What is the gospel?

No more curse

The English word “gospel” comes from two words in Old English: “good” and “spel” (which means story or message), hence “good story”. The Greek word it is translated from in the New Testament is euangelion, which means good tidings. In the New Testament (Luke 4:18) it is used in a quotation from the Old Testament, where the word is basar. This means to make cheerful with glad tidings.

So the very basic meaning of “the gospel” is good news.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul tells us that the gospel, or this “good message” was first preached to Abraham: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed‘…That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.'” (Galatians 3:8,14 ESV)

From this we learn that the gospel involves:

  • being justified by faith
  • a blessing on all the nations through Abraham, and through Jesus Christ
  • the promise of the Spirit.

What was the blessing of Abraham? This is what Isaac said to Jacob: “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.” (Genesis 28:3-4)

From this we learn that the gospel involves:

  • the inheritance of land.

We know, however, that Abraham and his many descendants died without having received the promises: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

From this we learn that the gospel was:

  • something hoped for but not yet received.

The descendants of Abraham wandered as pilgrims in Canaan until they went into Egypt. There they lived for many years and eventually became slaves to Pharaoh. When God brought His people out of Egypt and on their way to the promised land, He said this to them: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

This tells us that the gospel is:

  • conditional on obedience and the keeping of the covenant.

Sadly, the vast majority of the people God brought out of Egypt and their descendants were not obedient and did not keep the covenant. God said to them: “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” (Psalm 81:10-12)

There were moments during the history of the nation of Israel when a faithful king would attempt to turn the people back to God, but the hearts of the people were not changed and it did not last. Eventually the kingdom was torn away from them and the people were taken into captivity. Even then, God was willing to bring them back to the land and give them another chance. They returned, built a temple, and stopped worshiping the gods of other lands. But their obedience became an outward show that did not yield the fruits of righteousness. Therefore, Jesus said to them: “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:43)

However, God did not give up on His people. This is what He said: “Behold, the days come… that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

When Jesus began his ministry, he began by preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 1:14). His disciples also preached this gospel before they came to fully understood what Jesus would go through at his death (Luke 9:45): “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2)

This tells us that the gospel is:

  • a positive message about the kingdom of God.

What is the kingdom of God? Clearly, it belongs to God — it is His kingdom. If the Kingdom was taken from the Jewish people, then at one time, they were meant to be the Kingdom of God — He was meant to be their king, and they His people. Even when they rejected God as their king (1 Samuel 12:12), and asked for a human king, they were still the Kingdom of God: “And of all my sons, (for the Lord hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel.” (1 Chronicles 28:5)

In a parable, Jesus tells us about the kingdom of God: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34). Right from the very beginning God intended it: when He created the heavens and the earth and all the creatures that inhabit it and saw that it was very good; when He made man in His image and likeness and gave him dominion over every living thing. His plan has always been to fill the earth with His glory (Numbers 14:21), and His plan is to do that through His creation (man being the only creature who is given the choice to participate or not). But with the failure of Adam and Eve to choose wisely, and with the failure of Israel to become a kingdom that would be a light to the nations around, Jesus said: “…many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) Daniel tells us who will be the true children of the kingdom: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (Daniel 7:27)

What would Jesus have told the people about the kingdom of God?

Perhaps he would have used Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Or Jeremiah: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

Or Daniel: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44)

This tells us that the gospel has to do with:

  • an everlasting kingdom realm on earth that would commence when human government is abolished.

When Jesus was born, the angels came with some glad tidings: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Ultimately, we know that “the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.” (Psalm 47:2) But the prophets also speak of another king: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

In his ministry on earth, Jesus did not draw attention to himself as king — it was not the time for him to take the throne although there were a couple times when the people would have been happy to put him there. Although he will come as King in the future, at this time he came as a Saviour: “he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2-5) After his resurrection, Peter said this of Jesus: “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:42-43)

A kingdom needs a people and Jesus focused on preparing the people, calling them to repent and believe in God’s promises, saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) And he showed the people what it meant to have the word of God in his mind and heart so completely that he was obedient unto death and could be called The Word of God. He showed what it meant to conquer the flesh, and obey and keep the covenant perfectly. He had God’s Law in his inward parts, and written on his heart. He was so completely in the image and likeness of God that he could say: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9) This is what God intended at the beginning. That man would be in His image and likeness and have dominion over every living thing, and yet voluntarily remain under His authority, and bring glory to Him. Jesus said toward the end of his ministry: I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)

This tells us that the gospel had to do with:

  • a Saviour through whom we receive forgiveness who will be King
  • people who would repent and believe.

Why do we need a Saviour? It is not hard to understand that God cannot allow evil to become permanent, and therefore, right at the beginning disobedience was given the sentence of death. As we are all descendants of Adam, with the same nature that wants to decide for itself what is right and wrong instead of being obedient, we all receive this sentence. As long as we remain connected with Adam we cannot be part of the Kingdom of God, as Paul points out: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:50) In Jesus, we have a man who submitted his will fully to his Father, and in his life and death displayed a contrast to the first Adam, condemning sin in his body both during his life and finally on the cross. His life showed sin to be the cause and the result of suffering and death. But his submission to the will of God and the putting to death of the flesh resulted in new life – his death was not the end – and he was raised to eternal life. Paul explains how important this is to the gospel: “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain… If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-22)

Through Jesus Christ is the opportunity to become new creatures with him as our head instead of Adam and through him become of the true seed of Abraham and heirs of the promises made to him. Paul made this clear in these words: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

The gospel is:

  • resurrection from the dead
  • becoming Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise.

The teaching of the Kingdom of God provided something to hope for; the death and resurrection of Christ provided the way. These two had to be united. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

To summarize, the gospel is:

  • being justified by faith
  • a blessing on all the nations through Abraham, and through Jesus Christ
  • it is the promise of the Spirit
  • the inheritance of land
  • something hoped for but not yet received
  • conditional on obedience and the keeping of a covenant (loyalty)
  • a coming kingdom of God
  • a everlasting kingdom realm on earth that would commence when human government is abolished
  • a Saviour through whom we receive forgiveness and who will be King
  • repentance and belief
  • resurrection from the dead
  • becoming Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

(John 3:16)

(Visited 72 times, 1 visits today)

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *