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                        "THE PARABLES OF JESUS"

               Defining The Kingdom Of Heaven (Mt 13:11)

INTRODUCTION

1. In our introductory lesson, we observed that the general "theme" of
   Jesus' parables was "the kingdom of heaven"
   a. Many of the parables start with "The kingdom of heaven is
      like..." - Mt 13:24,31,33,44,45,47
   b. In explaining why He spoke in parables, Jesus made reference to
      "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" - Mt 13:11

2. We also noted that "the kingdom of heaven" was the theme of...
   a. Jesus' itinerant ministry - Mt 4:17,23
   b. His sermon on the mount - Mt 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10,33; 7:21

3. Because "the kingdom of heaven" is such a prominent subject in the
   parables of Jesus (as well as His overall preaching)...
   a. I thought it might serve a good purpose to preface our study of
      the parables with a careful look at what "the kingdom of heaven"
      means
   b. With a proper definition of "the kingdom of heaven" fresh in our
      minds, we are more likely to benefit from our Lord's teaching on
      this wonderful subject!

[Let's begin our effort to define "the kingdom of heaven" by comparing
it with "the kingdom of God"...]

I. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN vs. THE KINGDOM OF GOD

   A. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
      1. Some try to make a distinction (e.g. Scofield Reference Bible)
      2. But a quick comparison of the gospels indicate that the terms
         refer to the same thing
         a. Cf. Mt 4:17 with Mk 1:14-15
         b. Cf. Mt 5:3 with Lk 6:20
         c. Cf. Mt 13:31 with Mk 4:30-31

   B. WHY THE DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS?
      1. We find that Matthew used the expression "kingdom of heaven"
         almost exclusively, while the other gospel writers used the
         phrase "kingdom of God"
      2. It may be that since Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews, he
         chose to used the phrase "kingdom of heaven"...
         a. Because of the Jews' reluctance to use the name of God (out
            of reverence)
         b. Because of the Jews' misconception of the coming kingdom
            1) Many anticipated a physical kingdom
            2) The expression "heaven" (literally, "heavens") would
               emphasize a spiritual kingdom

[So our first observation is that any effort to distinguish between the
"kingdom of heaven" and the "kingdom of God" is really without warrant.

Let's now consider what Jesus meant when He spoke of the "kingdom of
heaven"...]

II. IT INVOLVES FOUR INTER-RELATED CONCEPTS

   A. THE REIGN OF GOD...
      1. The term "kingdom" as used by the Jews often stressed the 
         abstract idea of "reign" or "dominion", not some geographical
         area surrounded by physical boundaries
         a. Possibly used this way by Jesus in Lk 17:21
         b. It is used this way by Jesus in Mt 6:10 ("Thy kingdom 
            come; thy WILL be done")
      2. Thus, the "kingdom of heaven" (or "kingdom of God") is 
         wherever the REIGN or DOMINION of God (who is in heaven) is 
         manifested
         a. In one sense, the kingdom of God has always existed - cf.
            Ps 47:2; 103:19
         b. But in a special way was the rule or reign of God to be 
            manifested with the coming of Christ
            1) As foretold in the time of Daniel (ca. 500 B.C.) - Dan 
               2:44-45
            1) As proclaimed by John the Baptist - Mt 3:1-3
            2) As preached by Jesus - Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15
      3. Indeed, it is in the Person of Jesus Christ that the "reign of
         God" is being expressly manifest today - cf. 1Co 15:23-26; 
         Ep 1:20-22; 1Pe 3:22; Re 1:5

   B. SPIRITUAL IN NATURE...
      1. The kingdom (or reign of God) would not be found in the form 
         of a physical kingdom - Jn 18:36
      2. It would manifest itself in spiritual ways - Ro 14:17

   C. VISIBLY MANIFESTED TODAY IN THE LORD'S CHURCH...
      1. What is the Lord's church?
         a. It is a community of souls
         b. In whose hearts God is recognized as Sovereign     
         -- Thus the church can properly be referred to as the kingdom
            of God today
      2. That the terms "church" and "kingdom" can be used 
         interchangeably, consider:
         a. How "church" and "kingdom" were used by Jesus - Mt 16:18
         b. Comments made to those who were in the church - Col 1:13;
            1Th 2:12
         c. The description of those in the churches of Asia - Re 1:4,
            6,9

   D. BOTH PRESENT AND FUTURE...
      1. The "kingdom of heaven" has a future element as well as a 
         present one
      2. Its future aspect is spoken of by:
         a. Jesus in Mt 25:34
         b. Paul in 1Co 15:50; 2Ti 4:18
         c. Peter in 2Pe 1:10-11
      3. Peter described the coming of its future state in 2Pe 3:10-13
      -- Therefore the kingdom of heaven involves the "new heavens and
         new earth"

[These four concepts or elements must be kept in mind whenever we think
of the "kingdom of heaven".  Failure to remember all four can easily 
lead to misconceptions about the nature of the kingdom.

In an effort to clarify this subject even further, consider...]

III. A SUMMARY DEFINITION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

   A. IN THE "PRESENT" SENSE...
      1. It is found wherever the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD is accepted in the
         hearts of men
      2. It is a SPIRITUAL KINGDOM, for God rules in the hearts of men
      3. Its outward manifestation today is the LORD'S CHURCH
      4. The kingdom was "INAUGURATED" on the Day of Pentecost as
         recorded in Acts 2 - cf. Ac 2:36

   B. IN THE "FUTURE" SENSE...
      1. The kingdom will be "CULMINATED" with the coming of the Lord
         a. When Jesus "delivers the kingdom to God the Father" - 1Co 
            15:24
         b. "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the 
            kingdom of their Father." - Mt 13:43
      2. It will be that "NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH" described by Peter
         and John
         a. "In which righteousness dwells" - 2Pe 3:13
         b. In which "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will
            dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God 
            Himself will be with them and be their God." - Re 21:3
      3. It will be experienced only by those in the church who are 
          submitting to God's will
         a. Those who do "the will of My Father in heaven" - Mt 7:21-23
         b. Those who are "diligent to be found by Him in peace" - 2 Pe
            3:13-15a

CONCLUSION

1. As we get into the parables of Jesus, we will find many references
   to the "kingdom of heaven"
   a. Sometimes it appears Jesus refers to the "present" aspect of the
      kingdom
   b. But then, at other times He has reference to the "future" aspect
      of the kingdom

2. Hopefully, this effort to define "the kingdom of heaven" will help
   us appreciate more what Jesus has to say concerning "the mysteries
   of the kingdom of heaven"!

One principle concerning entering kingdom that was a mystery to
Nicodemus at first was the need to be born again (Jn 3:3-4).  But then
Jesus explained that the new birth was one of water and the Spirit (Jn
3:5).

Is that still a mystery to you?  Then consider Acts 2:38 and Titus
3:5...
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