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light of the world would remove its darkness. The ministry of the Lord Jesus here
continued the Baptist's, which had suddenly come to an end through his arrest ordered by
Verse 17 gives the first of the two time periods contained in Matthew's Gospel,
"From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is
at hand". This was identical with the Baptist's message. In 16: 21 we have the same
introductory words, but this time the Lord begins to foretell His rejection and death. In
chapter 4: the nearness of the kingdom is announced but there is no explanation of that
kingdom. In fact in none of the Gospels do we find a detailed explanation of the
kingdom of heaven. It was evident there was no need for such an explanation, for that
kingdom had been foretold in all its glory in the O.T. It was the Messianic kingdom
which had Israel at its centre. If John the Baptist and Christ were revealing another
kingdom, different from the O.T., then it would have been necessary to make this
perfectly clear to their hearers who were Jews, raised up and instructed in the O.T.
G. N. Peters in his Theocratic Kingdom observes:
"The New Testament begins the announcement of the kingdom in terms expressive of
its being previously well known . . . . . the preaching of the kingdom, its simple
announcement, without the least attempt to explain its meaning and nature, the very
language in which it was conveyed to the Jews--all pre-supposed that it was a subject
familiar to all. John the Baptist, Jesus and the seventy, all proclaimed the kingdom in a
way without definition or explanation that indicated that their hearts were acquainted
with its meaning" (1:181).
The nearness of this great kingdom was made real by the coming to earth of the
KING. All that it awaited was the repentance and acceptance of the King-Priest, by
Israel, hence the call to the nation by the Baptist and the Lord.*
[* -- For further details of this most important fact,
see the author's The Kingdom of God in Heaven and on Earth, chapter 5.]
The Kingdom of Heavens and the Kingdom of God.
The phrase, the kingdom of heaven, is found only in Matthew's Gospel where it
occurs 32 times and its sphere is defined in the "Lord's prayer", "Thy kingdom comes.
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6: 10) and further exemplified by the
Lord in the Sermon on the Mount in His quotation from Psa. 37: 11, "the meek shall
inherit the earth" (Matt. 5: 5 and see Psa. 37: 9, 11, 22, 29, 34). Needless to say
this is not equivalent to a kingdom in heaven if words mean anything at all. That there is
a kingdom in heaven, other Scriptures reveal, but we must not import this into
Matthew's Gospel which is most evidently dealing with the Messianic kingdom of the
O.T. This kingdom will be like "the days of heaven upon the earth" (Deut. 11: 21), when
"the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men" (Dan. 4: 25, 26).