“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
(Matthew 3:1-2 ESV)
The coming of Jesus meant the coming of salvation, which is why we celebrate his birth each year. And it was for this reason that, as John the Baptist began his ministry, it was with a sense of urgency. He proclaimed to the people that they were to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
Jesus began his ministry with the very same message. We see in Matthew 4 that, after his baptism, and after his temptation in the wilderness, he too urged the people to repent. He urged them to do so because the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
The NIV translates the last phrase of this passage “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” And this helps us to understand the message of both John and Jesus. The phrase written by Matthew means that the kingdom of heaven has come near, it has drawn near, or that it’s approaching.
God’s salvation was not something in the distant future. It wasn’t far off. It wasn’t out of reach or unavailable to the people. The Savior himself was in the world. And, for this reason, it was time for the people to repent. It was time for them to turn from their sin and to receive the salvation that was in their midst.
This is also the message that we are bringing to the world today. And it carries with it the same sense of urgency. It does so because God’s salvation is at hand. It does so because, through faith in the Messiah, salvation from sin and death is available to us.
It isn’t something that’s far off or out of reach. It’s not something that’s merely a possibility. God’s salvation is here, it’s available to us, right now.
It also carries a sense of urgency because we know that, one day soon, the Lord will return. Although we don’t know the timing of this event, we are assured in Scripture that it will be soon. And, when he does so, the day of grace will come to an end.
As we rejoice in the salvation of God this season, may we also share this sense of urgency. Knowing that the kingdom of heaven has been opened to us, knowing that salvation is available here and now, may we earnestly proclaim this truth to all. May we proclaim it to the people of our own community and nation. But may we also continue in our efforts to carry it to the ends of the earth.