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Kingdom of Heaven

From Academic Kids

This article refers to the concept in Judaism and Christianity. For the 2005 movie, see Kingdom of Heaven (movie).

The kingdom of Heaven (or the kingdom of God, basileia tou theou) is a key concept in both Judaism and Christianity. It refers to the reign or sovereignty of God over all things, as opposed to the reign of earthy powers.

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The kingdom in Jewish thought

The kingdom of God is referred to frequently in the Tanakh (see 1 Chronicles 29:10-12 and Daniel 4:3 for example). It is tied to Jewish understanding that God will intervene to restore the nation of Israel, and return to rule over them.

The kingdom in Christian thought

The idea of God's Kingdom is found predominately in the New Testament, specifically the Synoptic Gospels.

The kingdom of God is a term used interchangeably with Kingdom of Heaven in the Synoptic Gospels. Matthew usually uses the term "kingdom of heaven", while Luke and Mark use "kingdom of God". The standard explanation for this is that Matthew's Gospel was addressed to a Jewish audience who would avoid the direct use of the name of God. Mark and Luke addressed their gospels to a Gentile audience who would be unfamiliar with the term "kingdom of heaven".

Some premillennialist interpreters believe that "kingdom of heaven" refers to the millennial kingdom of God, while "kingdom of God" refers to his universal reign. However, most interpreters, including many premillennialists, believe that there is no basis for such a distinction.

Historian H. G. Wells wrote: “This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, and which plays so small a part in the Christian creeds, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought.”

Jesus Seminar scholars have translated the phrase "kingdom of God" as "God's imperial rule", or sometimes "God's domain", to better grasp its sense in today's language.

The Christian understanding of the Kingdom of God encompasses several ideas.

Present aspect

The Gospels describe Jesus as proclaiming the Kingdom as something that was about to break out at the present moment, and not merely a future reality (see Mark 1:15). The reported activity of Jesus in healing diseases, driving out demons, teaching a new ethic for living and offering a new hope in God to the poor is understood to be a demonstration of that Kingdom.

Jesus treated the subject with great importance, so that in the model prayer he said it should be the second most important subject in prayer (Matthew 6:9,10). The Kingdom of God is referred to 36 times in the book of Matthew alone. Jesus maintained the importance of seeking The Kingdom throughout his ministry (Matthew 6:33; Mark 9:43-47).

The Kingdom of God also refers to the changed state of heart or mind within Christians (see Luke 17:20-21).

Jesus's use of Kingdom of God language contrasted with that of the first century CE Jewish revolutionaries who believed that the Kingdom was a political reality that would come about by the violent overthrow of Roman rule and its replacement by a theocracy.

In Roman Catholic theology, the Kingdom of God can also refer to the Church. Protestants, however, believe that the Church is the instrument by which the Kingdom is manifested, but is not synonymous with the Kingdom itself.

Future aspect

The present fulfillment of the Kingdom was treated by Jesus as a provisional foretaste of a greater, future reality.

The future aspect of the Kingdom is the belief of a future post-apocalyptic implementation of God's theocratic rule, especially in a premillennialist interpretation of the prophetic genre of scriptural texts.

The tension between the present and future aspects of the Kingdom has been referred to as "the now and the not yet" of God's Kingdom. Traditionally, Catholicism, Liberal Christian and Pentecostal denominations have tended to emphasize its present aspect, while conservative Fundamentalists and evangelicals have emphasized its future aspect.

See also

nl:Koninkrijk van God sk:Nebeské kráľovstvo

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