What does “the kingdom of God is at hand” mean?

BibleAsk Team

The Kingdom of God Is at Hand

“The Kingdom of God is at hand” is a phrase that has been used often in the Scriptures with specific reference to the coming of the Messiah and the end of the world.

The First Coming of Christ

The gospel of Matthew says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17 also Mark 1:15). The words “the Kingdom of God is at hand” refers particularly to a promised time (Matthew 13:30; 16:3; 21:34; 26:18; Luke 19:44; John 7:6; Romans 5:6; Ephesians 1:10)—in this case to the first coming of the Savior and the establishment of His kingdom.

Jesus’ announcement, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand,” was the same as John’s message (Matthew 3:2). The people understood it as a proclamation that the Messianic kingdom was about to be established. In the popular thinking, as indeed in John’s time, this involved the setting up of an earthly kingdom for the Jews and the following victory over all their enemies.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry this misconception of the worldly kingdom remained and was not eventually corrected in the thinking of Jesus’ disciples until after the resurrection (Luke 24:13–32; Acts 1:6, 7), even though through His parables Christ had frequently instructed that the kingdom He had come to establish was, to begin with, a spiritual kingdom (Matthew 4:17; 5:3; 13:1–52).

In the days of Christ, some, at least, knew that the prophecy of Daniel was coming to an end. Paul wrote, “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son” into the world (Galatians 4:4). When Jesus began His ministry, the time was ready for starting His kingdom. Christ’s declaration, “The time is fulfilled,” pointed in a specific way to the prophecy of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9:24–27, near the end of which “Messiah the Prince” was to “confirm the covenant with many” and “be cut off.”

For more on the seventy weeks prophecy, check the following link:

The Second Coming of Christ

The phrase “the kingdom of God is at hand” also refers to the second coming of Christ (Mark 13:33; Luke 21:8; Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 1:3). Some, who are filled with doubt, say that since the resurrection many years have passed, yet Christ has not come. So, how can we say the kingdom of God is at hand?

The truth is that the second coming of Christ is near to all regardless of what period of time they live in. For when a person dies, the very immediate event he will face is the Last Judgement. In death, people sleep in their graves with no consciousness of time. To the dead, thousands of years may pass but they are not aware of it. Since a believer can face death at any time, he needs to be always ready (Matthew 24:42). In that sense, the kingdom of God is a hand to all.

For more on the state of the Dead, please see The Intermediate State.

The Need to Be Ready at All Times

Jesus admonished His followers, “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes” (Luke 12:35-40).

To illustrate the necessity of remaining alert, Jesus gave six parables: the Porter (Mark 13:34–37), the Master of the House (Matthew 24: 43, 44), the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (Matthew 24: 45–51), the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1–13), the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30), and the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25: 31–46). Believers are not to await their Lord’s second coming while doing nothing. They should be seeking to cleanse their souls by obedience to the truth, and work for the salvation of others.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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