Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:2

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
New American Standard Version
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Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Church;   John;   Minister, Christian;   Preaching;   Repentance;   Salvation;   Scofield Reference Index - Gospel;   Kingdom of Heaven;   Repentance;   Thompson Chain Reference - Kingdom;   Kingdom, Spiritual;   Penitence-Impenitence;   Repentance;   Sorrow;   Spiritual;   The Topic Concordance - Baptism;   John the Baptist;   Kingdom of God;   Repentance;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Kingdom of Heaven;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - John the baptist;   Kingdom of god;   Repentance;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - John the Baptist;   Kingdom of God;   Messiah;   Preach, Proclaim;   Salvation;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Holy Ghost;   Hutchinsonians;   CARM Theological Dictionary - Kingdom of god;   Easton Bible Dictionary - John the Baptist;   Kingdom of God;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - John the Baptist;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Matthew, the Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Wilderness;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - John the Baptist;   Jordan;   Mss;   Preaching;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Baptism;   Baptism ;   Confession (of Sin);   Guilt (2);   Heaven ;   Heir Heritage Inheritance;   Immortality (2);   John the Baptist;   Judaea;   Originality;   Popularity ;   Repentance;   Salvation Save Saviour;   Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - John the Baptist;   Kingdom, Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven;   Repentance;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Judas;   Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Levi;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Repentance;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - John, the Baptize;   Jesus of Nazareth;   Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Matthew, the Gospel of;   Preacher;   Repentance;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Baptism;   Bareheadedness;   Christianity in Its Relation to Judaism;   Heaven;   Jesus of Nazareth;   John the Baptist;   Kingdom of God;   Repentance;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Repent - Μετανοειτε . This was the matter of the preaching. The verb μετανοεω is either compounded of μετα, after, and νοειν to understand, which signifies that, after hearing such preaching, the sinner is led to understand, that the way he has walked in was the way of misery, death, and hell. Or the word may be derived from μετα after, and ανοια, madness, which intimates that the whole life of a sinner is no other than a continued course of madness and folly: and if to live in a constant opposition to all the dictates of true wisdom; to wage war with his own best interests in time and eternity; to provoke and insult the living God; and, by habitual sin, to prepare himself only for a state of misery, be evidences of insanity, every sinner exhibits them plentifully. It was from this notion of the word, that the Latins termed repentance resipiscentia, a growing wise again, from re and sapere; or, according to Tertullian, Resipiscentia, quasi receptio mentis ad se, restoring the mind to itself: Contra Marcion, lib. ii. Repentance, then, implies that a measure of Divine wisdom is communicated to the sinner, and that he thereby becomes wise to salvation. That his mind, purposes, opinions, and inclinations, are changed; and that, in consequence, there is a total change in his conduct. It need scarcely be remarked, that, in this state, a man feels deep anguish of soul, because he has sinned against God, unfitted himself for heaven, and exposed his soul to hell. Hence, a true penitent has that sorrow, whereby he forsakes sin, not only because it has been ruinous to his own soul, but because it has been offensive to God.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand - Referring to the prophecy of Daniel, Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14, where the reign of Christ among men is expressly foretold. This phrase, and the kingdom of God, mean the same thing, viz. the dispensation of infinite mercy, and manifestation of eternal truth, by Christ Jesus, producing the true knowledge of God, accompanied with that worship which is pure and holy, worthy of that God who is its institutor and its object. But why is this called a kingdom? Because it has its laws, all the moral precepts of the Gospel: its subjects, all who believe in Christ Jesus: and its king, the Sovereign of heaven and earth. N. B. Jesus Christ never saved a soul which he did not govern; nor is this Christ precious or estimable to any man who does not feel a spirit of subjection to the Divine will.

But why is it called the kingdom of Heaven? Because God designed that his kingdom of grace here should resemble the kingdom of glory above. And hence our Lord teaches us to pray, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, says St. Paul, Romans 14:17; does not consist in the gratification of sensual passions, or worldly ambition; but is righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost. Now what can there be more than this in glory? Righteousness, without mixture of sin; peace, without strife or contention; joy, in the Holy Ghost, spiritual joy, without mixture of misery! And all this, it is possible, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enjoy here below. How then does heaven itself differ from this state? Answer. It makes the righteousness eternal, the peace eternal, and the joy eternal. This is the heaven of heavens! The phrase, kingdom of heaven, שמים מלכות malcuth shamayim, is frequently used by the rabbinical writers, and always means, the purity of the Divine worship, and the blessedness which a righteous man feels when employed in it.

It is farther added, This kingdom is at hand. The dispensation of the glorious Gospel was now about to be fully opened, and the Jews were to have the first offers of salvation. This kingdom is also at hand to us; and wherever Christ crucified is preached, there is salvation to be found. Jesus is proclaimed to thee, O man! as infinitely able and willing to save. Believe in his name - cast thy soul upon his atonement, and enter into rest!

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Repent ye - Repentance implies sorrow for past offences 2 Corinthians 7:10; a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God Psalm 51:4; and a full purpose to turn from transgression and to lead a holy life. A true penitent has sorrow for sin, not only because it is ruinous to his soul, but chiefly because it is an offence against God, and is that abominable thing which he hates, Jeremiah 44:4. It is produced by seeing the great danger and misery to which it exposes us; by seeing the justice and holiness of God Job 42:6; and by seeing that our sins have been committed against Christ, and were the cause of his death, Zechariah 12:10; Luke 22:61-62. There are two words in the New Testament translated “repentance,” one of which denotes a change of mind, or a reformation of life; and the other, sorrow or regret that sin has been committed. The word used here is the former, calling the Jews to a change of life, or a reformation of conduct. In the time of John, the nation had become extremely wicked and corrupt, perhaps more so than at any preceding period. Hence, both he and Christ began their ministry by calling the nation to repentance.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand - The phrases kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, kingdom of God, are of frequent occurrence in the Bible. They all refer to the same thing. The expectation of such a kingdom was taken from the Old Testament, and especially from Daniel, Daniel 7:13-14. The prophets had told of a successor to David that should sit on his throne 1 Kings 2:4; 1 Kings 8:25; Jeremiah 33:17. The Jews expected a great national deliverer. They supposed that when the Messiah should appear, all the dead would be raised; that the judgment would take place; and that the enemies of the Jews would be destroyed, and that they themselves would be advanced to great national dignity and honor.

The language in which they were accustomed to describe this event was retained by our Saviour and his apostles. Yet they early attempted to correct the common notions respecting his reign. This was one design, doubtless, of John in preaching repentance. Instead of summoning them to military exercises, and collecting an army, which would have been in accordance with the expectations of the nation, he called them to a change of life; to the doctrine of repentance - a state of things far more accordant with the approach of a kingdom of purity.

The phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” have been supposed to have a considerable variety of meaning. Some have supposed that they refer to the state of things in heaven; others, to the personal reign of Christ on earth; others, that they mean the church, or the reign of Christ in the hearts of his people. There can be no doubt that there is reference in the words to the condition of things in heaven after this life. But the church of God is a preparatory state to that beyond the grave - a state in which Christ pre-eminently rules and reigns and there is no doubt that the phrases sometimes refer to the state of things in the church; and that they may refer, therefore, to the state of things which the Messiah was to set up his spiritual reign begun in the church on earth and completed in heaven.

The expression “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” would be best translated, “the reign of God draws near.” We do not say commonly of a kingdom that it is movable, or that it approaches. A reign may be said to be at hand; and it may be said with propriety that the time when Christ would reign was at hand. In this sense it is meant that the time when Christ should reign, or set up his kingdom, or begin his dominion on earth, under the Christian economy, was about to commence. The phrase, then, should not be confined to any period of that reign, but includes his whole dominion over his people on earth and in heaven.

In the passage here it clearly means that the coming of the Messiah was near, or that the time of the reign of God which the Jews had expected was coming.

The word “heaven,” or “heavens,” as it is in the original, means sometimes the place so called; and sometimes it is, by a figure of speech, put for the Great Being whose residence is there, as in Daniel 4:26; “the Heavens do rule.” See also Mark 11:30; Luke 15:18. As that kingdom was one of purity, it was proper that the people should prepare themselves for it by turning from their sins, and by bringing their hearts into a state suitable to his reign.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Matthew 3:2

Repent ye.

The forerunner

of Jesus was distinguished as a prophet.

I. The preacher. Powerful and faithful.

II. The duty enforced. “Repentance.’

III. The plea by which it is enforced. The kingdom of heaven is nigh. (T. Heath.)

Preparing for Christ

I. A general view of the character, office, and ministry of the Baptist. It was preparatory to setting up the gospel kingdom.

II. The appropriate connection between repentance and any part in the kingdom of heaven, between spiritual conviction of sin and the realized advent of Him who is to deliver us from its guilt and power. The results of such preaching:-

1. Humiliating convictions of sin.

2. It makes ready for the reception of saving faith. (D. Moore, M. A.)

I. The character of the persons to whom John’s exhortation was addressed (Luke 3:1-38.) Many of them were soldiers and publicans, or Roman tax-gatherers, generally notoriously wicked. But many of them were brought to a temporary repentance (Luke 3:10-14). The bulk of them were professedly members of the Jewish Church (Luke 3:15), and among them many of their two great sects-Sadducees and Pharisees.

II. What this exhortation implies. Repentance-after-thought and consideration; hence arises conviction, humiliation, etc. A change of mind and heart (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11). This doctrine is equally necessary to be inculcated upon us.

III. The motives by which the exhortation is enforced. The gospel dispensation is come (Luke 1:78-79). And thus is a foundation laid for repentance. Jesus is exalted to give repentance (Acts 5:31). (Joseph Benson.)

Repentance

1. Repentance is generally made the child of fear; both John and Christ pressed people to repent because something good and happy was coming. This is true to our nature; men would rather turn their conduct by an expectation of good than by denunciation of evil. Fear is repellent, hope is an attraction; coldness hardens, warmth softens. Let man see a future near he likes and he will leave the past.

2. What God means when He says “Repent.” It is not remorse, sorrow, conviction, but a change of mind. You want a great change before Christ comes. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

His sermon was an exhortation to repentance and a holy life.

I. Repentance is the first intromission into the sanctities of Christian religion. The Lord treads upon no paths that are not

II. His baptism did signify by a cognation to their usual rites and ceremonies of ablution and washing Gentile proselytes, that the Jews had so far receded from their duty and that holiness which God required of them by the law, that they were in the state of strangers.

Repentance should be

I. Sincere. Though God is merciful He is not fallible, nor will He take the odour of sacrifices, or the incense of words in lieu of a solid, laborious virtue.

1. It is absolutely necessary to abandon the vice.

2. The thought of heaven should bring moral fortitude. The repentant soul should be great in purpose, rapid in action, unshaken in constancy.

II. Timely. It must take place at such a period as will enable us to make a real sacrifice of unlawful enjoyment to a sense of Christian duty.

1. Satiety is often mistaken for repentance. Many give up the offence when they have lost all appetite for its commission.

