When Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth as an itinerant rabbi and prophet of Israel in the early 1st Century A.D., the theme of His teaching, to which He returned again and again, was the kingdom of God. A synonymous term He also used was the kingdom of heaven. It is obvious from the way His teaching is recorded in the four gospels of the New Testament that he used these two terms interchangeably. This is quite understandable given the fact that during those days “heaven” was often used as a circumlocution for God – a more indirect, and therefore respectful, way of referring to Him. In fact, such periphrasis is still used in some circles today, as when some people say, “Heaven help us all” meaning, of course, “God help us all.”
Therefore, whenever you read or hear these terms you should be aware of their equivalence and not be confused as if Jesus was somehow changing subjects. Be aware also that He sometimes simply used the word kingdom by itself, and, again, His disciples caught His meaning because this was just another synonym.
The terms, however, are not completely redundant, as each sheds a little light on the other. For example, if we know that the kingdom of God is also the kingdom of heaven, we are reminded that God’s rule is from unseen places, for heaven is the invisible dimension of creation. Thus we can discipline ourselves to expect God’s actions to “come out of nowhere.” When we pray, we may not see any immediate hope, but subsequent to prayer, an answer can come from a direction we never anticipated. We can also remind ourselves that just because we do not immediately see signs of God’s judgments in the earth, it does not mean they are not on the way. Therefore, we should live in such a way that we are not inviting His judgments but rather inviting Him to hold back or else deliver us from them!
Conversely, if we know that the kingdom of heaven is also the kingdom of God, we can be reminded that nothing in the unseen realm can ultimately harm us. There are good spirits and there are evil spirits, but no spirit can be more powerful than God. Therefore, we can know that no matter what happens to us in life, we will always overcome through God’s love for us.
As we have seen, to say that “God rules in the affairs of men” or to say “Heaven rules in the affairs of men” is to say the same thing. Therefore, put your trust in that dimension of life that you cannot contact with your five physical senses. Rely on your inner knowing. You might not be able to sense God’s presence through sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste – but you can know that you know that you know that He loves you and is always there to guide you to do the right thing. And doing the right thing is the key to maintaining your confidence toward Him.