Matthew 4:17. “From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Two things today: The word repent; and the misconceptions about what Jesus meant by the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The word repent in this verse encompasses the ideas of exercising the mind, comprehending, understanding; to consider, think, understand; to think differently or reconsider (from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Our use of the word today usually means to turn around and walk the other way, which is consistent with the meanings in Strong’s. It is a matter of changing one’s thinking. Contrary to the way we typically think of repentance in this age of grace, it did not refer to salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, which obviously had not yet taken place. It was a call to turn back to the ways of God, which much of Israel had forsaken–including the so-called religious leaders, who were later accused of laying heavy burdens on the backs of the people.
And why should the people repent? Because, said Jesus, the kingdom of heaven was at hand. What did He mean? There is much controversy about this, and some of you may not agree with what I’m about to say. That’s ok. Just please, if you choose to comment, be kind and let your words be always with grace, seasoned with salt (Col. 6:4). Please don’t try to use my blog to teach your position, if you have a blog of your own.
When Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, He was saying the He, the King, was standing in their midst to establish that Kingdom. He never said nor taught of a kingdom within them. That is a concept developed by those who do not agree that these words could have both a present and a future meaning. Those who teach this position believe that God’s kingdom is presently in us and among us through the presence of the Holy Spirit in all believers.
If that were so, then I think this old world would be in a lot better shape than we see today. The Kingdom of Heaven will be ruled and governed by the Lamb; He will bring a time of complete peace in the world. That certainly is not true today. You and I are not the Kingdom of Heaven; neither is the Church. That is something yet to come.
Jesus continued the message that John the Baptist had preached; but soon He went on to other teaching, when He begins to speak of His own sacrifice and the good news of the gospel of grace. You can read more about the coming Kingdom of Heaven in II Thess. 1.
This Kingdom of Heaven is a dispensational term, and refers to Messiah’s kingdom on earth, offered by both John and Jesus (Matt. 5:2; 4:17; 10:7). It was rejected and so was postponed until Christ comes to set up the kingdom (Matt. 11:12, 20-24; 27:22-25, Luke 19:11-27; Acts 1:6-7; 3:19-26). So much more could be said about all this. For our purpose here, I ask you to remember that this is the gospel written to the Jews to present Christ as Messiah; that there are often near-future and far-future meanings to prophecy; and that no one can say that the present conditions in this world are anywhere close to the peace and beauty described in prophecy and that will exist during the reign of Jesus Christ on earth.