Advent 2 – “Repent For The Kingdom Of God Is At Hand” – Matthew 3:1-12 – 12/8/12

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A. Daniel
In the 2nd chapter of the book of Daniel, we read that the prophet Daniel, who was in captivity in Babylon along with most of the nation of Judah, was brought into a meeting with the king of Babylon. The King had had a particularly disturbing dream that he wanted someone to interpret for him, and that was something that Daniel was known for.

You can read the details of the dream which is recorded in Daniel chapter 2 if you’d like. In summary, the king’s dream was about how the kingdoms of this world would rise and fall, and ‘world-powers’ would come and go. Obviously something that the king of a world power like Babylon might have dreams about.

As Daniel comes to the end of his interpretation of the dream, he says this in verse 44, “And in the days of those kings, (those kings and kingdoms that rise and fall,) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people.” (Dan. 2:44).

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Daniel sees a kingdom that is established by the “God of heaven, that shall never be destroyed.” Nor will it ever be overcome by another kingdom and “left to another people.”

B. John
600 years later, another prophet by the name of John, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, “came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “AT HAND” means that ‘the time has fully come.’ The Kingdom that Daniel foretold was about to happen. “The God of heaven,” was about to establish a His Kingdom, the “kingdom of heaven.”

C. The Kingdom of heaven
The King of the Kingdom of Heaven is God Himself. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. And His Kingdom stretches from one end of the world to the other. And the citizens of His Kingdom consist of all those who will live under His rule over their lives.

Which means, “the kingdom of heaven” is not “up there” and “far, far away.” The “Kingdom of Heaven” is NOT JUST “in heaven.” The “Kingdom of Heaven” exists in this world. It’s not a Kingdom that is yet to come. It exists “in those days,” and “in these days” and in “the days to come.”

Which mean that “the kingdom of heaven” is IN THE WORLD but it is not OF THE WORLD. Kingdoms of this world have geographical boundary lines and their own laws and their own rulers who come and go. And some ‘kingdoms of this world’ take over other kingdoms and some cease to exist altogether.

The “kingdom of heaven” exists in this world, but it has no geographical boundaries. It is truly an ‘international kingdom.’

And citizens of this kingdom are of many different nationalities and languages and races. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven is everyone who lives under the RULE AND REIGN of the God of heaven.

So just to be sure we’ve got this straight, in heaven, everyone is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven – but on earth, not everyone is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. On earth, everyone is a citizen of an “earthly kingdom,” but not everyone is a citizen of the “kingdom of heaven.”

II. At Hand
“In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

We shouldn’t get the idea that when John says, “the kingdom of heaven is AT HAND,” that he meant that the kingdom of heaven was about to begin. The “God of heaven” has ruled over the world from day one. Before there were “earthly kingdoms,” the God of heaven has ruled over the stars and the planets, the earth and seas, the animals and all people – and He still does. And from the beginning, men and women, boys and girls have lived under the rule of the God of heaven, which makes them citizens of the Kingdom of heaven.

In fact, IN THE BEGINNING, everyone lived under the rule of the God of heaven. And isn’t that what we just said about heaven? It wasn’t until Adam and Eve sinned by rebelling against the God of heaven by refusing to live under His rule, that we began to make these terrible little distinctions between the kingdom of heaven and an earthly kingdom. Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden there have been those who live under the rule of the God of heaven and those who do not.

So when John says that the kingdom of heaven is AT HAND, he’s not saying that it’s about to begin. “At hand” means that a very significant event in the kingdom of heaven is about to take place. It’s THE EVENT that the entire Old Testament talked about and, all of the ‘citizens’ of the kingdom of heaven hoped for and waited for and persevered in the faith for. Even while those who were not citizens of the kingdom of heaven were totally unaware of and oblivious to.

The big event that was AT HAND was the “God of heaven” was going to come down from heaven to MAKE HIS DWELLING AMONG US. The God of heaven was going to take on HUMAN FLESH and BECOME MAN, to convince everyone with HUMAN FLESH to live under His rule in the kingdom of heaven.

He would appeal to men and women, not as the KING to the PEASANTS that we are. But as BROTHER to BROTHER and FRIEND to FRIEND. He would appeal to us as the DIVINE SERVANT to the CRIPLES and INVALIDS who cannot help themselves that we are. All to the end that we men and women, boys and girls might turn from living under the rule of the FALSE GODS that we submit to, and live under His good and gracious rule.

But whether we will or whether we won’t turn and listen to Him when He says, “Follow Me,” His coming IN THE FLESH would mark a most significant turning point in world history. It would mark the beginning of the countdown to the day when the heavenly kingdom and all earthly kingdoms merge together into one, holy, Christian kingdom and the “God of heaven” is Lord of all and everyone and everything willingly, gladly, cheerfully submits to His rule over their life.

And when the whole creation lives under the rule of the “God of heaven,” not only does the whole creation live at PEACE WITH GOD, something we haven’t seen since before the Fall, but the whole creation will also at peace with itself, which is just the way it was in the Garden.

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Is. 11:6-9)

Ever since His Kingdom fell into sin and rebellion against His rule, the King has been moving His Kingdom to a complete restoration that will take place on what He calls a “day,” or a “last day” or a “final day.”

WHICH DOESN’T MEAN THAT EVERYTHING ENDS. The “king of heaven” is not moving things to ‘THE END.’ He is moving things along to ‘THE NEW BEGINNING.’ Not the end of the world, but fresh start, the “new heavens and the new earth, the home of righteousness.”

On that “day,” A SEPARATION will take place between those who live under His rule and those who do not. John describes the separation that will take place on that “day” like this. ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The Holy Spirit to those who will live under His rule. And fire to those who will not.

Which can only mean that everyone will get burned. Even those who, in their life in this world, strive to live under the rule of God, know darned well that we do a lousy job of it. We are simultaneously saint and sinner, loyal citizens of the one, true God and loyal citizens of any number of false gods. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15).

‘His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

III. At Hand
“In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The great turning point in world history has happened. “The God of heaven” has entered into this world, HIS WORLD. Jesus Christ is the God of heaven, dwelling among us in the flesh.

Jesus shows us that we should desire to be citizens of His kingdom and live under His rule over our lives, NOT out of fear of being cast into the fire if we do not, but because He is such a good and gracious King who rules with perfect love for all His people.

If ever there was a true “PEOPLE’S KING,” Jesus Christ shows us that He is the One. He leaves His royal throne and takes off His glorious royal robes, and clothes Himself in our humanity. He lives among His people as the lowest and the weakest and the poorest. He defends His people against the devil, even to the point of laying down His own life unto death, even death on a cross, SO THAT WE MAY BE SAVED.

He is NOT A KING who gains citizens for His kingdom by force or by threats, but by His sweet promises. “I swear by my own name,” I will take care of you and protect you and deliver you from all evil and ‘My peace I give to you.’

And when we FALL and FAIL and even REJECT Him for other gods, He says, “Return to Me. I will forgive you all of your sins. And I will give you eternal life.”

All this He does for you, so that “I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He lives and reigns to all eternity.”

IV. Repent
“In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

For everyone who is not a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, “REPENT” is the gracious invitation to become a citizen and live under the rule and reign of this good and gracious King, who makes the most outlandish promises to you, and then even more outlandishly, keeps them. Come and be baptized and live under His good and gracious rule as you wait for the “last day” to come.

And for everyone who has ALREADY BEEN BAPTIZED into citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, but who is living as if they were not, “REPENT” means, “RETURN TO ME,” “confess your sins,” “RECEIVE MY FORGIVENESS,” “Come home.” “I’ve prepared a place for you at my banquet table.”

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