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.
Friday night, it was time for Miranda and I to get Kasen ready for bed. We hadn’t begun our routine yet, but clearly he was getting sleepy. Our routine includes singing “Jesus Loves Me,” and then folding our hands to pray together, kisses for everyone, and then “Night-Night.” Anyway, I think he was ready before we were ’cause he walked over to us, folded his hands and said, “Che-zus.” Miranda and I looked at each other in disbelief at first, (wondering if “Che-zus” really meant “Jesus“) but were soon flooded with those proud parent emotions that go beyond understanding.
Miranda and I have made it our goal to raise children who are not only church-goers, but children who will truly be the arrows in our quiver described in Psalm 127:3-5. You know. . . we want our children to be offensive weapons in the hand of God. We pray they’ll be dangerous and will truly take ground for the Kingdom of God – infiltrating enemy territory and setting up outposts where God’s troops can base their operations. This was a beautiful moment for us. Kasen doesn’t talk yet. He says a few words – mama, daddy, door, dog, and now “Jesus.” The name that is above every other name. Jesus. Savior. Master, teacher, Holy, Lord, light, friend. . . .I could go on and on – Anyway, my son knows the name of Jesus (Now we’ve gotta help him understand who He is.) and that’s an answer to our prayers.
Prayer: Thank you God for allowing us the opportunity to have such an impact on the world by influencing our children. It’s such a joy and a pleasure. Show Miranda and I how to maximize that impact, and open our eyes to opportunities to tell our children more about You and Your great love, expressed in Jesus. Thank you for giving us these moments. These moments where we see that our efforts are worthwhile and are producing fruit. God, by being a father myself, I’m recognizing how You love me. I’d ask You to cover my children, Kasen and Kesleigh. Surround them with angels. Protect them from the evil one. Plant in them a desire to know more of You and to serve You wholeheartedly. Let them recognize Your love too. For Kasen, it’s just a beginning; but may the name of Jesus, be forever on his lips. May that name be comfortable in his mouth and overflow often. In the same way that I pray for him, let me be his example. Let the name of Jesus rest on my lips too. AMEN.
I wonder what the implications are that he said “Cheese” before he said “Jesus?”