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1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. 13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

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1 Sarah R = ""If we were to look for one single theme that seems to be the most central and most important theme of the entire gospel of Matthew, it would be the theme of the coming of the kingdom. We see in the first instance that the termgospel refers to the gospel of the kingdom — the good news of the announcement of the breakthrough of the kingdom of God. In Matthew’s case, he uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” rather than the terminology “kingdom of God.” He does this not because he has a different view of the meaning or content of the kingdom of God; rather, out of sensitivity to his Jewish readers, he makes common use of what is called periphrasis, a certain type of circumlocution to avoid mentioning the sacred name of God. So for Matthew, the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven is the same kingdom that the other writers speak of as the kingdom of God."Matthew talks about the breakthrough of the kingdom and the arrival of Jesus in His incarnation. He announces the coming of the kingdom at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and at the end of the book Matthew speaks about the final consummation of the coming of that kingdom in the Olivet Discourse. So from the first page of Matthew to the last page, we see the unifying theme of the coming of the kingdom of God in the appearance of the king Himself, who is the Messiah of Israel and the fulfillment of the kingdom given to Judah."- RC Sproul, quoted here: http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/the-gospels/why-does-matthew-use-the-kingdom-of-heaven.html"
2 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "Throughout history, people wrongly believed they were in messianic times and would preach that the "kingdom of Heaven is at hand". Of course, none of the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures were fulfilled in Jesus' time such as "the lion laying down with the lamb, nation shall not lift up sword against nation" or the "wicked paying for their sins" which is why Christianity invented the concept of "the Second Coming". Within the construct of the Hebrew/Jewish scriptures, no such concept of a second coming ever existed for the Messiah. As such, John was expecting the immediate redemption of his people [Israel] right then and there but it never happened. On the contrary, the Roman exile began shortly after the supposed "messianic redemption" and any reader who understands the basic criteria for the "Jewish Messiah" knows that the Messianic criteria had not been fulfilled yet."
3 Sarah R = "This is from Isaiah 40:3. Matthew attributes this verse as prophetic, foreshadowing John the Baptist coming before the Messiah. See also Mark 1:3-8 and Luke 3:2-17."
4 Deena E = "There is much debate about the method of baptism: sprinkling vs. full body immersion. It is believed that baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the new believer sharing in that with Christ, which is why Baptists use the immersion method. "