Matthew 3:2
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
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(2) Repent.—Etymologically, the word “repent,” which has as its root-meaning the sense of pain, is hardly adequate as a rendering for the Greek word, which implies change of mind and purpose. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the word is used of divine rather than human repentance, i.e., of a change of purpose implying pity and regret (1Samuel 15:29; Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 18:8). In Wisdom Of Solomon 5:3; Ecclesiasticus 17:24; Ecclesiasticus 48:15, it includes the sorrow out of which the change comes.

The kingdom of heaven.—The phrase is used by St. Matthew about thirty times, and by him only among the New Testament writers. In the Greek the form is plural, “the kingdom of the heavens,” probably as an equivalent for the Hebrew word, which was dual in its form. The name, as descriptive of the kingdom of the Messiah, had its origin in the vision of Daniel 7:13, where the kingdom of “one like the Son of Man” is contrasted with those of earthly rulers. To Gentile readers—to whom the term would convey the thought of the visible firmament, not of the invisible dwelling-place of God—the term might have been misleading, and therefore in the Gospels intended for them “the kingdom of God” (which occurs sometimes in St. Matthew also, 6:13; 12:28) is used instead of it. It is probable that both terms were used interchangeably by the Baptist and our Lord, and the systematic change is suggestive as showing that the writers of the Gospels did not feel themselves bound to a purely literal report or rendering of their words.

Is at hand.—Better, has come nigh.

Matthew 3:2. Repent ye, &c. — Be sorry for your sins, and amend your lives; for the original word, μετανοειτε, here used, implies this. It properly signifies, says Beza, to be wise after the action, and so to grieve for a fault committed as to amend it, which, in Latin, is properly expressed by resipiscere. In this respect it differs from another Greek word, which the evangelists sometimes use, viz., μεταμελομαι, which simply signifies to be distressed, and anxious after any thing done, but does not necessarily imply any change of mind, or reformation of life. Therefore Matthew uses the latter word of Judas, the traitor, Matthew 27:3, but not the former. Thus Christ and his apostles began their preaching, confirming John’s doctrine. John taught other things also, but this he began with, and this was the main scope of his preaching. He did not give them any new precepts of life, but charged them with breaking the law they had already, and called upon them to be sensible of it, sorry for it, and to reform their conduct: to lay aside the false opinions they had imbibed, whether from the Pharisees or Sadducees; to acknowledge, condemn, and lament the faults they had committed, and to turn from all error and all sin, to true faith in, and piety toward, God. He that so deplores some sins as to commit others, or to repeat the commission of those he deplores, either counterfeits, or is ignorant of repentance. Repentance is, as Jerome speaks, secunda post naufragium tabula — a lucky plank after a shipwreck. The first degree of happiness is, not to sin; the second, to know our sins, and repent of them. For repentance not only implies sorrow for sin, or sincerely wishing it undone, but a change of mind, and reformation of life. The kingdom of heaven is at hand — As if he had said, God is about to appear in an extraordinary manner, to erect that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, (Daniel 2:44; and Daniel 7:13-14,) as the kingdom of the God of heaven, which he would set up, and give to the Song of Solomon of man, making it finally victorious over all other kingdoms. This phrase, the kingdom of heaven, is used thirty times by St. Matthew. The other evangelists, and St. Paul, term it generally, the kingdom of God, and sometimes, the kingdom of Christ. These different phrases mean the same thing, and were in familiar use among the Jews, as plainly appears from divers passages of the gospels. They seem to have borrowed them from the above-mentioned passages in the book of Daniel, which they wholly misunderstood and misinterpreted, inferring from them that God would erect a temporal kingdom the seat of which would be at Jerusalem, which would become, instead of Rome, the capital of the world. The expected sovereign of this kingdom, they learned, from Daniel, to call the Son of man, by which title they understood the promised Messiah, or the Anointed One of God. Both John the Baptist, then, and Christ took up this phrase, and used it as they found it, and gradually taught the Jews to affix right ideas to it, though it was a lesson which that worldly people were remarkably unwilling to learn. This very demand of repentance showed that it was a spiritual kingdom which was spoken of; and that no wicked man, how politic or brave, how learned and renowned soever, could possibly be a genuine subject of it. As the term kingdom implies the dominion of a king over his subjects, so the kingdom of God, or heaven, is God’s reigning in and over his rational creatures, whether angels or men; and, as to the latter, whether on earth or in heaven, that is, whether of the church militant or the church triumphant. The expression properly signifies the gospel dispensation, in and by which subjects were to be gathered to God by his Son, and a society formed, which was to subsist first in more imperfect circumstances on earth, and afterward in complete perfection and felicity in the world of glory. In some places of Scripture the phrase more particularly signifies the former, and denotes the state of Christ’s kingdom on earth, as Matthew 13., especially Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:47; Matthew 20:1; and sometimes it signifies only that most blessed state of things which shall take place after the resurrection, when God will be all in all. See 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Corinthians 15:50. But it generally includes both; and what is closely connected therewith, God’s subduing, or executing judgment upon his and his people’s enemies. For God’s regal power is exercised in delivering, assisting, defending, and rewarding all his faithful subjects, and in warning, punishing, and destroying his obdurate enemies. This latter particular, namely, the punishing and destroying his enemies, seems, at least, to be partly meant in this passage, as appears by the context. For, to enforce his doctrine of repentance, he warns them of approaching wrath that would speedily come upon the impenitent, Matthew 3:7; Matthew 3:10, the executing of which wrath, first upon the unbelieving Jews, and then upon the persecuting Gentiles, is elsewhere represented as the coming of the Son of man in his kingdom.

