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.
We started studying Matthew last night in small group and I noticed something I never really saw before.
I knew that Matthew was written to new converts from Judaism in an attempt to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Because of that, Matthew uses lots of Jewish phrases and he approaches the story of Jesus with a distinctively Jewish undertone. Anyway, what I had never noticed was all the ways that Matthew lines up with the Exodus. Exodus was a collective memory in the subconsciousness of the Jewish people, so Matthew appealed to them even on a subconscious level. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far: (I’m sure there’s more.)
Before the Exodus, God had been silent for over 400 years. Before Jesus’ birth, God had been silent for over 400 years.
Like Israel (God’s chosen people), Jesus came out of Egypt.
Israel began it’s journey to the promised land by passing through the Red Sea. Jesus passed through the Jordan and then began his journey to the cross.
Israel wandered and suffered in the desert. Jesus was tempted and suffered in the desert.
Israel followed the pillar of fire on it’s way to the promised land. Wise men followed a star on their way to Jesus.
This one is not from Matthew, but is in the Gospels – Moses’ was bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt and his first miracle was to change water (the river) into blood. Jesus’ brought us out of slavery to sin and his first miracle was to turn water into wine. Later, he would call wine, his blood.
Anyway, I just thought it was all pretty interesting.
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.
Whoa! Last night, I had class – it was the second of our 5 Gospel Literature classes at College for Biblical Studies. Anyway, there’s a guy in my class (Justin) who was going to sing a song for the group ’cause it went along with our discussion on Matthew 1. ( Andrew Peterson’s song “Matthew’s Begats” on Behold the Lamb of God – By the way, you should all check out Andrew Peterson – He’s an amazing writer. www.andrew-peterson.com )
Anyway, he had a guitar player who joined him, named Tim Dillon. I would never have recognized him, but Tim was one of the students who came to a youth program I was a part of in Tomball called “The Wave.” It was a skate ministry and by God’s grace there were lots of youth who came that were not from our church. For that matter, I’ll just be blunt and say they were really “rough” kids with drug problems and all sorts of issues. Some of the people in our church, wouldn’t let their own children come ’cause they didn’t want their kids around “those” kids. Anyway, come to find out, Tim was one of “those” kids. He said that he came every week just to skate, but most of the time he was stoned when he got there. I certainly knew that we had quite a few who were coming like that, but we still had the opportunity to let them know they were loved and to tell them about Jesus so I figured it was a good thing. Anyway, I’ll never really know a whole lot about what God accomplished during those days with those students, but I feel confident that there were seeds planted which with God’s help will grow and produce amazing fruit.
Tim has come to know Jesus now. Interestingly enough, he is a pastor’s son and it was after watching some friends die, that he became serious about knowing God. He plays guitar for an artist named Jimmy Needham now too. (Check him out @ www.jimmyneedham.com) It’s great to see that God is still at work among us all even when we don’t have a clue.