Let’s read Matthew 3:1-3, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND!’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight’” (NKJV). After John was imprisoned Jesus also preached the same message, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND’” (Mark 1:14-15). Later, the Lord Jesus referred to this same truth in Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: ‘Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND.’”

We often call John the Baptist the “Forerunner of Christ” for it was given to him to prepare the people of Israel to receive their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was indeed the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 where the prophet spoke of one would be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD.” We saw in Matthew 3:1 that John literally preached “in the wilderness of Judea” and that his main message we to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Most of the Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming kingdom that was promised to King David long ago. We read of that promise in 2nd Samuel 7:12-13, “When your days are fulfilled…I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I WILL ESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM. He shall build a house for My name, and I WILL ESTABLISH THE THRONE OF HIS KINGDOM FOREVER.” This had a limited and a partial fulfillment in David’s son Solomon, but the “everlasting kingdom” will be fulfilled in David’s GREATER SON, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Jesus Christ was born, Israel’s Messiah (David’s greater son) had come! Matthew 1:1 declares, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.” Because of this John, Jesus and the apostles of Christ went throughout the land of Israel proclaiming, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In essence they were saying, “The long awaited kingdom is now NEAR because the King is HERE!” Sadly, their message fell on deaf ears, for most of Israel rejected the message and their Messiah. We read of this in John 1:11, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Instead of welcoming Jesus Christ with open arms, they “hated Him without a cause” (Psalm 35:19 with John 15:25) and eventually had Him crucified.

The offer of the kingdom was a legitimate offer. If Israel had received the Lord Jesus as their King He would have established His kingdom, but with their rejection of Him the kingdom has been put on hold. In the meantime the gospel of the grace of God (i.e. the GOOD NEWS of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection resulting in salvation for lost sinners) is going out to the entire world (see Mark 16:15 &20). God is now calling out a heavenly people who make up THE CHURCH (see Acts 2:38-47; 15:1-14; and Colossians 1:21-27).  When the last person is saved to complete the Church, God will resume His dealings with Israel and return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords to set up His kingdom in power and glory (see Romans 11:25-32, Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31 and Revelation 20:1-6). Thus the kingdom, which was offered to Israel and rejected at Christ’s First Coming, will ultimately be established.  (381.1)  (DO)