The kingdom of God is not a “unique” theme in the teaching of Jesus, though it is, quite likely, the major theme in both his life and teaching. The idea of the kingdom runs from Genesis to Revelation. What is “unique” in Jesus is that the kingdom is “fulfilled” in God’s timing in him and thus brought to fruition in history in a unique way. Mark 1:14-15 says, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.’” What should be noted here is that John the Baptist and Jesus both preached the same message–the good news of the kingdom of God. But in Jesus “the kingdom was no longer merely close by. Time was up. This intensified the kingdom message” (Heaven on Earth, 14).
Alan Streett is right when he says:
We might compare John’s and Jesus’ messages of the kingdom to an announcement of a pregnancy. A woman desires a child but seems unable to get pregnant. One day, she receives words that her life is about to change–she is expecting! This news brings great joy and expectation. Still, she must wait nine months for the baby’s arrival. In the meantime, she prepares herself in anticipation of the blessed event.
Then one day, she suddenly feels a twinge of pain. Labor begins–the time is at hand. As everyone waits with baited breath, the hour arrives and the baby is born–the time is fulfilled. A new day has dawned for everyone. The married couple become parents, and their parents become grandparents.
In like manner, the Old Testament prophets spoke of the arrival of the kingdom. Israel was pregnant with expectation. As the countdown begins, the years and months turn into weeks and days. Measured expectation is transformed into anxious anticipation. With the onset of labor, John the Baptist declares, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” His message foreshadows Jesus’ announcement–”The time is fulfilled.” The kingdom is birthed in the person and ministry of Jesus (Heaven on Earth, 14).
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus makes this announcement in a synagogue in Capernaum, near his hometown of Nazareth. He reads from Isaiah 61 and then says that this day the prophet’s promise is “fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Streett notes that not only is the Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in a specific person (Jesus), but it has a specific time–today, not tomorrow or in centuries or even a millennium. We even have a specific “geographic indicator of the kingdom’s start–”in your hearing” (Heaven on Earth, 15).
Simply put, the kingdom of God arrived when Jesus launched his public ministry.
He is the King and when he reveals himself the kingdom was no longer a future reality but a present one. The late missional theologian Lesslie Newbigin was right when he concluded, “It