“When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You art not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:34).

Jesus could see right through people. They might hide behind pleasantries and smiles around each other but not with Jesus. He knew all men (John 2:24–25).

The Pharisees feigned sincerity; He called them hypocrites. Sadducees framed flattering questions; He saw bait in the trap. Peter acted as if he had no fears; Jesus saw one who would soon dodge a maiden’s question.

In the context of Mark 12:28–34, Jesus had been dealing with those far from the kingdom—the Pharisees by their formality, the Sadducees by their skepticism, the publicans and sinners by their vices, and the multitude by its ignorance (Luke 11:15, 18, 27; 12:13–14, 18, 28). No one had come honestly desiring to know the truth, so all had been sent home in shame. However, Jesus saw something different in this scribe. He was close to the border of the spiritual kingdom of God.

Who was he?

He was a religious man. He came asking Jesus a Bible question and showed evidence of a love for God. The Ethiopian treasurer rode over a thousand miles to worship at a Jewish festival, but he, too, needed change (Acts 8:26–39). Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee of Pharisees, but he found that religion alone could not please God (Galatians 1:14; 1 Timothy 1:12–16).

He was a knowledgeable man. Jesus had met many religious people who knew nearly nothing about the Bible, but this man was different. He had studied and showed good insight into the Old Covenant. Like him, some today are diligent students, though outside of Christ. If they will obey what they learn, God will save them (John 7:17; 6:44–45; Acts 2:36–41; 8:26–39).

He was a discreet man. Discreet (prudent[1]) indicates sincerity. He was honest—but in error (Luke 8:15). Sincerity and integrity are necessary, but they are insufficient by themselves (Matthew 7:21–23; Acts 18:24–26). Saul was sincere when killing Christians (Acts 7:58; 23:1; 26:9; 1 Timothy 1:13). Cornelius was sincere but needed words whereby he and his house might be saved (Acts 11:11-14).

Where was he?

He was near the kingdom. Jesus presents the church as a city into which one might walk. This man was near the border, or, as we would say, in the suburbs. One’s proximity to the kingdom of God is not an estimate of feet or inches, but of faith and obedience.

He was outside. Being near the kingdom is not the same as being in it. One may come ninety-nine miles of a one-hundred-mile trip and never arrive. One can pay for years on a home, then default on the last payment and never own it. The manslayer, pursued by the avenger of blood, could be within sight of the city of refuge, but if he were overtaken, he would die as if he were far from safety (Numbers 35:25–32).

He was in danger. A person not far from the kingdom of God is still lost, for he must be in the kingdom (or church, Matthew 16:18–19) to be saved (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 5:23; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Accountable people who are not in Christ’s kingdom are in Satan’s kingdom, for those are the only two places an accountable person can be on earth (Colossians 1:13). “Now” is the only time to which God binds Himself (2 Corinthians 6:2).  We can do great things in a short time, but now we have 10,080 fewer minutes than at this hour a week ago, and 524,162 fewer minutes of time than this day last year. It is dangerous to wait.

He was in a place of decision. The rich young ruler had been there (Matthew 19:16–24), as Felix later would be (Acts 24:25). Agrip­pa, too, failed to succeed in the land of decision (Acts 26:28).

Why was he there?

It is not because it would not be worthwhile to enter. There he would find forgiveness (Romans 10:9–10; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13; John 3:5) and peace (Philippians 4:7). He would be made a priest and have communion with Christ (Revelation 1:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16). From there he would be delivered up to the Father at Christ’s second coming (1 Corinthians 15:24), because his name would be enrolled in heaven (Hebrews 12:23).

It may have been some stumbling block that kept him outside. It could have been a love for money (1 Timothy 6:10; Matthew 6:19–­21), or a fear that others would object (John 12:42–43; Matthew 10:34–37; Luke 14:26). It might have been an inadequate sense of sin (self-righteousness) (cf. Isaiah 1:6; Matthew 20:28) or just procras­tination (Hebrews 3:7–8; James 4:14).

He had made great progress; all he needed was to take the final step. We know not what happened to him, but we would like to think that he was one of the three thousand who were added to the kingdom on Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

You may be in the same position. Do not delay outside the camp (Hebrews 3:7–8). Before George Washington crossed the Delaware, a Tory farmer gave the British general a note revealing Washington’s plan. Instead of reading the note, the British general placed it in his pocket. When he finally read the note, he was a prisoner of war. Do not wait until you are a prisoner of Satan in hell before thinking about obeying Christ. It is the first step that costs; it is the last step that pays.

 

[1] Strong, 3562, p. 50.

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