Read Daniel 2:36-45.
In order to understand what Jesus and John meant when they said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” we need to understand exactly what that kingdom is. To help with our understanding, we need to take a look back in the prophecy of Daniel to learn a few details about the establishment and character of this kingdom.
The prophecy is found in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel recalled and interpreted for him. In his interpretation Daniel describes the establishment of several earthly kingdoms that match up with known facts about world history. Knowing the facts about these earthly kingdoms, we can draw conclusions about the kingdom of God and its establishment.
The first kingdom was a head of gold. Daniel tells us that was Nebuchadnezzar himself and the Babylonian empire.
Another kingdom was to come up after Babylon that was large but not as strong. History and the life of Daniel tells us that this was the Persian Empire.
After the Persian Empire, the Greeks gained power. The Hellenistic influence in such a large part of the world is clearly seen in that so much of the world spoke Greek and why portions of our New Testament are in the Greek language.
After the Grecian Empire, there was to be a nation that is very powerful like iron. That nation we know to be the Roman Empire. But this nation had a weakness. Part of its toes were iron the other were clay. This weakness would be its downfall.
During the time of the Roman Empire, Daniel tells us that God would establish His kingdom and it shall never be destroyed! The stone cut out of the mountain without hands destroyed this empire. That stone is none other than Jesus Christ!
Jesus established His kingdom during His earthly ministry. By “at hand,” He meant that it is here now. This confirms the prophecy in Daniel. The kingdom of Heaven (or God) took the place of the Roman Empire and brought about its defeat.
Daniel also tells us that this kingdom will consume all other nations and it will last forever. The reign of Christ is right now not after a time of tribulation. Jesus Christ is on His throne at this very moment and we can see Him there in the visible manifestation of that kingdom which is His church.