Today there is much confusion about the Lord's Church, The Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God. Some teach that the "Kingdom of Heaven" is the church on earth before the second coming of Christ and the "Kingdom of God" as the calling together of the saints when Christ returns. Some use the word "church" to mean a building for meeting, or a denomination, or the name of any group that chooses to call itself by this name. To help understand what the Holy Bible teaches about this subject let's examine everything carefully. (I Thess. 5:21.)
We, as Christians, believe that the scriptures teach that the church of the New Testament and the Kingdom are one and the same . We believe that it commenced on earth with the ministry of Christ and His chosen apostles, and will continue throughout eternity. Isaiah 55:9 says, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." God made man, and knows the capabilities of the human mind, and for this reason He used inspired men to write in the words of men so that all men may know and fully understand His Word. God would not allow His Son to die for a plan of salvation that man could not understand. I Cor. 14:33 tells us: "God is not a God of confusion." So why is there confusion today?
When man starts teaching his own thoughts and ideas, a false doctrine is born. There have been false teachers as long as there has been a church. One of the most widely taught and believed views of the kingdom is the false doctrine of Millennialism . It first appeared early in the second century and teaches that after the resurrection the Kingdom will be set up on earth. Early church historians, among whom were Eusebius and Dionysius, as well as others, named the false teacher Cerinthus an evil, wicked person, as the one responsible for this teaching. The historian Polycarp, who as a young man was a frequent companion of John, the author of the book of Revelation, quoted him as calling Cerinthus "the enemy of truth."
Most people today who believe these false doctrines aren't bad people. In fact, many are our dear friends and members of our families. But, they have been taught these things by people they trust and have believed them for so long they have come to accept them as truth. We should all be like the brethren of Berea in Acts 17:10-11 and "examine the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
There are many places where the preachers of the New Testament told of the coming of the Kingdom. John the Baptist, in Matt. 3, came preaching that the "kingdom of heaven is at hand," or near. Jesus told the chosen twelve in Matt. 10:7 to go preach that the "kingdom of heaven is at hand." In Matt. 16:18-19, church and kingdom are mentioned interchangeably by Jesus in referring to the same people.
Let us now see what the prophets wrote concerning the coming church or kingdom . Keep in mind that "mountain" is often used symbolically in referring to the church. Isaiah writes in chapter 2:2-3: "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 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." In I Tim. 3:14-15, the apostle Paul shows the fulfillment of that prophecy: "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Again, the inspired prophet Daniel says in Dan. 2:44, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." (The kings he referred to were the kings of the Roman Empire who ruled during the days when the church or kingdom was begun.) The inspired writer of the book of Hebrews shows that Daniel's prophecy has been fulfilled , and that he and his brethren are in that kingdom. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:28-29.) The apostle Paul, in Col. 1:12-14, wrote "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath transplanted us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even for the forgiveness of sins." In 2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter tells us "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." In Matt. 16:19, Jesus told Peter, "I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." In this statement, Jesus signified that the people composing the church would be the same people composing the kingdom . Notice that Jesus told Peter He would give him the keys, plural, of the kingdom. In the Bible a key was a symbol of access to something that would otherwise be shut out.
Let us now turn to the second chapter of Acts. Here we read of the beginning of the church or kingdom. This is one of the most important chapters of the entire Bible to all who wear the name Christian. This chapter fulfills the prophecies of both Isaiah and Daniel. It happened at both the time and the place both men prophesied it would. In verses 36-38 we read, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" Then Peter said unto them, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Verse 41: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Verse 47 then tells us that the Lord then "added to the church daily such as should be saved." Peter had now used the first KEY. So that their hopes could be fulfilled, Peter used the second KEY, as he explained in 2 Peter 1:5-11: "and beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Therefore then rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The use of the first key was concerned with telling men what to do to be saved - the second key was concerned with telling them what to do to keep saved. Finally, Peter closes with this warning in chapter 3:17-18: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."