“The times are fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.” (NJB)
This statement was made when Jesus Christ went to Galilee to start his ministry and that was at the time directly after the arrest of John the Baptist. “The time is fulfilled: for the take-off of that gospel that God promised long ago through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:1-2) and we know that promise of God is the ultimate good.
The ultimate good it is, this promise of God, because it is that of “…the coming of the One most venerable who gave judgment in favour of the holy ones of the Most High, when the time came for the holy ones to assume kingship” (Daniel 7: 22) at the fullness of time.
The fullness of time (Gal 4:4) is what is here fulfilled and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) Commentary says that “fulfillment implies a continuity between the stages of God’s plan…” and that “when the last of these stages begins (Roman 3 : 26. Heb 1 : 2) the time is fulfilled”.
The time is fulfilled because that action of going to Galilee to start his ministry, happening at that particular time when John was arrested (and had started “decreasing that he may start increasing”) is so theologically significant that it cannot be anything other than this great expected time in the history of man’s salvation following the fall of man at Eden with its consequences. This, according to the NJB commentary on Mark 1: 15, “The time appointed according to God’s plan of salvation, for Christ’s redemptive work which comes at the appointed time (Gal 4:4) once for all (Heb 7:27) and inaugurates the eschatological era”. This is the Parousia.
The Parousia is the time of the glorious coming of Christ to establish his kingdom on earth which people sometimes regard as the last day (The Resurrection Day) or a time before then when the antichrist is defeated and Satan is chained for the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ leading to the day of the last judgment (Rev 20:11-15) but it is, more accurately, the time which starts with the inauguration of Christ’s ministry that establishes “the kingdom of God”
“The kingdom of God” was said, by Jesus, to be close at hand. Mathew calls it the kingdom of Heaven in keeping with the tradition of the Jewish people who reverence God’s name so much that they would rather substitute it with an appropriate word. This is the special era when “your God is King (Is 52: 7) in a kingdom of “saints”
“A kingdom of ‘saints’ where God is truly king, because they will acknowledge his royal rights by knowing and loving him”, declare bible scholars. They also comment that the sovereignty of God over his chosen people, and through them over the world is at the heart of Jesus’ preaching as it was the theocratic ideal of the Old Testament. This sovereignty jeopardized by rebellious sin is to be reasserted by an act of supreme intervention on the part of God and of his Messiah. This is the intervention which Jesus, following John the Baptist, declares imminent”. (Commentary on Mt 4:17). This kingdom John the Baptist saw being inaugurated and was the Herald of it. He was, therefore, regarded by Jesus, for this (and for other merits probably) as the greatest of all those born of women; but he did not enjoy it before he died and was, therefore, called the least among those in the kingdom of God – those of us coming after the establishment of this kingdom of God (cf Matt 11: 11).
This kingdom of God (cf Matt 11:11) was seen by John but it eluded him because although Jesus who was inaugurating it here in Mk 1:15 did so in his life time Jesus also implies in this passage that it was not yet established (and so John would not see it and enjoy it in his life time like us) but only “close at hand”.
“Close at hand” means that it is not here already; not really here but the era is being inaugurated and would be fully inaugurated when Jesus says “it is finished” and dies on the cross, then descends into hades, preaches to and releases captives to see heaven for the first time and be with God eternally (cf Eph 4:7-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22) and human beings then begin to be able, if they merit, to enjoy the state of Heaven that was not possible previously because of the fall of Adam.
Because of the fall of Adam all those who lived and died thereafter were not able to see God but they had all lived in great faith that this possibility to see the face of God would one day be established by the Messiah (cf Heb 11 especially verse 13, 39 – 40). We are, therefore, highly privileged to be born in this era and how I wish we can understand this great privilege and take advantage of it by, in spirit and in truth, obeying what Jesus commands here in Mk 1:15 “repent and believe the gospel”
“Repent and believe the gospel” implies conversion”, metanoia, leveling all hills and filling all valleys in our lives (Lk 3:4-6) so as to qualify us to be a part of this kingdom of saints that will lead us to the eternal state of heaven reserved for worthy members of this kingdom of God fulfilled at our own time.