Expositors sometimes make a distinction between “The Kingdom of Heaven” and “The Kingdom of God.” The former expression is used thirty-two times, and appears only in the Gospel of Matthew; whereas in the same Gospel the latter term is used only five times. In the parallel passages of the other Gospels, the term “Kingdom of God” is used in the same sense as Matthew’s “Kingdom of Heaven.”
What accounts for this? The answer may involve the fact that our Lord spoke in Aramaic, and not in the Greek of the New Testament. When it came to time to write the Gospel narrative, Matthew was divinely guided to retain the idiom used by our Lord, whereas Luke translated the phrase into what it also meant, “The Kingdom of God.” This tells us that the two terms may be used interchangeably. However, we believe the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” bears a more detailed sense that relates to Christ’s assumption of Lordship over the creation; whereas “The Kingdom of God,” while comprehending the former, embraces God’s eternal sovereignty over the universe (Eph. 1: 20-22; Phil. 2: 9-11; Col. 2: 10; Hebrews 1: 4).
The Kingdom of Heaven corresponds with the Seventh Day, or Millennium. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit on the sixth day, he was thrust out of Eden, and the true Sabbath was frustrated and postponed. Death was brought upon all men through Adam’s transgression (Romans 5: 12), and from that time forward, the world has looked for a realization of the Sabbath (rest) forfeited by Adam (Heb. 4: 3-9). Because Adam lost his dominion over the creation, a second Adam was required to stand in his stead, to fulfill the law that he broke, and to pay the penalty for his transgression.
Jesus Christ died on the sixth day (Friday) for the sins of the world, thus ratifying a New Covenant, into which all are invited to enter, and which invitation holds good until the expiration of the sixth day. This sixth day corresponds with the entire period of His absence, while He remains in the Holy Place making reconciliation for sins (Heb. 7: 25, 9: 24).
When the sixth day is ended, He shall lay aside His priestly garments and return to bless those whose sins have been forgiven (Heb. 9: 28). The parousia, or return of the king to exercise sovereignty over the Adamic creation, will close the sixth day and inaugurate the seventh. Then will the true Sabbath be fulfilled.
The Kingdom of Heaven is this Seventh Day, or Millennium, also called The “thousand years” (Rev. 20: 2-6) and “the dispensation of the fullness of times” (Eph. 1: 10). It is the period when Christ will assume His Lordship over the entire creation, including all those still under the First Adam. He will rule and reign with His bride, the antitypical Eve, who is His body, the church (Eph. 5: 23 ff.).
When He returns to bless us, our sins will be blotted out, and we’ll become incorruptible (1 Cor. 15: 52-53; 2 Cor. 5: 4). The loosing of death’s hold on us shall render us immortal; and those who are in the graves will be clothed once more with their own bodies.
The coming of this “Kingdom of Heaven” is clearly described in Daniel 7, where upon the destruction of the fourth beast, the saints are given the kingdom. Notice that it is from heaven, and under the heavens upon the earth (Dan. 7: 13-14, 27). It involves the assumption of Messiah’s sovereignty over the kingdoms of the world (Rev. 11: 15; Zech. 14: 9). The Second Adam and His bride will have power over all nations, and will rule them with a rod or iron (Revelation 2: 26-27).
The bride herself will be one new body formed of both Jews and Gentiles who are circumcised in heart (Eph. 2: 11-22; Col. 2: 11-13; Phil. 3: 3). This body (bride) is still being formed today. It will be completed when the Jewish nation repents and accepts Christ as the Messiah. Then Christ will return from heaven to establish His kingdom. It is this Kingdom which Nicodemus wished to enter into when he came to Christ by night (John 3: 2). However, when he made reference to the miracles wrought by the Messiah, Christ quickly informed him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3: 3).
The only way to enter into this kingdom is by grace through faith; for Abraham received the promise when he was yet uncircumcised (Romans 4: 10). The secret or “mystery” which was hid from ages and generations was revealed by Paul, who declared that “the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel” (Eph. 3: 6). Because Paul preached that a new body must be formed of Jews and Gentiles alike, he was made a prisoner in bonds.
Now it is this new body which is being formed during the “sixth day,” also called “Man’s day” (1 Cor. 4: 3) because it is the day when man judges, and God is silent. At the culmination of man’s day, Antichrist will arise, whose number is 666. The significance of the number is expressed by Irenaeus: “Fittingly, therefore, shall his name possess the number six hundred and sixty-six, since he sums up in his own person all the commixture of wickedness which took place previous to the deluge, due to the apostasy of the angels” (Against Heresies, V. xxix. 2)
When Christ returns from heaven with all His saints, the beast & his confederate, the false prophet, will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19: 20). Then the “Day of the Lord” (Seventh day) will be ushered in. This is the Millennium, when the saints shall possess the kingdom. This is the “Kingdom of Heaven” which Christ and His holy apostles preached, and which we continue to preach today.