3:1-6 After Malachi there was no prophet until John the Baptist came. He appeared first in the wilderness of Judea. This was not an uninhabited desert, but a part of the country not thickly peopled, nor much enclosed. No place is so remote as to shut us out from the visits of Divine grace. The doctrine he preached was repentance; Repent ye. The word here used, implies a total alteration in the mind, a change in the judgment, disposition, and affections, another and a better bias of the soul. Consider your ways, change your minds: you have thought amiss; think again, and think aright. True penitents have other thoughts of God and Christ, sin and holiness, of this world and the other, than they had. The change of the mind produces a change of the way. That is gospel repentance, which flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and from hopes of pardon and forgiveness through him. It is a great encouragement to us to repent; repent, for your sins shall be pardoned upon your repentance. Return to God in a way of duty, and he will, through Christ, return unto you in the way of mercy. It is still as necessary to repent and humble ourselves, to prepare the way of the Lord, as it then was. There is a great deal to be done, to make way for Christ into a soul, and nothing is more needful than the discovery of sin, and a conviction that we cannot be saved by our own righteousness. The way of sin and Satan is a crooked way; but to prepare a way for Christ, the paths must be made straight, Heb 12:13. Those whose business it is to call others to mourn for sin, and to mortify it, ought themselves to live a serious life, a life of self-denial, and contempt of the world. By giving others this example, John made way for Christ. Many came to John's baptism, but few kept to the profession they made. There may be many forward hearers, where there are few true believers. Curiosity, and love for novelty and variety, may bring many to attend on good preaching, and to be affected for a while, who never are subject to the power of it. Those who received John's doctrine, testified their repentance by confessing their sins. Those only are ready to receive Jesus Christ as their righteousness, who are brought with sorrow and shame to own their guilt. The benefits of the kingdom of heaven, now at hand, were thereupon sealed to them by baptism. John washed them with water, in token that God would cleanse them from all their iniquities, thereby intimating, that by nature and practice all were polluted, and could not be admitted among the people of God, unless washed from their sins in the fountain Christ was to open, Zec 13:1.Repent ye - Repentance implies sorrow for past offences 2 Corinthians 7:10; a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God Psalm 51:4; and a full purpose to turn from transgression and to lead a holy life. A true penitent has sorrow for sin, not only because it is ruinous to his soul, but chiefly because it is an offence against God, and is that abominable thing which he hates, Jeremiah 44:4. It is produced by seeing the great danger and misery to which it exposes us; by seeing the justice and holiness of God Job 42:6; and by seeing that our sins have been committed against Christ, and were the cause of his death, Zechariah 12:10; Luke 22:61-62. There are two words in the New Testament translated "repentance," one of which denotes a change of mind, or a reformation of life; and the other, sorrow or regret that sin has been committed. The word used here is the former, calling the Jews to a change of life, or a reformation of conduct. In the time of John, the nation had become extremely wicked and corrupt, perhaps more so than at any preceding period. Hence, both he and Christ began their ministry by calling the nation to repentance.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand - The phrases kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, kingdom of God, are of frequent occurrence in the Bible. They all refer to the same thing. The expectation of such a kingdom was taken from the Old Testament, and especially from Daniel, Daniel 7:13-14. The prophets had told of a successor to David that should sit on his throne 1 Kings 2:4; 1 Kings 8:25; Jeremiah 33:17. The Jews expected a great national deliverer. They supposed that when the Messiah should appear, all the dead would be raised; that the judgment would take place; and that the enemies of the Jews would be destroyed, and that they themselves would be advanced to great national dignity and honor.

