Chapter 2, Part 1
The Name of the Kingdom
Book 13 of the Confucian Analects contains discourses on Government by Confucius and Tsze-Lu. Confucius said to Tsze-Lu, "If anything is called by the wrong name, then it will be erroneously explained. If the explanation is wrong, then it cannot be carried out successfully. Therefore, a 'superior man' considers it essential that the name he uses may be explained appropriately and also that which he explains may be successfully carried out." These famous words are along the same line of reasoning in making a 'sure bet'. In order to succeed, it must be name correctly and explained accurately. This is another way of saying if you are not sure, don't waste your energy. At the present time, the main reason why Chinese churches cannot grow in Christ is probably because they do not understand the name of the Kingdom and the appropriate explanation of this truth. In other words, they do not really know God's word nor do they strive after it! This is especially true towards the truth of the Kingdom. With respect to the term 'Kingdom', most churches either draw a blank on it or cannot come to a consensus. Consequently, even if there is the desire, there is no strength to carry out the Lord's ministry. For some churches, they are already six feet under just like the Laodicea church, one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation!
The term 'Kingdom' was used in the New Testament 162 times. It is used in conjunction with 'God' 52 times: 4 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 32 times in Luke and 2 times John. It is also used in conjunction with "Heaven' only 37 times and they are all found in Matthew. These two names, 'Kingdom of Heaven' and 'Kingdom of God' are in fact identical and there is no difference between them. But for some unknown reason, there are those who like to plagiarize Scofield's opinions by dividing them into two realms. They say that the Kingdom of Heaven is earthly, material and temporary whereas the Kingdom of God is heavenly, spiritual and eternal! As a matter of fact, all one needs to do is to compare Matthew, Mark and Luke. The fact can be seen easily. It will be obvious that they are the same Kingdom. For example, Jesus replied, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been granted...Therefore, I speak to them in parables." (Matt. 13:11) He also said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest parables." (Luke 8:10) In Matthew, regarding John the Baptist, Jesus said, " ...yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he." (Matt. 11:11) but in Luke, He said, "in the Kingdom of God..." (Luke 7:28). (Compare Matt. 13:31, 33 with Luke 13:18, 19, 20, 21; Matt. 19:23 and Luke 18:24). Especially note Matthew 19:23 which speaks of the difficulty for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:24 uses the Kingdom of God). So those who regard the Kingdom of Heaven as the present world and the Kingdom of God as the eternal one have not seen the time element of the Kingdom (This will be more fully discussed later).
Why did Matthew call it the Kingdom of Heaven while Mark and Luke call it the Kingdom of God? The reason is that the audience of the gospels is different. In the time period between the Old and New Testaments, the Jewish people had unknowingly replaced God's name with the word 'Heaven'. For example, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, in the repentance speech to his father, he said, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in your sight...!" His reference to 'Heaven' is certainly not the blue sky but a substitute word for 'Jehovah - Lord'. For according to the Old Testament law, whosoever sins against others also sins against the Lord! (Lev. 6:2) Even the Lord used such parallel phrases to question the chief priests and the elders of the people. He asked, "The Baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" They dared not answer, so they said, "We do not know." (Matt. 21:25-27) Matthew was written for the Jews and 'Heaven' was used as a substitute for 'God'.
As for Mark, it was written for the Romans just as Luke was for the Greeks. If they used the word 'Heaven', it could mislead them to think that the Kingdom is a materialistic one, so they used the word 'God'. It seems that the Holy Spirit knew that that in the future, there will be those who would not understand this. So He purposely used the 'Kingdom of God' four times among all the of 'Kingdom of Heaven' phrases in Matthew. (In some ancient manuscripts, 'His Kingdom" in Matt. 6:33 is the 'Kingdom of God'. The current Greek New Testament published by the American Bible Society still has the words 'of God' in parentheses.) If we say that the Kingdom of Heaven is meant for the Israelites, it would be more appropriate to use the phrase 'Kingdom of God' than the 'Kingdom of Heaven'. The reason is when Jesus rebuked the chief priests, He said, "...tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the Kingdom of God before you." He also said, "Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it!"