by Richard Lee
25 July 2010
In Matt 3:1-2, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Matt. 4:17, the bible states, “From that time. Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What is the meaning of this phrase, “at hand”?
Apparently this phrase “at hand” brings about the idea of “coming soon, close, near, something or some events about to take place.” From the big picture, we know that the kingdom of heaven was established not long after Christ died. This is evident from Col. 1:13 where sinners were translated into the kingdom of his dear Son. We know that no one can be translated into the kingdom if it does not first exist.
Also given this understanding that the church of Christ (Rom 16:16) is also the Kingdom of God/Heaven (Matt. 16:18-19); which is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:223) or the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:9), we can safely say that though the terms used for the church are different, it is referred to the one and same – God’s spiritual abode for converted sinners on earth. The different words used are to bring about different applications (eg. Pastors, Elders and Bishops and others). And this entity was established on Pentecost as recorded by Dr. Luke in Acts 2:38-41, 47. Some THREE years after it was announced by John and Jesus. THREE years is relatively a short time. It is about the time needed to get a degree from the university. But you may say that it is a long wait especially when you are waiting to welcome a new face in the family after your marriage. But THREE years is 1095.75 days irrespective of what you think or how we feel.
The phrase was used in Isaiah 13:6, “the day of the Lord is at hand”. Here, Isaiah prophesied the fall of Babylon in about 740 BC. But it was not until 539 BC that this prophecy was fulfilled. Some 200 years later, the head of gold (Daniel ch. 2) and his kingdom were taken over by the breast of silver. Further in the same chapter, verse 17, the Medes (the silver) were mentioned. Medes-Persian alliance against Babylonian territory took place before and after the death of Alexander the Great and the final thrust against Greece which led to their fall in 331 BC.
What can we learn from this phrase, “at hand” from the above scriptures? I think, one of our major problems is – we often read the scriptures and like to place the dates/time from our human perspective. What is it to you IF God decides to choose this phrase, “at hand” and apply it to mean 3 years, 300 years, 1000 years or more. It is HIS prerogative and not ours. HE is our God Almighty. If one day is to the Lord as 1000 years (2 Pet 3:8), then we should not limit God’s time to 3 years or 300 years or 1000 years but rather let the context speaks for itself.
Some scriptures that further helps us in our understanding of the above phrase, “at hand” can be found in Rom. 13:12 which means that it is time to ‘wake’ up from slumber, lukewarmness, inactivity, walking in darkness and so on; In 2 Tim. 4:6 referring to Paul remaining lifespan on earth – it may refer to a few months to a few years (?); Phil. 4:5; 2 Thess 2:2; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3 and 22:10 and other similar scriptures use the same phrase but each may mean different time duration as per context. We should not take “at hand” out of context and apply it to suit our teachings or doctrines. May God bless us as we ponder over His blessed words in awe and reverence.