Pt-3, The nearness of the kingdom and entry into it Matthew 3:1-3, 4:17
John’s ministry was conducted in the Desert of Judea, barren and rugged land west of the Dead Sea. His message was forthright and had two parts: (1) a soteriological aspect, repent, and (2) an eschatological aspect, for the kingdom of heaven is near. The concept of a coming kingdom was well known in OT Scriptures. But the idea that repentance was necessary in order to enter this kingdom was something new to them and became a stumbling block to many Jews. They thought that as children of Abraham they would automatically be granted entrance into Messiah’s kingdom. John’s message, however, was that a change of mind and heart (μετανοεῖτε, “repent”) was necessary before they could qualify for the kingdom. They did not realize how far they had drifted from God’s Law and the requirements laid down by the prophets (e.g., Mal. 3:7-12).
The eschatological aspect of John’s message provokes questions. What was John preaching? He announced a coming kingdom, which simply means “a coming rule.” This rule was to be heaven’s rule: “the kingdom of heaven.” Does that mean God would then begin to rule in heavenly spheres? Obviously not, for God has always ruled over heavenly spheres since Creation. John must mean that God’s heavenly rule was about to be extended directly to earthly spheres. God’s rule over the earth had drawn near and was about to be instituted through the person of the Messiah for whom John was preparing the way. No one hearing John preach asked him what he was talking about, for the concept of Messiah’s rule over the kingdom of earth was a common thread in Old Testament prophecy. The requirement for that institution, however, was that the nation repent.