Last Friday, it snowed here in Lake Jackson and even more in Pearland. We were up in Pearland (my in-laws house) preparing for our family pics at Penneys and so Kasen and I built a snowman. It was his first experience with snow. He was having tons of fun, but couldn’t enjoy it too much ’cause he was also so cold. (The snow was real wet.) One minute he’d be telling me he wanted to help build the snowman and then the next he was ready to go back inside – we’d head toward the door and then he’d want to go back and build the snowman again – just couldn’t make up his mind. He was torn between two worlds. The cold, fun, and passion of building the snowman on one hand and the warmth, safety, and security of the house on the other. I’m glad to say, that in the end he chose to stick it out and finish the snowman. If this is an indication of his life, he’ll be the guy taking all the risks – living life to the fullest. I pray he’ll grow up to be that kind of man – One who won’t be afraid to take a risk and dream big when it comes to expanding the Kingdom of God – an arrow in my quiver, (Ps 127:4-5) one which breaks through on enemy territory taking ground for God.
The Gospel of Matthew uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.”
Here’s why: Matthew was written specifically for a Jewish audience, while the other Gospels were written to a broader audience. The broader audience would need the more precise “Kingdom of God” in order to understand the Gospel, while Matthew’s Jewish audience understood the custom of honoring God by NOT speaking His name. (It was too holy to mention.) They understood the meaning of Matthew’s “Kingdom of Heaven” as speaking of God’s kingdom, but he also communicated a great reverence to God by using this phrase. With the use of God’s name, the Jewish audience might very well have been offended by the other Gospel writers’ use of the phrase “Kingdom of God.”
I think it’s also important to note that this phrase (both of them) refer to a here and now understanding of the presence of God. His Kingdom is not other worldly. It’s not somewhere else. Or sometime in the future. His kingdom is here and now! When Jesus came, he ushered in the beginning of the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of Heaven is here. It is also to come and will be even more fulfilled in the future, but if we only think of His Kingdom as something off in the distant future, we are missing the reality of His presence with us here and now. He came to bring us life abundantly! Not just eternal life. Although that’s a good thing, it’s not gonna help us too much right now. But we do have help, and comfort, and peace, and power, and love, and anything we need right here and now in His Holy Spirit.
The idea of these phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” also remind me of the Jewish understanding if “Shalom.” Shalom does not just mean “peace” as we use it, but it’s a much larger understanding. It’s whole peace. Shalom is to walk in the presence of God in all of life. It’s to have his favor and peace in all that one does. To walk in the “Kingdom of God” is “Shalom.”
I just thought this was interesting. Hope you did too.
Hmm. . . . I’m not even sure what to write today. I’m sitting in class right now getting ready for my 3rd NT class. So far we haven’t covered that much. We’re actually still in Matthew. I think today we’re gonna cover the second half of it. I’m not sure how we’re gonna get through Mark, Luke, and John in just two weeks, but that seems to be the plan. There are quite a few other things I gotta write about that I have already learned, but I just haven’t found the time to really get down to it yet.
Over the past few weeks here’s what I’ve picked up regarding Matthew:
Matthew wrote to the Jews for two purposes: (1) to show them that Jesus is the Messiah and (2) to explain why they didn’t receive the Kingdom they were expecting would come with the Messiah.
To prove part 1 (Jesus is the Messiah), Matthew used four things: (1) In Chapter 1, he shows Jesus as Messiah with the geneaology. (2) Chapter 2-4, he shows how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Prophecies regarding the Messiah. (3) In Chapter 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount) Matthew shows that Jesus has the ability to grant access into the Kingdom. and (4) In Chapters 8-12, Matthew shows Jesus doing miracles, which again proves Him as Messiah.
For Matthew’s second purpose in writing His book, (explaining why they hadn’t received the Kingdom if the Messiah had come) Chapter 12-28 cover that. In Chapter 12:31-32, we see the unpardonable sin. It makes sense, that this is the unpardonable sin, because Jesus is speaking to the Jews. They had rejected the prophets who spoke God’s own words – thereby rejecting God, the Father. They had rejected Jesus, and now they were rejecting the Holy Spirit. This is the unpardonable sin because God has no more revelation in which He reveals Himself so that people can be saved. If each of them – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been rejected – there’s no where else to go for pardon.