In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
Now we jump 30 years from chapter two to the days of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the introducer of the Messiah. John introduced his ministry in the arid desert of Judea. John was six months older than his cousin Jesus.
Kings of old usually had a herald who ran before them announcing their coming. Malachi prophesied that a messenger (John the Baptist) would come ahead of the Messiah to prepare the way for His coming. He was the forerunner to the Messiah.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” Mal 3:1
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John’s message consisted of two parts: (1) repentance and (2) a coming kingdom. It was a message to the Jews.
The word “repent” means to change the mind. It does not mean to feel sorry for sins. The idea is to reverse direction of belief from one’s own ideas to God’s belief system. Repentance means to change from believing one thing to believing another thing. The act of believing is the essence of repenting. Confessing sins is the result, not the cause, of repentance. The cause of repenting is Christ and His message.
The people of Israel needed to change their mind about their conventional religious systems. God had not spoken for 400 years, during the period between the Old and New Testaments. Now a new message came with John the Baptist: The Messiah was coming. It was a message very different than the message of the Pharisees or Sadducees. It was a message with a whole new construct, for John announced Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah. This was time of great fulfillment of the Old Testament.
John announced a coming ruling earthly kingdom. God would rule on earth. Jesus would rule over the earth as King Jesus, King of the World.
The words “at hand” meant that the kingdom would come when Christ came. The kingdom was approaching and was a present reality. The kingdom was present in the person of the King. There was a present reality of the kingdom in Matthew’s day.
The phrase “kingdom of heaven” carries the idea of the rule of heavens over earth. This is the first occurrence of this term in Matthew and occurs only in Matthew. The phrase “kingdom of God” occurs in all four gospels. There is very little difference in meaning between these terms. Christ does not reign over the world today. He will come one day to rule over the world. The kingdom is an intrusion of God’s power into history. This kingdom will culminate in the final Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth.
For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ”
John’s message fulfilled Isaiah 40:3. All four gospels relate this message to Isaiah (Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23). Isaiah 40:3 relates to highway construction laborers clearing the way in the desert for Israel to return from the Babylonian Captivity in 537 B.C. John the Baptist in a similar fashion prepared the way for the return of the Lord. He prepared the remnant to embrace the Messiah.
The word “crying” does not mean to cry as with tears. The idea is to announce something with certainty. “Make his paths straight” refers to repaired and smoothed roads.
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
John looked like a vagrant. He dressed like Elijah in rough, coarse clothing. He ate basic foods because he had a basic message. He stood in stark contrast to people consumed by materialism.
Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him,
Great numbers of people went to the desert to hear John preach. He did not go to them. This baptism represented repentance, a change of mind, from current religious viewpoint to believing in Christ as the Messiah.
and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Some believed John’s message and accepted baptism. In doing this, they confessed their sins. John’s baptism was not the same as Christian baptism. John’s baptism anticipated the coming Messiah.
The messages of the kingdom and the church are different.
The kingdom is not the same as the church. The kingdom began when Christ launched His public ministry. It was a message to Israel. The church began on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2).
We cannot “follow the Lord in baptism” because His baptism was a baptism unto His role as Messiah-King. It was a baptism into an office.