The language in which they were accustomed to describe this event was retained by our Saviour and his apostles. Yet they early attempted to correct the common notions respecting his reign. This was one design, doubtless, of John in preaching repentance. Instead of summoning them to military exercises, and collecting an army, which would have been in accordance with the expectations of the nation, he called them to a change of life; to the doctrine of repentance - a state of things far more accordant with the approach of a kingdom of purity.

The phrases "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven" have been supposed to have a considerable variety of meaning. Some have supposed that they refer to the state of things in heaven; others, to the personal reign of Christ on earth; others, that they mean the church, or the reign of Christ in the hearts of his people. There can be no doubt that there is reference in the words to the condition of things in heaven after this life. But the church of God is a preparatory state to that beyond the grave - a state in which Christ pre-eminently rules and reigns and there is no doubt that the phrases sometimes refer to the state of things in the church; and that they may refer, therefore, to the state of things which the Messiah was to set up his spiritual reign begun in the church on earth and completed in heaven.

The expression "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" would be best translated, "the reign of God draws near." We do not say commonly of a kingdom that it is movable, or that it approaches. A reign may be said to be at hand; and it may be said with propriety that the time when Christ would reign was at hand. In this sense it is meant that the time when Christ should reign, or set up his kingdom, or begin his dominion on earth, under the Christian economy, was about to commence. The phrase, then, should not be confined to any period of that reign, but includes his whole dominion over his people on earth and in heaven.

In the passage here it clearly means that the coming of the Messiah was near, or that the time of the reign of God which the Jews had expected was coming.

The word "heaven," or "heavens," as it is in the original, means sometimes the place so called; and sometimes it is, by a figure of speech, put for the Great Being whose residence is there, as in Daniel 4:26; "the Heavens do rule." See also Mark 11:30; Luke 15:18. As that kingdom was one of purity, it was proper that the people should prepare themselves for it by turning from their sins, and by bringing their hearts into a state suitable to his reign.

2. And saying, Repent ye—Though the word strictly denotes a change of mind, it has respect here (and wherever it is used in connection with salvation) primarily to that sense of sin which leads the sinner to flee from the wrath to come, to look for relief only from above, and eagerly to fall in with the provided remedy.

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand—This sublime phrase, used in none of the other Gospels, occurs in this peculiarly Jewish Gospel nearly thirty times; and being suggested by Daniel's grand vision of the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days, to receive His investiture in a world-wide kingdom (Da 7:13, 14), it was fitted at once both to meet the national expectations and to turn them into the right channel. A kingdom for which repentance was the proper preparation behooved to be essentially spiritual. Deliverance from sin, the great blessing of Christ's kingdom (Mt 1:21), can be valued by those only to whom sin is a burden (Mt 9:12). John's great work, accordingly, was to awaken this feeling and hold out the hope of a speedy and precious remedy.

The evangelist only gives us the sum and scope of the Baptist’s doctrine, the other evangelists give us a more full account of his pressing also faith in Christ, John 1:29 3:29,36 so Acts 19:4. Repentance, faith, and new obedience ought to be the substance and scope of all our sermons. Repentance signifieth the change of the heart and reformation of the life, a turning from sin unto God.

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand; that blessed state of the church (foretold by the prophets) under the Messias, wherein God will exhibit his Son as the King in Zion, and exert his power and kingdom, both extensively, subduing all nations to the obedience of his gospel, and intensively, in all the administrations of his government; for the kingdom of heaven is not to be understood here of the kingdom of glory, but of the kingdom of grace, in all the administrations of it. This passage containeth the argument upon which the Baptist in his sermons pressed, repentance and faith, and obedience to the will of God revealed.

And saying, repent ye,.... The doctrine which John preached was the doctrine of repentance; which may be understood either of amendment of life and manners; for the state of the Jews was then very corrupt, all sorts of men were grown very wicked; and though there was a generation among them, who were righteous in their own eyes, and needed no repentance; yet John calls upon them all, without any distinction, to repent; and hereby tacitly strikes at the doctrine of justification by works, which they had embraced, to which the doctrine of repentance is directly opposite: or rather, this is meant, as the word here used signifies, of a change of mind, and principles. The Jews had imbibed many bad notions. The Pharisees held the traditions of the elders, and the doctrine of justification by the works of the law; and the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead; and it was a prevailing opinion among them all, and seems to be what is particularly struck at by John, that the Messiah would be a temporal king, and set up an earthly kingdom in this world. Wherefore he exhorts them to change their minds, to relinquish this notion; assuring them, that though he would be a king, and would have a kingdom, which was near at hand, yet it would be a heavenly, and not an earthly one. Hence the manner in which John enforces his doctrine, or the reason and argument he uses to prevail upon them to regard it, is by saying,

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand: by which is meant not the kingdom of glory to be expected in another world; or the kingdom of grace, that is internal grace, which only believers are partakers of in this; but the kingdom of the Messiah, which was "at hand", just ready to appear, when he would be made manifest in Israel and enter upon his work and office: it is the Gospel dispensation which was about to take place, and is so called; because of the wise and orderly management of it under Christ, the king and head of his church by the ministration of the word, and administration of ordinances; whereby, as means, spiritual and internal grace would be communicated to many, in whose hearts it would reign and make them meet for the kingdom of glory; and because the whole economy of the Gospel, the doctrines and ordinances of it are from heaven. This phrase, "the kingdom of heaven" is often to be met with in Jewish writings; and sometimes it stands opposed to the "kingdom of the earth" (r); by it is often meant the worship, service, fear, and love of God, and faith in him: thus in one of their books (s) having mentioned those words, "serve the Lord with fear": it is asked, what means this phrase, "with fear?" It is answered, the same as it is written, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"; and this is "the kingdom of heaven". And elsewhere they (t) ask, "what is the kingdom of heaven?" To which is answered, "the Lord our God is one Lord". Yea, the Lord God himself is so called (u), and sometimes the sanctuary; and sometimes they intend by it the times of the Messiah, as the Baptist here does; for so they paraphrase (w) those words,

"the time of the singing of birds, or of pruning, is come; the time for Israel to be redeemed is come; the time for the uncircumcision to be cut off is come; the time that the kingdom of the Cuthites (Samaritans or Heathens) shall be consumed is come; and the time that "the kingdom of heaven shall be revealed" is come, as it is written, "and the Lord shall be king over all, the earth."''

Very pertinently does John make use of this argument to engage to repentance; since there cannot be a greater motive to it, whether it regard sorrow for sin, and confession of it, or a change of principles and practice, than the grace of God through Christ, which is exhibited in the Gospel dispensation: and very appropriately does he urge repentance previous to the kingdom of heaven; because without that there can be no true and cordial embracing or entering into the Gospel dispensation, or kingdom of heaven; that is, no real and hearty receiving the doctrines, and submitting to the ordinances of it. Nor ought the Jews above all people to object to John's method of preaching; since they make repentance absolutely necessary to the revelation of the Messiah and his kingdom, and redemption by him; for they say (x) in so many words, that

"if Israel do not repent, they will never be redeemed; but as soon as they repent, they will be redeemed; yea, if they repent but one day, immediately the son of David will come.''

(r) Bereshit Rabba, fol. 7. 4. (s) Zohar in Exod. fol 39. 2.((t) Debarim Rabba, fol. 237. 2.((u) Zohar in Gen. fol. 112. 3.((w) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 11. 4. (x) T. Hieros. Taanith, fol. 63. 4. & 64. 1. & Bab. Sanhed. fol. 97. 2.

And saying, {c} Repent ye: for the {d} kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(c) The word in the greek signifies a changing of our minds and heart from evil to better.

(d) The kingdom of Messiah, whose government will be heavenly, and nothing but heavenly.