2. Change of body is mistaken for change of mind. He who quits a vice that has become unnatural to his period of life deems himself a progressive penitent, and believes he is receding from pleasure because pleasure is receding from him.

III. Continuous. If only a year of life remains let that be a whole year of repentance.

IV. Just. In making

V. The soul of a penitent man should be as firm against future relapse as it is sorrowful for past iniquity. (Sydney Smith.)

I. True sight of sin is requisite to true repentance.

1. A man that does repent must see and know his sins.

2. Must be grieved and humbled for them.

3. He must loathe himself.

4. He must be ashamed of his sin. So long as a man walks in the dark, he does not blush, he is not ashamed, though his clothes be ragged and torn, because he is in the dark; but if he come to the light, then he blushes.

5. He must acknowledge his sins.

6. He must labour to undo his sins.

II. Repentance is a fruit of faith.

1. Tears of repentance flow from the eye of faith.

2. So also repentance flows from love. Love is the cause of grief.

III. It is one thing for a man to be pricked in heart, and another for a man to repent.

1. A man, a malefactor, when he sees what shall become of him, wishes that he had never done it.

2. A man may be broken down with the weight of sin, yet his soul may not be thawed or melted. When you take a staff and break the ice with your hands, though you break it in one place, it freezes in another; but when there is a thaw, it melts and breaks everywhere.

3. A man may have more sorrow, grief, repentance in the ore, yet have none that is well refined.

4. It is one thing for grief, sorrow, and repentance to be more in view, sense and noise; and another thing to be more in spirit, and in profit. (Wm. Bridge.)

John the Baptist a storm-centre

Sometimes, nay, often, a church or a nation lies like a ship becalmed on the tropic sea. The air around it is heavy with pestilence and with death. The heat and the stagnation bring forth a brood of contemptible vices. Then some rushing storm-centre comes sweeping across the waters, and gathers into its bosom all the thunders of the lurid sky, lashes into fury the lazy elements, torments the putrescent waves into spray and foam, whirls the ship along with the noise of waterspouts, kindles electric fire upon its masts, making the ship’s crew pale their features with fear-drunken, or slumbering, or careless as they are. And even such a storm-centre of moral force was St. John the Baptist. For a brief time be cleared the air of a religion heavy with imposture, but it was too late. A few pure souls prepared by him had listened in the hush which followed to the voice of Christ; but the heavy pall of formalism and insincerity fell again upon the nation, fold by fold, and when the hurricane burst upon it once more, it was not the purifying storm of spiritual regeneration, it was the tornado of final destination. (F. W. Farrar.)

Reverie of repentance

There are thousands of persons who are given to what may be called the reverie of repentance. There are thousands of persons who feel sad that they are such wicked creatures. Really they feel that it is too bad. They at times fall into a minor key. Perhaps, if they are educated to music, they sit down to the piano, and play touching airs, and sing of the wickedness of the heart till tears flow down their cheeks. They pity themselves that they are so pitiable. How much repentance is there in all this? Is there any definiteness in it? Does the man say, “I am as proud as Lucifer? “ Not a word does he utter on that subject. Does the man say, “I am meanly selfish”? Oh, no; he only says, “I am sin-sick.” Does the man say, “I am unscrupulous, I am untrustworthy, I give way to debauch in this direction, and to animal appetites in that “? Does the man follow the example of that surgeon who, when called to dress a wound, probes it in all directions, and cleanses it thoroughly before he binds it up? Does he sit down and explore his heart with a searching, minute examination? No; he does not want to go particularly into it. He merely wants to have a feeling of regret in view of his general sinfulness. (H. W. Beecher.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 3:2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And saying, repent ye,.... The doctrine which John preached was the doctrine of repentance; which may be understood either of amendment of life and manners; for the state of the Jews was then very corrupt, all sorts of men were grown very wicked; and though there was a generation among them, who were righteous in their own eyes, and needed no repentance; yet John calls upon them all, without any distinction, to repent; and hereby tacitly strikes at the doctrine of justification by works, which they had embraced, to which the doctrine of repentance is directly opposite: or rather, this is meant, as the word here used signifies, of a change of mind, and principles. The Jews had imbibed many bad notions. The Pharisees held the traditions of the elders, and the doctrine of justification by the works of the law; and the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead; and it was a prevailing opinion among them all, and seems to be what is particularly struck at by John, that the Messiah would be a temporal king, and set up an earthly kingdom in this world. Wherefore he exhorts them to change their minds, to relinquish this notion; assuring them, that though he would be a king, and would have a kingdom, which was near at hand, yet it would be a heavenly, and not an earthly one. Hence the manner in which John enforces his doctrine, or the reason and argument he uses to prevail upon them to regard it, is by saying,

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand: by which is meant not the kingdom of glory to be expected in another world; or the kingdom of grace, that is internal grace, which only believers are partakers of in this; but the kingdom of the Messiah, which was "at hand", just ready to appear, when he would be made manifest in Israel and enter upon his work and office: it is the Gospel dispensation which was about to take place, and is so called; because of the wise and orderly management of it under Christ, the king and head of his church by the ministration of the word, and administration of ordinances; whereby, as means, spiritual and internal grace would be communicated to many, in whose hearts it would reign and make them meet for the kingdom of glory; and because the whole economy of the Gospel, the doctrines and ordinances of it are from heaven. This phrase, "the kingdom of heaven" is often to be met with in Jewish writings; and sometimes it stands opposed to the "kingdom of the earth"F18Bereshit Rabba, fol. 7. 4. ; by it is often meant the worship, service, fear, and love of God, and faith in him: thus in one of their booksF19Zohar in Exod. fol 39. 2. having mentioned those words, "serve the Lord with fear": it is asked, what means this phrase, "with fear?" It is answered, the same as it is written, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"; and this is מלכות שמים "the kingdom of heaven". And elsewhere theyF20Debarim Rabba, fol. 237. 2. ask, "what is the kingdom of heaven?" To which is answered, "the Lord our God is one Lord". Yea, the Lord God himself is so calledF21Zohar in Gen. fol. 112. 3. , and sometimes the sanctuary; and sometimes they intend by it the times of the Messiah, as the Baptist here does; for so they paraphraseF23Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 11. 4. those words,

"the time of the singing of birds, or of pruning, is come; the time for Israel to be redeemed is come; the time for the uncircumcision to be cut off is come; the time that the kingdom of the Cuthites (Samaritans or Heathens) shall be consumed is come; and the time של מלכות שמים שתגלה that "the kingdom of heaven shall be revealed" is come, as it is written, "and the Lord shall be king over all, the earth."'

Very pertinently does John make use of this argument to engage to repentance; since there cannot be a greater motive to it, whether it regard sorrow for sin, and confession of it, or a change of principles and practice, than the grace of God through Christ, which is exhibited in the Gospel dispensation: and very appropriately does he urge repentance previous to the kingdom of heaven; because without that there can be no true and cordial embracing or entering into the Gospel dispensation, or kingdom of heaven; that is, no real and hearty receiving the doctrines, and submitting to the ordinances of it. Nor ought the Jews above all people to object to John's method of preaching; since they make repentance absolutely necessary to the revelation of the Messiah and his kingdom, and redemption by him; for they sayF24T. Hieros. Taanith, fol. 63. 4. & 64. 1. & Bab. Sanhed. fol. 97. 2. in so many words, that

"if Israel do not repent, they will never be redeemed; but as soon as they repent, they will be redeemed; yea, if they repent but one day, immediately the son of David will come.'

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And saying, c Repent ye: for the d kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(c) The word in the greek signifies a changing of our minds and heart from evil to better.

(d) The kingdom of Messiah, whose government will be heavenly, and nothing but heavenly.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/matthew-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

And saying, Repent ye — Though the word strictly denotes a change of mind, it has respect here (and wherever it is used in connection with salvation) primarily to that sense of sin which leads the sinner to flee from the wrath to come, to look for relief only from above, and eagerly to fall in with the provided remedy.

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand — This sublime phrase, used in none of the other Gospels, occurs in this peculiarly Jewish Gospel nearly thirty times; and being suggested by Daniel‘s grand vision of the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days, to receive His investiture in a world-wide kingdom (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14), it was fitted at once both to meet the national expectations and to turn them into the right channel. A kingdom for which repentance was the proper preparation behooved to be essentially spiritual. Deliverance from sin, the great blessing of Christ‘s kingdom (Matthew 1:21), can be valued by those only to whom sin is a burden (Matthew 9:12). John‘s great work, accordingly, was to awaken this feeling and hold out the hope of a speedy and precious remedy.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

2. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

[Repent ye.] A doctrine most fit for the gospel, and most suitable to the time, and the word or the phrase as agreeable to the doctrine.

I. A nation leavened with the error of the Pharisees, concerning justification by the works of the law, was necessarily to be called off to the contrary doctrine of repentance. No receiving of the gospel was otherwise to be expected.

II. However the schools of the Pharisees had illy defined repentance, which we observe presently, yet they asserted that repentance itself was necessary to the reception of the Messias. Concerning this matter the Babylonian Gemarists do dispute: whom Kimchi also upon Isaiah 54:19 cites, and determines the question: "From the words of our Rabbins (saith he) it is plain there arose a doubt among them concerning this matter, namely, whether Israel were to be redeemed with repentance or without repentance. And it sprang from this occasion, that some texts of Scripture seemed to go against them: such as those; 'He saw, and there was no man, and he wondered, that there was none to intercede; therefore, his own arm brought salvation.' And also, 'Not for your sake, O Israel, do I this.' And again, 'I will remember for them my old covenant,' &c. And these places, on the other hand, make for repentance: 'Thou shalt return to the Lord thy God, and shalt hearken to his voice.' And again; 'And thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, and shalt find him, if thou seekest him with all thy heart,' &c. But these may be reconciled after this manner; namely, that many of Israel shall repent, when they shall see the signs of redemption. And hence is that which is said, 'And he saw that there was no man,' because they will not repent until they see the beginning of redemption."

"If Israel shall repent but one day, forthwith the Redeemer cometh" (Taanith).

Therefore, it is very fitly argued by the Baptist, and by our Saviour after him, Matthew 4:17, from the approach of the kingdom of heaven to repentance, since they themselves to whom this is preached do acknowledge that thus the kingdom of heaven, or the manifestation of the Messias, is to be brought in. For however the Gemarists who dispute of this were of a later age, yet for the most part they do but speak the sense of their fathers.

III. The word repentance as it does very well express the sense of true repentance, so among the Jews it was necessary that it should be so expressed, among whom repentance, for the most part, was thought to consist in the confession of the mouth only.

"Whosoever, out of error or presumption, shall transgress the precepts of the law, whether they be those that command or those that forbid, when he repents and returns from his sins, he is bound to make confession. Whosoever brings an offering for a sin, committed either out of ignorance or presumption, his sin is not expiated by the offering, until he makes an oral confession. Or whosoever is guilty of death, or of scourging by the Sanhedrim, his sin is not taken away by his death, or by his scourging, if he do not repent and make confession. And because the scape-goat is the expiation for all Israel, therefore the high priest makes confession over him for all Israel."

