And saying, Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. There seems to be evidence that Judaea was in a very low moral condition when John the Baptist appeared. Ceremonial religion took the place of practical righteousness, rabbinical rules covered personal indulgence and iniquity, luxury enervated the wealthy, and restlessness led to crime among the masses. It was a time when a moral reformation was needed, and John was, first of all, a national reformer. What John sought was the national repentance - the change of mind of the nation (compare Jonah's preaching to Nineveh). He dealt with individuals, not in relation to their private concerns, but as representatives of the nation; so we find that he convicts of the sins of classes, not of personal sins. From this point of view John's work can be effectively compared with that of the ancient prophets (e.g. Elijah), who Were essentially national reformers. Those old prophets had demanded national repentance as a preparation for some special manifestation of the delivering or restoring power of God. The revelation of grace could not come unless men were morally prepared to receive it. So John pleads that the Messianic manifestation is close at hand, is at the doors; and there should be readiness to receive it. Illustrate by the Eastern custom of demanding that the roads should be repaired when an Eastern king proposed to visit a district.
I. WE CLAIM REPENTANCE BECAUSE GOD WILL JUDGE, Our plea is the sinfulness of sin, the certain consequences of sin, the future judgment on sins. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." This is right for the individual. Partly right. But even for the individual it may be doubted whether the revelation of Divine grace is not a more truly humbling force. "A sense of blood-bought pardon soon dissolves a heart of stone."
II. JOHN CLAIMED REPENTANCE BECAUSE GOD WILL SAVE. The "kingdom of heaven" is the manifestation of God's delivering grace and power, the fulfilment of the national hope. He says, because God is gracious, therefore repent. The apostle ventures to declare that the "goodness of God" should "lead to repentance." And that is true to human nature, though doctrinal theologies have tended to obscure the truth. Love is the great melting, humbling power. God's redemption is the true convicter of sin. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.