Matthew 3:2. Μετανοεῖτε] denotes the transformation of the moral disposition, which is requisite in order to obtain a share in the kingdom of the Messiah. Sanhedrin f. 97, 2 : “Si Israelitae poenitentiam agunt, tunc per Goëlem. liberantur.” In the mouth of John the conception could only be that of the Old Testament (נִחַם, שׁוּב), expressing the transformation according to the moral requirements of the law, but not yet the Christian idea, according to which μετάνοια has as its essential inseparable correlative, faith in Jesus as the Messiah (Mark 1:15), after which the Holy Spirit, received by means of baptism, establishes and completes the new birth from above into true ζωή. John 3:3; John 3:5; Titus 3:5 f.; Acts 2:38.

ἤγγικε] it is near; for John expected that Jesus would set up His kingdom. Comp. Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:7.

ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν] See Fleck, de regno div. 1829; Weissenbach, Jesu in regno coelor. dignitas, 1868; Keim, Gesch. J. II. p. 40 ff.; Kamphausen, d. Gebet des Herren, p. 56 ff.; Wittichen, d. Idee des Reiches Gottes, 1872. The kingdom of heaven (the plural is to be explained from the popular idea of seven heavens; see on 2 Corinthians 12:2) corresponds to the Rabbinical מלכות השמים (Schoettgen, Diss. de regno coelor. I. in his Horae, I. p. 1147 ff., and Wetstein in loc.),—an expression which is used by the Rabbins mostly indeed in the ethico-theocratic sense, but also in the eventually historical meaning of the theocracy, brought to its consummation by the Messiah (Targum, Mich. Matthew 4:7 b in Wetstein). In the N. T. this expression occurs only in Matthew, and that as the usual one, which, as that which was most frequently employed by Jesus Himself, is to be regarded as derived from the collection of sayings (in answer to Weiss). Equivalent in meaning to it are: βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (also in Matthew, yet much rarer and not everywhere critically certain), βασιλ. τ. Χριστοῦ, ἡ βασιλεία. Comp. Isaiah 20:6; Daniel 2:44, Daniel 7:14 ff., Daniel 7:26 f. The kingdom of the Messiah is designated by ἡ βας. τ. οὐρ., because this kingdom, the consummated theocracy in its glory, is no earthly kingdom, John 18:36, but belongs to heaven, appears to us as descending from heaven, where, up till that time, its blessings, its salvation, and its δόξα are preserved by God for bestowal at some future period. Although among the Jewish people the theocratic idea, of which the prophets were the bearers, had preserved its root,—and from this people alone, in accordance with its divine preparation and guidance, could the realization of this idea, and with it the salvation of the world, proceed, as, indeed, the profounder minds apprehended and cherished the mighty thought of Messiah in the sense of the true rule of God, and of its destination for the world,—yet the common idea of the people was predominantly political and particularistic, frequently stamped with the fanatical thought of a world-rule and with millenarian ideas (the Messiah raises up the descendants of Abraham, then comes the kingdom which lasts a thousand years, then the resurrection and the condemnatory judgment of the heathen, the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the everlasting life of the descendants of Abraham on the earth, which has been transformed along with the whole universe). In the teaching of Christ, however, and in the apostolic writings, the kingdom of the Messiah is the actual consummation of the prophetic idea of the rule of God; and as it is unaccompanied by millenarian ideas (which exist only in the non-apostolic Apocalypse), so also is it without any national limitation, so that participation therein rests only on faith in Jesus Christ, and on the moral renewal which is conditioned by the same, and “God all in all” is the last and highest aim, without the thought of the world-rule, and the expectation of the renewal of the world, of the resurrection, of the judgment, and also of the external glory losing their positive validity and necessity,—thoughts which rather form the subject of living Christian hope amidst all the struggles and oppressions of the world. Moreover, those expressions, βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, κ.τ.λ., never signify anything else than the kingdom of the Messiah (Koppe, Exc. I. ad Thess.), even in those passages where they appear to denote the (invisible) church, the moral kingdom of the Christian religion, and such like; or to express some modern abstraction of the concrete conception,[376] which is one given in the history,—an appearance which is eliminated by observing that the manner of expression is frequently proleptic, and which has its historical basis in the idea of the nearness of the kingdom, and in the moral development which necessarily precedes its manifestation (comp. Matthew 11:12; Matthew 12:28; Matthew 16:19). Comp. on Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 4:11; Matthew 6:10. That John the Baptist also had, under divine revelation, apprehended the idea of the Messiah’s kingdom in the ethical light, free from any limitation to the Jewish people (John 1:29), without, however, entirely giving up the political element, is already shown by Matthew 3:7 ff. It cannot, however, be proved, and is, considering the divine illumination of the Baptist, improbable, and also without any foundation in Matthew 11:3, that too much has been put into his mouth by ascribing to him the definite announcement of the kingdom. If Josephus, in his account of John, makes no mention of any expression pointing to the Messiah,[377] yet this may be sufficiently explained from his want of susceptibility for the higher nature of Christianity, and from his peculiar political relation to the Romans.