It is worthy observing, that, when John urgeth those that came to his baptism to repent, it is said, that they were baptized, "confessing their sins": which was a sign of repentance highly requisite among the Jews, and necessary for those that were then brought in to the profession of the Gospel; that hereby they might openly profess that they renounced the doctrine of justification by the works of the law.

It is worthy of observing also, that John said not, "Repent, and believe the gospel," which our Saviour did, Matthew 4:17, (and yet John preached the gospel, Mark 1:1,2; John 1:7); for his office, chiefly, was to make Christ known, who when he should come was to be the great preacher of the gospel.

Therefore the Baptist doth very properly urge repentance upon those that looked for the Messias; and the text of the Gospel used a very proper word to express true and lively repentance.

[For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.] I. The kingdom of heaven, in Matthew, is the kingdom of God, for the most part, in the other evangelists. Compare these places:

"The kingdom of heaven is at hand," Matthew 4:17.
"The poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 5:3.
"The least in the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 11:11.
"The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 13:11.
"Little children, of such is the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 19:14.
"The kingdom of God is at hand," Mark 1:15.
"Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God," Luke 6:20.
"The least in the kingdom of God," Luke 7:28.
"The mysteries of the kingdom of God," Luke 8:10.
"Little children, of such is the kingdom of God," Mark 10:14.

And so we have it elsewhere very often, For Heaven is very usually, in the Jewish dialect, taken for God, Daniel 4:23; Matthew 21:25; Luke 15:21; John 3:27. And, in these and such-like speeches, scattered in the Talmudists: Death by the hand of heaven: The name of heaven is profaned: The worship of heaven: by the help of heaven, &c. "For they called God by the name of Heaven, because his habitation is in heaven" (Tishbi).

The story of the Jews is related, groaning out under their persecution these words, O Heavens! that is, as the Gloss renders it, Ah! Jehovah!

II. This manner of speech, the kingdom of heaven, is taken from Daniel, chapter 7:13, 14; where, after the description of the four earthly and tyrannical monarchies, that is, the Babylonian, Mede-Persian, Grecian, and Syro-Grecian, and the destruction of them at last; the entrance and nature of the reign of Christ is described, as it is universal over the whole world, and eternal throughout all ages: "under whom the rule, and dominion, and authority of kingdoms under the whole heaven is given to the people of the saints of the Most High," verse 27: that is, "Whereas, before, the rule had been in the hands of heathen kings, under the reign of Christ there should be Christian kings." Unto which that of the apostle hath respect, 1 Corinthians 6:2; "know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?"

Truly I admire that the fulfilling of that vision and prophecy in Daniel should be lengthened out still into I know not what long and late expectation, not to receive its completion before Rome and antichrist shall fall; since the books of the Gospel afford us a commentary clearer than the sun, that that kingdom of heaven took its beginning immediately upon the preaching of the Gospel. When both the Baptist and Christ published the approach of the kingdom of heaven from their very first preaching; certainly, for any to think that the fulfilling of those things in Daniel did not then begin, for my part, I think it is to grope in the dark, either through wilfulness or ignorance.

III. The kingdom of heaven implies, 1. The exhibition and manifestation of the Messias, Matthew 12:28; "But if I, by the finger of God, cast out devils, the kingdom of God is come upon you": that is, 'Hence is the manifestation of the Messias.' See John 3:3, 12:13, &c. 2. The resurrection of Christ; death, hell, Satan, being conquered: whence is a most evident manifestation that he is that 'eternal King,' &c.: see Matthew 26:29; Romans 1:4. 3. His vengeance upon the Jewish nation, his most implacable enemies: this is another, and most eminent manifestation of him: see Matthew 16:28, 19:28. 4. His dominion by the sceptre of the gospel among the Gentiles, Matthew 21:43. In this place which is before us it points out the exhibition and revelation of the Messias.

IV. The phrase the kingdom of heaven very frequently occurs in the Jewish writers. We will produce some places; let the reader gather the sense of them:

"R. Joshua Ben Korcha saith, In reciting the phylacteries, why is Hear, O Israel, [Deut 6:4, &c.] recited before that passage And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken [Deut 11:13], &c. To wit, that a man first take upon himself the kingdom of heaven, and then the yoke of the precept." So the Jerusalem Misna hath it; but the Babylonian thus: "That a man first take upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and then the yoke of the precept."

"Rabh said to Rabbi Chaijah, We never saw Rabbi [Judah] taking upon himself the kingdom of heaven. Bar Pahti answered, At that time when he put his hands to his face, he took upon himself the kingdom of heaven." Where the Gloss speaks thus: "We saw not that he took upon himself the kingdom of heaven; for until the time came of reciting the phylacteries, he instructed his scholars; and when that time was come, I saw him not interposing any space."

"Doth any ease nature? Let him wash his hands, put on his phylacteries, repeat them, and pray, and this is the kingdom of heaven fulfilled." "If thou shalt have explained Shaddai, and divided the letters of the kingdom of heaven, thou shalt make the shadow of death to be cool to thee"; that is, "If, in the repeating of that passage of the phylacteries [Deut 6:4], 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,' &c., you shall pronounce the letters distinctly and deliberately, so that you shall have sounded out the names of God rightly, 'thou shalt make cool the shades of death.'" For the same Gloss had said, The repeating of that passage, 'Hear, O Israel,' &c., is the taking of the kingdom of heaven upon thee. But the repeating of that place, 'And it shall be, if thou shalt hearken,' &c. [Deut 19:13] is the taking of the yoke of the precept upon thee.

"Rabban Gamaliel recited his phylacterical prayers on the very night of his nuptials. And when his scholars said unto him, 'Hast thou not taught us, O our master, that a bridegroom is freed from the reciting of his phylacteries the first night?' he answered, 'I will not hearken to you, nor will I lay aside the kingdom of heaven from me, no, not for an hour.'"

"What is the yoke of the kingdom of heaven? In like manner as they lay the yoke upon an ox, that he may be serviceable; and if he bear not the yoke, he becomes unprofitable: so it becomes a man first to take the yoke upon himself, and to serve in all things with it: but if he casts it off, he is unprofitable: as it is said, 'Serve the Lord in fear.' What means, 'in fear?' the same that is written, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' And this is the kingdom of heaven."

"The scholars of Jochanan Ben Zaccai asked, Why a servant was to be bored through the ear, rather than through some other part of the body? He answered, When he heard with the ear those words from mount Sinai, 'Thou shalt have no other Lord before my face,' he broke the yoke of the kingdom of heaven from him, and took upon himself the yoke of flesh and blood."

If by the kingdom of heaven, in these and other such-like places, which it would be too much to heap together, they mean the inward love and fear of God, which indeed they seem to do; so far they agree with our gospel sense, which asserts the inward and spiritual kingdom of Christ especially. And if the words of our Saviour, "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you," Luke 17:21, be suited to this sense of the nation concerning the kingdom of heaven, there is nothing sounds hard or rough in them: for it is as much as if he had said "Do you think the kingdom of heaven shall come with some remarkable observation, or with much show? Your very schools teach that the kingdom of God is within a man."

But, however they most ordinarily applied this manner of speech hither, yet they used it also for the exhibition and revelation of the Messiah in the like manner as the evangelical history doth. Hence are these expressions, and the like to them, in sacred writers: "The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God should come." "They thought that the kingdom of God should presently be manifested." "Josephus of Arimathea waited for the kingdom of God."

And these words in the Chaldee paraphrast, "Say ye to the cities of Judah, The kingdom of your God is revealed," Isaiah 40:9: "They shall see the kingdom of their Messiah," Isaiah 53:11.

The Baptist, therefore, by his preaching, stirs up the minds of his hearers to meet the coming of the Messiah, now presently to be manifested, with that repentance and preparation as is meet.

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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/matthew-3.html. 1675.

People's New Testament

Repent ye. The great rite of John was baptism, but the great duty commanded was repentance. Repentance is more than a sorrow for sin; it is a determination to abandon it and live a new life. It means a change of the will, or heart, new purposes, a determination to leave off sinning. Sorrow is not repentance, but "godly sorrow worketh repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The kingdom of heaven. The long expected kingdom ruled by the Messiah King, predicted by the prophets, and especially by Daniel (Daniel 2:44). The announcement of this anxiously-waited-for kingdom thrilled all Judea.

Is at hand. It is to be noted: 1. That the kingdom to which he referred was in the future, but near. It did not begin with Abraham, or David, or even with John the Baptist. 2. It is the kingdom of {heaven,} not an earthly kingdom, and hence, must have a King sent from heaven. That King was not yet revealed to the public, but we have seen that one was born at Bethlehem who was to be the King. John was not the founder, but the herald of the coming King.

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Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-3.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Repent (μετανοειτεmetanoeite). Broadus used to say that this is the worst translation in the New Testament. The trouble is that the English word “repent” means “to be sorry again” from the Latin repoenitet (impersonal). John did not call on the people to be sorry, but to change (think afterwards) their mental attitudes (μετανοειτεmetanoeite) and conduct. The Vulgate has it “do penance” and Wycliff has followed that. The Old Syriac has it better: “Turn ye.” The French (Geneva) has it “Amendez vous.” This is John‘s great word (Bruce) and it has been hopelessly mistranslated. The tragedy of it is that we have no one English word that reproduces exactly the meaning and atmosphere of the Greek word. The Greek has a word meaning to be sorry (μεταμελομαιmetamelomai) which is exactly our English word repent and it is used of Judas (Matthew 27:3). John was a new prophet with the call of the old prophets: “Turn ye” (Joel 2:12; Isaiah 55:7; Ezekiel 33:11, Ezekiel 33:15).

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand (ηγγικεν γαρ η ασιλεια των ουρανωνēggiken gar hē Basileia tōn ouranōn). Note the position of the verb and the present perfect tense. It was a startling word that John thundered over the hills and it re-echoed throughout the land. The Old Testament prophets had said that it would come some day in God‘s own time. John proclaims as the herald of the new day that it has come, has drawn near. How near he does not say, but he evidently means very near, so near that one could see the signs and the proof. The words “the kingdom of heaven” he does not explain. The other Gospels use “the kingdom of God” as Matthew does a few times, but he has “the kingdom of heaven” over thirty times. He means “the reign of God,” not the political or ecclesiastical organization which the Pharisees expected. His words would be understood differently by different groups as is always true of popular preachers. The current Jewish apocalypses had numerous eschatological ideas connected with the kingdom of heaven. It is not clear what sympathy John had with these eschatological features. He employs vivid language at times, but we do not have to confine John‘s intellectual and theological horizon to that of the rabbis of his day. He has been an original student of the Old Testament in his wilderness environment without any necessary contact with the Essenes who dwelt there. His voice is a new one that strikes terror to the perfunctory theologians of the temple and of the synagogue. It is the fashion of some critics to deny to John any conception of the spiritual content of his words, a wholly gratuitous criticism.

