The first fifteen verses of the Gospel of Mark contain the prologue, the introduction to this great gospel about Jesus. Mark has proclaimed that what he is showing us is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet. Mark has presented Jesus as the Lord who is coming so that people need to prepare the way for his arrival. Mark has also presented John declaring Jesus as the mighty one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, the pouring out of God’s blessings on the people. Mark has shown Jesus being baptized, declaring Jesus to be the enthroned king who has come to rule and validated by the Father saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Then Mark shows us Jesus in the wilderness, succeeding in the temptations against Satan, freeing us from our sins and ready to help us in our time of need, for God never leaves his own. Now Mark turns his attention to the preaching message of Jesus in Mark 1:14-15.
The Forerunner (1:14)
Mark begins, “Now after John was arrested.” The arrest of John is the pivotal moment in the ministry of Jesus. Mark is showing us that John has completed his God-appointed task as the forerunner of Jesus and only after that did Jesus enter his ministry. Now our English translations obscure a little bit of the Greek at this moment. Most translations read that John was arrested. This word Mark uses is often translated “handed over” or “delivered up” later in his gospel. In fact, this is the same word that is described regarding Jesus being handed over or delivered up to the authorities in Mark 9:31, 10:33, 14:21, and 14:41. The point is that John is not only the forerunner in proclaiming the message of Jesus, but he is also the forerunner in his fate. John will be in conflict with earthly authorities and experience a brutal death. John leads the way for what will happen to Jesus. John is foreshadowing what Jesus will experience.
Proclaiming the Good News (1:14-15)
Now that John has been delivered over to the authorities, Jesus comes to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. The content of Jesus’ preaching is the good news of God. We noted what the gospel was back in Mark 1:1. Remember that the gospel is the proclamation according to Isaiah is the publishing of salvation because “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7). In Isaiah 40:9-10 the herald of good news proclaims, “Behold your God!” The gospel is the arrival of God who comes with strength, peace, and salvation. The gospel in Isaiah is the announcement of comfort (Isaiah 40), which is the proclamation of the Lord coming to his people (cf. Isaiah 61:1). We see that this is exactly what Jesus is proclaiming in verse 15.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The Time Is Fulfilled
Jesus says that now is the time. This is it. The time has been fulfilled. Jesus marks this moment as the fulfillment of the special salvation time which is distinguished from all other times. The appointed time that God has predicted is now being fulfilled through Jesus. This is the fullness of time as Galatians 4:4 describes it. These are the days that Jeremiah said would be the arrival of a new covenant (Jeremiah 30-33), the arrival of a new kingdom (Amos 9), and the arrival of a new heart and new people (Ezekiel 36-37). Now is the time for that which was described by the Scriptures is realized. We need to understand the importance of this message: everything that the scriptures were pointing to and predicting were pointing to and predicting this moment in time. The time is fulfilled.
The Kingdom Has Come Near
Further, the kingdom of God is at hand. Now we have a few questions that we need to consider. What is the kingdom and what is Jesus saying about the kingdom? First, the ESV, NASB, NKJV, and NET read that the kingdom of God is near or at hand. The NIV, NRSV, and CSB read that the kingdom of God has come near (cf. Mark 14:41). It is not that is the kingdom is still in the future, but that it is near in location now. Edwards says, “Mark’s verb choice appears to reinforce the linkage of the kingdom with Jesus’ person, for in declaring the kingdom “near” (v. 15) Mark employs a verb (Gk. engizein) that occurs frequently in the NT with reference to spatial rather than temporal nearness” (Pillar NTC, 46-47). It does not make sense to say that the king has arrived without his kingdom. But on the other hand we cannot think that the arrival of Jesus is all that there is to this kingdom, for Jesus himself will later teach that the kingdom is going to come with power and some standing there would not taste death until they saw this (Mark 9:1).
Therefore, Jesus is not going around saying that the kingdom of God is nearer than when John when around proclaiming that the kingdom is near. What Jesus is saying here is that the wait is over. The time has fulfilled. The king has arrived and the kingdom has arrived with him. Now how we understand the kingdom of God will help us see what Jesus is proclaiming.
