Q. I am currently researching the question if the Kingdom of Heaven and the Church are one and the same. Most Commentaries I read say so. Somehow this does not gel with me.
Reading Daniel 2:43-44 it appears to me that the things revealed to him are incredibly precise up to the first coming of Christ. Then the vision appears to leap to the time of the end. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom…”
Could it be that the terrible beast, the fourth empire, encompasses all the time and empires from Rome on until today, peaking in the ‘Anti-Christ’s’ empire. If so, then the Kingdom of Heaven would be set up when Christ comes to destroy this last chapter of the great and terrible beast.
If this scenario has any validity then the Church can not be the Kingdom, for the Kingdom of Heaven has not as yet arrived on earth, and the ‘kingdom’ parables in Matthew 13 do not address the Church directly, although some of the lessons learned from them apply also to the Church. Can you please shed light on this?
A. You’ve asked a complex question. In the first part Yes, the fourth beast (the Roman Empire) reigns in one form or another until the Lord returns and No, Daniel wasn’t shown the Church in this vision.
In the strictest sense, Daniel’s 5th Kingdom, as he described it in chapter 2, is not the Church. It’s the Messianic Kingdom on Earth where Israel is God’s center piece again. From our perspective it might be called phase 2 of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church will dwell in the New Jerusalem during this time, and is not in view here.
The Kingdom Parables of Matt. 13:1-52 describe Phase 1, the time between the 1st and 2nd comings that Daniel and other prophets didn’t see. It includes the time of the Church but extends beyond the Rapture to the end of Daniel’s 70th Week.
Correctly understood these parables describe Phase 1 of the Kingdom as becoming something it was never intended to be (the Mustard Seed) and infested with sin (the Yeast). It will consist of both Jews (the Treasure) and Gentiles (the Pearl) who although saved by grace will look and often act just like their unsaved counterparts. The saved and unsaved will be allowed to dwell together until the Lord returns to initiate Phase 2 when the Kingdom will be purified in a great judgment. (Wheat & Tares and Net)
These Parables present Phase 1 of the Kingdom in overview form only and make no distinction between the Church and Tribulation believers. As such, they can’t can be used to build Rapture doctrine. The parable of the Wheat and Tares simply says that a purifying judgment will precede the coming of Phase 2 of the Kingdom (Matt. 13:30) while the Parable of the Net explains that surviving believers from that judgment will be ushered into Phase 2 while any surviving unbelievers will be taken away. (Matt. 13:49-50) It points to the Sheep and Goat Judgment.