“And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
King James Version (KJV)
3:2 The kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God, are but two phrases for the same thing. They mean, not barely a future happy state, in heaven, but a state to be enjoyed on earth: the proper disposition for the glory of heaven, rather than the possession of it. Is at hand - As if he had said, God is about to erect that kingdom, spoken of by Daniel #Dan 2:44; 7:13,14|; the kingdom of the God of heaven. It properly signifies here, the Gospel dispensation, in which subjects were to be gathered to God by his Son, and a society to be formed, which was to subsist first on earth, and afterward with God in glory. In some places of Scripture, the phrase more particularly denotes the state of it on earth: in ,others, it signifies only the state of glory: but it generally includes both. The Jews understood it of a temporal kingdom, the seat of which they supposed would be Jerusalem; and the expected sovereign of this kingdom they learned from Daniel to call the Son of man. Both John the Baptist and Christ took up that phrase, the kingdom of heaven, as they found it, and gradually taught the Jews (though greatly unwilling to learn) to understand it right. The very demand of repentance, as previous to it, showed it was a spiritual kingdom, and that no wicked man, how politic, brave, or learned soever, could possibly be a subject of it.
Mt 3:2 Repent ye. The great rite of John was baptism, but the great duty commanded was repentance. Repentance is more than a sorrow for sin; it is a determination to abandon it and live a new life. It means a change of the will, or heart, new purposes, a determination to leave off sinning. Sorrow is not repentance, but "godly sorrow worketh repentance" (2Co 7:10). The kingdom of heaven. The long expected kingdom ruled by the Messiah King, predicted by the prophets, and especially by Daniel (Da 2:44). The announcement of this anxiously-waited-for kingdom thrilled all Judea. Is at hand. It is to be noted: (1) That the kingdom to which he referred was in the future, but near. It did not begin with Abraham, or David, or even with John the Baptist. (2) It is the kingdom of "heaven", not an earthly kingdom, and hence, must have a King sent from heaven. That King was not yet revealed to the public, but we have seen that one was born at Bethlehem who was to be the King. John was not the founder, but the herald of the coming King.