“The time is fulfilled…the kingdom is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
In each of the gospels, there is a first recorded utterance in the public ministry of Jesus. John and Luke provide interesting complements: “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38), and, “Why were you looking for me?” (Luke 2:49).
Matthew and Mark also complement one another. They record the crux of the Messiah’s message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), and, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
(Granted, there are recorded utterances of Jesus in Matthew prior to this, first pertaining to his baptism (3:15), and then during the temptation, but 4:17 constitutes the first proclamation of his public ministry).
These two phrases, “The kingdom is at hand,” and “The time is fulfilled” are Divine insights to the working and purpose of God in history. Understanding God’s Messiah, and his kingdom, is the key to historical understanding. Without this, history is fluid, superficial, and self-serving. With this, the true meaning of history is concrete, eternally relevant, and glorifying to the sovereign Lord of all creation.
“The kingdom is at hand” means precisely what Jesus stated: his kingdom, over the which he would reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16), was coming to fruition in the lifetime of those who heard him.
This truth concurs with the prophetic visions of numerous Old Testament prophets, including: Daniel (who interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s divinely ordained dream, Daniel 2:31-45), Isaiah 2:2-4, Micah 2:2-4, Jeremiah 31:31-34, and Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:14-21, and others. Consider these additional proofs of the kingdom’s advent:
- Jesus said some standing with him would not taste death till they witnessed the kingdom come into existence (Mark 9:1ff).
- Jesus said a new covenant was being made in his blood (Matthew 26:26-28), and that the two emblems – unleavened bread and fruit of the vine – would commemorate such, and be taken by disciples in the kingdom (Matthew 26:29).
- He said his kingdom would not come as an observable phenomenon like other kingdoms (Luke 17:20-21).
- He promised to give his disciples the keys of it (Matthew 16:19-20).
- The Hebrews writer said that the New Testament saints received it (Hebrews 12:22-28).
- Paul said that those redeemed by Christ’s blood had been delivered from darkness and into the Lord’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14).
- John claimed that he was in the kingdom, along with other saints (Revelation 1:9).
There can be no doubt but that the king and the kingdom the prophets promised, for which John the Baptizer paved the way (Isaiah 40:3), which Jesus pronounced, and which was preached by the apostles first in Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-48; cf. Acts 2:1-36), is the body of Christ, the church, to which God adds all the saved (Acts 2:47).
But what does the phrase, “The time is fulfilled” mean? We begin to answer this in part 2 of this series, which can be found here.