and saying, “The time has been fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news.” Bible other translations

“The time has been fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news.” What Jesus said here in Mark 1:15 is also stated with slightly different wording in the parallel passage, Matthew 4:17. Matthew and Mark do not contradict, but instead, they reveal some of the different ways that Jesus spoke his message. Jesus, like prophets of both the Old and New Testament, taught that the Day of the Lord was near, and like those prophets, he said it in many different ways. Sometimes he said that the “Kingdom” was near, referring to the Kingdom he would set up immediately after the Great Tribulation. Sometimes he spoke of his return, which immediately precedes the Battle of Armageddon and then the Kingdom of God being set up on earth. Also, Jesus taught his disciples to teach the same message that he was (Matt. 10:7; Luke 9:2). The one major difference between the prophecies of Jesus Christ and those of the other Old and New Testament writers is that Jesus defined the word “near” more specifically when he said in several different ways that the people of the generation in which he lived would see his Second Coming and the Kingdom of God come in power.

There is no indication in the Bible or in the history of the early church that his followers misunderstood what he meant, so we should not either. But the obvious problem with Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom is “near” is that it has been almost 2,000 years since he taught that, and the Kingdom has not come. The Greek word translated “near” is eggizō (Strong’s #1448) and it is quite common, occurring more than 40 times in the New Testament. Eggizō can refer to either near in time, or near in location. The people John and Jesus spoke to knew what “near” meant, and reacted with predictable enthusiasm, just as we today would be excited if we knew that Jesus’ return was near.

Although many conservative commentators say that the word “near” just refers to the fact that the Kingdom was “imminent,” i.e., that it could come at any time, that explanation is contrived. As was stated above, the word “near” was a common word and means “near, close at hand;” it does not mean “imminent” and is not used that way in other contexts in the New Testament. Furthermore, just reading the records in the Bible shows us that the people took what John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2) and Jesus said at face value. Jesus’ audience knew the Old Testament prophecies and knew that if the Kingdom was near, then all the Kingdom prophecies, such as those that said the Messiah would rule justly, there would be peace, safety, and an abundance of food, were close too, and so naturally they got excited.

In contrast to “near” (i.e., close at hand), the coming of the Messiah had been “imminent” (“it could happen any time”) for centuries. If all John, Jesus, and the other New Testament writers were saying was that the Kingdom could happen any time, the people who heard that message would not have gotten excited about it—there would have been nothing revolutionary about that message. The teaching of John and Jesus that the kingdom was near was a powerful message and also in agreement with the many other ways Jesus spoke about the Kingdom being close at hand (cp. Matt. 16:28).

Very solid evidence that when Jesus said “near” he did not mean “imminent” (i.e., it can happen at any time) comes from reading and understanding Mark 1:15 itself. Mark does not have the simple statement we find in Matthew, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Mark adds that Jesus prefaced his statement with these important words: “The time is fulfilled.”

The Greek word translated “time” is kairos (#2540 καιρός) and it refers to a measure of time (a limited period of time) or a fixed and definite time, an opportune time, the right time. Also, the Greek word translated “fulfilled” is pleroō (#4137; πληρόω) and in reference to time it means to complete a period of time; to reach the end of a period of time. Jesus did not only say the Kingdom was near, he also said that the period of time that needed to be fulfilled before the Messianic Kingdom could come to earth had now been fulfilled, completed. Jesus recognized that there were certain things that had to occur (or a certain time that had to be completed) before the Kingdom could come—and he said that that necessary time had now been completed and thus the Kingdom was at hand.

Another solid piece of evidence that the word “near” does not mean “imminent” is that God could have sent the Messiah any time He deemed fit, so in that sense, the coming of the Messiah was always “imminent.” So if “near” meant “imminent,” then from Genesis onward the End Times should have always been spoken of as being “near” or “imminent.” But that is not the case. From Genesis to perhaps the 800s BC, a period of more than 3,000 years, God indicated that the Day of the Lord, which included the Tribulation, Armageddon, Jesus’ Second Coming, and the resurrection of the dead, was not near, but was far away. For example, Job, who lived about 2,000 BC, stated that “a man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no more they will not awake, nor be roused out of their sleep.” (Job 14:12). Similarly, Baalam (c. 1450 BC) said “I see him [the Messiah], but not now. I behold him, but not near” (Num. 24:17). Ecclesiastes (c. 950 BC) says that the days a person will be in the grave will be “many” (Ecc. 11:8) and that people who die go to their “long home,” meaning the grave (Ecc. 12:5). Only perhaps in the 800s BC, and certainly in the 700s BC, did God start saying through His prophets that the Day of the Lord was “near” (cp. Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Isa. 13:6; 29:17; 46:13; 51:5; 56:1). Very striking is that when Joel says the Day of the Lord is “near” (Joel 1:15; 3:14), he uses the same Hebrew word for “near” as when Numbers 24:17 says the Messiah was “not near.” We do not know why God started saying the Day of the Lord was near but then kept delaying it, but that is what Scripture reveals.

It is worth noting that some people say that the Bible says the Day of the Lord is near because when people die the next thing they will experience is their resurrection and the Day of the Lord. But that explanation has the same problem that “imminent” does; if the Day of the Lord was near because it came for the person when they died, then throughout the Old Testament it would have always been said to be “near,” but for more than the first three-quarters of the Old Testament the Day of the Lord was not near, but far away.

Some theologians state that the Kingdom was “near” in the sense that Jesus was personally present, but that explanation is not correct. For one thing, Christ did not say that “the King” was near. He said that “the Kingdom was near,” and what that meant to his listeners was that all the promises of the Old Testament about the Kingdom were about to be fulfilled. Also, Jesus revealed who he was many times, such as to the apostles (Matt. 16:16-20), the woman at the well (John 4:26), the blind man Jesus healed (John 9:35-39), and more, and in none of those cases in which Jesus revealed himself did he say he was “near.” So there is no Scriptural reason to take Jesus’ message the Kingdom was near to mean that he himself, “the king,” was near.

All the evidence indicates that the message Christ was preaching was straightforward and were the words he received from God: that the Kingdom was near (cp. John 7:16; 12:49; 14:10; 14:24). The same thing can be said for the prophets of old. Jesus and the prophets had proclaimed the Kingdom was near because God told them to say that, but then for reasons known only to Him, God delayed what He said would come soon. Many people have a hard time with this because they say that it made what Jesus said historically inaccurate, but the same thing had happened to many prophets before Jesus, and the fact is that God controls the timing of the Second Coming and if God saw fit to delay it then we should accept what God did and not think less of Jesus, John the Baptist, or the prophets because of an action God took for His own reasons.

[For more on the many different ways that Jesus said the Kingdom of God was coming soon, see commentary on Matt. 16:28. For more on what Christ’s kingdom on earth, the “Kingdom of God,” would be like, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].

Commentary for: Mark 1:15