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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 3, by Kevin M. Williams

Matthew 3:1-2
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

“The Kingdom of Heaven” is, if you will, a code word for “The Kingdom of God.” The name of the Most High was so sacred, that its use in any form outside of the temple service was strictly forbidden. Only the High Priest knew the correct pronunciation of the Name, and he was only permitted to utter it once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.4

To avoid any possibility of offending the Almighty, they simply avoided saying His Name, or anything that sounded like His Name, at all costs.

The concept of the Kingdom of God is crucial to understanding the Bible. It refers neither to a place nor to a time, but to a condition in which the rulership of God is acknowledged by humankind, a condition in which God’s promises of a restored universe free from sin and death are, or begin to be, fulfilled.5

For many, the kingdom of heaven is something of a paradox. In the New Testament it seems to be “among us” as a present reality and at the same time, it is an unfulfilled, future hope. For many believers the kingdom of heaven is real in their lives, but not fully realized. In the kingdom of heaven there is no death, and under the terms of the New Covenant, believers are spared eternal death. Yet we still physically die. As one Messianic Jewish theologian states it, it’s “the almost, but not yet kingdom.”6

Perhaps this is because on one hand, we are under the spiritual authority of a spiritual being—the Messiah or Lord. Under this spiritual authority, our spiritual lives are to be brought into submission.

But in the physical realm, that which we see and touch, the world around us has yet to come under the rulership of God, a fact that will be remedied when the Messiah returns to establish His throne in Jerusalem, in this physical existence.

On the one hand, we have glimpses of this reality of the kingdom of heaven, while on the other, it remains our blessed hope.

In previous issues of the Pneuma Review, David Burns presents a wonderful treatment on the Kingdom of Heaven. As he rightly states, it is an obscure concept for many western Christians. In our reality of financial independence and prosperity, under our democratic governments and self-determination philosophies, submitting—really submitting—to a Higher Authority is a vague notion.

Yet such submission is precisely the call of John the Baptist, of Jesus, of Paul, and the rest of the apostles. If you take the time to read what these men of Scripture have written or said, you’ll find that the majority of the time they do not discuss “the good news,” as is common among Evangelicals witnessing today, but the “good news of the kingdom of heaven.” “The good news” alone is a concept out of context. It was understood by the authors of our holy writ to be inseparably connected to the “kingdom of heaven.” It is one of the singular contiguous precepts of the entire Bible, from the fall of man in Genesis, to the New Jerusalem in Revelation. God’s desire has always been to establish His authority in the hearts of men and their governments.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The kingdom of heaven is also referred to as the “Age to Come,” the Olam Habah in Hebrew literature. This concept of God’s reality made manifest on earth appears 61 times in the New Testament, making it one of the most repeated phrases or principles of the New Covenant. It would appear to be a doctrine with which God desires His people to become intimately familiar.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2001, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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