What Jesus Meant When He Said “The Kingdom of God Is at Hand”

What Jesus Meant When He Said “The Kingdom of God Is at Hand”

Jesus’s opening words suggest that God’s kingdom is a dynamic reality. He says that the kingdom of God “is at hand” or “has drawn near”—using another perfect tense verb, ēngiken. This verb appears in the active voice, with the sense that the kingdom is on the cusp of dawning—indeed in some sense is already here. This tension between what has been called the “now” and the “not yet” of the kingdom runs throughout the New Testament and no less in Mark’s Gospel.

Jesus and the New Creation

Compare the beginnings of the Gospels. Matthew provides a genealogy situating Jesus in the history of Israel followed by a birth narrative. Luke has a longer birth narrative and then a genealogy that traces Jesus back to Adam. John refers to Jesus’s eternal presence with God. Mark, in contrast, has Jesus burst onto the scene seemingly from nowhere. John the Baptist announces his arrival, and then we are simply told that “in those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee” (Mark 1:9).

But if Jesus seems to come from nowhere, his message has a history. The Isaiah quotation in Mark 1:2–3 establishes the continuity with the Old Testament, as do his first words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). The theme of the kingdom of God situates Jesus in the flow of redemptive history.

The announcement of the kingdom gives way to specific teachings on the kingdom throughout the Gospel (particularly through the parables) together with demonstrations of the kingdom’s inbreaking in Jesus’s healings, encounters with demons, and other miracles. We will see that the kingdom of God is not an abstract reality (e.g., a vague idea of “the reign of God”) but is tied to two concrete realities—Jesus Christ and the new creation.

The Time is Fulfilled: The Kingdom is at Hand

To grasp Jesus’s words, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” we need to first understand what he means by “the time is fulfilled” (peplērōtai ho kairos). The word kairos in Mark can refer to both a span of time (e.g., 10:30, where it parallels “age” [aiōnios]; Mark 11:13, rendered as “season”) or a particular, appointed time (e.g., Mark 13:33, “you do not know when the kairos will come”). So, in Mark 1:15, is Jesus saying that “the span of time has passed” or “the decisive moment has arrived”?

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