Three Usages of "The Kingdom of Heaven"

in Scripture



 Kurt M. Simmons


The kingdom is a major theme of scripture. It occupies a large place among the Old Testament prophets, and the teaching of John the Baptist and Christ. Not surprisingly, significant confusion about the kingdom has always existed. Part of the reason for the confusion is that the phrases “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are used in several different ways. In this article, we want to identify the different usages in scripture and provide explanations and examples of each. 

Scripture uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” (or God) three different ways: 1) the place of God’s habitation and the saints’ eternal rest; 2) the church, or those who obtain citizenship and inheritance in heaven; and 3) the dominion over all people, nations, and tongues Christ received at his ascension and coronation.  

Let’s take a look at these each in order. 

The Kingdom as the Habitation of God and the Saints 

Apart from metaphoric use to describe governments and rulers, there are three usages of “heaven” in scripture; one refers to the kingdom of heaven. The three usages of heaven in scripture are: the firmament in which the birds fly; the firmament in which the stars are fixed; and the realm of the spirit, including Hades Paradise and Heaven, the dwelling place of God.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” Gen. 1:1-8 

The “heaven” of Gen. 1:1, seems to embrace the whole expanse over earth. The firmament that divides the waters above from those below refers to earth’s atmosphere, which divides water that is condensed into liquid and is heavy, from water that is vapor and is light. It is in this firmament that the birds of the air fly: 

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” Gen. 1:20 

The atmosphere in which the birds fly and the clouds are hung may be styled the “first heaven.” The firmament of heaven also describes the vast expanse of space, where the stars are set: 

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for season, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.” Gen. 1:14, 15 

The outer space beyond earth’s atmosphere may be called the “second heaven.” The “third heaven” is the place of God’s habitation (Eccl. 5:2) and the place of his throne (Ps. 11:4; Isa. 66:1). It is also called the “highest heaven” (Deut. 10:14) and the “heaven of heavens” (II Chron. 6:18). Paul refers to the third heaven by name in II Cor. 12:1-4, where he makes it include Hades Paradise, the interim abode of the righteous dead, and where Jesus went when he died (Lk. 23:43; Jn. 20:17; Acts 2:27).

Of these three usages of “heaven,” two embrace the natural world, and one the supernatural. The firmament the birds and clouds fly in and that in which the stars are set are natural; they belong to the physical creation. The heaven which is the habitation of God is super-mundane and spiritual, and, it alone among the heavens is called the “kingdom of God.” It is to this place that Jesus referred when he told Nicodemus “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Jesus referred to this place again when he said “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). These passages both speak to the fact that the natural man is carnally minded and at enmity with God; he must undergo a fundamental change of heart and mind; he must turn away from sin and receive the gospel and things of the Spirit, before he can be saved and made an heir of eternal life. Another passage that refers to the kingdom of God as the place of the saint’s eternal inheritance is in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” I Cor. 5:9-11

The washing and justification in the name of the Lord Jesus mentioned by Paul here doubtless is that first obtained by baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 16; 19:5; 22:16), and corresponds to the water of our rebirth Jesus mentioned to Nicodemus (Jn. 3:3-5). Certainly, that is the way the earliest Christian writers understood it. Tertullian wrote “We little fishes, after our Fish, are born in the water (of baptism).”[1] There is a play on words here. The word “fish” in Greek is ixquj, the first letters of which make up the phrase Ihsouj Xristoj Qeou Uioj Swthr (“Jesus Christ of God [the] Son [and] Savior”). Finally, it is to heaven Paul refers when he writes: 

“Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” I Cor. 15:50 

The lesson of this verse is that which is gross and palpable cannot inherit that which is ethereal, unless it first put off the physical and be made spiritual.  Paul indicates that this occurs for each of us as we are called out of this world one by one at the last trumpet marking our physical death (I Cor. 15:51, 52; II Cor. 5:4-8).

The sum of these passages shows that the “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” sometimes refer to the habitation of God and the place of the saints’ eternal inheritance. 

The Kingdom as the Church – The Vision of Daniel Two 

Jesus received dominion over earth as absolute monarch at his ascension, and now rules the nations with a rod of iron. He guides all things for the advancement of the gospel and the church. Christ’s dominion means that his church also has dominion and is a type of kingdom on earth. This is clear from the book of Daniel.  

