All three of the synoptic gospels report how Jesus began His ministry. Mark wrote, “After that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God; and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:12-13).
The time had come for the Messiah to come into His kingdom. His kingdom was the Hebrew nation. As soon as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, God made a covenant with them: “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Ex 19:5-6). The Hebrews agreed; “All the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Ex 19:8).
Moses foretold the Messiah. He spoke to the Israelites, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut 18:15). Other prophets periodically prophesied that Messiah would come. Malachi said, “The Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal 3:1). When Jesus began His ministry, He announced that the time had come. The messenger of the covenant had come to His kingdom. The kingdom of heaven was at hand just as Jesus said.
The Jews should not have been surprised. Not only did Jesus come as foretold, but God sent a forerunner to prepare the way for Him, just as prophesied: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” (Mal 3:1). Isaiah prophesied, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Is 40:3). The messenger whom God sent to prepare the way for Jesus was John the Baptist. Matthew reported, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For I am he who was spoken of by the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]” (Matt 3:27-29). Not only did John tell them to repent, but he admonished them, “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance” (Matt 3:35). They were to act like repentant people.
The Jewish leaders made light of John’s message. They felt entitled, believing that they were born into God’s kingdom. They were the descendants of Abraham as well as those with whom God covenanted in the wilderness to make a holy nation. Neither John nor Jesus fit their expectations. The looked for someone like Judas Maccabees, who overthrew their Grecian oppressive rulers and made them into an independent nation. They mocked Jesus. They despised Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. And they lost their kingdom. Not only did Rome destroy Jerusalem and its Temple, banning them from their Promised Land, but Jesus took the kingdom from them and gave it to the Gentiles. He told the chief priests and elders, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt 21:45).
Jesus did not stay in the grave after His crucifixion but burst from it early on the third day. After confirming the new covenant with His disciples, He ascended, promising to return again. Like His first advent, the Lord promised to send messengers to prepare His way before His return: “For in that day, before the Son of Man shall come, he shall send forth his angels and messengers of heaven” (Matt 13:42). When that day approached, the Lord enlarged the Gentiles at the same time that He brought forth the Reformation. He made a way from the spiritual darkness engulfing Papal Europe by returning believers to the light of the Bible. The Gentile enlargement brought devout Christians to America where the hope of the Pilgrims and Puritans to complete the Reformation was actualized. Angels from heaven and divinely commissioned messengers went forth declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplicity, saying, “Repent, repent and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (D&C 32:2f).
After John prepared the way, he diminished. He said, “I must decrease” (John 3:31). The focus had to shift from John the Baptist to Jesus Christ. As the time for the Son of Man to come to His kingdom approached, the messengers sent to prepare the way have diminished. The focus had to shift to Jesus Christ and His coming kingdom.
We all see the current conditions: a declining birthrate throughout the world; the rising global debt; fewer workers to pay the debt or produce the goods and services for an aging population; the dispersion of nuclear technology, allowing even rouge nations to acquire nuclear weapons; the push to create an entity with global oversight, if nothing more than control rouge nations and avoid Armageddon; the decline in US policing throughout the world, especially on the seas; and the potential rise in piracy, threatening global trade. These demographics illustrate the fragile world situation. Perhaps the recent pandemic was the first crack in its cohesion.
Normal as we knew it will not return. These demographics and others foretell the coming change. The kingdoms of this world must fall so that the kingdom of our Lord can come and Jesus can reign on earth. The Jews in Judea were not prepared. They believed their birth made them citizens of God’s kingdom, but in reality only their rebirth does. That is why John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized believers for the remission of sins. That is why Jesus began His ministry saying, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:12-13).
We are preaching the gospel and its principles, faith in Jesus, repentance from dead works, baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection, and eternal life (Heb 6:1-2), for the single purpose of preparing people for the coming kingdom and its king. Come to Jesus, believe the gospel. Obey the gospel. Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and let it transform your life, making you into temples of God and citizens able to abide the Messiah’s coming.