When Jesus stepped onto the stage of history, He announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand. This was a powerful statement that impacts us all.
In a previous post I discussed how Jesus brought the message that the hope of Israel was about to be fulfilled. All Israel had been waiting for the time when God would be their King. Now here was Jesus, preaching that God’s reign was at hand (Mark 1:14 – 15). What did He mean, “at hand?”
There are two ways Jesus’ statement can be viewed:
1) He could have been thinking in linear terms. In other words, they were now closer to the Kingdom of God than they had ever been. I can think of only one way to respond to that line of thinking.
Every day they lived and breathed they were technically closer to the fulfillment of God’s promise than at any other time. That really would not have been much of a statement.
2) What if He was thinking in spatial terms? What if He was saying the Reign of God was actually within reach? That would change everything! He would be saying they could begin to actually experience God reigning in their midst right then.
When I think of something being “at hand,” the second view is the only one that makes sense. For instance, my laptop is “at hand” (within reach) because I’m typing on it. My barbecue is not “at hand” because it is outside.
How can we know which view is correct?
Jesus made some other statements I think will help to clarify the issue. In Matthew 12 He had cast out a demon and was getting flack from the Pharisees. Notice, however, what He said to them in verse 28.
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. “
I particularly like the way this reads in the New Living Translation.
“But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.”
When Jesus cast out demons, they were actually seeing God exercising His dominion over His enemies. It was Kingdom come!
Look at the instructions Jesus gave the Seventy (or Seventy-two if you prefer) in Luke 10: 9.
“Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
Along with healing the sick they were to announce that the Reign of God had come upon them, or, that they had just experienced God reigning in their midst. Wow!
This was undoubtedly what was behind Jesus’ response to those John the Baptist had sent to find out if He was the One they were waiting for. Notice how Jesus responded.
In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” Luke 7:21 – 22
Every Jew knew the picture Isaiah had painted of what it would look like when God came to reign.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes. Isaiah 35:4 – 7
Now they were seeing it played out before them. God had come and was reigning among them. This clearly confirms what we have been saying. The waiting was over. God’s Reign was near enough for people to experience it. It’s no wonder Jesus insisted that everyone repent and believe the good news! It was time to start living in the Reign.
“Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”