What’s the Difference Between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven?

Mustard Seeds

Two Kingdoms?

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all include references by Jesus to the kingdom of God. However, Matthew also includes references to the kingdom of heaven. This has led many theologians to draw a distinction between the two.

The kingdom can be a confusing topic in the first place. But we make it even more confusing by trying to separate the various terms used.

Yet Matthew did record two different terms for the kingdom, so it is worth looking into why that might be. Several factors need to be considered.

Translating the Words of Jesus

First, we must remember that the words of Jesus recorded in the four Gospels are all translations. Jesus would have spoken primarily in Aramaic, not Greek.

Furthermore, these translations include paraphrases. The Four Evangelists were more concerned with communicating Jesus’ message than they were his precise words, and they accommodated for their intended audiences.

If we were talking about modern English translations, we would refer to these as “dynamic equivalence.” You could say that the translations of Jesus’ words in the Gospels are more akin to the NIV than the NASB. But that’s okay in this case, because they had the Holy Spirit inspiring their translations and preserving them from error.

To the Jews

Second, we must remember that Matthew wrote his account of the Gospel specifically for a Jewish audience.

I previously discussed the superstition that prevented the Jews from speaking the name of God, Yahweh. They were also rather sensitive about using the title for God.

Therefore, Matthew replaced many instances of God with heaven in order to avoid offence. The two mean the same thing.

The kingdom of God is that over which God reigns. Since God reigns from heaven, the same message is communicated by the kingdom of heaven.

Parallel Passages

Just in case you’re not convinced, there is a way to be absolutely certain that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are the same thing.

Many of the passages where Jesus used the phrase in Matthew have parallel accounts in the other Gospels. By comparing them, we can see definitively that these two phrases are one and the same.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17, NASB)

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15, NASB)


“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11, NASB)

“I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28, NASB)


“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” (Matthew 13:11, NASB)

“To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables.” (Mark 4:11, NASB)


“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.” (Matthew 13:31, NASB)

“How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? It is like a mustard seed.” (Mark 4:30–31, NASB)


“Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14, NASB)

“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14, NASB)

“Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16, NASB)


“Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23–24, NASB)

“How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” … “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23–25, NASB)

That last one is particularly telling, as Matthew actually switched between using heaven and God in the same passage, showing quite clearly that they are interchangeable.

Update: Want to learn more about the kingdom of God? I wrote a three-part series of posts on it. See the following:

What Do You Think?

Have you considered this difference before? Would you agree that the two phrases are the same?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends.