The Kingdom of God

Our aim for this page is to briefly outline some of the basic considerations on the subject of the Kingdom of God as it was taught by Jesus.

So much of Jesus teaching to his listeners, the religious leaders and his disciples was about what he called the Kingdom of God. Over eighty verses are listed below which all mention the Kingdom; sometimes the 'Kingdom of God', sometimes the 'Kingdom of Heaven' and sometimes 'His Kingdom' - all meaning the same thing. In John's Gospel where there are fewer references, the term 'eternal life' is often used in an equivalent manner. Evidently the Kingdom was the fundamental teaching of Jesus and we must conclude it was of supreme importance to him. In fact it was the master passion of his life, the fundamental conception of all His teaching and all His doing. It was the language he used to preach the Good News.

The title is used in the Lord's Prayer but other than that, it is not very commonly heard in Church preaching. So what do we understand by the term 'Kingdom of God'? Simply, it is the realm over which God reigns. However we must look deeper than that to try to understand the issues and implications. It is clear that many of Jesus listeners had a very different understanding of the Kingdom than Jesus himself.

The teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God

1. Introduction

The extent of Jesus' teaching indicates the subject is vast. We can do little more here than introduce the subject and try to present a balanced picture. From the teaching of Jesus it appears that his conception was that the Kingdom:

From these brief points it can be seen that the subject demands careful consideration.

2. Chronological Overview

The following is an attempt to describe the Kingdom through the chronological story of the Bible.

