The phrase, “kingdom of heaven” appears only in Matthew’s gospel, but it is used synonymously with “kingdom of God” found elsewhere in Matthew and in the other gospels. One theologian defines this term as meaning, “the spiritual rule of God in the hearts of believers.” While technically accurate, this definition falls short of the immediacy and efficacy with which Jesus used the phrase.
Christ’s teaching on the kingdom added the imperative that it was physically near (or literally, “has drawn near”) because he, God’s Son, had come. It seemed to symbolize both a present, intangible reality (i.e., “rule of God in the hearts of believers”) and also the promise of a future, corporeal actuality (God’s rule on earth) that was beginning to show itself through Christ’s presence.
“The kingdom is the sum of all gifts,” one 20th century scholar said in commentary on this passage, and that rings true. He added, “Though it will come in its complete glory only in the future, it is already beginning to manifest itself in the events connected with Jesus’ ministry…the dawning of the kingdom, the appearance of its first fruits, the combination of thanksgiving for present bliss with the most poignant expectation of glory in the near future—these features run through the whole New Testament.”
[TTW, 205-6; IB7, 275]
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