Why does Matthew use this phrase when no other writer does?
Matthew focused his Gospel on the kingship of Jesus. From his opening genealogy, Matthew attempts to show that Jesus is the legitimate heir to the throne of David (1:1-17). The temptation of Jesus by Satan was an attack on his lordship (4:1-11). The visit of the Magi is a visitation of foreign kings to worship the new king (2:1-12). The beatitudes open and close with the Kingdom of Heaven. 5:17-20 show Jesus fulfilling the law. Only the lawgiver could do that. Then he proceeds to expand on the law in 5:21-48. Only a king could do that.
It logically proceeds that if Jesus is king, then he must be king of something.
While it can be argued from Matthew that Jesus is the rightful king of Israel, Jesus himself never said or did anything to claim that kingship except for riding a donkey when entering Jerusalem (21:1-11). From his own words Jesus laid claim to a kingship far greater than simple Israel. Elsewhere, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). The very end of Matthew’s gospel has Jesus making a direct claim about the scope of his kingdom. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
Matthew’s (and Jesus’) usage of the phrase Kingdom of Heaven does more than provide a claim to kingship. It is actually a claim to deity. Consider, Jesus is essentially saying that he is king of Heaven. Only God can make such a claim.
In studying Matthew’s usage of Kingdom of Heaven there are other questions we should ask to get deeper in his purpose. We should ask,
1. Where is the Kingdom of Heaven?
2. Who is in the Kingdom of Heaven?
3. What are the rules in the Kingdom of Heaven?
4. What are the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven?
The answers to these and other questions are readily accessible in the text. But this is not my goal for this treatment.
So what do we do with this information? First, we must recognize that Jesus makes a kingship claim over our lives. When he says all authority has been given him it literally means, ALL authority. Our role is submission through love. Secondly, we must recognize that his lordship includes our culture. We should be active in bringing biblical truth to the public square. Why? Because he is Lord of everyone. I don’t meaning changing laws or posting Commandments on courthouse walls (though that wouldn’t be bad). I mean that we must bring the person of Jesus into the public square that people might come to know him wherever they are. Let me give a practical example.
During my ten years living in Mongolia we had a team of Mongolian missionaries we employed whose job it was to take a collection of Bible movies into countryside communities so that people could be exposed to the Bible and the story of Jesus. The first thing the team would do would be to go the the city governor’s office, introduce themselves, and tell them about hosting the movies in their town. Very often the local governor would ask for a private screening just for him and his staff, which they happily obliged.
How do we take the story of Jesus to our leaders? How is Jesus exercising his kingly authority in your life? Are you obeying?
Jesus Christ is king.