  1. The Kingdom of God (man living in harmony under the loving dominion of God) existed on earth before the fall
  2. Man's disobedience was a rejection of that Kingdom and in effect a statement that he would not live under God's dominion.
  3. The relationship with God was broken and the consequences were far-reaching and harmful.
  4. However God wanted to re-establish the good relationship with man because that was what he made man for and he knew that was in man's best interest.
  5. God embarked on a plan of redemption.
  6. But man's opposition to God grew threatening God's plan of redemption so God restarted life by destroying the earth but for eight people and two of the animals.
  7. Again evil increased and man, incited by Satan, attempted to establish his own dominant Kingdom.
  8. God intervened again and through language separated man into nations.
  9. God continues his plan of redemption by planning to select and establish a people (nation) for himself who will live for him and he will be their King. They will be living according to God's ways, a Kingdom for God and God would bless them with good food, health, peace and prosperity. In this way they would be a witness to all the nations of the earth that living under the dominion of God is best for man.
  10. God chose Abraham and when his descendants were in slavery in Egypt brought these people, the children of Israel, out of slavery using the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. In this way God showed his superiority to reign as a King over a man (Pharaoh).
  11. Despite some highlights, Israel generally failed to keep their side of the Kingdom: they didn't like God's rules and they grumbled.
  12. Eventually they symbolically reject God and ask for a human King to reign over them.
  13. Some Kings did what was right in the eyes of God but most did what was evil. God split Israel into two. God judged the sins of Israel, they suffered and were conquered but God kept sending prophets to tell them to repent and turn to God.
  14. After many years of relative silence from God, when the nation of Israel is under Roman occupation, God sends his Son Jesus.
  15. Jesus is announced by the words: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom."
  16. When Jesus began his ministry he kept speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God, or his Kingdom).
  17. Jesus told his listeners that they must enter the Kingdom and the way to do this was by repentance and believing in him (man's action) and by spiritual rebirth (God's action).
  18. The Jews however thought that the Kingdom meant establishing Jewish identity, nationality and heritage and release from occupation by the Romans. They had mis-understood the Old Testament because the Kingdom was really about living for God and under his rules - a holy nation. Exodus 19:5,6 - Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from amongst all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.
  19. So much of Jesus ministry is trying to teach his listeners what his Kingdom is really like. They were familiar with the title but didn't have the correct understanding.
  20. Jesus takes the title 'Son of Man' which identified himself in Jewish teaching as the Messiah who would establish his Kingdom.
  21. Jesus performs many miracles showing that he is the Messiah from God. He shows them how good his Kingdom will be.
  22. Some of his listeners become his disciples and followers but most and including, importantly, the religious leaders reject Jesus message, reject his claim to Kingship and reject his Kingdom.
  23. Jesus declares that the Kingdom can only be established by the way of the Cross. The necessity for the cross was created by the nature of God which is love, truth, holiness and righteousness. It was necessary for people who are outside the Kingdom to be allowed in enter - it was God's means of dealing with sin.
  24. Eventually Jesus stops offering his Kingdom to the religious leaders and makes a very significant statement in Matthew 21:43 'Therefore I tell you, God's Kingdom will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation producing its fruit.' What this verse means is that the opportunity for Israel to accept the Kingdom (and thereby receive the God's blessings of the Kingdom and be a blessing to the Gentiles by passing on the message of God's good and righteous rule) is being taken away. But that God's Kingdom will be given to another nation (a Gentile nation) so that God's blessing will still pass out to all people. This other 'nation' is to be the Church.
  25. It seems that the very last opportunity for the Jewish leaders to repent was when they heard Stephen's address recorded in Acts Chapter 7. This they also rejected and had Stephen put to death. From that moment the Church was scattered out from Jerusalem into Judea, Samaria and beyond. Gentiles and Jews may enter the spiritual Kingdom on the same basis: repentance and belief.
  26. Like Israel, the Church is not to be thought of actually as the Kingdom but rather as an instrument in furthering the fulness of God's Kingdom by its witness to Jesus and his teaching and to encourage Israel to accept Jesus as Messiah. Jesus taught that the Church would face conflict in its work: Godlessness versus Godliness - the weapons against the Church are ridicule and persecution; the weapons of the Church are love and truth.
  27. The question then arises has God completely finished with Israel as a nation? Romans Chapter 11 addresses this issue and tells us that the answer is "no".
  28. The Bible also teaches that the current age (the Church age or the age of grace) will not continue indefinitely but neither will the Church be defeated. Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and Revelation all teach that God will dramatically intervene to bring the current age to an end. At the end of these future interventions, sin and all opposition to God and his Kingdom will be judged and removed and then God's Kingdom will be finally and fully established. This teaching concerning future times is not very easy to interpret and as a result not all Bible teachers and students have exactly the same understanding. The fact remains however that the Bible does teach that Jesus will return, prove that he is the rightful and perfect King, judge and sentence all who oppose him and his rule, and then establish his new and renewed Kingdom. God's Kingdom will be based on righteousness, holiness, truth, love and all the good attributes which belong to God and will be a Kingdom where there is no suffering, no pain, no sadness.

3. The Bible Verses

First Recorded References: Cannot see
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Jesus answered him, "Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can't see God's Kingdom."
John 3:3

First Recorded References: Cannot enter into
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Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into God's Kingdom."
John 3:5

Commencement of Preaching: At hand
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From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, "Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
Matthew 4:17

Commencement of Preaching: At hand
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Now after
John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of God's Kingdom, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and God's Kingdom is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News."
Mark 1:14, 15

Course of Preaching: Good Tidings of
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But he said to them, "I must preach the good news of God's Kingdom to the other cities also. For this reason I have been sent."
Luke 4:43

Manifesto: Theirs is
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"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 5:3

Manifesto: Yours is
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He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said, "Blessed are you who are poor, God's Kingdom is yours."
Luke 6:20

Manifesto: Theirs is
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"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 5:10

Manifesto: Least in … Greatest In
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"Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 5:19

Manifesto: Enter Into
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"For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 5:20

Manifesto: Thy Kingdom come
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"Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Matthew 6:10

Manifesto: Thy Kingdom come
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He said to them, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
Luke 11:2

Manifesto: Seek Ye
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"But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well."
Matthew 6:33

Manifesto: Seek Ye
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"But seek God's Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you."
Luke 12:31

Manifesto: Enter Into
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"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 7:21

Course of Preaching: Sit down in ... Cast forth
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"I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the children of the Kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 8:11, 12