For this is he that was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet (ουτος γαρ εστιν ο ρητεις δια Εσαιου του προπητουhoutos gar estin ho rhētheis dia Esaiou tou prophētou). This is Matthew‘s way of interpreting the mission and message of the Baptist. He quotes Isaiah 40:3 where “the prophet refers to the return of Israel from the exile, accompanied by their God” (McNeile). He applies it to the work of John as “a voice crying in the wilderness” for the people to make ready the way of the Lord who is now near. He was only a voice, but what a voice he was. He can be heard yet across the centuries.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Repent ( μετανοεῖτε )

A word compounded of the preposition μετά , after, with; and the verb νοέω , to perceive, and to think, as the result of perceiving or observing. In this compound the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by after and different; so that the whole compound means to think differently after. Μετάνοια (repentance ) is therefore, primarily, an after-thought, different from the former thought; then, a change of mind which issues in regret and in change of conduct. These latter ideas, however, have been imported into the word by scriptural usage, and do not lie in it etymologically nor by primary usage. Repentance, then, has been rightly defined as “Such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets a like virtuous change in the life and practice.” Sorrow is not, as is popularly conceived, the primary nor the prominent notion of the word. Paul distinguishes between sorrow ( λύπη ) and repentance ( μετάνοια )and puts the one as the outcome of the other. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The kingdom of heaven

Lit., the kingdom of the heavens ( ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν )An expression peculiar to Matthew. The more usual one is the kingdom of God. It is a kingdom of heaven because its origin, its end, its king, the character and destiny of its subjects, its laws, institutions, and privileges - all are heavenly. In the teaching of Christ and in the apostolic writings the kingdom of the Messiah is the actual consummation of the prophetic idea of the rule of God, without any national limitation, so that participation therein rests only on faith in Jesus Christ, and on the moral renewal which is conditioned by the same. It is the combination of all rights of Christian citizenship in this world, and eternal blessedness in the next. All its senses are only different sides of the same great idea - the subjection of all things to God in Christ.

Voice

John's personality is thrown into shadow behind Christ. “What would be the duty of a merely human teacher of the highest moral aim, entrusted with a great spiritual mission and lesson for the benefit of mankind? The example of St. John Baptist is an answer to this iniquity. Such a teacher would represent himself as a mere 'voice,' crying aloud in the moral wilderness around him, and anxious, beyond aught else, to shroud his own insignificant person beneath the majesty of his message” (Liddoll, “Our Lord's Divinity”).

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/matthew-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God, are but two phrases for the same thing. They mean, not barely a future happy state, in heaven, but a state to be enjoyed on earth: the proper disposition for the glory of heaven, rather than the possession of it.

Is at hand — As if he had said, God is about to erect that kingdom, spoken of by Daniel Daniel 2:44; 7:13,14; the kingdom of the God of heaven. It properly signifies here, the Gospel dispensation, in which subjects were to be gathered to God by his Son, and a society to be formed, which was to subsist first on earth, and afterward with God in glory. In some places of Scripture, the phrase more particularly denotes the state of it on earth: in,others, it signifies only the state of glory: but it generally includes both. The Jews understood it of a temporal kingdom, the seat of which they supposed would be Jerusalem; and the expected sovereign of this kingdom they learned from Daniel to call the Son of man. Both John the Baptist and Christ took up that phrase, the kingdom of heaven, as they found it, and gradually taught the Jews (though greatly unwilling to learn) to understand it right. The very demand of repentance, as previous to it, showed it was a spiritual kingdom, and that no wicked man, how politic, brave, or learned soever, could possibly be a subject of it.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Repent ye1; for2 the kingdom of heaven3 is at hand.

  1. Repent ye. To repent is to change the "will" in reference to "sin", resolving to sin no more.

  2. For. John sets forth the motive for repentance. Repentance is the duty, and the approach of the kingdom is the motive inciting to it. Only by repentance could the people be prepared for the kingdom. Those who are indifferent to the obligations of an old revelation would be ill-prepared to receive a new one.

  3. The kingdom of heaven. See Daniel 2:44. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is peculiar to Matthew, who uses it 32 times in 31 verses. He also joins with the other evangelists in calling it the "kingdom of God" (Matthew 12:28; Matthew 19:24; Matthew 21:31,43). We know not why he preferred the expression, "kingdom of heaven".

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

The kingdom of heaven; the gospel dispensation,--the coming and kingdom of the Messiah.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/matthew-3.html. 1878.

Scofield's Reference Notes

(1) The phrase, kingdom of heaven (lit. of the heavens), is peculiar to Matthew and signifies the Messianic earth rule of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. It is called the kingdom of the heavens because it is the rule of the heavens over the earth Matthew 6:10 The phrase is derived from Daniel, where it is defined; Daniel 2:34-36; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:23-27 as the kingdom which the God of heaven will set up after the destruction by "the stone cut out without hands," of the Gentile world-system. It is the kingdom covenanted to David's seed 2 Samuel 7:7-10 described in the prophets; (See Scofield "Zechariah 12:8") and confirmed to Jesus the Christ, the Son of Mary, through the angel Gabriel Luke 1:32; Luke 1:33.

(2) The kingdom of heaven has three aspects in Matthew:

(a) "at hand" from the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist Matthew 3:2 to the virtual rejection of the King, and the announcement of the new brotherhood Matthew 12:46-50

(b) in seven "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," to be fulfilled during the present age Matthew 13:1-52 to which are to be added the parables of the kingdom of heaven which were spoken after those of Matthew 13, and which have to do with the sphere of Christian profession during this age;

(c) the prophetic aspect--the kingdom to be set up after the return of the King in glory. Matthew 24:29 to Matthew 25:46; Luke 19:12-19; Acts 15:14-17 See "Kingdom (N.T.)"; Luke 1:33; 1 Corinthians 15:28 Cf. "Kingdom of God," (See Scofield "Matthew 6:33").

saying (See Scofield "Acts 17:30").

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Matthew 3:2". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/matthew-3.html. 1917.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM

‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Matthew 3:2

Do not think that St. John was juggling with words. He meant what he said; he knew of and cared for the fears and hopes and longings and wants around him. We mean to-day what we say when we pray ‘Thy kingdom come.’ Jesus Christ is a King, Who knows our every need better than we know it ourselves, Who is touched with our infirmities, and feels our sorrows, and will right them if we will let Him. There was only one thing then, and there is only one thing now which prevents the reign of Jesus Christ, and that is man himself—man who will not have Christ to reign over him.

I. Christ claims a universal dominion.—He claims the whole world. Hence the missionary leaves home and friends and goes out in steady confidence. Here in this England of ours Jesus Christ claims an absolute sovereignty over it all. And yet how far we are from recognising it. Here as of old there are many wistful ears anxiously straining for the news of deliverance. There is the huge mass of indifference without God in the world; there is reckless waste and hopeless want; there is sin in all its terrible defiance of the very laws of human existence. There is suffering and misery, and, worse than all, an inability for a man to assert his powers as a man to make his own way in the world. There is confusion and difficulty, misunderstanding and suspicion, wherever we turn. Pray on, wherever you may be; pray for those dark spots of sin and those sad spots of sorrow which darken our Christian cities. The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly; but He that dwelleth on high is mightier. The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus Christ reigns.

II. The need of patience.—Patience—how we hate that word! But no lasting good is to be had without it. We can always cut the knot of a difficulty, but the truly great man wants to untie it. Of course it is true that destitution and hunger and want ought to be, and must be, attended to at once by wise remedies. They do not brook delay. But we want a solution of a recurring difficulty, the adjustment of what seems to be an inequality of opportunity. Be assured of this, that there is no lack of ardent desire on the part of every right-minded man to do all he can to help while these great questions are being worked out. There is always a danger of impatience. Think of the slaves! What was patience to them? It seemed as if Christ had nothing to say to their cruel grievance. His kingdom came and slavery stayed. But Christ had enunciated principles which tended to make slavery impossible, and gradually, through long years, slavery has been dying out. So it was with those blood-stained shows, in which men killed each other for sport: Christ seemed to have done nothing to stop them, when all of a sudden it was found that the whole system collapsed at the earnest preaching of one devoted man, because Christian principles had condemned it and made it impossible. So it has been with the position of woman; so it has been with wars of aggression; so it will be with the evils which paralyse us to-day. ‘Sirs, ye are brethren.’ ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one towards another.’ These are the laws of Christ’s kingdom; these He will set up and proclaim, if we will let Him. But we are all apt to think that we know better. ‘We can hurry man, but we cannot hurry God.’

III. The Kingdom of God is within you.—It is not only the cause and the measure which we must think of, but the man. If, therefore, you feel that God has called you to help solve a very difficult problem, let me beseech you each to look to yourselves. There are problems in our own lives as difficult as the problems in large cities. A man may be beaten down by temper, or by passion, or by desire—by a hundred things, so that he becomes useless for work in God’s service. Let us each, in our several ways, work towards the same end—the solving of a great and pressing difficulty—and to that end let us offer to God ourselves, each of us as we are and what we are. ‘Men make a city, and not walls,’ was said on a famous occasion; and it is the individual man who counts in carrying forward Christ’s kingdom. If God says ‘Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward,’ then we can advance, even through the Red Sea, towards our promised land; but, on the other hand, ‘except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it.’

—Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

(1) ‘A modern writer, speaking of the impression left on his mind by a visit to the Grande Chartreuse, in the days when it was still occupied by its devoted band of religious men, describes to us the solemnity of the night offices and the suggestiveness of those solemn intercessions: “I heard them,” he says, “interceding for men who, at that moment of the dark night, were forgetting God, and truth, purity, and goodness. I heard the murmur of the solemn petition which had gone up to the throne of grace night after night for many centuries, prayers for the poor and the wretched, for the guilty and the crime-laden, for the dying and the dead, for the faint-hearted that they might hope again in God, for the light-headed lest they might forget Him.”’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/matthew-3.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Ver. 2. And saying, Repent ye] Change your minds now at the preaching of the gospel, as they changed their garments at the promulgation of the law. {a} "Rend your hearts, and not your garments," plough up the fallows of your hearts; grieve for your sins, even to repentance, as those Corinthians did, and as Simon Peter counselled Simon Magus, that snake that had cast his coat but kept his poison, for although he carried the matter so cleanly and cunningly, that Philip took him for a true convert and baptized him, yet Peter soon saw that he was "in the gall" or venom "of bitterness" (for the word used, Deuteronomy 29:18, whereunto the apostle alludes, signifieth both), and therefore prescribes him an antidote, the very same that John doth here to this generation of vipers, "Repent, if perhaps the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee," Acts 8:22-23. His wicked thought is called επινοια: the godly change of mind that the apostle persuadeth him unto is called μετανοια, he that by some mischance hath drunk poison ( ראש χολη), must cast it up again as soon as he can, ere it got to the vitals. Repentance is the soul’s vomit, which is the hardest kind of physic, but the wholesomest. Happy is he that by the dung gate of {Nehemiah 3:14} his mouth (in a sorrowful confession) can disburden himself of the sin that both clogs and hazards his soul to death eternal. We ran from God by sin to death, and have no other way to return but by death to sin, Hebrews 12:1.

