“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4:17 King James Version
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 4:17 New International Version
“From that time onward Jesus began to preach this message: Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come close to realization.”
Matthew 4:17 MacDonald Idiomatic Translation
It would seem from reading the accounts of Jesus in the Gospel narratives that Jesus really only preached one message: The Kingdom of God! He talked about the Kingdom of God, he preached about the Kingdom of God, most of his parables were illustrations to show what the Kingdom of God was like! Yet, it has been until only very recent that modern Christianity has paid much attention to the Kingdom of God.
What was Jesus talking about when he referred to the Kingdom of God? Well, there has been much ink spilled attempting to answer that question, but one thing can be certain; most of the time Jesus was NOT talking about a place called Heaven! When he taught his disciples to pray, he didn’t teach them to pray that they would “go” to the Kingdom; he taught them to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” So apparently, in that instance at least, Jesus was not talking about a place, but rather a state of being or situation. Perhaps a hint of what he meant is found in the next statement that is in the appositive position: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” In the mind of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is present or realized whenever and wherever God’s will is being done on earth in the same manner that it is done in Heaven. Well, how is God’s will done in Heaven? It is done perfectly! It is done without any resistance from any other will! It is done completely! So apparently, the realization of the Kingdom of God is connected to the will of God.
In doing some research on the subject, I discovered the term “kingdom of heaven/God” as it is used in the Synoptic Gospels by Jesus, does not refer primarily to a place (although sometimes it does). Most of the time, Jesus was NOT talking about “going to Heaven!” Note this entry from the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon of the New Testament: “It is generally a serious mistake to translate the phrase ‘the kingdom of God’ as referring to a particular area in which God rules. The meaning of this phrase in the NT involves not a particular place or special period of time but the fact of ruling. An expression such as ‘to enter the kingdom of God’ thus does not refer to ‘going to heaven’ but should be understood as ‘accepting God’s rule’ or ‘welcoming God to rule over.” Wow! Do you see that? We’ve been preaching, teaching, sweating and snorting, trying to prepare people to “go to the Kingdom” and all the while, the primary message of Jesus was and is about the Kingdom coming to us!
Now in order for us to properly process this, we must do what Jesus said in the text, we must repent! However, we must also understand that in the text, the word “repent” doesn’t mean what we have traditionally thought it to mean! In this text, the word “repent” means “to change one’s mind, or to change the way you think.” We must quit thinking of the Kingdom of God as only being a place called Heaven that we will inhabit one day in the future. The Kingdom of God is “now and later!” It is present and not yet! It is a place, but it is also a state of being! It is God’s country where the streets are paved with gold, but it is also God’s rule and authority in our lives right now!
I shall be posting a series of messages to investigate this further, but I want to end this post with this observation. For many years, it seemed to me that the Old Testament and the New Testament were two different stories until I got some understanding about the Kingdom of God. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is really just a story about a kingdom lost and a kingdom re-gained! The message of Jesus was and is, “I’ve got good news for you! What Adam lost is now regained! The Kingdom of God is at hand!’