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Posted by on Jul 20, 2014 in Biblical Theology, Greek NT, New Testament, _NakedBible | 34 comments

Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God

I recently got an email that read as follows:

I am studying with Koinonia Institute and have recently encountered a teaching that is making me feel very uncomfortable. I am being a Berean about this teaching and am therefore looking for some help from you if you can possibly provide some aid.
The teaching is that 1) The Kingdom of God is a separate entity from The Kingdom of Heaven. Additionally, we are being taught that 2) the Bride of Christ is only a remnant of the Body of Christ, thus we need to 3) work out our sanctification in order to inherit “the Kingdom.” Which kingdom, I am not sure. It is being claimed that our inheritance of salvation (justification) is blood bought and cannot be lost. I agree. However, the teaching that we must work for a second inheritance to rule and reign with Christ is not sitting well with me. I do believe that we are to allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, but I do not believe that we will “lose” our inheritance. Do you? I do believe we can earn or lose rewards–but not an inheritance. And finally, 4) a lot of Christians will be disappointed when they get to heaven because they will have forfeited their inheritance. Thus Scripture tells us there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the God will wipe away every tear.
Pardon my sigh. All I could think of was here we have yet another exegetically baseless “insight” that turns into some new doctrine. I thought readers might be interested in my reply (it’s short – promise).
The phrases kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are interchanged in the synoptic gospels (e.g., Matt. 3:2 = Mark 1:15 / Matt 11:11 = Luke 7:28), so a distinction is bogus. The OT and Second Temple antecedent literature does the same. In Daniel, for example, there is talk of God’s kingdom interchanged with “heaven rules” and similar phrases. In a nutshell, the phrase “the kingdom of heaven,” is a Jewish circumlocution (roundabout way of speaking) for “the kingdom of God” in order to avoid unnecessary use of the word “God” (cf. Mark 11:30–31; Luke 15:18, 21). See here and here. The one by Davies and Allison is more technical but much shorter.
One cannot commit a sin that results in the loss of salvation. Salvation is not about moral perfection, hence it cannot be lost by moral imperfection. That said, those who profess to believe can turn their backs on God and choose another god or no god at all. Election does not rectify this situation, as Israel was elect, but many (most?) of the Israelites fell into idolatry. The key here is to realize that election and salvation are not synonyms. I’ve blogged about that before.
Think of it this way. With respect to Israelites, there are no Israelites in heaven whose loyalty was thrown to another god. Their “profession” means nothing if they were disloyal to Yahweh and worshipped another god (or no god at all). One had to believe in the true God. That belief was shown by spiritual loyalty to him, manifest by refusing to worship any other. Salvation in the OT was about believing loyalty. Same for the NT, since Jesus is this same God incarnate. No one will be in heaven who didn’t believe or who chose another God/Savior/faith. Likewise, there are no believers in Jesus in hell. The issue is believing loyalty directed exclusively at Jesus.This doesn’t resolve the question of people who make professions and then do not believe – as to whether they lost salvation or were never saved in the first place. I consider the question irrelevant. The issue is whether someone believes exclusively in Jesus or doesn’t. I don’t really care about their history. Whether someone had a profession or not prior to that question being raised is irrelevant. The solution is the same: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12).

          

34 Comments

  1. I wonder if some of the confusion here comes from the 2 judgments that God will make of all people. The first is the judgement that you describe above: faith in Christ as savior or rejection of him. This is the judgement that determines salvation or examination. Many Christians tragically neglect the other judgment, where God rewards the elect who persevered, bore much good fruit in the kingdom and proved to be good and faithful stewards of the gifts God has entrusted to them. As democratic and egalitarian as we would like heaven to be, it does seem like there will be a hierarchy (albeit a perfect system where each member will lead and be led in total holiness).

    Any thoughts, Mike? Is my biblical theology way off?

    • *examination=damnation (auto correct must not be aware of Puritan theology)

      • funny!

    • I’m not sure on what basis the phrases would be divisible to connect to the separate judgments.

  2. Read Jonathan Pennington on this. Has a more nuanced take. Published PhD and papers.

  3. I have always wondered about those two phrases, glad you cleared that up Mike.

    • Just referencing the work of NT scholars (from some years ago).

