Matthew 3:1-12 & That “Guy” On the Corner

The “guy” on the corner yelling “repent for the end is near,” and holding a “turn or burn” sign might think he is carrying on in the spirit of Elijah, the spirit of John the Baptist, but I think he is missing something.  I have nothing against his open air public preaching, I admire his boldness, I am thankful for his commitment to the doctrines of repentance, hell, and the return of King Jesus, but there are some problems.

His message markets Jesus simply as char prevention.  Repentance becomes just another adventure in self-seeking for  our narcissistic culture.  By all means preach the ugliness of sin and the reality of hell, but only to preach the glories of Christ.  You must preach the heinous nature of sin and its consequences for the good news of Jesus to be good news, but it is not until you preach the good news of the cross that sin is seen in its most ugly, true form.  If you preach repentance without redemption you are not longer preaching the gospel, but law.

Our calling is not to preach an isolated hell or repentance but the gospel.

When the guy says “repent for the end is near” he is not saying the same thing John does when he says “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

What is the “kingdom of heaven” that Matthew will reference 32 times?  Let’s begin with what it is not.  It isn’t the people of God, nor the church.  Just try replacing them sometimes and you will see the absurdity.

Your [church] come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.   – Matthew 6:10

The [church] is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  – Matthew 14:44

The time is fulfilled, and the [church] is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.  – Mark 1:15

So what is the kingdom?  Lets narrow in on a precise definition in three steps.

  1. The kingdom is here now but not yet, near yet far, present (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:20-21) yet future (Matthew 6:10; Luke 22:18).
  2. The kingdom primarily is the dominion, rule, and reign of God.  Edmund Clowney said it well, “In the Scriptures, God’s kingdom is the shadow of His presence; not so much his domain as his dominion; not his realm but his rule.  God’s kingdom is the working of his power to accomplish his purposes of judgment and salvation.”
  3. Primarily the kingdom is the saving rule and reign of God that began radically to break in with Christ’s first advent and will be consummated upon His return.  It isn’t that God wasn’t working His plan of redemption prior to the coming of Jesus, but with Jesus’ advent our redemption was at hand.

The good news that we preach is the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Acts 8:12, 28:31).  The text says that the reason why John was doing what he was doing was to fulfill Isaiah 40:3.  He is the herald sent ahead of the king telling them to prepare for the coming of the King.  In Isaiah 40 the coming of the King is good news.  So the reason why the “kingdom is at hand” is because the king has come.  Now the question is why has he come?   Matthew has already answered that question in chapter one, “you shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.”

So we plead with people to repent not simply because sin is vile and hell is hot, but most deeply because Christ is glorious!  Our primary motivation toward repentance is not negative but positive.  There is sorrow in repentance, but there is also joy; sorrow over sin and joy over Christ.  Repentance is not the begrudging sacrifice of great pleasures to avoid dire consequences.  Repentance is seeing by faith the glories of Christ, and then comparing His promises and pleasures with those of sin and shouting, “No contest – Jesus!”  True repentance not only hates sin, it loves Jesus.

Though [repentance] be a deep sorrow for sin that God requires as necessary to salvation, yet the very nature of it necessarily implies delight. Repentance of sin is a sorrow arising from the sight of God’s excellency and mercy, but the apprehension of excellency or mercy must necessarily and unavoidably beget pleasure in the mind of the beholder. ‘Tis impossible that anyone should see anything that appears to him excellent and not behold it with pleasure, and it’s impossible to be affected with the mercy and love of God, and his willingness to be merciful to us and love us, and not be affected with pleasure at the thoughts of [it]; but this is the very affection that begets true repentance. How much sovever of a paradox it may seem, it is true that repentance is a sweet sorrow, so that the more of this sorrow, the more pleasure.  – Jonathan Edwards

3 thoughts on “Matthew 3:1-12 & That “Guy” On the Corner”

  1. I guess this is kind of an open question to anyone who struggles keeping their witnessing content packed and are now thinking of how to integrate the concept of preaching the Kingdom to come. Sorry if it is long I tried to cut as mu a poss

    We were talking in D teams last night about the turn or burn type witnessing and it was brought up that Ray Comfort is in this party. After thinking about it, I agree that this is a large part of his message. However, in his defense I can’t think of another evangelist who teaches the difficult topics of sin, the rebellion of men against God’s holy law, and the consequence of Hell with a loving heart like he does.

    Let’s just say he’s wrong and that he does not preach the Kingdom of Heaven as much as he should. It seems to me that teaching sinfulness and its consequences naturally leads one to see the gloriousness of Christ’s atonement. And Wednesday’s message has called us to explicitly teach the glories of Christ (Yet again, correct me if I’m wrong). This is where I am stumped. What if someone asked me “Yeah I understand that sin is bad. But from what you make sin out to be that could make anything seem good, not just Christ”
    So here are the points of my rambling.
    1) Yesterday has gotten me to rethink gospel conversations. Is there necessity in explaining the specific Excellencies of Christ rather than just preaching sin bad therefore Christ good?
    2) Over the past two months I have been reading a lot of “here is one more thing that your gospel message should contain” ideas. It’s a little overwhelming. Then come to find out that my evangelist hero, Comfort, may not be right on target either, which isn’t the end of the world. It’s not the first Christian to take of my hero list. So why does this concern me? Most everything he publishes is about evangelism. He does not give himself the title Pastor, even though he is one, nor theologian, even though I’m sure he has sound doctrine, but Evangelist (I’m talkin’ Ephesians 4:11 specific office/title Evangelist). But he leaves out leaves out this crucial component in his evangelism–preaching the Kingdom to come…or is here…or something like that:P He has been at this for 20 or 30 years, probably reads his bible more than me, is more faithful to evangelism to that me, and his specific calling is to be an evangelist-sensei to prepare others to take up his calling. So if this EVANGELIST can’t get his evangelism right what hope is there for us common folk?


  2. re: Cody–

    Your point labeled 1 is certainly interesting – something I’ve never thought about before. The specific excellencies that I think >shouldaddedneedafteronly< for after death and has no bearing on the rest of their life on earth.

    Thoughts, anyone?


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