ministry, Jesus describes this kingdom, and thus we begin to get a view of its scale, its value, and its eternality. As a side note, Matthew is the only Gospel writer that uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” and this can be understood as interchangeable with the other writers’ “kingdom of God.”

Here are four truths about his kingdom we learn from Jesus’ teachings on it:

1. The kingdom of heaven is expanding.

It starts small and grows. It’s like a mustard seed planted in a field.

“Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:32, NIV)

It’s like yeast that is mixed into flour and works its way through all the dough. The kingdom by nature is growing and spreading. If our brand of religion is private and hidden, it’s not Christianity at all because it does not bear this important characteristic of the kingdom of God.


What is the kingdom of heaven? “Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.”


2. The kingdom of heaven is priceless.

Jesus’ kingdom is so valuable that we should give everything we have for it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44, NIV)

The kingdom is like a fine pearl for which a merchant sells everything he has. There is no true Christianity that does not involve prioritizing the kingdom first and above all else. And these aren’t just flowery similes. Jesus later described kingdom citizenship and service like this:

He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, ”No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59–62, NIV)

3. The kingdom of heaven is eternal.

In his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel prophesied this of the kingdom of God:

“It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44, NIV)


What is the kingdom of heaven? “It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”


Jesus taught that at the end of the age when he sends out his angels,

“They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:42–43, NIV)

The kingdom is like a net that brings in all kinds of fish. At the end of the age, the fish will be sorted—the good from the bad. The good, those belonging to Christ’s kingdom, will never end because Christ’s kingship will never end. In order to be part of his eternal kingdom in its perfected state (“a new heaven and a new earth” described in Revelation 21), we must repent of our sins and obey the Lord to be added to his kingdom now.

4. The kingdom of heaven is offensive.

Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom not exclusively for the culture’s elite, and that doesn’t sit well with those who consider themselves worthy of it. As Jesus taught and performed miracles, people asked skeptically,

“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55, NIV)

This is not unlike rich, foolish Nabal in the Old Testament speaking of God’s anointed king David in these terms: “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse?” (1 Samuel 25:10, NIV). People noted that Jesus didn’t come from stock they considered impressive. “And they took offense at him” (Matthew 13:57, NIV). If we take offense at whom God is willing to save and welcome into his kingdom, we’d have to question our own citizenship.

Jesus is a healer of the sick and a resurrector of the dead. He accomplishes these spiritual renewals in our lives when we believe in him and submit to him, and he brings us into his kingdom. Where people were offended by Jesus and his kingdom teaching, Scripture says,

“And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:58, NIV)


What is the kingdom of heaven? “In order to be part of his eternal kingdom in its perfected state, we must repent of our sins and obey the Lord to be added to his kingdom now.”


It’s interesting to note that lack of faith was equated with lack of miracles. But by faith, we can experience his miracles in our lives and be added to his expanding, priceless, eternal kingdom.


Excerpted from Tina Wilson’s 365-day chronological Bible study Step into Scripture: A Daily Journey to Understanding Your Bible.

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