“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)

Is this the correct translation?

This statement by Jesus has been translated differently among the different Bible versions:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (New International Version 2011)
"Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (King James version)
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (New Living Translation)
“Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Christian Standard Bible)
"Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" (Hebrew Names Version)
"Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh." (Darby Translation)
'Reform ye, for come nigh hath the reign of the heavens.' (Young's Literal Translation)
"Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (American Standard Version)
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible)
“Change your heart, for the sanctuary of God is readily available.” (Lost Gospels of Jesus)
These are all translated from the same Greek phrase, μετανοεῖτε ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

Isn't this also what John the Baptist taught?

Regardless of the translation, this teaching was also taught by John the Baptist before Jesus taught it:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)
These teachings were only taught by Jesus following his hearing of John the Baptist’s imprisonment:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. ... From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:12-17)
This means that this teaching was not solely Jesus' message. And just as Jesus was passing on the same teachings of his teacher John the Baptist, Jesus also instructed his own disciples to go out and teach this same message to others:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matthew 10:7)
What does this mean? It means that this very same teaching was taught by at least three generations of teachers: John, Jesus and Jesus' disciples, and presumably, those who followed them.

Was this teaching taught before John?

This teaching did not originate with John the Baptist. We find in David's Psalms and other texts of the Bible:
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:28)

We praise you, God, we praise you, for Your Name is near (Psalm 75:1)

Yet You are near, LORD, and all your commands are true. (Psalm 119:151)

The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

“In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to Him and who is holy, and He will have that person come near Him. (Numbers 16:5)

He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near Himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. (Numbers 16:10)

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? (Deut. 4:7)

Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” (Deut. 5:27)

And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night (1 Kings 8:59)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)

They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. (Isaiah 58:2)

"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’" (Luke 10:9)

What does 'repent' mean here?

The word "repent" is being translated from the Greek word μετανοέω (metanoeō). This means "to change" or "to change one's mind" according to Thayer's lexicon. 

It means to have a change of heart. It means to make a serious change in one's life.

In other words, "repent" in this context would be to divert from those activities focused upon our own selves - exercised by our seeking satisfaction within materialism. To "repent" from these activities would mean to refocus towards regaining our relationship with the Supreme Being.

What does 'kingdom of heaven' mean here?

The word "kingdom" here is being translated from the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia). The lexicon describes this word to mean, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule: not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."

From this, we know that Jesus and John were speaking of accepting the Supreme Being's dominion - His ultimate authority. So the kingdom of heaven relates to the consciousness of accepting the ultimate authority of the Supreme Being. This is describing the refuge, the shelter, or the sanctuary, of God.

The use of "kingdom" here comes from a time when there were many different kings - who were basically tribal rulers - in different regions. Using their armies, these kings protected the people of the kingdom. As such, the people revered the king and took shelter or refuge under the king's protection. Using their assembled armies and barriers, the king would protect the populace from invading armies. As such the "kingdom" was the name given to that place of refuge, shelter, or sanctuary.

Having a change of heart and taking refuge or shelter or taking sanctuary of God requires humility. It means accepting that we don't know it all. It means accepting that we don't have the means to protect ourselves. It means accepting that the Supreme Being is my only real protector and salvation.

The Supreme Being is a person, and each of us has an innate relationship with God. We have forgotten this loving service relationship as we seek our own satisfaction away from God. In order to regain our lost relationship with God, our approach must come with humility, because we were the ones who decided to leave Him.

This runs contrary to the popular connotation of "repenting" as professed by many teachers. Many see repentance as some sort of public proclamation: To proclaim “I repent,” in a public ceremony, or “I surrender to Jesus” is not the same as having a personal change of heart - as Jesus, John and Jesus' disciples were requesting.

A real change of heart does not come with public proclamation or grandstanding. It is rather the opposite: It is an extremely personal and private decision to redirect one's life towards coming to know and love the Supreme Being.

Is this about the end of the world?

Even with this clarity, many teachers have interpreted this statement as referring to a coming end of the world or some kind of apocalypse. This is despite any evidence, from either the words or the context of Jesus' statement.

