THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE KINGDOM
OF THE HEAVENS AND THE MILLENNIUM
The millennium refers to the time after Christ comes again as King to rule the world and before the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 20:4-6). It is divided into two portions: the heavenly and the earthly parts. The earthly portion is the kingdom of Messiah which the Jewish people are expecting, or the "kingdom of the Son of Man" mentioned in Matthew 13:41. It consists of two groups of people. One group is the nations (the sheep in Matthew 25) as the people; the other group is the Jewish people as the priests, leading the people of the nations to serve God, with the earthly Jerusalem as the center (Zech. 8:20-23; 14:16-17; Isa. 2:2-3; Jer. 3:17).
The heavenly portion is the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens, or the manifested kingdom of the heavens; it is also the kingdom of the Father mentioned in Matthew 13:43. All of the believers who are being disciplined in the reality of the kingdom of the heavens today will enter into the heavenly portion of the millennium in the future to enjoy the glory and gladness of the kingdom and reign with the Lord as kings over the nations for a thousand years.
Therefore, the millennium is the period of Christ reigning over the world as King, while the kingdom of the heavens (referring to the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens) is the heavenly portion of the millennium in which Christ and the overcoming saints will reign as kings over the world (Rev. 2:26-27; 20:4-6; 2 Tim. 2:12; Luke 19:17, 19).
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE KINGDOM
OF THE HEAVENS AND THE KINGDOM OF MESSIAH
In the Old Testament the Lord promised the Jewish people that the "Anointed One" that is, the Messiah (in Hebrew "Messiah" means the Anointed One), will come to inherit the throne of David and restore the Jewish nation, that is, the nation of Israel. We can see this in Gen. 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:13, 16; Psa. 2:8-9; 72:1-20; 89:4; 110:2-3; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5, 10; Jer. 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:14-17; Ezek. 21:27; 34:23-24; 37:24, 28; Dan. 2:35; 7:14; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11-12; Zech. 3:8; 6:12-13; 9:9-10.
When the Lord Jesus came the first time, the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to restore His kingdom (Luke 2:25; 3:15; 7:19; John 1:41; 7:27, 41). However, it will not be until the Lord’s second coming that He will restore the Messianic kingdom (Matt. 23:39). The kingdom which the Lord, the Messiah, will restore—the kingdom of Messiah or the kingdom of Israel to be restored in the future (Acts 1:6)—is the earthly portion of the millennium, "the tabernacle of David" which the Lord will rebuild (Acts 15:16), and the kingdom which God has prepared from the foundation of the world for the "sheep" that are to be the people on the earth during the millennium (Matt. 25:32-34). The Lord will sit on the "throne of David" and "reign over the house of Jacob" (the Jewish people, Luke 1:32-33), ruling over the nations on the earth during the millennium (Psa. 2:8; 72:8; Dan. 7:14; 2:35).
Therefore, the kingdom of the heavens is definitely different from the kingdom of Messiah. The kingdom of Messiah is the earthly portion of the millennium; the kingdom of the heavens, that is, the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens, is the heavenly portion in the millennium. The kingdom of Messiah is earthly; the kingdom of the heavens is heavenly. Before the kingdom of the Messiah comes, the kingdom of the heavens, that is the reality of the kingdom of the heavens, is already with the overcoming believers. The kingdom of Messiah is for the Jewish people to be restored in the future and for the Gentiles as "sheep"; the kingdom of the heavens is for the overcomers in the church. The future kingdom of the Messiah is the expectation of the Jews; the future kingdom of the heavens, that is, the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens, should be the expectation of the believers (the overcoming ones). In the kingdom of Messiah, there will be the Jewish people as the priests and the Gentiles as the people; in the future kingdom of the heavens, there are only the kings and not the people. The people to be ruled over by the kings in the future kingdom of the heavens are the ones who will be in the kingdom of Messiah. Therefore, the kingdom of Messiah is the subordinate of the future kingdom of the heavens; the future kingdom of the heavens is the ruling authority of the kingdom of Messiah. The overcomers in the church will reign with Christ for one thousand years in the kingdom of the heavens, ruling over the Jews and Gentiles in the kingdom of Messiah (Rev. 20:4, 6; Matt. 19:28; Rev. 2:26).
(The Kingdom, Chapter 47, by Witness Lee)