Matthew 3:2 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 3:2, NIV: and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.'

Matthew 3:2, ESV: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 3:2, KJV: And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 3:2, NASB: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'

Matthew 3:2, NLT: 'Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.'

Matthew 3:2, CSB: and saying, "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! "

What does Matthew 3:2 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This gospel jumps forward in time from Jesus' arrival as a small boy in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23) to the ministry of John the Baptist. At least 25 years have passed. John the Baptist was a prophet specially sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry on earth. John—not the same as the author of the gospel of John—preached in the wilderness area of Judea, west of the Jordan River. He delivered one central message to the Israelites, found in this verse.

The word "repent" is metanoeite in Greek, which means "to change one's heart and mind." More literally, it means to change direction, to stop going the wrong way and to start going in the right way. It conveys an active change. The chapter will show that John was calling the people of Israel to confess their sins and submit to God's true law.

John called these people to repent because the "kingdom of heaven" was at hand. John's Jewish listeners would have been familiar with the idea that a new kingdom would one day be established by the promised Messiah. John will point to Jesus as that Messiah, and to the imminent establishment of His kingdom. John will insist, though, that repentance—turning from sin—was necessary for his Jewish listeners to be included in that kingdom. The mere fact of their Israelite heritage would not be enough. This would have been a new idea to some.

Scholars from different theological traditions have debated about whether this coming kingdom of heaven is best understood as spiritual or physical. The Jewish people were looking for a physical kingdom; they assumed Messiah would overthrow the Romans and establish peace and prosperity in Israel. Jesus' kingdom, though, would first be spiritual in the sense that He would begin to rule on earth by ruling in the hearts of those who followed Him (John 18:36). Eventually, He will also reign over a physical, political kingdom on earth (Revelation 20:6).