Converging Kingdoms Matt. 3:1 Mark 1:14 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
This study of converging kingdoms is about the coming of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God and why there is a distinction between the righteousness which is of the law [or what is commonly referred to as “Old Testament Salvation”] and the righteousness which is by the faith of Jesus Christ [or what is commonly referred to as “New Testament Salvation”]. We begin this study with a brief analysis of the difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. Then we contrast the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Jesus Christ and show how possessing the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ in the New Testament allows us to currently enjoy salvation in partial fulfillment of the new covenant promised to Israel. We conclude this study by showing that as the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God converge during the tribulation, in anticipation of the arrival of Jesus Christ, there is a need for the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Jesus Christ at the same time.
In Matt 3:2, John the Baptist was preaching, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Matt 4:17, Jesus was preaching the same thing and yet in Mk 1:14-15, Jesus was also preaching, “… the kingdom of God is at hand.” Matthew is the only book in the Bible that mentions the kingdom of heaven by name [31 times]. Matthew also mentions the kingdom of God [as in Matt 6:33]. These two kingdoms are distinctly different.
The kingdom of heaven is not the place to which saved people go when they die, although the word heaven is associated with this kingdom. Saved people go to the “third heaven” [2 Cor 12:1-4] when we die. Since the place we go is called the third heaven, then there must be two more. These other two heavens are found in Gen 1:6-9 [the second heaven, commonly called “outer space”] and Gen 1:20 [the first heaven, commonly called “sky”]. Adam had “dominion” over everything in this first heaven and so it is referred to as the “kingdom” of heaven when “King” Jesus shows up [Matt 2:2].
Since Jesus was rejected by Israel as their king [Jn 19:15], he did not take over control of this kingdom [Jn 18:36]. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of THIS world.” Therefore, the king of THIS world is still the devil [2 Cor 4:4, Lk 4:5-6]. When Jesus returns, THIS world will end [Matt 24:3; 28:20] and he will rule over the kingdom of heaven from the throne of David, Is 9:6-7; Lk 1:32-33. As you can see, then, the kingdom of heaven is an earthly, visible kingdom over which Jesus will rule in his millennial reign.
By contrast, the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom that comes not with observation because it is within you [Lk 17:20-21]. Therefore, when you are born again, you “enter” this kingdom [Jn 3:5] and because you are born again, you will one day “see” this kingdom of God [Jn 3:3; 1 Cor 13:12]. When you die, you will immediately be present with the Lord. All that had been invisible to you until then will suddenly be “seen,” [2 Cor 4:18 – 2 Cor 5:8].
This very brief summary shows you the major difference between the kingdom of heaven [physical] and the kingdom of God [spiritual]. Now we need to see the distinction between righteousness which is of the law and righteousness which is by the faith of Jesus Christ.
The righteousness which is of the law is seen in the Old Testament. Deut 6:25 says, “… it shall be OUR righteousness if we observe to DO all these commandments.” Notice in the context [Deut 6:23-25] that keeping the commandments was not rewarded with “going to heaven when you die.” Keeping the commandments was THEIR righteousness and preserved Israel in the land and preserved them ALIVE. Notice Deut 7:12-15. By DOING the commandments, God would keep his covenant with Israel; he would love them, bless them, multiply them, multiply their crops, multiply their cattle, bless them above all people and take away sickness and the diseases of Egypt from them. Notice in Deut 8:1 that by keeping the commandments they would LIVE, multiply and possess the land. As you can see, all of these promises concern the earthly, physical kingdom of heaven.
In the New Testament, on the other hand, Paul shows us something about the contrast between righteousness by doing all these commandments and righteousness which is by the faith of Jesus Christ. In Phil 3:4-9, Paul’s testimony concerning the law was, “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” You can’t get any better than that. Nevertheless, Paul went on to say that he wanted to be “found in him, not having MINE OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, which is OF THE LAW, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS OF GOD BY FAITH.” This faith of Christ was not available to Israel in the Old Testament [Gal 3:23-24] and indeed did not need to be because they were only concerned, at that time, with the earthly kingdom of heaven, while Paul was concerned with the spiritual kingdom of God.
In Rom 10:1-13, Paul clearly lays out for us the distinction between the righteousness which is of the law and the righteousness which is of faith. The righteousness which is of the law is, “that the man which DOETH those things SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” The righteousness which is of faith is, “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou SHALT BE SAVED.” The former concerns the kingdom of heaven and the latter concerns the kingdom of God.
These appear to be so drastically different that you may wonder why they are both in the same Bible. The truth is that they are both part of the same ultimate plan for Israel. We just happened to get in on the plan because Israel is ignorant of God’s righteousness and is in temporary partial blindness until Jesus comes [Rom 11:25].
God always ultimately planned for Israel to be saved and to possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Look at Jer 23:5-6. When Jesus returns and reigns as King, his name will be THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS and Judah shall be SAVED. Again, according to Jer 33:15-16, when Jesus returns to reign, Jerusalem’s name shall be called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS and Judah shall be SAVED. Can you see what’s going on here? The Lord has always planned on the salvation of Israel by HIS imputed righteousness.
So, our salvation in the kingdom of God is a partial fulfillment of the new covenant that Jesus will make with Israel [Jer 31:31-34]. As Jesus told the woman at the well, salvation is of the Jews. Because Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, they were broken off the olive tree [Rom 11 because of unbelief]. But by believing on him, we were grafted in and now He is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS [1 Cor 1:30]. You see, we are now included in the household of God as fellow citizens [Eph 2:14-22]. We got in on God’s plan for Israel by the faith of Jesus Christ. That plan has yet to be finally fulfilled. When it is, we will have glorified bodies and many of us will reign with Christ on earth. At that time, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven will both once again be present.
As the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven converge upon the arrival of Jesus Christ to this earth, there will be, during the tribulation, a commingling of the righteousness which is of the law and the righteousness which is by faith. In Rev 14:12, the saints “keep the commandments of God’ and “the faith of Jesus Christ,” [Rev 12:17]. In 1 Jn 3:1-10, “he that DOETH righteousness is righteous,” [v.7] and “whosoever is BORN OF GOD doth not commit sin,” [v.9]. As John says, “In this the children of God are manifest,” [v.10]. That’s why you see the joining of faith and works in James 2:18-26. Praise the Lord!!
Now if you want to make some practical applications from this information, here are two.
First, all the major religions are formed on the basis of a salvation that concerns the kingdom of heaven. They all have a supreme leader to replace Jesus [the King], they all have an element of “works” in their plans of salvation [doing righteousness], and they are all concerned with building their own kingdoms here on earth [kingdom of heaven]. That’s why the Muslims have Mohammed, Imams and Mecca. That’s why the Catholics have the Pope and the Vatican. That’s why the Mormons have the prophet and the Temple in Utah. That’s why the Jehovah’s witnesses have the Watchtower Society and so forth. They all ultimately stand against the Jews and against Jesus Christ, no matter what they may “say.” They are establishing their own righteousness.
Second, because our salvation concerns the kingdom of God, we will never have assurance that the blessings of God on our lives will be manifested in greater wealth or better health. Those are things that are connected with the kingdom of heaven. Paul the apostle had a medical condition called his “thorn in the flesh” and was content to be abased. He wasn’t interested in his physical blessings or with building a kingdom down here. He had his affections set on things above and not on things on the earth. He was interested in “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” [Eph 1:3]. Likewise, our affections should be set on things above!! Amen.