[376] e.g. an organized commonwealth under the principle of the divine will (Tholuck); arrangement of things in which this will has come to its consummation, and now alone is operative (Hofmann). Schleiermacher: “The idea of the kingdom of God must have originated in Christ from His self-consciousness and His perception of sin, if He conceived of His life as disseminated among the masses”.

[377] Antt. xviii. 5. 2 : Κτείνες τοῦτον Ἡρώδης, ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα καὶ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους κελεύοντα ἀρετὴν ἐπασκοῦντας καὶ τῇ πρὸς ἀλλήλους δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εὐσεβείᾳ χρωμένους βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι· οὕτω γὰρ καὶ τὴν βάπτισιν ἀποδεκτὴν αὐτῷ φανεῖσθαι, μὴ ἐπί τινων ἁμαρτάδων παραιτήσει χρωμένων, ἀλλʼ ἐφʼ ἁγνείᾳ τοῦ σώματος, ἅτε δὴ καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς δικαιοσύνῃ προεκκεκαθαρμένης.

Matthew 3:2. λέγων introduces the burden of his preaching.—μετανοεῖτε, Repent. That was John’s great word. Jesus used it also when He began to preach, but His distinctive watchword was Believe. The two watchwords point to different conceptions of the kingdom. John’s kingdom was an object of awful dread, Jesus’ of glad welcome. The message of the one was legal, of the other evangelic. Change of mind John deemed very necessary as a preparation for Messiah’s advent.—ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, the Kingdom of Heaven. This title is peculiar to Matthew. In the other Gospels it is called the Kingdom of God. Not used either by John or by Jesus, says Weiss, but to be ascribed to the evangelist. There does not seem to be any urgent reason for this judgment. In Daniel 2:44 the kingdom is spoken of as to be set up by “the God of heaven,” and in the Judaistic period previous to the Christian era, when a transcendent conception of God began to prevail, the use of heaven as a synonym for God came in. Custom might cause it to be employed, even by those who did not sympathise with the conception of God as transcendent, outside and far off from the world (vide note in H. C., p. 55).

2. Repent ye] The original implies more than “feel sorrow or regret for sin,” it is rather “change the life, the heart, the motive for action.” It was a call to self-examination and reality of life.

the kingdom of heaven] St Matthew alone uses this expression, but he also employs the equivalent phrase, the Kingdom of God, in common with the other N. T. writers. In itself the expression was not new. It connected itself in Jewish thought with the theocracy—the direct rule of God—of which the Earthly Kingdom was a shadow. It implied the reign of the Messiah (cp. Daniel 7:14). It became the watchword of the zealots “no King but God.” Jesus took up the word and gave it a new deep and varied spiritual significance, which is rather illustrated than defined.

The principal meanings of the Kingdom of Heaven in N. T. are (1) The presence of Christ on earth. (2) His Second Advent. (3) His influence in the heart. (4) Christianity, (a) as a Church, (b) as a faith. (5) The life eternal.

Matthew 3:2. Μετανοεῖτε, repent ye) A lovely word (see verses 8, 11), implying change your disposition, put on a disposition royal, heavenly, worthy the kingdom of heaven.[114] Thus Jesus Christ Himself, thus His apostles commenced their preaching: thus the Lord commanded John to write at the commencement of the Apocalypse.—ἡ βασιλεία, the kingdom) See Gnomon on ch. Matthew 4:17.—τῶν οὐρανῶν, of the Heavens) expressed in the plural number agreeably with the Hebrew שמים.[115] This phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, the kingdom of the Heavens,[116] is peculiar to Matthew, who employed it that he might cure the Jews, for whom he was writing, of the notion of an earthly kingdom.