The book of Daniel was written and complied while the Jewish nation was in captivity in Babylon for its sin and rebellion. God had delivered all nations of the civilized world into the power of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. God showed Nebuchadnezzar in a dream that his kingdom was to be the first of four successive world empires until the coming of Christ and his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar saw a dream in which these four empires were represented by an image of a man, divided into four parts, each part consisting of a different metal. The head of was of gold; the chest and arms of silver; the belly and thighs were bronze; the legs were of iron and the feet were partly of iron and partly clay. Nebuchadnezzar then saw a stone, cut out without human hand, strike the image upon its feet, reducing it to potsherds that were carried away by the wind; but the stone grew into a mountain and filled the whole earth. 

The dream was interpreted for Nebuchadnezzar by the prophet Daniel, who indicated that each of the three successive kingdoms following Nebuchadnezzar’s would be inferior to those preceding it, as reflected by the declining value of the metals and their position in the body. This inferiority did not consist in the size or power of the empire, for the empires that followed Babylon were larger and more powerful. Rather, the inferiority consisted in the diminishing glory of the kingdoms as represented by the increasing division of the sovereign power and the government’s policy and response to the people and worship of God. The metals become less precious as the sovereign power was divided and shared. They also become increasingly debased as the governments they represent were inimical to God and persecuted his people.  

Nebuchadnezzar was absolute monarch over earth and became a worshipper of the true and living God. He is therefore was portrayed as the image’s head of gold (Dan. 2:37, 38).[2] However, in the empires that followed, the glory of the sovereign power was increasingly divided, and their governments opposed to the people and worship of God. Cyrus the Great and several of his successors were friendly to the faith, even helping rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, and financing its construction and sacrifices. However, the sovereign power was shared with the country’s nobles, many of whom resisted the worship of God, even causing rebuilding the temple to cease for a time (Ezra 4:5-24; Zech. 3:1, 2). The Mede-Persian Empire was therefore represented by the chest and arms of silver. The kingdom of the Greeks was the third world empire. It was divided into four parts at Alexander the Great’s death, and its monarchs were generally hostile to God’s people and worship.  Ptolemy Philopater entered the Jerusalem temple and attempted to compel the Jews in Alexandria to abandon worship of God, and to annihilate the race from among his people.[3] Antiochus Epiphanes carried the outrage still further, erecting an idol in the Jerusalem temple, defiling the altar and temple with swine’s blood, and putting to death Jews who refused to abandon the worship of God or circumcised their children.[4] The kingdom of the Greeks was therefore represented by the belly and thighs of bronze.  

Rome was the fourth world empire. Dan. 7:7 says that Rome would be “diverse” from the preceding kingdoms. This almost certainly refers to Rome’s republican form of government, where the sovereign power was shared by the emperor, people, and senate, compared to the other world empires, each of which were monarchies. Rome is represented by legs of iron and feet of iron mingled with clay; the iron represents Roman government, the clay the subject peoples. Iron is the strongest, but the most corruptible of the metals. The feet of iron mingled with clay accords with the weakness and corruptibility of popular governments, and seems to signify Rome’s policy of direct rule of subject nations by presidents and procurators (“they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men,” Dan. 2:40-43). That is, where the other empires imposed tribute and allowed subject peoples to govern themselves, the Romans mingled themselves among the subject peoples by direct rule through Roman governors. This had the effect of imparting some of the iron strength of Roman rule, but it also contributed weakness, for iron and clay do not adhere to one another, and the Roman governors were greatly resented by the subject peoples (“they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay” Dan. 2:43).  

The ten toes are best understood to represent the ten senatorial provinces created by Augustus in 27 B.C., which thereafter became a permanent feature and identifying mark of the empire. The Roman republic ended with the civil wars (49 B.C.) that brought Julius Caesar to power.  With the death of Caesar (44 B.C.), the empire underwent a protracted period of war and unrest, as various factions all strove for the mastery.  However, by 30 B.C., Augustus emerged as absolute ruler of the Roman world.  In 27 B.C., Augustus set aside the provisional forms the government had operated under since the death of Caesar and settled the government upon a more permanent foundation.  Under pretense of restoring the republic and surrendering the principate, Augustus returned the government of the empire to the senate.  However, not all provinces were handed over.  The senate was given charge of the provinces that were in a settled and peaceful condition, and required no legions, while Augustus retained the government of those upon the empire’s borders.  Augustus thus controlled the military power of the empire and preserved himself as absolute monarch, while the senate was given the outward show of sovereignty, but none of the substance.  Dio Cassius explains: “His professed motive in this was that the senate might fearlessly enjoy the finest portion of the empire, while he himself had the hardships and the dangers; but his real purpose was that by this arrangement the senators will be unarmed and unprepared for battle, while he alone had arms and maintained soldiers.”   The division of the empire into imperial and senatorial provinces became an identifying feature of imperial Rome from and after Augustus. Dio Cassius explains Augustus’ motivation thus:  