  4. Thanks for posting this and the two articles. I casually mentioned the interchangeable nature of the two phrases in an online discussion somewhere, and was jumped all over by followers of a certain teacher, considered sacrosanct, who then led down this same path in the email above.

    I was flabbergasted, and quickly realized debating was pointless – attacking a teacher’s ideas was akin to attacking the teacher, apparently – recalling Paul’s admonition against following one teacher or another, which makes people merely human… missing the point of who we are to follow and what we are presently and destined to. (That’s not to say being under someone’s authority isn’t useful… but considering a teacher’s unique exposition sacrosanct is a form a gnosticism.)

    But anyway, having these resources will be helpful.

    • good – glad to hear it.

  5. I share your view of the kingdom language.

    Reading this gentleman’s letter, some of what he is being taught may be accurate while using invalid exegesis/interpretation and motivation to validate the teaching.

    For example, the teaching “we must work for a second inheritance” while I think in error, may be a flawed way of expressing a valid Pauline doctrine.

    Paul does teach in Corinthians there will be a difference between how our eternity goes “within the eternal kingdom” based on how Christ passes His evaluation on each of us at His bema seat.

    From that perspective, we are wise to have an affinity not just for Jesus’ salvation for us, but, for His guidance in our lives if we want the best eternal outcome, IMO.

  6. Mike,

    Based on the questioners email, I do not believe the second part of the question related to the loss of salvation. In the email, the questioner stated that he or she was taught that Justification (salvation) was blood-bought and secured. The question has to do with the potential loss of rewards in heaven. The writer of the email stated that he or she is taking a course through the Koinonia Institute, the learning program started by Chuck Missler. In recent years, Missler has been heavily influenced by a book titled “The Reign of the Servant Kings” by Joseph Dillow. In brief, the premise of the book revolves around the idea that believers, based on how they conducted themselves here on earth, may loose certain “rights”, rewards and privileges in the eschaton. This may include being “disinherited” or being a resident of the Kingdom of God rather than ruling and reigning with Christ over it. Please do not take this as an endorsement of the doctrine but a clarification to the writers question. The “Reign of the Servant Kings” goes so far as to make a distinction between the “Bride of Christ” and the “Body of Christ”. The Bride of Christ is, for lack of a better word, the spiritual “elite” from among the believers who have received their full inheritance which includes the right to reign with Christ. Again, the book makes a distinction between inheritance and salvation. The writer of the email wants to know if there is any Biblical basis for this distinction and for separating the “Body of Christ” from the “Bride of Christ” into two distinct categories.

    Steve

    • Thanks – given the context you provide, the email makes more sense.

    • Your summary also fits to a tee Nancy Misler’s book. She cites Joseph Dillow as a source.

      My personal take on this two-tiered heaven is that it detracts from the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice.

      Certainly we see a reward system in place in scripture, but an outer darkness with gnashing of teeth for those saved Christians who didn’t quite make the cut at the Bema Seat? That sounds an awful lot like eternal purgatory to me. Not exactly the place I would expect to find those for whom Christ paid the ultimate price to redeem.

      Just my 2 cents.

  7. One more point. The writer of the email mentioned “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Joseph Dillow, in “Reign of the Servant Kings” uses the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 in support of his theory that certain believers will be disinherited in the eschaton without loosing their salvation. Because the word “servant” is used for the the reprimanded servant who is cast into “Outer Darkness”, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, Dillow argues that he is a blood-bought believer. With little supporting evidence, he views being cast into “outer darkness” in this parable as being disinherited. Because of this, the slothful servant regrets his loss of reward and suffers regret: “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Again, I am not endorsing the doctrine, I just wanted to bring some clarification to the questioners email.

    Steve

    • Thanks again; I see no basis for the divisions Dillow describes (body vs bride of Christ) or his interpretation of that parable. Not all reward will be the same, but disinheritance goes too far.

      • No problem. That is the way I see it as well. The New Testament teaches that there will be a gradation of eternal rewards but disinheritance takes it too far. I also see the doctrine of rewards as the linkage that resolves the tension between grace and works. By grace we are saved, by works (empowered by the Holy Spirit) will be rewarded.

