“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” — Matthew 3:1–2 (NASB95)
Awhile back I taught a class on “The Kingdom of God/Heaven,” and I am now turning those studies into a devotional series. We certainly are familiar with the verses here. John the Baptist began his preparatory work preaching out in the desert. He was preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah. Why? Because the coming of Jesus, the Son of God/Man, requires preparation. Jesus, the Messiah, is not from this world. He comes from a different kingdom — the kingdom of heaven. Stop! Just for a minute contemplate the fact that there is a reality other than the one in which we are living. Above and beyond the kingdoms of this world is a kingdom in which God resides. Is it possible that things don’t revolve around the world in which we live, but rather around the eternal kingdom from which Jesus comes? No wonder preparation is required. How do we prepare for a divine kingdom? How do we prepare our hearts and minds for a heavenly kingdom? John’s answer is simple: repent.
Please note that the coming of this heavenly kingdom is not just a possibility but an inevitability! John was telling his listeners (and us) that we need to be ready because the heavenly kingdom IS coming. Now that we understand the inevitability of His arrival, why is repentance the means by which to prepare? Why not a shower and our best clothes? Repentance means “to turn around.” It demands an about-face. It implies that the direction of our life is wrong and needs to be changed in preparation for the Messiah to come from His heavenly kingdom. John’s plea was a desperate one because if the Messiah comes and we aren’t ready, we will miss it. We will miss our opportunity to enter into His eternal kingdom. We will be stuck living in the sin-filled brokenness of this earthly kingdom in which we now reside. The message is that the kingdom of God is “at hand” (NOW!). There is no time to delay.
Isn’t it amazing that all of that was going on while most people on the planet were oblivious to the fact that there was a heavenly kingdom? As a matter of fact, aren’t we guilty of living most of our days oblivious to the fact that there is another kingdom claiming us as citizens? Today, let’s agree to spend some serious time throughout the day contrasting the two kingdoms in which we live. Let’s remember that we only reside in this one. Heaven is our real home.