[114] In the original, “regnum cœlorum,” “the kingdom of the heavens.”—See f. n. 3, infra.—(I. B.)

[115] See Genesis 1:1., etc.—(I. B.)

[116] E. V., “The Kingdom of Heaven.” I have generally rendered it thus, as being a phrase more familiar to the English reader.—(I. B.)

Verse 2. - And (omitted by the Revised Version) saying. The parallel passages give the substance of John's preaching - the baptism of repentance. St. Matthew takes, as it seems, a sentence that actually fell from his lips, and presents it as the kernel of his message ("preaching... saying"). This is the more interesting as nowhere else are we told any words uttered by him in this the first stage of his ministry before crowds flocked to hear him. Repent ye... at hand; said word for word by our Lord (Matthew 4:17, note). Repent ye (μετανοεῖτε) . The word expresses the central thought of true repentance, in speaking, as it does, of a change of mind. Contrast μεταμέλεσθαι (Matthew 27:3; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10). As such it goes deeper than the Old Testament summons "Turn ye" (שובו), or the rabbinic תשובה, for it points out in what part of man the alteration must be. (On your meaning more than the mere thinking power, and including also the willing faculty, cf. especially Delitzsch, 'Psych.,' p. 211, etc., Eng. trans., 1875.) It is noticeable that the LXX. never, as it seems, translate שוב by μετανοῖν, but often נחם (of man only in Jeremiah 8:6; Jeremiah 31:19; and possibly Joel 2:14; cf. 1 Samuel 15:29), which refers to repentance as a matter of feeling. As Messiah was coming, it was only natural that John should urge repentance. Similarly, we find late Jewish writers expounding Genesis 1:2, "'And the Spirit of God was moving [on the face of the waters].' This is the Spirit of King Messiah, like that which is said in Isaiah 11:2, 'And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.' By what kind of merit does it draw near and come? It says, 'upon the face of the waters.' By the merit of repentance, which is compared to water, as it is written (Lain. 2:19), 'Pour out thy heart like water'" ('Bresh. R.,' § 2). But, unfortunately, they assign far too legal a meaning to the word, and their phrase, "do repentance" (עשה תשובה), becomes almost identical with the "do penance" (poeni-tentiam agite, Vulgate) of the Roman Catholics (cf. Talm. Dab., 'Sanh.,' 97 b). For the kingdom of heaven (see Introduction, p. 22.). Matthew 3:2Repent (μετανοεῖτε)

A word compounded of the preposition μετά, after, with; and the verb νοέω, to perceive, and to think, as the result of perceiving or observing. In this compound the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by after and different; so that the whole compound means to think differently after. Μετάνοια (repentance) is therefore, primarily, an after-thought, different from the former thought; then, a change of mind which issues in regret and in change of conduct. These latter ideas, however, have been imported into the word by scriptural usage, and do not lie in it etymologically nor by primary usage. Repentance, then, has been rightly defined as "Such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets a like virtuous change in the life and practice." Sorrow is not, as is popularly conceived, the primary nor the prominent notion of the word. Paul distinguishes between sorrow (λύπη) and repentance (μετάνοια), and puts the one as the outcome of the other. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The kingdom of heaven

Lit., the kingdom of the heavens (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν). An expression peculiar to Matthew. The more usual one is the kingdom of God. It is a kingdom of heaven because its origin, its end, its king, the character and destiny of its subjects, its laws, institutions, and privileges - all are heavenly. In the teaching of Christ and in the apostolic writings the kingdom of the Messiah is the actual consummation of the prophetic idea of the rule of God, without any national limitation, so that participation therein rests only on faith in Jesus Christ, and on the moral renewal which is conditioned by the same. It is the combination of all rights of Christian citizenship in this world, and eternal blessedness in the next. All its senses are only different sides of the same great idea - the subjection of all things to God in Christ.


John's personality is thrown into shadow behind Christ. "What would be the duty of a merely human teacher of the highest moral aim, entrusted with a great spiritual mission and lesson for the benefit of mankind? The example of St. John Baptist is an answer to this iniquity. Such a teacher would represent himself as a mere 'voice,' crying aloud in the moral wilderness around him, and anxious, beyond aught else, to shroud his own insignificant person beneath the majesty of his message" (Liddoll, "Our Lord's Divinity").

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