[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)


      Having ascertained the essential elements of a kingdom, and marked the order in which they stand, before we particularly attend to these elements in order, we shall ask why this kingdom is called the Kingdom of Heaven?


Heaven, and the Kingdom of Heaven are not one and the same thing. God is not the Kingdom of God. But as the kingdom of God is something pertaining to God, so the kingdom of heaven is something pertaining to heaven, and consequently to God. Whether always the phrases "the kingdom of God" and "the kingdom of heaven" exactly represent the same thing, certain it is that both phrases are often applied to the same institution.1

      This is true of them whether translated reign or kingdom; and it is very evident that frequently the original word basileia ought in preference to be rendered reign, inasmuch as this term better suits all [239] those passages where coming or approaching is spoken of: for while reigns or administrations approach and recede, kingdoms have attributes and boundaries which are stationary. Reign and Kingdom of God, though sometimes applicable to the same subject, never contemplate it in the same light. They are, indeed, as intimately connected as the reign of King William and the Kingdom of Great Britain. The former represents the administration of the kingdom, and the latter the state over which this administration extends.

      Two good reasons may be offered why Matthew, the oldest Christian writer, generally prefers Kingdom or Reign of Heaven, to the phrase Kingdom or Reign of God: I say generally, for he occasionally uses both designations.2 He wrote to Jews in Judea who expected a Messiah, a King, and a kingdom of God on earth, a mere improvement of the Jewish system; and, therefore, to raise their conceptions, he delights to call it the Reign or Kingdom of Heaven, in contrast with that earthly kingdom of God, of which they were so long in possession.

      He also found a good reason in the idiom of the Jewish prophets for using the word Heaven (both in the singular and plural form) for God. Daniel told the Assyrian monarch that his kingdom would be sure to him when he should have learned that "the Heavens do rule;" yet, in the preceding verse, he says, "Till thou knowest that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men"--thus using Heavens and the Most High as synonymous. The Psalmist says, "The wicked set their mouths against the Heavens." The Prodigal confesses that he had "sinned against Heaven," and Jesus himself asked whether the baptism of John was "from Heaven or from men." Thus he was authorized from the Jewish use of the word to regard it as equivalent to God. If, then, Matthew had meant no more by the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" than the "Kingdom of God," he was justified by the Jewish use of the word heaven, to apply it in that sense. Some may object to all these remarks upon Matthew's manner, that it was Jesus Christ and the preachers he commissioned who called it the Kingdom of Heaven, and not Matthew Levi. To such we reply, that the other sacred writers uniformly, in reciting all the same parables and incidents, use the phrase "Kingdom of God," and never the phrase "the Kingdom of Heaven."

      From his use of the phrase "Kingdom of God," we must, I think, regard him as having special reference to the reason first assigned. He does not say the Kingdom of Heaven shall be taken from the Jews, but, "The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it;" for although it might with [240] propriety, in his acceptation, be said, that the Jews already had the kingdom of God, it could not be said that they had the kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed by Matthew.3

      When compared with the earthly kingdom of God among the Jews, it is certainly the kingdom of Heaven: for Jesus alleges that his kingdom is not of this world; and Daniel affirmed that in the days of the last worldly empire the God of Heaven would set up a kingdom unlike all others then on earth; in which, as Paul teaches, men are "blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ:"4 for he has raised the Jews and Gentiles, and "has set us down together in the heavenly places by Christ Jesus."5

      There is, in the superior and heavenly privileges and honors bestowed upon the citizens of this kingdom, the best reason why it should have first been presented to this world under this title, rather than any other; and, for the same reasons which influenced Matthew to usher it into notice in Judea, under this designation, we ought now to prefer it; because many of our contemporaries, like the ancient Jews, see as much of heaven and glory in the veiled grace of the Mosaic institution, as in the unveiled grace of the Christian kingdom. The pertinency of this title will appear still more evident as we develop the constitutional privileges of his kingdom.

      But most evidently the kingdom of Heaven is "the kingdom of Christ and of God."6 It is the kingdom of God because he set it up,7 gave the constitution and King, and all the materials out of which it is erected.8 It is the kingdom of Christ, because God the Father gave it to him as his Son, and as the heir of all things; and therefore, "all that is the Father's is mine," says Jesus, "and I am his."9 "God created all things BY Jesus Christ and FOR him."

      Having, then, noticed the reasons for the characteristic titles of this kingdom, and having already ascertained what are the elements absolutely essential to a kingdom, distinguished from those merely circumstantial or accidental, we shall now proceed to consider, in the order suggested, the Constitution, King, Subjects, Laws, and Territory of the Kingdom of Heaven.

[A. C.]      

      1 If the following passages are carefully examined and compared, it will appear that both these phrases often represent the same thing: Matt. iii. 17; Mark i. 14; Luke iv. 43;--Matt. xiii. 12; Mark iv. 11; Luke viii. 10;--Matt. xi. 11; Luke vii. 23. To these three distinct evidences many more might be added. What Matthew calls " the Kingdom of Heaven," Mark and Luke call " the Kingdom of God." [239]
      2 See chapters vi. 33; xii. 28; xix. 24; xxi. 31, 43. [240]
      3 Matt. xxi. 43. [241]
      4 Eph. i. 3. [241]
      5 Eph. ii. 6. [241]
      6 Eph. v. 5. [241]
      7 Dan. ii. 44. [241]
      8 Jer. xxxi. 31-31. [241]
      9 John xvii. 18. [241]

      Alexander Campbell. "The Name." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 5 (August 1834): 404-405.


[MHA1 239-241]

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)