“His professed motive in this was that the senate might fearlessly enjoy the finest portion of the empire, while he himself had the hardships and the dangers; but his real purpose was that by this arrangement the senators will be unarmed and unprepared for battle, while he alone had arms and maintained soldiers.”[5] 

The number of provinces ceded to the senate was ten: 

“In 27 B.C. the provinces had been divided into two classes, Imperial and Senatorial, ‘provinciae Caesaris,’ and ‘provinciae Senatus’ or ‘populi.”  The latter were ten in number, Africa, Asia, Bithynia, Achaea, Illyricum, Macedonia, Crete and Cyrene, Sicily, Sardinia, and Hispania Baetica...The Imperial provinces in 27 B.C. were Gaul, Syria, Cyprus and Cilicia, and Hispania Citerior. The number was increased subsequently by the division of single provinces into two or more, and by the inclusion of all provinces constituted after 27 B.C., e.g. Moesia, Pannonia, and Dalmatia.” [6]

Thus, in Rome we find that the sovereign power was most divided (“the kingdom shall be divided” v. 41) and least glorious in terms of decent from monarchy to aristocracy to democracy, and Rome’s direct rule of subject peoples by presidents and procurators. In terms of resistance to God’s people and worship, Rome ranked first. Pilate was implicated in the murder of Christ and persecution over Stephen (John 19:19; Acts 8, 9; Rev. 12), and Nero was the world-wide, eschatological persecutor of God’s people whose name was synonymous with the “beast” (Rev. 13:18; 17:10).

The stone that smote the image is Christ; that it struck the feet and toes signifies that the coming of Christ’s kingdom would occur in the period following 27 B.C. and the division of the empire into imperial and senatorial provinces. Jesus said his kingdom would come in power during the disciples’ lives (Mark 9:1; cf. Matt. 16:27, 28) and tied it to the world events that witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk. 21:31). In Daniel chapter seven, the kingdom follows Christ’s coming against the “little horn” out of the Roman Empire that persecuted the saints for three and a half years. This little horn was Nero, who persecuted the church for three and a half years from A.D. 64-68, but was destroyed by the “brightness of Christ’s coming” and the “spirit of his mouth” (II Thess. 2:8). [7]  Thus, where Luke associates the kingdom’s coming with the fall of Jerusalem, Daniel ties it to the destruction of Nero. Both are correct; for this was Christ putting his enemies beneath his feet, establishing his dominion in the earth. With his enemies among the Jews and Romans subdued, Daniel says, 

“And the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Dan. 7:21, 22 

Here we see that by virtue of Christ’s dominion in the earth, the church also obtained dominion; not by direct government of the nations though the papacy or any such thing, but indirectly through the providence of Christ, who guides history for the advancement and advantage of his people and gospel. That the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth, speaks to the spread of Christianity to every part of the globe, becoming a spiritual kingdom into which men of all nations flow: 

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isa. 2:2-4  

Paul says that the church is the house of God (I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6). Hence, the nations ascending to the house of the God of Jacob refers to the church and gospel. The epistle to the Hebrews confirms this point, where the writer says that in coming to the church we come to Mount Zion:

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Heb. 12:22-24

Thus, the kingdom of heaven sometimes refers to the church, the spiritual kingdom of Christ. 

The Kingdom as Christ’s Dominion over Earth 

We have seen that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” sometimes has in view the habitation of God and the place of the saint’s eternal inheritance; we have also seen that the phrase is used to describe the spiritual kingdom of the church. It remains only to show that the kingdom of heaven also describes the kingdom of Christ and that this entails 1) Christ’s government over earth’s nations, including judgment of the living and the dead, 2) that this reign is from the right hand of God in heaven, and 3) Christ’s dominion began as a matter of law at his ascension, but was not possessed as a matter of fact until Jesus put his enemies beneath his feet at his second coming in A.D. 66-70. 

1.       Christ’s Government over Earth’s Nations

It is sometimes supposed that language saying “all peoples, nations, and tongues” would serve Christ merely refers to the universal call of the gospel, and that men of all nations would convert to Christ. However, Christ’s kingdom can in no way be limited to the church; all men are subject to his rule. That Christ is king and governor over earth’s nations is attested by many passages of scripture.  

“Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Ps. 2:8, 9  

Here we see that Christ rules the nations with a rod of iron, and dashes to pieces the kingdoms of those that refuse and rebel (cf. Rev. 2:27; 12:5). This language tracks closely that of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the Stone smiting the image, breaking it to pieces, showing that more than the spiritual kingdom of the church is contemplated there. It was not the church that broke in pieces the Roman power; Christ accomplished this in the events of A.D. 66-70. It was Jesus putting his enemies (the Jews and Romans) beneath his feet that opened the way for the church to grow into “a great mountain filling the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35). Another passage showing Christ’s government over the nations is Dan. 7:13, 14, where Christ received dominion over earth at his ascension: 

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Dan. 7:13, 14 

This is a coronation passage, parallel to Psalm two, above. In case there seems to be an ambiguity in the nature of the kingdom and dominion given to Christ, it is shown in the verses following, where Nero (the “little horn”) is destroyed and world dominion becomes Christ’s and the saints: 

“But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Dan. 7:27 

Here we see that the dominion possessed by Rome was taken from the ”little horn” (emperor Nero) and given to Christ, and that by virtue of Christ possessing world dominion, the saints obtained dominion, too. A final passage describing Christ’s rule over the world before moving on is Psalm 72:8-11: 

“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.”  

The dominion described here includes his enemies; hence, more is involved than the church. Christ’s kingdom is over earth and its nations. When we consider passages like these from the perspective of Jews living under Roman rule, it is not difficult to see why they supposed that the Messiah would be a national liberator who would vanquish Rome, and lead Israel to world power like the glory days of Solomon. However, they greatly mistook the case. Although Christ would save his people from the political oppression of their enemies, sin and death were far greater enemies, and it was these Jesus was principally concerned to destroy. Moreover, the promised salvation of God’s people did not belong to Israel alone, but was common to all men who come to Christ in faith. Since the gospel was universal in nature, the national institutions of the Old Testament would all be cast aside as obsolete, allowing Christianity to overtake the world. And since Christ was king over all men and nations under heaven, it was imperative that he reign from heaven. This brings us to the next section. 

2.       Christ Reigns from Heaven

Jewish belief that Messiah would be a national liberator was based in part upon the assumption that Christ would reign from earthly Jerusalem upon David’s throne. This stems from a misreading of prophecies about Christ. For example, in a very famous passage, the prophet Isaiah mentions Christ seated upon David’s throne: 

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of host will perform this.” Isa. 9:6, 7

Another familiar passage, which we have looked at before, mentions Zion as the place of Christ’s throne: 

“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” Ps. 2:6 

It is not difficult to see how Jews living before the Christian era would have expected Christ to rule on David’s throne from earthly Jerusalem (Zion). However, this mistakes the case. David’s throne was, in reality, the Lord’s throne in heaven, which temporarily had been given to men to reign over national Israel upon earth. When the Israelites asked for a king to reign over them, God told Samuel that the sons of Israel had, in fact, rejected God as their king: 

“And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” I Sam. 8:8; cf. 12:12, 17 

Thus, both Saul and David, and all who followed them as kings in Israel sitting upon David’s throne, in reality, sat upon the throne of the Lord. Thus, when Solomon was anointed king, David rejoiced to see Solomon it upon his throne (I Kings 1:27, 30, 35). Yet, scripture specifically states that Solomon in fact actually sat upon the Lord’s throne:

 “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.” I Chron. 29:23 

Removal of the throne of the Lord to earth was provisional until Christ came, when it would be returned to heaven. Thus, the place of Christ’s throne in “Zion” actually refers to God’s habitation in heaven. Psalm two says God set Christ upon his holy hill of Zion. Yet, Paul cites Psalm two in reference to Christ’s resurrection (Acts. 13:33). Thus, the holy hill of Zion in this prophecy refers to heaven, not earth at all. In Psalm three, David says God heard his prayer out of his holy hill:  

“I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.” Ps. 3:4  

Did God hear David from heaven, or from earthly Jerusalem? From heaven, of course! Zion and the temple were patterns and copies of God’s habitation in heaven, from which Moses was instructed to make the tabernacle and temple on earth (Ex 25:40). Thus, Habakkuk sets God’s temple in heaven over against the inhabitants of earth: “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab. 2:20). But David places God’s temple in heaven: “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Ps. 11:4). Thus, God’s temple, throne, and holy hill all have heaven in view, and are specifically named as the place of Christ’s reign. If there were any doubt, Psalm one hundred-ten settles the issue:

 “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Ps. 110:1  

Here scripture expressly states that Christ would rule from God’s right hand in heaven. Several New Testament passages describe this as being fulfilled in Christ’s ascension to heaven (Acts 2:33; Heb. 10:12, 13). When Jesus told his disciples shortly before his ascension “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), he alluded to his receipt of the kingdom and dominion. Peter said Christ “is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (I Pet. 3:22). What this means for us is, that even though we do not see Christ seated upon David’s throne reigning from the heavenly Zion, we are told that it is an accomplished fact and may trust it implicitly. 

