‘The Kingdom Has Drawn Near’
1. Why were John’s words at Matthew 3:1-10 timely?
LET us examine in more detail the activity of “Messiah the Leader” at his first coming. The startling announcement was heard first from the lips of John the Baptizer: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 3:2) The future King was about to appear! As the ‘seventieth week,’ a “week” of special favor, approached, it was indeed high time for the Jews to repent of their sins against the righteous body of law given to them by their God, Jehovah. For now Israel was about to enter a day of judgment. Hence, John went on to say to the nation’s hypocritical religious leaders: “You offspring of vipers, who has intimated to you to flee from the coming wrath? So then produce fruit that befits repentance. Already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree, then, that does not produce fine fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire.”—Matthew 3:7, 8, 10.
2. (a) How was Jesus’ baptism different? (b) As he “commenced his work,” with what did he have to contend?
2 Then it was that Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan and asked John to baptize him. John knew that Jesus was without sin, and at first he refused. However, Jesus’ baptism was to be different. It would symbolize his presentation of himself to Jehovah for the special work his Father had for him to do on earth. Appropriately, then, Jesus was baptized in water.
“And, as he was praying, the heaven was opened up and the holy spirit in bodily shape like a dove came down upon him, and a voice came out of heaven: ‘You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.’ Furthermore, Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old.”
Immediately, as Messiah and King-designate, he became the object of attacks by that old Serpent, the Devil, and those Jewish religious leaders who hypocritically professed to serve God.—Luke 3:21-23.
3. How did Jesus’ course when under temptation differ from that of Adam and Eve?
3 “Now Jesus, full of holy spirit, turned away from the Jordan, and he was led about by the spirit in the wilderness for forty days, while being tempted by the Devil.” (Luke 4:1, 2) Satan recognized Jesus as the “Seed” of God’s promise who would in due time crush the Devil and his wicked “seed.” Could Satan thwart Jehovah’s purpose by causing Jesus to disobey Him? Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. So the Devil invited the hungry Jesus to turn some stones of that barren wilderness into loaves of bread. Jesus now had the power to work miracles, but, rightly, he quoted Jehovah’s righteous law, saying:
How unlike Eve and her husband, Adam, who had disobeyed in eating the forbidden fruit though surrounded by an abundance of other sustaining foods!
4. What lesson may we learn from the way that Jesus met the second temptation?
4 Jesus’ humility and complete dependence on his Father were demonstrated in the way that he met the next temptation. Satan tried to have Jesus think that he, as the Son of God, was someone important—a celebrity. Yes, let him needlessly throw himself down from the battlement of the temple, and God’s angels would surely catch him so that he would come to no harm. But Jesus rejected such a foolish suggestion, quoting again from Jehovah’s law, and saying:
Herein lies a lesson for all who claim to be God’s servants down to this day: Let no one ever presume upon his standing with Jehovah. Our being blessed by God depends not on past service or position but on our continuing to obey him in all humility, having deep respect for his arrangements and requirements.—Philippians 2:5-7.
5. (a) On what paramount issue did the third temptation focus? (b) How did Jesus again use God’s law in response? (c) How is this a splendid example for us today?
5 Now, the final and climactic temptation on this occasion! Oh, if Satan could only trip Jesus on the paramount issue, that of the Kingdom! So “the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: ‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.’” By this simple compromise, Satan argued, Jesus could get control of the entire world of mankind then and there, without having to wait through the centuries until Jehovah’s due time. But again Jesus referred to Jehovah’s law, as he replied:
Again, a splendid example for those who serve Jehovah today! No matter how long the road may seem to extend, let those who are rendering sacred service to Jehovah never, never cease to place God’s kingdom first in their lives. May they never turn aside to build their own little “kingdoms” in the materialistic society of Satan’s world.
“NO PART OF THIS WORLD”
6. (a) In what way did the Kingdom now draw near? (b) In applying 1 Peter 2:21, what example of Jesus must Christians follow?
6 What followed Jesus’ turning back the temptations of the Devil? The Bible record tells us:
“Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”
In what way had the Kingdom drawn near? In that the one anointed to be King, Jesus Christ himself, was now present, “teaching . . . and preaching the good news of the kingdom.” Great crowds of people followed him from place to place. (Matthew 4:17, 23-25) Jesus made it very plain that those who accepted his teaching were to be ‘no part of the world, just as he was no part of the world.’ They must separate themselves from the world and its violent, immoral ways. All who want to follow Jesus today must do likewise.—John 17:14, 16; 1 Peter 2:21; see also Matthew 5:27, 28; 26:52.
7. In view of Jesus’ words at John 8:44, why is it vital that we today examine the teachings of religious leaders in relation to the Bible?
7 With regard to false worship, Jesus told the religious leaders of his day: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) It was most important back there for the common people to free themselves from false traditions (later incorporated into the Talmud) that had developed in the Jews’ religion. And today, for those who, like the Jews, have lived all their life in the religion of their forefathers, it is vital that they examine whether or not their religious leaders have ‘shoved aside’ the word of God in order to teach mere human tradition.—Mark 7:9-13.