Understanding the Kingdom
If you have grown up in the pews, you may have heard this teaching: the kingdom always refers to the church. This is an unfortunate teaching because it simply cannot be sustained by a study of the New Testament usage of the kingdom. The kingdom does not always refer to the church. I understand that the attempt of this teaching was to try to show that the kingdom does arrive in the first century and was not thwarted as some false doctrines declare. But we cannot misuse the scriptures to fight against error. The kingdom does not always refer to the church, the people of God. The church is certainly not being proclaimed by Jesus. Jesus and John did not preach that the church is coming near. What are they proclaiming? What is Jesus saying? Jesus is proclaiming that the rule of God has come. Remember, what is the gospel? The gospel is the message that your God reigns and you will see your God. What is Jesus saying? Jesus is saying that he is the King who has come to rule and you are seeing your God who has come in the flesh. The kingdom has come near to you. When you read about the kingdom please think about the reign and rule of God. The reign of God has come near. The wait is over.
The Prologue of Mark
This is the movement of the Gospel of Mark: the scripture is fulfilled, Elijah has returned, the heavens are torn open, God speaks, the Spirit descends, the testing is given and passed, victory occurs over Satan, and peace is brought to the animal world. What does all of this mean? In short, the arrival of Jesus is the arrival of the kingdom of God. The arrival of the king and the arrival of the kingdom means the arrival of salvation (Isaiah 46:13; 51:5; 56:1). The message of the kingdom is not a message about us (the church) but about God and the establishment of his rule. Jesus has come to establish the reign and rule of God. The process of the kingdom of God coming begins with the arrival of the king.
The Kingdom of God in Progress
What we are recognizing is that the scriptures present the kingdom of God in the gospels as not only a present reality but also a future hope. The future hope in the scriptures is that the enemies of God and his people would be destroyed and God’s people would be vindicated. Israel’s hope was the God’s kingdom would come in power to restore her fortunes after being oppressed by Gentile nations (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:22-25). In fact, is this not one of the reasons why the Jews reject Jesus as King? He did not destroy the Gentile nations immediately upon his arrival nor immediately restore the fortunes of Israel. God’s kingdom was coming as a process, conquering the hearts of people with the proclamation of the gospel, not with the use of physical weapons. The kingship of Jesus would be seen in Acts 2 when he sends the Spirit upon the apostles, showing the kingdom with power. The kingship of Jesus would be seen in the destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus warned in Matthew 26:63-64. The kingship of Jesus would be seen in the fall of the Roman Empire, as Daniel prophesied the kingdom of God would do in Daniel 2:44. Jesus continues to rule now over people and nations. In fact, the apostle Paul declares that Jesus will continue to rule on the throne until all the enemies are subjected to him, the last enemy being death (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
Repent and Believe in the Gospel (1:15)
This brings us to the critical point of the message. The king has come and the time is fulfilled. Repent and believe in the gospel. No one would proclaim a person to be king and now please accept him as your king. Think about that for a moment. A king does not have people going through his kingdom begging people to accept that person as king. It does not matter if you accept him as king or not because he is king regardless of your decision. We saw this in our last election. Many people were angry with Donald Trump becoming president. So many were angry that they said, “He is not my president.” But he is, whether we like it or not. It does not matter if you accept him or not.
The proclamation of Jesus as king is not, “Will you please accept him?” The very announcement of a king and his kingdom contains the implicit demand for submission. Our whole lives must come under the rule of God our king. Our money, our relationship, our work, and our time all must come under the rule of Jesus, not because you accept him has king, but because he is the king. What we are called to do because Jesus is king is repent and believe in the gospel.
We are to turn from sin and embrace the forgiveness that is offered in Jesus. We must believe that Jesus is the king who brought his kingdom and embrace it in faith. This is the starting point of discipleship. We cannot move forward in any way without repenting and submitting to the rule of Jesus. Belief is not merely accepting something as true. Belief involves a response from one’s whole person in complete obedience. The people in Jesus’ day trusted in all sorts of things: their ancestry, their land, their temple, and their laws to say the least. Jesus was calling them to trust the good news that God was doing something new through Jesus as the enthroned King. To be part of this kingdom required cutting loose from all other ties and trust Jesus and his message. It is imperative to repent and believe in the gospel in order to enter the kingdom. We can no longer trust in ourselves. We cannot trust in our wealth, in our might, in our knowledge, in our abilities, in our jobs, in our families, or in anything else. We are turning our allegiance to Christ because he is the King. We will submit to his rule and follow his ways. Repent and believe because God has come and you can belong to his kingdom and have your sins taken away.