Consider first the audience of these teachings. Who was Jesus preaching to? Certainly, he was preaching to those around him at the time. And yet some 2,000 years later, the end of the world still has not come.

Was Jesus misleading his followers - telling them that the end of the world was "near" or "at hand" and it wasn't? Certainly not.

This hasn't stopped the unsupported interpretation. Below is a list of some of the many teachers who have claimed to represent Jesus, teaching that Jesus was predicting the end of the world (doomsday) on a certain date. (The date they predicted the world would end follows their name):

Hilary of Poitiers: 365 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Hydatius (Bishop of Aquae) 482 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Hippolytus of Rome: 500 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Beatus of Leibana: 793 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Gregory of Tours: 799 to 800 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Thiota: 847 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Pope Sylvester II: 1000 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD (predicted doomsday date)
John of Toledo: 1179 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Joachimites: 1290 and 1335 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Jean de Roquetaillade: 1368 and 1370 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Amaldus de Villa Nova: 1378 (predicted doomsday date)
Thomas Muntzer: 1525 AD  (predicted doomsday date)
Johannes Stoffler: 1524 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Hans Hut (Anabaptist): 1528 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Melchior Hoffman (Anabaptist): 1533 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Jan Matthys (Anabaptist): 1534 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Martin Luther (Augustinian monk): 1600 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Christopher Columbus: 1658 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Joseph Mede: 1660 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Sabbatai Zevi: 1648 and 1666 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Fifth Monarchists: 1666 and 1673 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Pierre Jurieu: 1689 AD (predicted doomsday date)
John Mason (Anglican): 1694 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Johan Heinrich Alsted (Calvinist): 1694 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Cotton Mather (Puritan): 1697, 1716 and 1736 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Henry Archer (Fifth Monarchist): 1700 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa: 1700 to 1734 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Camisards: 1705 and 1708 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
William Whitson: 1736 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Emanuel Swedenborg (Lutheran): 1757 AD (predicted doomsday date)
The Shakers (Ann Lee): 1792 and 1794 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly: 1789 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Christopher Love (Presbyterian): 1805 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Johann Albrecht Bengel (Lutheran): 1846 AD (predicted doomsday date)
John Wesley (Methodist founder): 1836 AD (predicted doomsday date)
William Miller (Millerites founder): 1843 and 1844 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
George Rapp (Harmony Society founder): 1847 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Harriet Livermore: 1847 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD (predicted doomsday dates)
John Cumming: 1862 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Joseph Morris (Mormon): 1862 AD (predicted doomsday date)
John Wroe (Christian Israelite Church): 1863 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Jonas Wendell and other Adventist preachers: 1863, 1874, 1870 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Wovoka (Ghost Dance): 1890 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Catholic Apostolic Church: 1901 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994 and others more recent. (predicted doomsday dates)
Margaret Rowen (Seventh-Day Adventist): 1920 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Spencer Perceval (Catholic Apostolic Church): 1926 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Wilbur Glenn Voliva: 1935 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Herbert Armstrong (Worldwide Church of God founder): 1936 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Florence Houteff (Branch Davidians): 1959 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Johann Bischoff (New Apostolic Church): 1951 and 1960 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Jim Jones (People's Temple cult): 1967 AD (predicted doomsday date)
George Williams (Church of the Firstborn): 1969 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Herbert Armstrong (Worldwide Church of God): 1972 AD (predicted doomsday date)
John Wroe (Christian Israelite Church): 1977 AD (predicted doomsday date)
William Branham (evangelist): 1977 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel): 1981 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Pat Robertson (evangelist): 1982 and 2007 AD (predicted doomsday dates)
Lester Sumrall (Pentecostal): 1985 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Edgar Whisenant: 1988 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Elizabeth Clare (Summit Lighthouse): 1990 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Rollen Stewart: 1992 AD (predicted doomsday date)
David Berg (The Family): 1993 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Harold Camping: 1994, 1995, 2011 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Ronald Weinland (Church of God): 2011 and 2012 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Aggai: 1997 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Marshall Applewhite (Heavens Gate cult): 1997 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Archbishop James Ussher: 1997 AD (predicted doomsday date)
James Gordon Lindsay (Christ for the Nations): 1999 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Jerry Falwell (evangelist): 2000 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Ed Dobson: 2000 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Lester Sumrall: 2000 AD (predicted doomsday date)
Jonathan Edwards (Congr. Protestant): 2000 AD (predicted doomsday date)
David Meade: 2017 and 2018 AD (predicted doomsday dates)

Were Jesus and John deceiving their students?