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand] q.d. Ye have a price put into your hands, a fair opportunity of making yourselves for ever. Will ye (like the vine and olive in Jotham’s parable, 9:9) not leave your sweetness and fatness, your dilecta delicta, beloved sins, although it be to reign, yea, and that in God’s kingdom? Knowest thou not, that the goodness of God should lead thee to repentance? Romans 2:4; Psalms 130:4. Is there not mercy with God therefore that he may be feared? Should not men rend their hearts, because God is gracious, and turn to the Lord, because he will "multiply pardon?" Joel 2:12; Isaiah 55:7. To argue from mercy to liberty is the devil’s logic, and makes God repent him of his favours to such, as David did of his kindness to Nabal. Rather we should argue from mercy to duty, as Joseph did to his master in a temptation; from deliverance to obedience, with David, Psalms 116:8-9. And therefore return to our father’s house, with the prodigal, because there is bread enough; therefore repent, because his kingdom is at hand, and would be laid hold on. As John the Baptist was Christ’s forerunner into the world, so must repentance be his forerunner into our hearts.

{a} Ad mentem redite. Erasmus. As the prodigal came to himself, who, till converted, had been beside himself. See a like phrase, 2 Chronicles 6:37.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-3.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

The emphasis of John was on one fact:

v. 2. And saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

That was the chief content, the matter, the burden, of his heralding, the admonition to repentance, the watch-word which characterized his preaching. He deemed a complete change of mind and heart necessary as preparation for the advent of the Messiah. For His kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, has come near; it is about to be revealed in all its glory. It is a kingdom of the heavens in opposition to an earthly kingdom of which the Jews dreamed, since Jesus, the Lord of heaven, is its Ruler, and since this kingdom, whose beauty is here often hidden by the misery of this present life, will be fully revealed in the light of the future glory above. There all those that with sorrowful and contrite hearts accepted the Savior in His lowliness and humility will be partakers of His kingdom with its eternal splendor and majesty. Sincere repentance, followed by simple faith, opens the way to all this grandeur. "But this is repentance, if I believe God's Word, which revivals to me and accuses me of being a sinner and condemned before God, and am terrified with all my heart because I have ever been disobedient to my God, have not rightly looked upon and considered His commandments, much less kept the greatest or the least, and yet do not despair, but let myself be directed to Jesus, to seek mercy and help with Him, and also firmly believe I shall find it. For He is the Lamb of God, destined from eternity for this purpose that He shall bear the sins of the whole world and pay for them by His death."

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/matthew-3.html. 1921-23.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Matthew 3:2. Repent ye This was only the substance and result of his preaching. The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God, are but two phrases for the same thing, agreeably to the style of the Hebrews; who frequently used the word heaven to denote God himself who dwells there. Hence what is here called by St. Matthew the kingdom of heaven, is by St. Mark and St. Luke called the kingdom of God; Mark 1:15. Luke 6:20. The kingdom of heaven, therefore, signifies here the kingdom of God, which was founded and established by the Lord Jesus Christ,—the kingdom of grace here, introductory to the kingdom of glory hereafter; and this expression is founded on Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14. Now, as the kingdom of heaven was to be opened by the preaching of the Gospel, John the Baptist rightly says, that it was at hand; since the Lord Jesus Christ entered on his public ministry about six months after. See Luke 3:2-3. The demand of repentance shewed that this was a spiritual kingdom, and that no wicked man, how politic or brave, how learned or renowned soever, could possibly be a genuine member of it. See Whitby, Beausobre and Lenfant, Doddridge, and Heylin, p. 19. For the next verse we refer to the notes on Isaiah 40:3.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/matthew-3.html. 1801-1803.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

2. μετανοεῖτε] Used by the Baptist in the O.T. sense of turning to God as His people, from the spiritual idolatry and typical adultery in which the faithless among the Jews were involved. This, of course, included personal amendment in individuals. See Luke 3:10-14. Josephus describes John, Antt. xviii. 5. 2, as τοὺς ἰουδαίους κελεύοντα ἀρετὴν ἐπασκοῦντας καὶ τῇ πρὸς ἀλλήλους δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εὐσεβείᾳ χρωμένους βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι.

ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν] An expression peculiar in the N.T. to St. Matthew. The more usual one is ἡ βασ. τοῦ θεοῦ: but ἡ β. τῶν οὐρ. is common in the Rabbinical writers, who do not however, except in one or two places, mean by it the reign of the Messiah, but the Jewish religion—the theocracy. Still, from the use of it by St. Matthew here, and in ch. Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:7, we may conclude that it was used by the Jews, and understood, to mean the advent of the Christ, probably from the prophecy in Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14; Daniel 7:27.

It has been observed by recent critics, that wherever the term βασ. τ. οὐρ. (or its equivalent) is used in the N.T., it signifies, not the Church, nor the Christian religion, but strictly the kingdom of the Messiah which is to be revealed hereafter. I should doubt this being exclusively true. The state of Christian men now is undoubtedly a part of the bringing in of the kingdom of Christ, and, as such, is included in this term. See Mark 12:34, and note on ch. Matthew 5:3.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:2. ΄ετανοεῖτε] denotes the transformation of the moral disposition, which is requisite in order to obtain a share in the kingdom of the Messiah. Sanhedrin f. 97, 2 : “Si Israelitae poenitentiam agunt, tunc per Goëlem. liberantur.” In the mouth of John the conception could only be that of the Old Testament ( נִחַם, שׁוּב), expressing the transformation according to the moral requirements of the law, but not yet the Christian idea, according to which μετάνοια has as its essential inseparable correlative, faith in Jesus as the Messiah (Mark 1:15), after which the Holy Spirit, received by means of baptism, establishes and completes the new birth from above into true ζωή. John 3:3; John 3:5; Titus 3:5 f.; Acts 2:38.

ἤγγικε] it is near; for John expected that Jesus would set up His kingdom. Comp. Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:7.

βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν] See Fleck, de regno div. 1829; Weissenbach, Jesu in regno coelor. dignitas, 1868; Keim, Gesch. J. II. p. 40 ff.; Kamphausen, d. Gebet des Herren, p. 56 ff.; Wittichen, d. Idee des Reiches Gottes, 1872. The kingdom of heaven (the plural is to be explained from the popular idea of seven heavens; see on 2 Corinthians 12:2) corresponds to the Rabbinical מלכות השמים (Schoettgen, Diss. de regno coelor. I. in his Horae, I. p. 1147 ff., and Wetstein in loc.),—an expression which is used by the Rabbins mostly indeed in the ethico-theocratic sense, but also in the eventually historical meaning of the theocracy, brought to its consummation by the Messiah (Targum, Mich. Matthew 4:7 b in Wetstein). In the N. T. this expression occurs only in Matthew, and that as the usual one, which, as that which was most frequently employed by Jesus Himself, is to be regarded as derived from the collection of sayings (in answer to Weiss). Equivalent in meaning to it are: βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (also in Matthew, yet much rarer and not everywhere critically certain), βασιλ. τ. χριστοῦ, βασιλεία. Comp. Isaiah 20:6; Daniel 2:44, Daniel 7:14 ff., Daniel 7:26 f. The kingdom of the Messiah is designated by βας. τ. οὐρ., because this kingdom, the consummated theocracy in its glory, is no earthly kingdom, John 18:36, but belongs to heaven, appears to us as descending from heaven, where, up till that time, its blessings, its salvation, and its δόξα are preserved by God for bestowal at some future period. Although among the Jewish people the theocratic idea, of which the prophets were the bearers, had preserved its root,—and from this people alone, in accordance with its divine preparation and guidance, could the realization of this idea, and with it the salvation of the world, proceed, as, indeed, the profounder minds apprehended and cherished the mighty thought of Messiah in the sense of the true rule of God, and of its destination for the world,—yet the common idea of the people was predominantly political and particularistic, frequently stamped with the fanatical thought of a world-rule and with millenarian ideas (the Messiah raises up the descendants of Abraham, then comes the kingdom which lasts a thousand years, then the resurrection and the condemnatory judgment of the heathen, the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the everlasting life of the descendants of Abraham on the earth, which has been transformed along with the whole universe). In the teaching of Christ, however, and in the apostolic writings, the kingdom of the Messiah is the actual consummation of the prophetic idea of the rule of God; and as it is unaccompanied by millenarian ideas (which exist only in the non-apostolic Apocalypse), so also is it without any national limitation, so that participation therein rests only on faith in Jesus Christ, and on the moral renewal which is conditioned by the same, and “God all in all” is the last and highest aim, without the thought of the world-rule, and the expectation of the renewal of the world, of the resurrection, of the judgment, and also of the external glory losing their positive validity and necessity,—thoughts which rather form the subject of living Christian hope amidst all the struggles and oppressions of the world. Moreover, those expressions, βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, κ. τ. λ., never signify anything else than the kingdom of the Messiah (Koppe, Exc. I. ad Thess.), even in those passages where they appear to denote the (invisible) church, the moral kingdom of the Christian religion, and such like; or to express some modern abstraction of the concrete conception,(376) which is one given in the history,—an appearance which is eliminated by observing that the manner of expression is frequently proleptic, and which has its historical basis in the idea of the nearness of the kingdom, and in the moral development which necessarily precedes its manifestation (comp. Matthew 11:12; Matthew 12:28; Matthew 16:19). Comp. on Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 4:11; Matthew 6:10. That John the Baptist also had, under divine revelation, apprehended the idea of the Messiah’s kingdom in the ethical light, free from any limitation to the Jewish people (John 1:29), without, however, entirely giving up the political element, is already shown by Matthew 3:7 ff. It cannot, however, be proved, and is, considering the divine illumination of the Baptist, improbable, and also without any foundation in Matthew 11:3, that too much has been put into his mouth by ascribing to him the definite announcement of the kingdom. If Josephus, in his account of John, makes no mention of any expression pointing to the Messiah,(377) yet this may be sufficiently explained from his want of susceptibility for the higher nature of Christianity, and from his peculiar political relation to the Romans.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 3:2. ΄ετανοεῖτε, repent ye) A lovely word (see verses 8, 11), implying change your disposition, put on a disposition royal, heavenly, worthy the kingdom of heaven.(114) Thus Jesus Christ Himself, thus His apostles commenced their preaching: thus the Lord commanded John to write at the commencement of the Apocalypse.— βασιλεία, the kingdom) See Gnomon on ch. Matthew 4:17.— τῶν οὐρανῶν, of the Heavens) expressed in the plural number agreeably with the Hebrew שמים.(115) This phrase βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, the kingdom of the Heavens,(116) is peculiar to Matthew, who employed it that he might cure the Jews, for whom he was writing, of the notion of an earthly kingdom.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The evangelist only gives us the sum and scope of the Baptist’s doctrine, the other evangelists give us a more full account of his pressing also faith in Christ, John 1:29 3:29,36 so Acts 19:4. Repentance, faith, and new obedience ought to be the substance and scope of all our sermons. Repentance signifieth the change of the heart and reformation of the life, a turning from sin unto God.

