What Is The Gospel? (Part 3)

Christ in gloryI have been working on this series in which I am attempting to look at what the gospel really is (see part 1, part 2). To understand this very important thing called the gospel, I began by looking at Jesus’ first words, as reported by Mark’s Gospel:

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

This was THE turning point in history. Not just because our calendars are situated around the Messiah’s (or Christ’s) arrival, but because a new age was dawning upon history. That is why Jesus could say, ‘The time is fulfilled.’ That is why Paul could also refer to this Christ-event as the fullness of time’ (see Galatians 4:4). This was truly the turning point for the history of mankind.

Thus, we see that, at this major turning point in history, at this dawning of a new age, Messiah Himself came announcing the good news (gospel) that the kingdom of God was at hand. It was here, for the kingly Messiah was here. Gospel is, therefore, not so much a specific genre of music sung by African-Americans. It is the proclamation that the kingdom rule of God was present.

And, as I said, this was a kind of music to Jewish ears, for they had been long awaiting the arrival of God’s kingdom. Of course, they were thinking this kingdom ushered in by the Messiah would wipe out oppressive Rome. But the Messiah-King came with a kingdom that was going to destroy the kingdom of darkness and sin. Sounds much better to me!

But, at the end of my last article, I had the audacity to claim that the central focus of the good news was not that Christ came to save sinners. Nor was the central focus to be the cross.

What??!!

We all know 1 Timothy 1:15:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Or, what about 1 Corinthians 2:2:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

So, such statements from me must be, well, if not blasphemous, at least semi-heretical, right?

Well, here is what I didn’t say. I did not deny the reality that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I did not deny the reality that the cross was a part of the reason He came into the world. To those statements, I give my full and 100% agreement.

But, what I did say is that these things are not the central focus of why Christ came. The cross and the salvation of humankind is very important in the purposes of God, but they are not THE centerpiece. They are a part, but not the ‘ultimate intention’, as I believe Devern Fromke called it.

What is that centerpiece? Seeing the kingdom rule of God established on earth as it is in heaven.

Remember, this was the central message of Jesus – the kingdom of God, or, as it shows up in Matthew’s Gospel, the kingdom of heaven. This message was on the lips of Jesus some 100 times!!

Author and theologian, George Ladd, could therefore make this simple statement:

‘New Testament scholars generally agree that the burden of Jesus’ message was the kingdom of God .’ (The Presence of the Future, p122)

And Jesus was not just proclaiming it, as in some hope of it coming one day. He was announcing the coming of the kingdom of God. Such is seen to be true when we look back at Mark 1:14-15, as well as a selection of other passages in the Gospels:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28)

…but he [Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

See also favourite passages like Matthew 6:10 and 6:33.

As Messiah-King, this was His passion, His ultimate intention.

But, again, lest I be seen as some whacko or heretic, I am not negating the importance or significance of the cross, of the shed blood of Christ, or the salvation-restoration of sinners. Those are very important in outworking the purposes of God on earth as they are in heaven. But these become a result of the reality of the kingdom rule of God coming on earth as it is in heaven. They become the outworking of God’s kingdom on earth.

Because God desires to see His glory and kingdom spread into all the earth (i.e. Psalm 72:19; Isaiah 6:3; 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14; Acts 1:8; etc), there are certain things that must take place in order for this to become a reality. Therefore, the incarnation was a must, the ministry of Christ on earth was a definite, the cross was a requirement, and there is no doubt the resurrection needed to come into play.

But all of these were part of the ‘process’, part of the ‘journey’, to see the King-Messiah establishing the kingdom of God and being enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, He can have all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Consequently, Jesus could be placed far above every rule, authority, power, dominion and name, even placing all things under His feet (Ephesians 1:19-23).

As a result, when we speak of the gospel, we must keep in mind that this is centrally about the rule of God being established, as begun by Jesus, Himself. No, the kingdom is not yet fully here. That won’t be a reality until He returns for His bride. This will be when His kingdom is consummated at the end of this age, bringing all righteousness, dealing fully with sin, and establishing that new heavens and new earth, which we even taste of now as new creations.

But what did begin some 2,000 years ago was that the Son of God became a man so that He could proclaim God’s rule was breaking in on humanity as it was in heaven. Again, I don’t mean that He was only establishing some ‘ethereal’ reality. When the Scripture speaks of something being ‘heavenly’, it does not refer to a floaty, spiritual place up in the clouds. It speaks of something being ‘of heaven’, ‘of God’, ‘of His kingdom rule’ (I have written more about this here).

But, in proclaiming and initiating such, the Trinity knew that this would involve a sacrifice, starting with the divine Son becoming flesh and leading to the divine Son being slaughtered for humanity’s sin.

Therefore, when we talk about the good news, with all of its ‘sub-points’ and ‘differing facets’ (if you will), let us keep in mind that this gospel is grounded in the reality that the Messiah-King came to make known God’s kingdom rule. It started 2,000 years ago, it’s continued for 2,000 years, and such will be His passion until it is time for Him to finish all things.

This, my friends, is the gospel of the kingdom!

If you want, stay tuned…I think I would like to share one or two more articles on this subject.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s