Course of Preaching: Sit down in … Cast forth
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"There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God's Kingdom, and yourselves being thrown outside. They will come from the east, west, north, and south, and will sit down in God's Kingdom."
Luke 13:28, 29

Sending out of the Twelve: At hand
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As you go, preach, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!'
Matthew 10:7

Course of Preaching: In the Kingdom
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"Most certainly I tell you, amongst those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than
John the Baptiser; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he."
Matthew 11:11

Course of Preaching: In the Kingdom
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"For I tell you, amongst those who are born of women there is not a greater prophet than
John the Baptiser, yet he who is least in God's Kingdom is greater than he."
Luke 7:28

Course of Preaching: Suffereth violence
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"From the days of
John the Baptiser until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."
Luke 7:28

Course of Preaching: Come upon you
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"But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then God's Kingdom has come upon you."
Matthew 12:28

Course of Preaching: Come upon you
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"But if I by God's finger cast out demons, then God's Kingdom has come to you."
Luke 11:20

Special Instructions: The mysteries
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He answered them, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them."
Matthew 13:11

Special Instructions: The mysteries
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He said to them, "To you is given the mystery of God's Kingdom, but to those who are outside, all things are done in parables, ..."
Mark 4:11

Special Instructions: The mysteries
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He said, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of God's Kingdom, but to the rest in parables; that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.' "
Luke 8:10

Special Instructions: The mysteries
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He said, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of God's Kingdom, but to the rest in parables; that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.' "
Mark 8:10

Special Instructions: The word of the Kingdom
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When anyone hears the word of the Kingdom, and doesn't understand it, the evil one comes, and snatches away that which has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown by the roadside.
Matthew 13:19

Special Instructions: The seed cast
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He said, "God's Kingdom is as if a man should cast seed on the earth, ..."
Mark 4:26

Special Instructions: The seed cast
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He set another parable before them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, ..."
Matthew 13:24

Special Instructions: Mustard seed
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He set another parable before them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; …"
Matthew 13:31

Special Instructions: Mustard seed
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He said, "How will we liken God's Kingdom? Or with what parable will we illustrate it? It's like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, ..."
Mark 4:30, 31

Special Instructions: Mustard seed
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He said, "What is God's Kingdom like? To what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and put in his own garden. It grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the sky live in its branches."
Luke 13:18

Special Instructions: Leaven
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He spoke another parable to them. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, until it was all leavened."
Matthew 13:33

Special Instructions: Leaven
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Again he said, "To what shall I compare God's Kingdom? It is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened."
Luke 13:20, 21

Special Instructions: The children are good seed
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He answered them, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the children of the Kingdom; and the darnel weeds are the children of the evil one.
Matthew 13:38

Special Instructions: Purification
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The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and those who do iniquity, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:41, 42

Special Instructions: The Father's Kingdom
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Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Matthew 13:43

Special Instructions: Like treasure
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"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field."
Matthew 13:44

Special Instructions: Like a man seeking pearls
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"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
Matthew 13:45, 46

Special Instructions: Like a dragnet
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"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet, that was cast into the sea, and gathered some fish of every kind, which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach. They sat down, and gathered the good into containers, but the bad they threw away."
Matthew 13:47, 48

Special Instructions: Like a householder
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He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been made a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out of his treasure new and old things."
Matthew 13:52

Confession of Peter: Keys of the Kingdom
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"I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven."
Matthew 16:18, 19

Instruction of Disciples: His Kingdom
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"Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom."
Matthew 16:28

Instruction of Disciples: His Kingdom
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He said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see God's Kingdom come with power."
Mark 9:1

Instruction of Disciples: His Kingdom
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"But I tell you the truth: There are some of those who stand here who will in no way taste of death until they see God's Kingdom."
Luke 9:27

Instruction of Disciples: Enter into
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"Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 18:3

Instruction of Disciples: Humble are greatest
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"Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 18:4

Instruction of Disciples: Worth entering maimed
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"If your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out. It is better for you to enter into God's Kingdom with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire, ..."
Mark 9:47