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand; that blessed state of the church (foretold by the prophets) under the Messias, wherein God will exhibit his Son as the King in Zion, and exert his power and kingdom, both extensively, subduing all nations to the obedience of his gospel, and intensively, in all the administrations of his government; for the kingdom of heaven is not to be understood here of the kingdom of glory, but of the kingdom of grace, in all the administrations of it. This passage containeth the argument upon which the Baptist in his sermons pressed, repentance and faith, and obedience to the will of God revealed.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-3.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

покайтесь Это не просто абстрактное изменение сознания, не просто сожаление или угрызения совести. Иоанн говорит о покаянии, как о полном оставлении греха, плодом которого неизбежно является праведность (ст. 8). Первая проповедь Иисуса Христа начиналась с того же призыва (4:17). О сущности покаяния см. пояснения к 2Кор. 7:8-11. приблизилось С одной стороны, Царствие Божие – реальная действительность, но с другой, в более глубоком смысле, – Оно ждет своего осуществления в будущем.

Царство Небесное Это выражение присуще лишь Евангелию от Матфея. Матфей использует слово «Небесное» как эвфемизм, чтобы адаптировать текст для восприятия иудейских читателей (ср. 23:22). В остальных же частях Писания Небеса называются «Царствием Божиим». Эти понятия относятся к сфере Божьего управления теми, кто принадлежит Ему. Сейчас Царствие Небесное проявляется в Божьем водительстве в сердцах верующих (Лк.17:21) и однажды будет установлено на земле (Отк.20:4-6).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/matthew-3.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Repent; repentance is a change of mind with regard to sin, especially as committed against God, which leads a person to hate, confess, and forsake it.

Kingdom of heaven; the Messiah’s reign as predicted by the prophets, or the sway of Christ’s gospel and dispensation over the hearts, lives, and destinies of men, both in this world and in the next. This kingdom is spoken of in the Scriptures variously, in reference to its several aspects: first, in this world, as affecting the individual disciple in whose heart it is set up, as affecting the churches whom it gathers, and as influencing human society generally, even when not brought into the Christian church; and next, as extending from this world, through the judgment day, when it will be universally acknowledged, into the heavenly world, where it will reach its crowning glory. John the Baptist was its herald. Christ, after his resurrection and just before his ascension, declared his induction into it. Matthew 28:18. The millennium and the judgment are stages in its continuous progress; and the consummation of the mediatorial kingdom is described. 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:28. Some texts in which the phrase is used refer mainly to one stage, and others to another, of its onward course. Men must hate and forsake their sins in order to be prepared for the kingdom of God. Proverbs 28:13.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2.Repent — The Jewish nation had in the time of John verged to the extreme point of depravity. Such is the testimony given in the strongest language, and painted in the most vivid colors by their own historian, Josephus. John came therefore to bring about a reformation, in order to set them in fitting state to receive the Messiah. That is, it was his mission to bring them to the moral standard of the Mosaic law, in order to fit them for the Gospel. Like his type Elijah, he was but partially successful; and a captivity, worse than punished Israel for rejecting Elijah, has fallen on Israel for rejecting John.

Kingdom of heaven — As Jesus is the Messiah, that is, the Anointed, that is, the King, so his Gospel is a law, and his dispensation is a kingdom. As a false king, namely, Satan, the adversary, has long maintained on earth the unrightful dominion of hell, so it is Messiah’s mission to come to the earth and raise the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom on earth is the shadow and lower apartment of the kingdom above. Sometimes both the kingdoms, above and below, are contemplated as one. Is at hand — The establishment of this kingdom was predicted by Daniel 2:44: “The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” The kingdom of heaven, expected by the Jews of John’s day, varied according to the views of different individuals and different sects. Generally they expected that the Messiah, a man endowed with attributes more or less divine, would be the founder and monarch of that kingdom. It should be a holy kingdom, rule over all nations, and last forever. Israel would be, instead of Rome, the ruling nation of the earth. At this particular time the dominion of Rome over Judea was oppressive. Palestine was governed by a Roman procurator, who held his capital at Cesarea, leaving Jerusalem in a secondary rank. The national feeling was embittered, and seditions under rebellious leaders were constantly occurring. Hence it was a favorite thought that the Messiah should break the Roman yoke, and rule supremely at Jerusalem.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-3.html. 1874-1909.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

CHAPTER 5

THE BAPTISM WHICH JESUS GIVES CONTRASTED WITH THAT OF JOHN

Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but the One coming after me is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am unworthy to carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.” John and all other authentic preachers of the gospel administer the symbolic baptism with water, not only in this way sealing the covenant of repentance, but beautifully typifying the real baptism which Jesus gives with the Holy Ghost. Whereas, Matthew and Mark give us here the statement en hudati, the dative of instrumentality, showing up the fact that John used the water in an instrumental way, Luke simply says men hudati baptizo humas i.e., “I indeed baptize you with water” — omitting the preposition en, as you see, confirming the fact that hudati is the dative of instrumentality, clearly and unequivocally involving the conclusion that John handled the water instead of the people. This preposition en in this passage — used by Matthew and Mark and omitted by Luke — has several meanings, among which “in” and “with” are most prominent. God forbid that any one should think I want to encourage controversy in a matter so small and unessential as the quantity of water and the manner of its application! You read the Word of the Lord, and be sure you satisfy your conscience. (1 Peter 3:21.) We also have, in certain localities, a controversy involving the fire phase of our Savior’s baptism. Here, with the inspired Greek under my eye, I see that Matthew and Luke give us, “He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire,” while Mark omits the fire altogether, simply stating, “He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost,” clearly involving the conclusion that the fire normally inheres in the Holy Spirit — i.e., is inseparable from Him: “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18.) You know the Holy Ghost is none other than very and eternal God; therefore, when you receive the Holy Ghost, you receive the baptism of fire:

“For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” (Malachi 3:2.)

Thus, fire and soap being the great purifiers, are here associated, denotative of that wonderful purification which the Holy Spirit always executes when you receive Him into your hearts. The teaching of a fiery baptism, separate and distinct from that of the Holy Spirit, antagonizes Ephesians 4:3, where Paul certifies that there is one, and only one, baptism in the gracious economy, the fire not being a separate and distinct baptism, but a concomitant of the Spirit; while the ordinance with water is not intrinsically a baptism, but symbolically typifies the real baptism of the Holy Spirit administered by our Savior. In connection with these facts, it is pertinent to consider 2 Timothy 1:6 :

“On account of which cause, I remind thee to revive and refire the gracious gift of God which is in thee for the laying on of my hands.”

The English word here, “stir up,” is anazopurein, which is a compound from ana, re; zao, life; pur, fire. Hence you see that the plain meaning of this triple Greek compound is “revive” and “refire.” We receive spiritual life in regeneration, but frequently need reviving, and will till this mortal puts on immortality.

We receive the fire of the Holy Ghost in sanctification, which should be revived and renewed, ever and anon, throughout our pilgrimage. You take food to revive your physical life, as otherwise it would evanesce, and you would die. You frequently put on fuel, stir up, and renew the fire, as otherwise it would go out, and you would freeze out in the North-pole atmosphere of this wintry world. Let us not get wise above what is written; but take the plain Word of the Lord in every Case, and you will keep out of these tangles, in which Satan is so fond of perplexing the people of God. There is no danger of getting too much life and too much fire if you get it from God. Man has fox-fire, the devil has hell-fire, and God has heavenly-fire. The Holy Ghost is God. If you seek a baptismal fire separate from the Spirit, you open the door for men and devils to deceive you with their “strange fire,” for which Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, fell dead when they offered it to the Lord. So beware, lest you offer strange fire to the Lord, and fall dead spiritually, as we seriously fear some are doing. If you seek any blessing separate from God, you run headlong into fanaticism. Feel perfectly free to get revived and fired all you possibly can, but get it all from God, remembering, amid all that God says, there is but one baptism. (Ephesians 5:4.)

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-3.html.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“Repent you, for the Kingly Rule of Heaven is at hand.”

His message is simple, and yet profound. He is calling on them to ‘repent,’, to turn to God and to turn from sin, because all that the prophets had hoped for is now to come to fulfilment. The Kingly Rule of Heaven, that time when God will break through into the world in order to exercise His rule, is ‘at hand’.

‘Repent you.’ By these words Matthew is rooting John’s (and Jesus’ - Matthew 4:17) message firmly in the line of the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah 8:6; Jeremiah 20:16; Ezekiel 14:6; Ezekiel 18:30). He is proclaiming that in the words that he is speaking what the prophets prophesied concerning the coming of the final Kingly Rule of God was in process of fulfilment (e.g. Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Ezekiel 37:22-28).

The prophets make clear what is meant by ‘repentance’. It is the opposite of ‘holding fast to deceit and refusing to return to God’ (Jeremiah 8:5). It is the opposite of ‘failing to speak what is true and right’ (Jeremiah 8:6). It is ‘repenting from wickedness’ by saying ‘what have I done?’ (Jeremiah 8:6). It is a turning away from holding on to the things that caused God in the past to bring judgment on cities (Jeremiah 20:16). It is turning away from all idolatry and abominations (Ezekiel 14:6). It is a turning away from all transgressions against God’s Law (Ezekiel 18:30). It is thus a turning to God and a turning away from all that is seen to be sinful and wrong.

The idea of ‘turning to God’ is emphasised in Hosea 6:1-2, where the call is to ‘return to the Lord’ in order to be healed and restored (compare Hosea 14:1). It was necessary for them to turn from sin and to return to God, because God alone could deal with their sins. But there is also the idea of ‘turning from all that is sinful and wrong’, which is emphasised in Isaiah 1:16-17, in which it is made clear that a turning from their evil ways and doings will issue in forgiveness and total cleansing from sin (Isaiah 1:18). Both are brought together in Hosea 12:6, ‘Turn to your God, keep mercy and righteous judgment, and wait on your God continually’. And we might parallel that with Micah’s words, ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do what is right, to love compassion and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8).

‘The Kingly Rule of Heaven.’ The whole of the Old Testament had looked for the establishment of God’s Rule over His people. That was why God had called Abraham so that He might provide the means by which such a Kingly Rule might be established (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11). That was the motive of the giving of the covenant in the form of a ‘suzerainty treaty’, through which YHWH would be established as overlord over His people because of what in His mercy He had done for them (Exodus 20:1-18). That was the purpose of the raising up of David to be prince over God’s people (2 Samuel 7:12-16). That was the hope of all the prophets as they looked forward into the future when God would restore His true people. All longed for the establishment of the Kingly Rule of God. And that was to be the purpose of the coming of the Messiah, the final establishment of the Kingly Rule of God, when Messiah would rule over God’s true restored people in the everlasting Kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Ezekiel 37:24-28; Daniel 7:13-14).

