“Heaven is a place on earth”, so go the lyrics of the Belinda Carlisle song, but what is heaven/the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God?
Jesus begins a number of stories with, “The kingdom of God is like …” While some believe that references to the ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in the Bible refer to different things, it is clear that both phrases refer to the same thing. The phrase “kingdom of God” occurs 68 times in ten different New Testament books, while the “kingdom of heaven” occurs 32 times and only in the Gospel of Matthew.
Mark and Luke use “kingdom of God” where Matthew frequently uses “kingdom of heaven” in their accounts of the same parable. Jesus makes no distinction between the two terms but seems to consider them synonymous. In Luke 17:21, instead of saying what the kingdom of God is like, Jesus says, “For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’ This text is cited by the Jewish Barber in the Charlie Chaplin film ‘The Great Dictator’, one of my favourite films, in what is often heralded the greatest speech ever made. Sadly, the speech is as relevant today as it was when it was made: “I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, Gentile, black man, white.” I would recommend you view the whole speech on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8HdOHrc3OQ. It’s only 4 minutes long. A version with modern images overlaid is also available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2G2prfR2Sc
A question I have is whether we put too much emphasis on spreading Christianity and not enough emphasis on the extension of God’s kingdom? After all, what did Jesus come to do? Perhaps you’d like to ponder that and what the term ‘kingdom of God’ means to you.