Doesn’t the Bible say that we will enter the kingdom of heaven? Doesn’t this show that we will go to heaven when we die?


The Bible teaches indeed that we are going to enter the kingdom of heaven, but this does not mean that we will go to heaven. We need to understand what is meant by the term, “kingdom of heaven.”

First of all, we should note that only Matthew uses this expression. The other gospel writers use consistently and exclusively the term, “kingdom of God.” It is therefore obvious that both terms describe the same thing.

We explain in our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” that the kingdom of God is the Family of God, ruling over others, consisting at this point of two members of the God Family—God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Every Christian in whom God’s Spirit dwells is a begotten member of the Family or Kingdom of God, but he is not yet a born-again member. He will be born again at the time of the return of Jesus Christ, when he will be changed to immortality.

We read in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, and that we must be changed to incorruptibility and immortality (verses 51-54). Before that time and occurrence, a human being cannot enter or see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). He must be born of the Spirit and BE Spirit (verse 6), to be able to enter the Kingdom of God and become a most powerful Spirit being (verse 8). Then he will be a God being—invisible to the human eye (same verse).

The Kingdom of God is identical with the “kingdom of heaven”—since God the Father and Jesus Christ are in heaven and rule in and from heaven over this earth and the entire universe. But this does not mean that we will go to heaven to enter the Kingdom there; rather, Christ will return to this earth and restore the Government of God on this earth. The Kingdom of God, through its representative Jesus Christ, will rule here on earth, and we will be ruling with and under Him, as born again members of the God Family, if we qualify. Ultimately, God the Father will also come down to earth to establish headquarters here, after new heavens and a new earth have been created, in which righteousness dwells.

That the terms “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are identical in Scripture can be seen, for example, when comparing Matthew 5:3 with Luke 6:20. Both passages say that the “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God” belong to those who are poor in spirit; that is, who are of a humble and contrite spirit.

Also, when comparing Matthew 13:31-32 with Mark 4:30-32, we read that both the “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God” are likened to a grain of mustard seed which grows to become a big tree, to give shelter to the birds (Note too that the kingdom is represented as being established on earth).

In Matthew 19:14 and in Mark 10:14, Jesus said that little children should be allowed to come to Him, for of such is the “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God.”

We even find that in Matthew’s account, the terms for “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are used interchangeably. In Matthew 19:23-24, Christ tells us that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the “kingdom of heaven” (verse 23), and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the “kingdom of God” (verse 24); adding however that with God nothing is impossible (verse 26).

Even though Matthew most of the time uses the expression “kingdom of heaven,” he does use the expression “kingdom of God” on occasion, when special emphasis is intended. We read in Matthew 21:31 that the repentant publicans and the harlots will go into the Kingdom of God before the self-righteous and power-hungry chief priests and the elders of the people. He said in Matthew 21:43 that the Kingdom of God will be taken from them and be given to the holy nation of true Christians who are bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom (compare John 15:1-8; 1 Peter 2:9).

And He stated in Matthew 6:33 that we must first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as the first priority. In this sentence, the use of the term “kingdom of heaven” would not emphasize quite the same meaning, as it is the Kingdom of God and GOD’s righteousness (which is a stronger term than “heaven’s” righteousness), which we must seek.

Still, Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” most of the time, rather than “kingdom of God.” As some commentaries state and as the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong has consistently taught, the reason is partly to be seen in the fact that Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience (who did not want to use the word “God” frequently, while Luke wrote to a Gentile (both in his gospel record as well as in the book of Acts), and Mark and John’s audience is less distinct and distinguishable. (While John never uses the term “kingdom of heaven,” he very seldom uses the words “kingdom of God,” either).

But this is only part of the explanation. Since the four gospel writers quote Jesus Christ, all of them would have quoted His words accurately. None of them would have dared to change His words, by supplementing one term (“kingdom of God”) for another (“kingdom of heaven”), and vice versa. It is clear, then, that Christ used both expressions, and while Matthew chose to quote more frequently Christ’s statements when He used the words, “kingdom of heaven,” the others chose to quote His statements when He used the words, “kingdom of God.” Christ might have used both expressions in sermons or speeches at the same time, or on different occasions. That is the reason why we must look at all Scriptures in the Bible on a given topic to get the entire picture — “here a little, and there a little.”

The question then needs to be answered why CHRIST used the statement, “kingdom of heaven,” when He spoke of the Kingdom of God.

Christ preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God, making clear at the same time that the Kingdom of God originates in heaven and that those who are already begotten of the Spirit, to be born into the Kingdom of God, are a part of a heavenly kingdom. Their names are written in heaven—in the book of life—and they are to build up treasures in heaven. Their citizenship is in heaven as well.

At the same time, John the Baptist and Christ emphasized that the Kingdom of heaven will come down to this earth (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; 16:28). We are also told that Christ will bring down to this earth the reward, which has been stored for them in heaven.

In addition, the term “kingdom of heaven” stresses the fact that the heavenly kingdom is not to be confused with the kingdom of the god of this world—Satan the devil (Matthew 12:25-26) nor with the kingdom of men (Matthew 20:25-27).  It does not originate with man, but with God who is in heaven (Mark 11:30-33). The heavenly kingdom or the kingdom of or FROM heaven will be altogether different. The God of heaven will establish His Kingdom here on earth (Daniel 2:44), and no human being will be in it. Only immortal God beings will rule in the Kingdom of heaven over man—here on earth.

We will not go to heaven when we die. Rather, the Kingdom of the God of heaven will be set up here on earth, when Christ returns, and we will be in it to rule all nations (Revelation 2:26-27).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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