8, 9. (a) Why did Jesus state that his kingdom “is no part of this world”? (b) Why, then, do true Christians meet up with persecution? (c) Why should they be of good courage?
8 When on trial for his life, Jesus declared concerning the political governments of his time:
“My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”
The source of Jesus’ kingdom was heavenly. It derived its authority from the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah God, and not from Satan. Accordingly, Satan used his earthly “seed” to persecute Jesus and his followers.—John 18:36.
9 Jesus therefore told his true disciples: “These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:17-19) Worshipers of Jehovah experience bitter hatred and persecution down to this present day because they separate themselves from the corrupt politics and violence that are so prevalent today. But a rich reward awaits all who finally overcome the world. As Jesus assured his disciples: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33.
10, 11. (a) What shows that world rulers do not rule by divine right? (b) In contrast, how has Jesus shown himself to be qualified for kingship?
10 What qualities would you look for in a world ruler? Most rulers of history have been “strong men,” arrogant, puffed up with pride. They have usually placed personal advancement ahead of the needs of the common people. Some have boasted of building great empires, but in time all their mighty empires have collapsed, in proof of the truthfulness of King Solomon’s words: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it.” (Psalm 127:1) These “kings” have demonstrated in fact that they do not rule by divine right. Their sovereignty has not been from Jehovah God.
11 However, God’s anointed King, Jesus Christ, is prophetically described as riding forth against his enemies “in the cause of truth and humility and righteousness.” It is said of him: “You have loved righteousness and you hate wickedness. That is why God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your partners”—the kings of David’s line who preceded him. (Psalm 45:4, 7) In his hatred of everything that dishonors Jehovah’s holy name and violates God’s righteous principles, the heavenly King will in due course cleanse this earth of all wickedness, preparatory to bringing in a reign of righteousness. Has Jesus shown himself qualified to be such a ruler? Most certainly he has!
12. What pattern of sacred service did Jesus set for us?
12 When he was a perfect man, Jesus was exemplary in displaying love for God and neighbor. As a member of God’s nation of Israel, dedicated to Jehovah, Jesus set the example in obeying the two greatest commandments. He said: “The first [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:29-31; Deuteronomy 6:4, 5) Jesus gave of himself unsparingly in his service to Jehovah and in teaching his neighbor Jews. When these tried to detain him so as to hear more, he told them:
“Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43)
In rendering sacred service Jesus was a worker, setting the pattern for all true Christians to follow.—Compare John 5:17.
13, 14. (a) How did Jesus regard people? (b) Why did he go out preaching, and why did he send forth others? (c) What kind of oversight may humans expect under the Kingdom?
13 Jesus showed himself to be loving and compassionate. In his heart, he yearned to see his people relieved of the heavy burdens imposed on them by their religious oppressors. So he told them about the Kingdom, and sent out his disciples, saying:
“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”—Matthew 9:35–10:7.
14 This King-designate invited the people, saying: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus, as God’s heavenly King over all mankind, will show that same kind of compassion, and he will see to it, as he did while on earth, that his Kingdom associates are organized to provide the relief and kindly oversight that humans really need. All who live on earth under Jesus’ Kingdom rule will indeed find refreshment for their souls.
FLAWLESS IN INTEGRITY
15. How did Jesus give the complete answer to Satan’s challenge?
15 Above all, mankind’s future King demonstrated flawless integrity and obedience to his heavenly Father, down to a cruel death on a torture stake. As that hour of execution drew near, Jesus prayed to Jehovah, saying, “Father, glorify your name.” Jehovah’s voice responded out of heaven: “I both glorified it and will glorify it again.” In sanctifying his Father’s name, Jesus gave the complete answer to Satan’s challenge. He demonstrated that a perfect man could prove faithful to God under every kind of trial that the adversary might bring against him. So Jesus could say: “Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world [Satan] will be cast out”—completely discredited, proved to be a liar. The Jewish religious leaders, as the ‘seed of the serpent,’ would cause a painful “heel” wound to be inflicted on the “seed” of God’s womanlike organization, but God would resurrect his worthy Son to spirit life.—Genesis 3:15; John 12:27-31.
16, 17. (a) Why may we have strong confidence in earth’s future King? (b) How do the Scriptures indicate the hope of a paradise earth to be a real one? (c) Should your previous way of life hinder you in reaching out for that hope?
16 Jesus’ love of righteousness, his hatred of lawlessness, his deep fondness for mankind and, above all, his unswerving obedience in doing his Father’s will to the glory of Jehovah’s name—all these things prove this loyal Son to be admirably qualified as earth’s future King. Would you not like to enter into eternal life as the happy subject of such a king?
17 No matter how good or how bad your way of life has been until now, you may realize that hope of everlasting life on an earth made glorious. Why, even the repentant thief that was executed with Jesus was given such a resurrection hope! For when he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you get into your kingdom,” Jesus replied: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42, 43) Soon, Paradise is to become a reality. Are you, too, prayerfully reaching out for the ‘coming’ of the Kingdom and its blessings?
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THE GREATEST MAN EVER ON EARTH
As King-designate, he proved integrity to the death, and by his shed blood ransomed mankind from sin and death