Since John also taught this, and since the end of the world hasn't come, were they both misleading their followers? Were they both making idle threats about doomsday?

What would be the purpose of threatening the end of the world to them - as "near" - since it would not happen during their lifetimes or even within the lifetimes of their children - or even in the next 2,000 years? Does more than 2,000 years later mean "near"?

Why, if John and Jesus were predicting an event that will take place more than 2,000 years later, would they use the word "near"?

The simple answer is that this statement has been mistranslated and misinterpreted.

What does 'near' or 'at hand' mean?

The word "near" (or in the case of other translations "at hand") is being translated from the Greek word ἐγγίζω (eggizō), which means, according to the lexicon:

1) to bring near, to join one thing to another
2) to draw or come near to, to approach

Thus it is clear that the interpretation of the word relating to time is incorrect. The word ἐγγίζω (eggizō) indicates "closeness" relative to distance - not time.

Therefore, Jesus is speaking of the kingdom of heaven - the sanctuary of God or the refuge of God - being close: Readily available.

The true meaning of “for the kingdom of heaven has come near” is that each of us can gain the refuge or sanctuary of God - the shelter of God - immediately by simply turning to the Supreme Being - by worshiping Him and relying upon Him - and dismissing ourselves ("repenting") from our search for happiness in a materialistic world of emptiness and physical gratification.

In other words, Jesus is speaking of surrendering to the Supreme Being - giving one's life to God - and thus taking shelter in the Supreme Being.

Is this about our consciousness?

Jesus is not speaking of a physical place being nearby. He is speaking of the fact that taking refuge in the Supreme Being can be accomplished immediately: Because He is near to us. He is available to each of us.

Certainly, if we accept that God created this world, we can also accept that He has the ability to be here. Nearby. Available. Jesus confirmed this in another statement:
"The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21 NKJV)
The Supreme Being designed the physical body in such a way so that our physical eyes cannot see Him. This is in order to give each of us the freedom to ignore God if we choose. It also gives us the freedom to love God - or not.

Therefore, we have to open our hearts in order to see Him from within. If God is with us - near - and we can refocus ourselves upon Him with humility and love, then we have the ability for our consciousness to enter the kingdom of God where ever we are. This translates to becoming focused on doing His will rather than our own will.

Jesus also indicates that this consciousness does have a place: Not a physical place, but a context - this is the spiritual realm - evidenced by Jesus' use of the word οὐρανός (ouranos) in this verse - mistranslated to "heaven."

Yes, since Jesus is indicating that this consciousness related to giving one's life to the Supreme Being is available - Jesus is not speaking of a location called "heaven." He is speaking of a heavenly consciousness, which creates "heaven" where ever we might be.

Such a consciousness creates sanctuary: The safety or refuge of our relationship with God. The Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) indicates the consciousness of the spiritual realm, which can be accessed from any location - because after all, everywhere is part of God's creation. Thus, the use of οὐρανός (ouranos) indicates that consciousness where the Supreme Being is loved and worshiped.

This great teaching is suggesting that we can reject our self-centered chase for happiness within materialism and give ourselves to the Supreme Being. We can decide to dedicate our lives to coming to know and love the Supreme Person and learning to do His will (what pleases Him). This will immediately transport us to the sanctuary (or kingdom) of God, even as our physical bodies might remain here in the physical world.

Yes, according to Jesus' teachings, God and His sanctuary are near. God is available to us, and we can take refuge in Him at any time. We each have that choice.