After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
- Mark 1:14-15
I believe there is a very good reason for Jesus to connect repentance with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God having come near. Today we might not see it so easily because we don't always know what the different words mean.
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “repentance” comes from “metanoeó”, which means “to change one's mind or purpose”.
So why did Jesus tell people to repent and believe the good news that the Kingdom of God had come near?
When Jesus appeared on the scene, the Jews had already been in big expectation. There had been prophecies about a coming Messiah who would restore the Kingdom, the Jews had been under oppression for a long time and now John had sparked a new hope that this Messiah was right around the corner.
The people were waiting for the Kingdom of God, but the concept they had of it was that Israel would be fully restored as a nation again.
There are such prophecies and in the future they will be fulfilled. It would take a whole lot of allegorical creativity to link all the prophecies about the restoration of Israel to the church. However, when Jesus appeared on the scene, this was not His agenda.
He came with a message that the Kingdom was already here, even though Israel had not been fully restored as a nation and the church had not been instituted. His presence brought the Kingdom of God near to the people who met Him because He carried the Kingdom with Him.
The Kingdom of God was near, but the people needed to repent, or in other words, they needed to change their thinking. If they did not do that, they would miss the kingdom.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. He answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with a visible display. People won't be saying, "Look! Here it is!' or "There it is!' because now the kingdom of God is among you."
— Luke 17:20-21
I believe the Kingdom of God is His reign. It’s wherever God manifests His presence and His will becomes a reality.
When Jesus was walking on this earth, He was carrying the presence of God with Him and making God’s will a reality. Where there was sickness, He brought healing. Where there was oppression, He brought deliverance. He brought good news to the poor and sight to the blind (Luke 4:18-19).
When He sent out his disciples, the message of the Kingdom was what He asked them to preach, namely to confirm the message by applying God’s will to the situations they would face. Where they met sickness, they should bring healing and where they met oppression, they should bring deliverance (Luke 10:1.12 + Matthew 10:1-4).
Many are still looking for the Kingdom
I don’t believe God is finished with Israel, but I do believe that the Kingdom of God is already here and that it is our job to bring Heaven to earth wherever we go. Sometimes I also wonder if some Christians fall into the same thinking that the Jews had when Jesus was walking on this earth. They are so focused on the Kingdom of God, as Israel being fully restored, that they don’t notice that the Kingdom has already come. Maybe Jesus would also say to these: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”.