3.       The Kingdom came in Power at Christ’s return in A.D. 66-70

We have seen that Christ’s reign over earth’s nations is from heaven. Jesus received this kingdom and dominion as a matter of law at his ascension and coronation. But it was not his as a matter of fact until he put his enemies beneath is feet in the events of A.D. 66-70. The case is analogous to Herod the Great, who sailed to Rome where he was made king by the Roman senate, but was three years defeating his enemies and bringing his kingdom into subjection. Herod received the kingdom as a matter of law from the Roman senate in the winter of 39 B.C., but it was not until the summer/fall of 36 B.C. that he subdued his enemies and made the kingdom his as a matter of fact. We believe scripture shows a similar pattern was true of Christ.  

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the nobleman who went into a far country to “receive a kingdom and to return.” But his citizens sent a message after him, saying, “We will not have this man reign over us.” When the nobleman returned having received the kingdom, he had his enemies, who would not have him reign over them, slain before him (Lk. 19:11-27). This parable was told by Jesus at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, because the people and disciples supposed that the kingdom of God would immediately appear. The point of the parable was that the kingdom would come only after Christ’s ascension to heaven and his return (second coming) to put his enemies (the Jews and Romans) beneath his feet. Thus, when instructing the disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said  

“So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass way, till all be fulfilled.” Lk. 21:30, 31 

Here the coming of the kingdom is expressly tied to the fall of Jerusalem, not Pentecost or any other event. In Dan. 7:24-27, the coming of the kingdom is tied to defeat of Nero. This is because the events of A.D. 66-70 were when Jesus put his enemies beneath his feet: Nero perished; the Roman empire was thrown into a series of civil wars knows as the “year of four emperors,” and Jerusalem was destroyed. Other passages showing that the kingdom came in these events include the epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews alludes to the nearness of Christ’s coming when he stated that Jesus very shortly would come in wrath upon his enemies and to save his people from their persecutors: 

“For yet it is a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Heb. 10:37 


“‘Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.’ And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Heb. 12:26-28 

Here we see the coming of the kingdom is associated with the eschatological “shaking” of heaven and earth. “Shaking the heavens and earth” refers to the over throw of nations and civil governments as Christ took up his reign and put his enemies beneath his feet. This may be seen by consulting Haggai, who the writer of Hebrews quotes: 

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet, once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts…I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horse and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword of his brother.” Hagg. 2:6-7,21, 22 

This eschatological shaking is referred to in the gospel of Mark as the kingdom coming in power:

“And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”

It was then that Christ sat upon the throne of his glory and judgment of the living and dead began, and has continued ever since (Matt. 25:31-46, II Tim. 4:1; cf. Matt. 16:27, 28). Christ therefore is Lord of the living and dead, and rules the nations with a rod of iron. This does not mean the nations do not rebel; the very scriptures that predict Christ’s rule state the nations will rebel. But Christ rules them with an iron rod and chastens those that resist by visiting them with wars, famines, and other calamities, always guiding history for the advancement of the church and gospel.


The kingdom of heaven is used three different ways in scripture: 1) The habitation of God and the place of the saints eternal rest; 2) the spiritual kingdom of the church; and 3) the dominion Christ received over earth’s nations and peoples at his ascension, but which he put beneath his feet at his second coming in A.D. 66-70.

[1] Tertullian, On Baptism 1

[2] We believe Nebuchadnezzar was a type of Christ, similar to Solomon, in his rule over all earth as absolute monarch. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom thus served as a foreshadow and adumbration of Christ’s kingdom.

[3] III Macc.1-7

[4] I & II Macc.

[5]  Dio Cassius, LIII, ii-xii; Loeb ed.

[6] Thomas Marris Taylor, A Constitutional and Political History of Rome (Metheun & Co., London, 1889), 464.

[7] Among the events named by Daniel, in addition to his three and a half year persecution of the saints, that allow us to identify this as Nero is the three horns (provinces/client kingdoms) that were “plucked up” (rebelled or attempted to break from the empire) before the little horn (Dan. 7:8), but were subsequently subdued (Dan. 7:24). These three provinces or client kingdoms were Britain, Armenia, and Syria.   Suetonius summarizes them, saying, Nero’s reign was marked by “a disaster in Britain, where two important towns were sacked and great numbers of citizens and allies were butchered; a shameful defeat in the Orient, in consequence of which the legions in Armenia were sent under the yoke, and Syria was all but lost.”(Suetonius, Nero, XXXIX; Loeb ed.)

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