The Kingdom Calling: Matthew 4:17
“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” Matthew‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭
The basic message of Jesus related to the kingdom of heaven. He focused on this same theme in the Lords Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and just prior to His ascension in Acts 1:3. I am not sure of the difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. Jesus seemed to use them interchangeably. Both seem to relate to the tangible presence of God.
But there are a few key insights to be gleaned from Matthew 4:17. First, this verse closes with the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Some translate “at hand” as “near.” What I find interesting is that it is a verb that describes motion.
Notice the Lords Prayer captures the same thought; “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Again we see motion. It’s the idea of the presence of God coming and engulfing planet earth in the same way as in heaven.
Jesus tied this motion to repentance. He seems to indicate that the movement of the kingdom of heaven toward earth calls for repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Certainly, there is coming a time when Jesus will literally set up His Kingdom on earth as pictured in Revelation 20:1-6 and rule for 1,000 years.
But there is also a sense in which the body of Christ is called to live out and bring kingdom values and dynamics to earth in this present age. I believe this relates to the presence of God among us collectively and even as individuals.
Isaiah 55:6-7 captures this thought when he said; “6) Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” Then in verse 7 he also ties it to repentance. Notice, motion is again pictured in this context. What is significant is that he applies this “nearness” or movement to individuals. As individuals we each have motion relative to God.
The individual application seems to turn the proposition around. Rather than saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”; the emphasis would be “If you want the kingdom of heaven to be near; repent!”
In this understanding, we are the ones that move. According to 1 John 1:3-10, we can move closer to God and His presence. Our fellowship with Him deepens as we walk in the light as He is in the light. But if we allow sin and darkness in our lives, we move away from His presence.
This motion might be a matter of perspective. For centuries, people thought the sun was in motion around the earth. When the theory that the earth was actually in motion around the sun was first presented, it sounded heretical but proved to be true.
The same is true of the presence of God in our life as believers. As the source of light, God does not move. We move closer or further from His presence based on the purity of our walk with Him. Keep in mind, we am not talking about salvation, we are talking about fellowship with God.
We are called and invited to live and walk in kingdom dynamics in this life. We can grow in our faith and deepen our walk with God. We can walk in the light as He is in the light. We are invited to abide in the presence of God. As we move deeper into His presence, we start experiencing Him working in our lives on earth as He does in heaven. We move deeper and deeper into kingdom principles and dynamics.
But notice, according to the emphasis of the message of Jesus, this is based on repentance. Or, as Isaiah said, it is based on turning from our ways and our thoughts and embracing His ways and His thoughts.
Repentance is an action that becomes a life process. We put off our old self and put on the new self “in Christ.” As we do this, we “move” into kingdom living and abide in the presence of God. The subject of experiencing kingdom ways and dynamics in our lives as believers is huge in Scripture, but we need a basic starting point.
So let’s get started with a question; “What is the basic motion in your life?” Are you moving closer to God or drifting away from Him? Are you going deep in the Spirit or are you staying shallow? By faith are you growing in kingdom values or is your life the expression of fleshly and worldly values? As a Christian are you walking in the Spirit or living in the flesh? Jesus made repentance the starting point for moving into an ever deepening walk with God.
If your sincere answer to these questions exposed you as moving away from God, take immediate steps to change the motion of your life related to God. Jesus said to start with repentance.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global