At Hand Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17) Also see Be sure of this, that the Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. (Luke 10:11). The Greek is gar eggiken e basileia ton ouranon ("for at hand the kingdom of heaven"). Notice the order in Greek, placing "at hand" first for emphasis. (George R. Berry, Interlinear Greek New Testament)
A casual reading of this verse would place the next order of events to be the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven. The same word "at hand" was used of Disciples nearing an inn to stay for for the night because the village was "at hand." (Luke 24:28, eggisan, Gk.) The meaning implies immanence, so near that it was practical to expect housing that night.
Postponed But we have been instructed by followers of J.N. Darby, founder of the Dispensationalism sect, that the refusal of the Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah (Anointed Ruler) caused the Kingdom to be postponed! They insist that Jesus's intent was to establish a physical, political reign in Jerusalem, but since that didn't pan out, there is going to be a future attempt with Jerusalem as the world headquarters. They teach that the fulfilment of prophecy for Jewry is in regard to physical, not spiritual entities. This future Kingdom's establishment will involve apocalyptic struggles and the rise of Mean Dudes (antichrists, beasts, false prophets, etc.)
This teaching is accomplished by separating the Kingdom of God from the Kingdom of Heaven. Footnote on page 1003, Scofield Reference Bible, 1917:
The Kingdom of God is to be distinguished from the Kingdom of heaven in five respects...
The Bible seems, however, to equate the Kingdom of Heaven with the Kingdom of God: Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28 both deal with the least in the kingdom, and the synoptic writers mix the two together! They are presented as the same. But the Dispensationalists insist:
"The Kingdom of heaven...signifies the Messianic earth rule of Jesus Christ...and it will be set up after the destruction by 'the stone cut out without hands' of the Gentile world system." (footnote (1), p. 996). Scofield stated that the "at hand" verbage meant "from the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist to the virtual rejection of the King." It is only the mysteries of the kingdom that apply to the Church age. But the real "prophetic aspect, the kingdom will be setup after the return of the King in glory." (ftnt. (1), (2), p.996) It is also taught that the Kingdom is to be established by power, not persuasion, and is to follow divine judgment upon the Gentile world-powers...The restoration of Israel and the establishment of the kingdom are connected with the advent of the Lord, yet future. (ftnt. (e), (f); p. 977)
To understand this teaching, look at the definition given to the words, at hand: At hand is never a positive affirmation that the person or thing said to be 'at hand' will immediately appear, but only that no known or predicted event must intervene. (ftnt. p.998)
This differs greatly from the definition given by Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon: Gk. eggizo, eggike, "has come nigh, is at hand" (p. 164). It is used in Mt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, Mk. 1:15, Luke 10:11, 24:28, with this meaning. This usage involves anticipation, hope of immediate fulfilment or action. Certainly, no delay seems intended or implied.
But this idea of God really wanting a physical organic kingdom for Christ to set up, but that it was postponed by the rejection of King Jesus, and that a kingdom of God, mainly Gentile, would transpire for a while, and then Jesus would come back and set up the Davidic kingdom finally...is foreign to orthodox Christianity. This is readily admitted:
Until brought to fore through the writings and the preaching and teaching of a distinguished ex-clergyman, Mr. J.N. Darby, in the early part of the last century, it is scarcely to be found in a single book or sermon through the period of sixteen hundred years! If any doubt this statement, let them search, as the writer has in measure done, the remarks of the so-called Fathers, both thee pre- and post-Nicene; the theological treatises of the scholastic divines; the Roman Catholic writers of all shades of thought; the literature of the Reformation; the sermons and expositions of the Puritans; and the general theological works of the day. He will find the "mystery" conspicuous by its absence. (H.A. Ironside, The Mysteries of God, 1946.p. 50-51; a Dispensationalist himself)
Immanent Question But was the kingdom Jesus came to set up suppose to be a spiritual kingdom, or an "organic" kingdom with Jews ruling? Was the Kingdom that Jesus announced (as well as John the Baptist, Matt. 3:2) postponed? Were Jesus's plans thwarted by the stubborn will of Jewish hierarchy? Is there scriptural warrant for believing we should acquiesce to the idea of Jesus being refused Kingship only because men don't want Him to reign over them? What scriptures convey this thought? Or is this a doctrine foreign to the Scriptures?
Kingdom Now? How does the "postponement" ideas mesh with scriptures that seem to imply Jesus as King now ruling over a Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost? Do they only refer to a temporary, substitutionary kingdom for Gentiles? Or an everlasting Kingdom comprised of Jew and Gentile as 'one new man'? (Ephesians 2:11-22)
The key word here for answering is AT HAND. How is this to be interpreted given its Greek definition? And how does this relate to the KINGDOM? Did the Kingdom of Jesus draw near in the first century?