Repent for the kingdom has COME near
This morning I was reading Matthew 4. A chapter I’ve read dozens of times and probably heard preached dozens more. I came to verse 17, a verse I’ve read tons and heard, again, more times than I could count. I’ve seen it on cardboard signs and heard it shouted into megaphones and at crowds. Maybe you’ve heard it before…”Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It may be one of the most abused passages in history after reading it this morning. People use it now in a more condemning, harsh, “turn of burn” sense.
But I read the newest version of the NIV this morning, and they made a tiny, subtle, change. That change, however, makes a big difference. It says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” I looked at some other translations, and found come is used in the NRSV. The NASB and KJV say “is at hand.” Only the NIV 84 and NLT use “is.” This is significant, and I think come or at hand are the most appropriate. Why, you ask?
Because Jesus is speaking.
He IS the kingdom, so therefore the kingdom had come. It WAS at hand. We use it in the form that it’s close, as in almost come, in today’s culture. The truth is, however, that the kingdom has already come. Jesus Christ is the kingdom, the Messiah, the savior. And those who came to Jesus, I mean really came, repented and followed him.
This verse starts and ends with Jesus. We can scream till we are blue in the face for people to repent because the kingdom is near. But that would be false. What would be better is if we start living our lives like the kingdom has come…which it has. And people who see Jesus, who are exposed to his greatness, they repent because they can’t help to. No one has to tell them to do it. They just do because to be in the presence of Christ is to know what is holy. It is to taste the kingdom. And it will bring you to your knees and make you never want to turn away again.
Today I repent, and am thankful, that the kingdom has come near.