At the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry immediately after His baptism, His message to the world was:
Mark 1:14, 15, “14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
Later on in the history of the Gospels, Jesus sent the 12 disciples with the below explicit command:
Matthew 10:5-7, “5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
While He preached the Kingdom of God to be at hand and commanded His disciple to likewise preach, Jesus also said another thing that seemed to contradict His initial message:
Luke 19:11, 12, “11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”
So, the kingdom was clearly at hand and at the same time not at hand!
The apparent contradiction can be cleared when we understand that the basis of Jesus’ parable above was the thoughts of the people. One of the main ideas of the Jews concerning the Kingdom of God was that it would restore temporal power to the Jews. This is what Jesus was addressing when He spoke in Luke 19:11, 12. The restoration of the temporal Kingdom to God’s people was yet far away.
Consider another statement in Acts:
Acts 1:1-3, 6-8, “1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
After His resurrection, the burden of His message was still the Kingdom. His disciples asking whether the temporal power would be restored to Israel received the answer that “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power”.
So then, what is this Kingdom of God that Jesus was talking about?
Instead of giving a straight answer at this point, let us examine some other verses that will give us more pointers and help us understand this issue.
Matthew 11:11-13, “11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”
Luke 7:24-28, “24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Luke 16:16 “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
In these verses, Jesus is plainly speaking about John. He says that as at the time then present, there had arisen no greater prophet than John the Baptist and that of all men born of women, John the Baptist was the greatest.
Then Jesus follows up His statement with the assertion that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than this John the Baptist!
It therefore follows that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than the greatest outside the Kingdom of God!
He also says that John was the first person to preach that the Kingdom of God was at hand.
In Mark 1:15, Jesus preached that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”
This kingdom is the Kingdom of everlasting righteousness.
Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
As per Mark 1:15, what time was fulfilled?
The prophecy of Daniel 9:24(read verses 21-27 for the context) states:
Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
The time fulfilled was the end of the prophetic 70 weeks in which transgression, sin and iniquity were to be done away with and everlasting righteousness brought in. Proceeding from verse 25 to 27, we understand that Messiah the Prince was the one to do all this.
This was the long awaited Promise which the Fathers had been yearning for.
Acts 13:32,33, “32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”
Hebrews 11:13,39,40, “13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
The coming of Christ brought into light something that was before non-existent. The coming of Christ made the least of those who lived in that dispensation to be greater than the greatest of those who lived in the preceding dispensation.
When you read Hebrews 11, Enoch and Elijah (who were translated without tasting death), Abraham (the father of faith) and Moses (the great prophet of Israel) are all mentioned among others as men who obtained good reports through faith. Yet the Bible says that these “received not the promise” “God having provided some better thing for us”.
We have received something better than all the prophets in the old covenant, including John.
And this is because of the coming, death and resurrection of Christ.
This enables us to be born into the family of God.
2 Peter 1:4 “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Receiving the promise which the fathers waited for makes us partakers of the divine nature!
This was not possible for the patriarchs.
The prophecy of Revelation 12 clearly explains when this event, the setting up of everlasting righteousness, happened.
Revelation 12:9-11, “9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
The casting out into the earth of the great dragon (Satan, Devil) brought about “salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ”
What then was this casting out?
John 12:31-33, “31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.”
Therefore, the death of Christ effectively cast out Satan into the earth. And this brought about “salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ”.
Daniel says that the death of the Messiah would “finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”.
Thus, the kingdom of God, the setting up of everlasting righteousness would be done on this world.
Therefore, men in sinful flesh will be able to live perfectly sinless lives.
This is because men would receive the sinless life of Christ which alone is our victory.
2 Corinthians 4:10,11, “10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11 For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
Colossians 3:4 “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
We literally receive the victorious life of Jesus.
Receiving this life makes it impossible for us to sin. As it was before impossible for us to be righteous (Romans 8:7), so in the new dispensation it is impossible for us to sin.
1 John 3:9 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”