Instruction of Disciples: Likened unto
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Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants.
Matthew 18:23

Instruction of Disciples: Fitness for
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But Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce God's Kingdom." Another also said, "I want to follow you, Lord, but first allow me to say good-bye to those who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for God's Kingdom."
Luke 9:60-62

Sending of Seventy: Has come near
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Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, 'God's Kingdom has come near to you.' But into whatever city you enter, and they don't receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust from your city that clings to us, we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that God's Kingdom has come near to you.'
Luke 10:9-11

To the Disciples: To invest
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"Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don't grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn't fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys."
Luke 12:32

To the Pharisees: To enter forcefully
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"The law and the prophets were until
John. From that time the Good News of God's Kingdom is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it."
Luke 16:16

To the Pharisees: Not by observation
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Being asked by the Pharisees when God's Kingdom would come, he answered them, "God's Kingdom doesn't come with observation; …
Luke 17:20

To the Pharisees: Is among you
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… neither will they say, 'Look, here!' or, 'Look, there!' for behold, God's Kingdom is within you."
Luke 17:21

To the Disciples: For the sake of
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"For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it."
Matthew 19:12

To the Disciples: For such as these
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But Jesus said, "Allow the little children, and don't forbid them to come to me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like these."
Matthew 19:14

To the Disciples: For such as these
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But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said to them, "Allow the little children to come to me! Don't forbid them, for God's Kingdom belongs to such as these.
Mark 10:14

To the Disciples: For such as these
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Jesus summoned them, saying, "Allow the little children to come to me, and don't hinder them, for God's Kingdom belongs to such as these."
Luke 18:16

To the Disciples: Receive like a child
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Most certainly I tell you, whoever will not receive God's Kingdom like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.
Mark 10:15

To the Disciples: Receive like a child
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Most certainly, I tell you, whoever doesn't receive God's Kingdom like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.
Luke 18:17

To the Disciples: Hard to enter
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Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into God's Kingdom."
Matthew 19:23, 24

To the Disciples: Hard to enter
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Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, "How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into God's Kingdom!" The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter into God's Kingdom! It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into God's Kingdom."
Mark 10:23-25

To the Disciples: Hard to enter
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Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into God's Kingdom! For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into God's Kingdom."
Luke 18:24, 25

To the Disciples: To leave for
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He said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for God's Kingdom's sake, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life."
Luke 18:29, 30

To the Disciples: Like a man hiring labourers
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For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who was the master of a household, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.
Matthew 20:1

To Chief Priests and Elders: Go into
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Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into God's Kingdom before you.
Matthew 21:31

To Chief Priests and Elders: Taken and given
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"Therefore I tell you, God's Kingdom will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation producing its fruit."
Matthew 21:43

To Chief Priests and Elders: Taken and given
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"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a wedding feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come."
Matthew 22:2, 3

To a Scribe: Not far from
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When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from God's Kingdom." No one dared ask him any question after that.
Mark 12:34

To Scribes and Pharisees: Shut up the Kingdom
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"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don't enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter."
Matthew 23:14

To the Disciples: Good News
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This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

To the Disciples: Signs
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Even so you also, when you see these things happening, know that God's Kingdom is near.
Luke 21:31

To the Disciples: Like virgins going out
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Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Matthew 25:1

To the Disciples: Inherited
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Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in.
Matthew 25:34, 35

To the Disciples: Passover will be fulfilled
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"He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God's Kingdom."
Luke 22:15, 16

To the Disciples: Shall come
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"But I tell you that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's Kingdom."
Matthew 26:29

To the Disciples: Shall come
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He said to them, "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many. Most certainly I tell you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it anew in God's Kingdom."
Mark 14:24, 25

To the Disciples: Shall come
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He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, "Take this, and share it amongst yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until God's Kingdom comes."
Luke 22:17, 18

To the Disciples: kingdoms and My Kingdom
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But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Luke 22:28, 29, 30

To Pilate: Not of this world, not from here
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Jesus answered, "My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn't be delivered to the Jews. But now my Kingdom is not from here."
John 18:36