Matthew uses the term ‘Kingly Rule of Heaven’ over against the use of ‘Kingly Rule of God’ by the other evangelists, andin many cases in exactly the same contextdemonstrating that it is a parallel phrase and mainly a matter of translation, the Aramaic words of Jesus being the same in both cases. This brings out Matthew’s Jewishness. Jews tried to avoid excessive use of the word ‘God. Thus they replaced it with words such as ‘Heaven’, ‘the Blessed’, and so on. They were referring to God, but without actually using His name. Jesus, therefore, probably mainly said ‘the Kingly Rule of Heaven’ with Mark and Luke translating as ‘God’ (which was what Jesus meant) for their Gentile readers.

Certainly we may also see that ‘Heaven’ makes clear the heavenly nature of the Kingdom, but then so does the term ‘God’. (Our danger is that we can begin to see God almost as a personal name rather than as conveying the idea of His ‘heavenliness’). And in fact Matthew does use the expression ‘Kingly Rule of God’ five times (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 12:28; Matthew 19:24; Matthew 21:31; Matthew 21:43). He represents it as something that they are to seek in their daily lives rather than food and clothing (Matthew 6:33), as something that has come among them at that present time in the Holy Spirit’s activity of casting out evil spirits (Matthew 12:28), as something which it is hard for a rich man to enter because his riches hold him back (Matthew 19:24), as something which the tax-gatherers and sinners are entering in priority to the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 21:31), and as something which is being taken away from the nation of Israel in order to be given to a new nation which will produce its fruits. (Matthew 21:43). This last is simply a way of saying that not all who see themselves as Israel will enjoy the Kingly Rule of God, but only those who respond to God’s Kingly Rule and begin to live accordingly (and as we shall later see we could add, including both Jew and Gentile). They will become God’s new nation (1 Peter 2:9). It will be noted that in each of these examples there is a sense of immediacy, a sense of urgency, and an emphasis on present personal experience, with some included who are unexpected, and others excluded who should have been entering. Perhaps we may put it that when Matthew uses the term Kingly Rule of God (rather than Heaven) there is an emphasis on the need for men and women to ‘know God’ personally, in the way that many of the Psalmists are seen as knowing Him. Perhaps Matthew thought that the translation ‘Heaven’ would have taken away the personal emphasis in these particular references. In other words he forewent the need to indicate respect for God’s name, because he wanted to emphasise something deeper. It was not a different concept, but a different way of expressing it. It may well be that Jesus also used two separate phrases, and that it is the other evangelists who have translated ‘God’ in both cases for the sake of their Gentile readers.

On the other hand Matthew uses the term ‘Kingly Rule of Heaven’ over thirty times. And that includes its use in very similar contexts to those just mentioned (e.g. Matthew 11:11-12). The terms are thus not mutually exclusive. But it also expands to include the idea of world outreach, and to look ahead to the future, glorious, everlasting Kingdom, concepts which in the other Gospels are actually applied to the Kingly Rule of God. The idea is that Heaven is breaking in among men, and bringing them under God’s effective rule, first on earth, and then by establishing a final everlasting, eternal Kingdom. But we must not make two kingdoms. Those who become His enter under the eternal Kingly Rule of God now, by being changed so as to have the openness towards God of ‘little children’ (Matthew 18:3-4). The eternal future is then a continuation of this as resurrected and fully transformed people, with a greater sense of immediacy to God. Now we see dimly as though in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12), but then face to face. But it is the same Kingly Rule. Those who become His are even now translated out from under the tyranny of darkness into the Kingly Rule of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). And in that Kingly Rule we enjoy ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17).

‘At hand.’ That is, it is about to break in on them, and shortly to be enjoyed by many of them, for it is there among them within reach, especially in the coming of the King. But that it was more than just ‘very near in time’ in the time of John, Jesus makes clear, for He tells the Chief Priests and the Elders of the people, ‘Truly I say to you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes go into the Kingly Rule of God before you, for John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him, and even when you saw it you did not afterwards repent and believe him’ (Matthew 21:31-32). In the last part it is made clear that He is speaking about the time of John the Baptist, when the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him and believed in the way of righteousness, while the Chief Priests and Elders did not, for He stresses that the latter did not even believe in John after the tax collectors and prostitutes had believed. That stresses also that the tax-collectors and prostitutes are seen as having believed in the way of righteousness in the time of John and as having thus entered under the Kingly Rule of God. So He connects this with the tax-collectors and the prostitutes going into the Kingly Rule of God before them, while they themselves will not even enter afterwards. It is difficult therefore to see how a fair assessment of this can fail to see in it an indication that they entered the Kingly Rule of God in the time of John.

This being so the Kingly Rule of God must then have been ‘at hand’ by being there and available to all who would respond, and not just as something in the future. And yet John himself is not seen as being in the Kingly Rule of Heaven as he was in his prophetic status, for ‘he who is last in the Kingly Rule of Heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11). What we are intended to see by this is the distinction between the old age and the new. It did not mean that John was totally excluded from the Kingly Rule of Heaven when he came to it as a repentant sinner submitting to the King, only that in his official status as a prophet he was outside it and ‘came before it’, simply because as such he was pointing towards it. But no doubt as a humble sinner along with the tax-collectors and prostitutes he was able to enter it when he submitted to Jesus. For what this does emphasise is that the Kingly Rule of Heaven must be seen as having been available and present at some stage in the time of John, possibly potentially, and becoming a reality once the King had been confirmed at His baptism. Although in fact God’s rule over those who were truly His people goes right back to the beginning of things (compare 1 Samuel 8:7). For a fuller treatment of the Kingly Rule of Heaven see our introductory articles.

It is often noted that Matthew omits the idea of forgiveness that is found in Mark 1:4. That may be because he wanted to retain the mentioning of forgiveness for Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:6; Matthew 18:21-35) as the One Who will save His people from their sins, but the absence is more apparent than real. The whole point of repentance, and openly admitting their sin, and signifying their desire for the coming work of the Holy Spirit, assumes that forgiveness will be given. That is the whole reason for it (compare Isaiah 1:15-18). They have turned back to God, and turned away from their old sins. They have committed themselves to a totally new way of living. They are looking for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. And that can only be because they believe that God will forgive them as a result of their repentance. And that is indeed what He had promised in Isaiah 1:16-18. And we may add that forgiveness was one of the blessings especially associated with the last days (Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 50:20; Ezekiel 36:24-26). It will indeed be as a result of this that their lives will be fruitful. Repentance and forgiveness come first. The fruitfulness then follows.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-3.html. 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:2. Repent. Not mere remorse, but conversion and reformation, or turning away from sin and unto God. The Greek word means change of mind or heart. A necessary exhortation, because the people were corrupt, but especially now: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, i.e., has become and is now near in time. ‘The kingdom of heaven’ is equivalent to ‘the kingdom of God,’ and is used by this Evangelist alone. It is in the world, but not of the world, heavenly in its origin, character, and destination. It is the kingdom from heaven, for the Messiah, the King, came from heaven. The Jews, however, thought it was to be a temporal kingdom. Hence they rejected an humble Saviour, and yet used this view against Him before Pilate (Luke 23:2; John 19:12). From this Jewish error the Apostles were not entirely freed until the day of Pentecost. It does not refer exclusively to a kingdom still future, but to the reign of the Messiah both in its inception (at the Advent) and its consummation (at the future ‘coining’) The former is the prominent thought here, in other cases the latter. In the widest sense, it includes the Old Testament theocracy as a preparation. Matthew’s exclusive use of ‘heaven,’ is probably in contrast with the external (and worldly) Jewish notions.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 3:2. introduces the burden of his preaching.— , Repent. That was John’s great word. Jesus used it also when He began to preach, but His distinctive watchword was Believe. The two watchwords point to different conceptions of the kingdom. John’s kingdom was an object of awful dread, Jesus’ of glad welcome. The message of the one was legal, of the other evangelic. Change of mind John deemed very necessary as a preparation for Messiah’s advent.— , the Kingdom of Heaven. This title is peculiar to Matthew. In the other Gospels it is called the Kingdom of God. Not used either by John or by Jesus, says Weiss, but to be ascribed to the evangelist. There does not seem to be any urgent reason for this judgment. In Daniel 2:44 the kingdom is spoken of as to be set up by “the God of heaven,” and in the Judaistic period previous to the Christian era, when a transcendent conception of God began to prevail, the use of heaven as a synonym for God came in. Custom might cause it to be employed, even by those who did not sympathise with the conception of God as transcendent, outside and far off from the world (vide note in H. C., p. 55).

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-3.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Matthew 3:2. Repent ye, &c. — Be sorry for your sins, and amend your lives; for the original word, μετανοειτε, here used, implies this. It properly signifies, says Beza, to be wise after the action, and so to grieve for a fault committed as to amend it, which, in Latin, is properly expressed by resipiscere. In this respect it differs from another Greek word, which the evangelists sometimes use, viz., μεταμελομαι, which simply signifies to be distressed, and anxious after any thing done, but does not necessarily imply any change of mind, or reformation of life. Therefore Matthew uses the latter word of Judas, the traitor, Matthew 27:3, but not the former. Thus Christ and his apostles began their preaching, confirming John’s doctrine. John taught other things also, but this he began with, and this was the main scope of his preaching. He did not give them any new precepts of life, but charged them with breaking the law they had already, and called upon them to be sensible of it, sorry for it, and to reform their conduct: to lay aside the false opinions they had imbibed, whether from the Pharisees or Sadducees; to acknowledge, condemn, and lament the faults they had committed, and to turn from all error and all sin, to true faith in, and piety toward, God. He that so deplores some sins as to commit others, or to repeat the commission of those he deplores, either counterfeits, or is ignorant of repentance. Repentance is, as Jerome speaks, secunda post naufragium tabula — a lucky plank after a shipwreck. The first degree of happiness is, not to sin; the second, to know our sins, and repent of them. For repentance not only implies sorrow for sin, or sincerely wishing it undone, but a change of mind, and reformation of life. The kingdom of heaven is at hand — As if he had said, God is about to appear in an extraordinary manner, to erect that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, (Daniel 2:44; and Daniel 7:13-14,) as the kingdom of the God of heaven, which he would set up, and give to the Son of man, making it finally victorious over all other kingdoms. This phrase, the kingdom of heaven, is used thirty times by St. Matthew. The other evangelists, and St. Paul, term it generally, the kingdom of God, and sometimes, the kingdom of Christ. These different phrases mean the same thing, and were in familiar use among the Jews, as plainly appears from divers passages of the gospels. They seem to have borrowed them from the above-mentioned passages in the book of Daniel, which they wholly misunderstood and misinterpreted, inferring from them that God would erect a temporal kingdom the seat of which would be at Jerusalem, which would become, instead of Rome, the capital of the world. The expected sovereign of this kingdom, they learned, from Daniel, to call the Son of man, by which title they understood the promised Messiah, or the Anointed One of God. Both John the Baptist, then, and Christ took up this phrase, and used it as they found it, and gradually taught the Jews to affix right ideas to it, though it was a lesson which that worldly people were remarkably unwilling to learn. This very demand of repentance showed that it was a spiritual kingdom which was spoken of; and that no wicked man, how politic or brave, how learned and renowned soever, could possibly be a genuine subject of it. As the term kingdom implies the dominion of a king over his subjects, so the kingdom of God, or heaven, is God’s reigning in and over his rational creatures, whether angels or men; and, as to the latter, whether on earth or in heaven, that is, whether of the church militant or the church triumphant. The expression properly signifies the gospel dispensation, in and by which subjects were to be gathered to God by his Son, and a society formed, which was to subsist first in more imperfect circumstances on earth, and afterward in complete perfection and felicity in the world of glory. In some places of Scripture the phrase more particularly signifies the former, and denotes the state of Christ’s kingdom on earth, as Matthew 13., especially Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:47; Matthew 20:1; and sometimes it signifies only that most blessed state of things which shall take place after the resurrection, when God will be all in all. See 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Corinthians 15:50. But it generally includes both; and what is closely connected therewith, God’s subduing, or executing judgment upon his and his people’s enemies. For God’s regal power is exercised in delivering, assisting, defending, and rewarding all his faithful subjects, and in warning, punishing, and destroying his obdurate enemies. This latter particular, namely, the punishing and destroying his enemies, seems, at least, to be partly meant in this passage, as appears by the context. For, to enforce his doctrine of repentance, he warns them of approaching wrath that would speedily come upon the impenitent, Matthew 3:7; Matthew 3:10, the executing of which wrath, first upon the unbelieving Jews, and then upon the persecuting Gentiles, is elsewhere represented as the coming of the Son of man in his kingdom.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