        In reading the email questions again, I think part of the problem comes from seeking differences and distinctions in similar phrases where there are none. Phrases like the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. The methodology that sees a distinction and difference between the two phrases is the same methodology that sees a difference between other phrases such as the “body of Christ” and the “bride of Christ”. Starting with that assumption, other assumptions have to be brought into the text such as the re-defining of the “bride of Christ” into a spiritual elite separate from the body.

  8. Ah man, I wonder who it might be from K-House. I hope it’s not Missler, he should know better by now. K-House has a lot of guests and associates now, so it might be one of them. I hope it’s not Missler’s wife. I wouldnt be surprised if they are still teaching the Bible Code.

    • Who knows. I don’t keep up with him or such things.

  9. You failed to address the underlying problem….why is at the Koinonia Institute, when he could be at the Memra Institute. This will save further frustration and emails. :-)

  10. Mike, thanks for that simple yet profound summary of how a believer is Justified…..by belief…ON. My position is that many if not most professing Christians don’t or misunderstand the simple/profound truth of Justification and how this central and most essential doctrine is consistent throughout the OT/NT.
    I believe one of the main reasons for this lack of clarity within The Body is the westernized concept & re-definition of the term Repentance. Sadly, and for reasons unknown to me, fellow believers want to define repentance as “stop sinning” or “turn from sins”. As if they had the ability to do that long enough and well enough to warrant eternal life before a Holy God. It’s just silly. Believing loyalty…..well said.

    • Occasionally, I can say something briefly!

  11. Blog posts like these are interesting as they give me new ideas to research.

    Amateur theologians like Chuck Missler often are guilty of spreading unsupported doctrine.

  12. what is the bible talking about then when the word “disqualified” comes up? Paul was concerned about keeping his body under control lest he be disqualified in 1 Cor 9:27. See:

    1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

    2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

    2 Corinthians 13:6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.

    2 Corinthians 13:7 [ Paul Prefers Gentleness ] Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.

    Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

    The “once saved-always saved” people should ask Judas Iskerioth how well that eternal security business is working out for him…

  13. This kind of thing upsets me.I have listened to the teachings of Chuck Missler for a very long time now.I have also listened to the teachings of many other people that I respect. And… They are not all correct. They don’t all agree. In fact, many are diametrically opposed. But it’s interesting to see how God works… How he may use one misguided principal of one teacher as a springboard to lead you to another if for no other reason because the hermeneutic of the first teacher didn’t quite make sense to your brain.

    Its not my intention to sound like ‘the-most-holier-than-thouest’ – but I am very grateful for all the doctrine that he does have correct, The fact that he is an Amateur theologian, and that he is very public about not always being correct. God used him and Koinania house in my life to greatly broaden my horizons and help me understand The practicality of the Bible.. and in addition lead me to this website as well (where now my horizons sometimes seem to be a blur… Thanks Mike ;)

    I know This IS cliche (and possibly a cop-out) but: We’re all on a journey, folks,and nobody’s got it all right, even when we really think we do. Every one of us are trying to find Him the best we know how.

    It’s my guess that when we finally meet Jesus, we’re going to find out that this life here along with everything else we thought we knew was WAYYYYY more involved and interconnected than what we could have ever imagined.

    Okay… Captain Obvious out.

    • Thanks Captain! :-)

      Missler has been a blessing to many. Regardless of where he’s wrong, he’s one of the few resources out there that help people bored with the pablum they hear in church stay in their Bible.

  14. This has been amazing. Thanks to you all. I am a new and baby Christian. Several months ago I had a life changing experience. Later my wife and I joined a good church and a few months ago we were baptized. We have been reading our Bibles(ESV student Bible) and seeking Bible teachers and learning a lot. We found many to include Mr. Missler and now Mr. Heiser. Mr. Heiser, could you please recommend some materials for thirsty beginners covering the basics and essentials for my wife and I? Thank you.

    • Shoot me an email about this – and put something in the subject line to the effect that the email derives from this blog comment.

      • Thank you

        • you’re welcome!

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