Matthew 10:5-7 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them,
saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles; and into any city of the
Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Here we find the Lord Jesus Christ commissioning His disciples for ministry. Previously, they had only followed the Lord, watching and learning while He did all the work. Now for the first time, Jesus sends them out to minister without Him. He gives them several directions concerning their first mission, but the thing of greatest interest is the message Jesus told them to preach – “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The uniqueness of this message is in the fact that it is in the present tense. Now let’s compare it with the Word proclaimed by John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:1-2 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the
wilderness of Judea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The message of the disciples and that of John the Baptist was the same. John’s proclamation of the Kingdom was also in the present tense – “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Now let’s take a look the message of Jesus as He began His ministry.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Both John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ came on the scene proclaiming, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Then when Jesus commissioned His disciples to ministry, He told them to preach, saying, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Wherever you find true ministers of the Lord, the message is the same. The Word they proclaim is a Word for the present – “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In other words, “The Lord is available now. We can walk with Him right now in this present time.”
Next we want to compare the ministry of the religious leaders with that of Jesus and His disciples.
Matthew 16:5-8,11,12 And when His disciples were come to the other side, they had
forgotten to take bread.
6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
8 Which when Jesus perceived, He said unto them, O ye of little faith, Why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the Kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the false teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And that warning is also extended to us, because the false teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees are as prevalent today as they were then. The religious world of our day is permeated with ministers who are preaching the same teachings. Outwardly, they appear to be ministers of righteousness, for their teachings seem to be very scriptural (II Corinthians 11:15). Consequently, they deceive many people. In a very subtle way they preach from the Bible, and, at the same time, “shut up the Kingdom of heaven against men.” By seeing how the Pharisees were able to shut up the Kingdom of heaven, we should be able to recognize the same kind of teachings today. The Pharisees would always put the movings and workings of God in the past or the future. In this way they kept people from having a present reality of the Lord. They talked about what God did in the days of their fathers, and they talked about the Messiah who was to come, but they would not accept the Christ of the present moment. Consequently, the Jews could not accept Jesus as the Messiah; they could not relate to a present Christ. They were told that the Messiah would come, but if anyone showed up claiming to be Christ, then they were to reject him. The Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. John 9:22.
It is the same today. The false ministries will preach about what Jesus did in Bible days, or they will preach about the second coming of Jesus, or the heaven of the future, but they will not minister a present Christ. In this way they shut up the Kingdom of God against men. And if anyone comes along proclaiming that the Kingdom is at hand, he is branded as a false teacher. Much of Christianity today is no different than the Jews were in Jesus’ day. As religious as they were, they would not receive Christ. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. John 1:11.
Because God is eternal and His Word is living, it holds present truths. When we take a particular passage of the Word and only relate to it in a historical or futuristic way, we miss what Christ wants to be to us and in us. The Old Testament tells of things that happened before Jesus Christ, the Gospels speak of His life, and the rest of the New Testament talks about the Early Church. In that sense, it is historical. There are also prophecies that speak of the future. But if that is all we see, then we are missing the present reality of the Lord. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to take the Scriptures and to reveal the presence of Christ to us.
We can read the Gospels, and say, “I believe Jesus really lived and did those wonderful works. I believe He was crucified and resurrected, and is now at the right hand of the Father. I also believe that Jesus is coming back. The Bible says so, and I believe it.” It’s good to believe those things, but it is not enough. It is not enough to believe that Jesus lived almost 2,000 years ago; we must also know that He is living in us now. I thank God that death had no power over Jesus and that He was resurrected, but it means a lot more to know that Jesus has conquered the spiritual death of my being and His resurrected life is living in and through me. I know that Jesus reigns, because He is reigning in me. Consequently, I cannot see the Kingdom as only futuristic. When you are under the rule of the King of kings, then you know that His Kingdom is at hand.
In Revelation 1:8, Jesus said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” And the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” You can read about Jesus of “yesterday,” He “which was,” and also of Jesus “which is to come,” but you do not really know Him until you meet the Jesus Christ of “today,” He “which is.” There are a multitude of preachers who are giving varied interpretations of what Jesus is like and what He is requiring of His people, because when they read the Scriptures they only see a historical or futuristic Christ, and they interpret what they see according to their carnal thinking. They do so because they have not met the Christ “which is.” But for those who have become aware of the presence of the Lord there is “one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). To them the Kingdom is at hand!
Copyright © 1995 by Henry DuBose