===============================

[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Pœnitentiam agite. Greek: metanoeite. There is no need of translating in Latin, recipiscite, though more according to the etymology of the word. The judicious Mr. Bois, prebend. of Ely, in his book entitled, Veteris Interpretis cum Beza, &c. Collatio. Londini. an. 1655, commended by Walton in his Polyglot, declares he would not have this common translation of pœnitentiam agite changed: and brings these words of Melancthon, Let us not be ashamed of our mother tongue; the Church is our Mother, an so speaks the Church.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Repent. Greek. metanoeo. See App-111.

the kingdom of heaven. See App-114.

of. Genitive of origin = from. App-17.

heaven = the heavens (plural) See note on Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:10.

is at hand = had drawn nigh. What draws nigh may withdraw. See Matthew 21:43. Acts 1:6; Acts 3:20.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

And saying, Repent ye. Though the word [ metanoeite (Greek #3340)] strictly denotes a change of mind, it has respect here, and wherever it is used in connection with salvation, primarily to that sense of sin which leads the sinner to flee from the wrath to come, to look for relief only from above, and eagerly to fall in with the provided remedy. (See the note at Acts 20:21.)

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. This sublime phrase [ hee (Greek #3588) basileia (Greek #932) toon (Greek #3588) ouranoon (Greek #3772) = malkuwt (Hebrew #4438) hashaamaayim (Hebrew #8064)], used in none of the other Gospels, occurs in this peculiarly Jewish Gospel nearly 30 times; and being suggested by Daniel's grand vision of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days, to receive His Investiture in a world-wide kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14), it was fitted at once both to meet the national expectations and to turn them into the right channel. A kingdom for which repentance was the proper preparation behoved to be essentially spiritual. Deliverance from sin, the great blessing of Christ's kingdom (Matthew 1:21), can be valued by those only to whom sin is a burden (Matthew 9:12). John's great work, accordingly, was to awaken this feeling, and hold out the hope of a speedy and precious remedy.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) Repent.—Etymologically, the word “repent,” which has as its root-meaning the sense of pain, is hardly adequate as a rendering for the Greek word, which implies change of mind and purpose. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the word is used of divine rather than human repentance, i.e., of a change of purpose implying pity and regret (1 Samuel 15:29; Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 18:8). In Wisdom of Solomon 5:3; Sirach 17:24; Sirach 48:15, it includes the sorrow out of which the change comes.

The kingdom of heaven.—The phrase is used by St. Matthew about thirty times, and by him only among the New Testament writers. In the Greek the form is plural, “the kingdom of the heavens,” probably as an equivalent for the Hebrew word, which was dual in its form. The name, as descriptive of the kingdom of the Messiah, had its origin in the vision of Daniel 7:13, where the kingdom of “one like the Son of Man” is contrasted with those of earthly rulers. To Gentile readers—to whom the term would convey the thought of the visible firmament, not of the invisible dwelling-place of God—the term might have been misleading, and therefore in the Gospels intended for them “the kingdom of God” (which occurs sometimes in St. Matthew also, 6:13; 12:28) is used instead of it. It is probable that both terms were used interchangeably by the Baptist and our Lord, and the systematic change is suggestive as showing that the writers of the Gospels did not feel themselves bound to a purely literal report or rendering of their words.

Is at hand.—Better, has come nigh.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Repent
4:17; 11:20; 12:41; 21:29-32; 1 Kings 8:47; Job 42:6; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Ezekiel 33:11; Mark 1:4,15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; 15:7,10; 16:30; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:25; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 2:5,21
for
5:3,10,19,20; 6:10,33; 10:7; 11:11,12; 13:11,24,31,33,44,45,47; 13:52; 18:1-4,23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; 25:1,14; Daniel 2:44; Luke 6:20; 9:2; Luke 10:9-11; John 3:3-5; Colossians 1:13
Reciprocal: Job 39:12 - gather;  Psalm 95:7 - if ye;  Psalm 96:10 - the Lord;  Isaiah 51:5 - righteousness;  Isaiah 56:1 - Keep;  Matthew 7:13 - at;  Matthew 8:11 - in;  Matthew 9:13 - but;  Matthew 22:3 - sent;  Mark 4:26 - So;  Luke 16:16 - the kingdom;  Luke 21:8 - and the time;  Acts 1:3 - speaking;  Romans 14:17 - kingdom

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-3.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

2. Turn away from your sins. To “repent” is to “turn away,” Sorrow is not repentance (see 2 Corinthians 7:10). John’s baptism was “renewal” and pointed to Christ (Acts 19:4). Kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom ruled by the Messiah, predicted by the prophets (especially Daniel 2:44). This announcement thrilled all Judea, Is near. Still future, but near! It had not begun with Abraham or David or even John the Baptist. (See John 1:17). It is the Kingdom of heaven, not earth, and has a King sent from heaven. This King was revealed to be the one born at Bethlehem (John 1:33-34). John is the herald.

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Repent. from METANOEO and Thayer defines It here as follows: "To change one"s mind tor the better I heartily to amend with abhorrence tor one"s past sins." To amend means more than a mere state of the mind; It requires that one do something about It. BASILEIA Is the only word in the Greek New Testament for "king dom." It has several phases of meaning and hence I consider it well to give a pretty extensive quotation from the lexicons as to their definitions: "1. royal power. kingship, dominion. rule2. a kingdom i.e. the territory subject to the rule of a king3. property the kingdom over which God rules ... the kingdom of tbe Messiah . . . the rule of God, the theocricy of God"s rule, the divine administration."-Thayer. I have quoted only such words in Thayer"s lexicon as are In italics, which denotes the direct detlnition. omitting for the sake of space his many remarks on the word. The same rule will be followed in quoting from the other lexicons: "1. dominion, reign, rule2. a kingdom, dominion, realm""-Roblnson. "A king- dom; royalty, dignity, power, reign, rule. sovereignty, dominlon."-Groves. "A kingdom, realm, i.e. the region or country governed by a king; kingly power. authority, dominion, relgn."- Greenfield. This paragraph may not be quoted again in full. hence the reader is urged to study It carefully to discover its shades of meaning, also to make a note of Its locatlon for ready reference. At hand is from EOGIZO and means "Is near," which denotes that it was not yet In actual existence in the days of John the Baptlst.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-3.html. 1952.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 3:2.Repent ye Matthew differs from the other two Evangelists in this respect, that he relates the substance of John’s doctrine, as uttered by John himself, while they relate it in their own words; though Mark has one word more than Luke: for he says, he came Baptizing, and preaching the baptism of repentance But in substance there is the most perfect agreement: for they all connect repentance with the forgiveness of sins. Thekingdom of God among men is nothing else than a restoration to a happy life; or, in other words, it is true and everlasting happiness. When John says, that the kingdom of God is at hand, his meaning is, that men, who were alienated from the righteousness of God, and banished from the kingdom of heaven, must be again gathered to God, and live under his guidance. This is accomplished by a free adoption and the forgiveness of sins, by which he reconciles to himself those who were unworthy. In a word, the kingdom of heaven is nothing else than “newness of life,” (Romans 6:4,) by which God restores us to the hope of a blessed immortality. Having rescued us from the bondage of sin and death, he claims us as his own; that, even while our pilgrimage on earth continues, we may enjoy the heavenly life by faith: for he

“hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,”
(
Ephesians 1:3.)

Though we are like dead men, yet we know that our life is secure; for it “is hid with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:3.)

From this doctrine, as its source, is drawn the exhortation to repentance. For John does not say, “Repent ye, and in this way the kingdom of heaven will afterwards be at hand;” but first brings forward the grace of God, and then exhorts men to repent Hence it is evident, that the foundation of repentance is the mercy of God, by which he restores the lost. In no other sense is it stated by Mark and Luke, that he preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins Repentance is not placed first, as some ignorantly suppose, as if it were the ground of the forgiveness of sins, or as if it induced God to begin to be gracious to us; but men are commanded to repent, that they may receive the reconciliation which is offered to them. Now, as the undeserved love of God — by which he receives into his favor wretched men, “not imputing their trespasses unto them,” (2 Corinthians 5:19) — is first in order; so it must be observed, that pardon of sins is bestowed upon us in Christ, not that God may treat them with indulgence, but that he may heal us from our sins. And, indeed, without hatred of sin and remorse for transgressions, no man will taste the grace of God. But a definition of repentance and faith may explain more fully the manner in which both are connected; which leads me to handle this doctrine more sparingly.

With regard to the meaning of the present passage, it is proper to observe, that the whole Gospel consists of two parts, —forgiveness of sins, and repentance Now, as Matthew denominates the first of these the kingdom of heaven, we may conclude, that men are in a state of deadly enmity with God, and altogether shut out from the heavenly kingdom, till God receives them into favor. Though John, when he introduces the mention of the grace of God, exhorts men to repentance, yet it must not be forgotten that repentance, not less than the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom, is the gift of God. As he freely pardons our sins, and delivers us, by his mercy, from the condemnation of eternal death, so also does he form us anew to his image, that we may live unto righteousness. As he freely adopts us for his sons, so he regenerates us by his Spirit, that our life may testify, that we do not falsely, (245) address him as our Father. In like manner, Christ washes away our sins by his blood, and reconciles our Heavenly Father to us by the sacrifice of his death; but, at the same time, in consequence of

“our old man being crucified with him, and the body of sin destroyed,”
(
Romans 6:6)

he makes us “alive” unto righteousness. The sum of the Gospel is, that God, through his Son, takes away our sins, and admits us to fellowship with him, that we, “denying ourselves ” and our own nature, may “live soberly, righteously, and godly,” and thus may exercise ourselves on earth in meditating on the heavenly life.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-3.html. 1840-57.