Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I can’t help it. When I read this verse, when I hear, when I think about it, I often tear up. I’m not 100% sure why that is. It might be because it used to trouble me because I didn’t understand it. It might be because I now do understand it and it is overwhelming. Either way, I want to share with you what it means to me.
The Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God in the other Gospels) is more than Heaven itself. God’s glorious Kingdom is more than even I can comprehend with my finite mind. However, to me, the Kingdom is wherever Christ’s followers are. It is whenever we join together in His name for the good of something bigger than ourselves. It is however God purposes us to do His work. It is whatever needs to be done by His Body (the Church).
See, the Kingdom is not here or there. It is not what we do or what we don’t do. It’s not what we eat or drink. Rather it is us, yielding to God’s Holy Spirit working in us to do His work. It is made manifest in us (in Paul’s words) as righteousness, peace and joy.
As we are connected to Jesus and abide in (a fancy term for live in, operate in/through) Him, we will produce fruit. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Bible also says that we are the Body of Christ, we have the Mind of Christ, and that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This is all about the Kingdom. His Kingdom, of which we are called to be ambassadors.
So… When Jesus says, “Repent,” He simply means “change your mind.” If you change your mind you change your direction. Jesus also said that to be able to see (perceive) the Kingdom you must be “born again” – you must become like a newborn baby, willing to forsake what you thought you knew and relearn spiritual truths (Kingdom concepts).
He goes on to say, “… for the Kingdom of Heaven,” which we already discussed, “is at hand.” It’s at hand…? What does that even mean? How can all that we just discussed be “at hand?” It’s so simple it hurts my heart that so many are blind to it…
It’s here! Now!
Some translations say that the Kingdom is “in your midst.” It’s around you. It’s in all believers of Christ. It is at hand… It is so close you can touch it; just reach out and grab it!
That’s what it means to me. Being able to be used by God, to accomplish His purpose, to live a life of destiny, to know Him and His nature, to be nurtured by Him as any parent would care for a newborn… It is available here and now. Change your mind; Reach out and accept what has already been purchased for each and every one of us.
By “purchased” I am referring to Christ’s self-sacrifice. His (innocent) Blood paid the price for all that would call upon His name to be saved.
The word that has been translated “saved” in most Bibles is the Greek word sozo. It literally means: to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, from injury or peril, to save a suffering one [from perishing] (i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health), to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue. Sozo is a Kingdom concept, not a just a word that means you won’t go to Hell – sure, that’s part of it, but how would the Kingdom be at hand if we were all just waiting around, suffering through this existence, waiting to go to Heaven.
The Kingdom is at hand. It is now. It is near.
All of us that are “in the Kingdom” are royalty: sons and daughters of the King. We are heirs. We don’t have to wait for the King to die (not that He can or will), but we walk in our inheritance now! Just as Paris Hilton doesn’t have to wait for her family members to die off to start spending money, we don’t have to wait to walk in what has been purchased for us.
There are no religious “dos” and “don’ts” to follow – any changes that need to be made come with time for those that stay connected (to Jesus, not a building). It is all about acceptance: accepting what Christ did for you, accepting your new identity, accepting correction from Him, accepting the challenges He gives you, and accepting others as they are (even if they are not in the same place, or on the same pace, you are).
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Change your mind/your direction, all that you need or will ever need is right in front of you, reach out and grab it… And don’t ever let go.