About the meaning of the word rendered "Gospel" there is no question or doubt; and the origin and exact meaning of the English word does not matter.
The Greek word evangelion means good news, glad tidings; and these good tidings, which may be concerning various and different subjects, must be distinguished. See Phil. 1:10, note. There is, first :--
I. "THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL" (or GOOD NEWS).
This was proclaimed from the first, i.e. after the Fall, and it was proclaimed to men as men, by God, the Creator, to His creatures. Its message was that the Creator alone to be feared and worshipped, and men were to have no other gods beside Him. He was the holy and righteous One, and He was, and is, and will be the only and final Judge of men. God proclaimed this from the first, and among its heralds were ENOCH, "the seventh from Adam", who proclaimed His coming for this judgment of the ungodly (Jude 14:15); and NOAH, a herald of righteousness and of coming righteous judgment (Heb. 11:7 and 2Pet, 2:5).
When the "calling on high" shall have been given (Phil. 3:14), and when "transgressors are come to the full" (Dan. 8:23), and before the Kingdom is set up in glory, this Gospel (or Good News) will again be proclaimed (Rev. 14:6). It is "everlasting", and men, as such, will be called upon to "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come : and worship Him that made heaven, and earth", &c (Rev. 14:7).
This is the Gospel proclaimed by the Creator to His sinful creatures
after the Fall; and it will be proclaimed again at the end. Hence
its name "everlasting". Then followed :--
To Abraham and his seed was the good news proclaimed, and the promise given that God would make of him a nation in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). This good news was gradually expanded and developed.
In Gen. 15:4 the heir was announced, and this heir was to be the Messiah (Gal. 3:16).
In Gen. 15:8-21 the inheritance was secured by an unconditional promise (not by a covenant between two parties, one of whom might break it, Gal. 3:18-20). That inheritance was (and is yet to be) "the Holy Land", "Immanuel's Land" (Isa. 8:8), Immanuel Himself being the Governor (Isa. 9:6, 7), and "the zeal of the LORD of hosts" its security.
In 2Sam. 7 the throne was secured to David and his seed by another unconditional promise, and in due time Messiah came unto His own (John 1:11).
This "good news" was first heralded by angels sent specially from heaven; and the exact terms of the proclamation are recorded. The angel of Jehovah spoke from the glory of Jehovah, and said :--
"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."
Thus the good news concerned a Person, Who would "save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21) : the Saviour Whom God had anointed (Messiah), appointed, given, and sent. [At this point see and note the object and subject of Christ's ministry as set forth in Appendix 119.]
In the proclamation of this Kingdom the Lord taught in Parables; for there were "mysteries" (i.e. secrets) which concerned the rejection, and consequent postponement and abeyance of the Kingdom, which could not openly be made known, but only in private ("in the house", Matt. 13:36).
It had been foreseen, and therefore foretold, that His People would not receive Him, and would reject Him (Isa. 53, &c) and put Him to death. This would not affect the fulfilment of all the promised glories connected with the Kingdom. See Luke 24:26: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" Cp. Acts 3:18; 17:3.
True, Christ had been put to death; but God had sworn to David, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne (Acts 2:30). This was now fulfilled : therefore the proclamation of the Kingdom and the King (for there cannot be the one without the other) was at once formally made by Peter in Acts 3:18-26.
This proclamation was made by Peter and the Twelve in the capital of the Land (according to Matt. 22:1-7), and by Paul throughout the synagogues of the Dispersion, until it was all brought to a crisis in Rome (the capital of the Dispersion). Paul and those who heard the Lord thus "confirmed what at the first began to be spoken by the Lord". They did not go beyond it by altering its terms; and God bare them "witness by signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and spiritual gifts" (Heb. 2:1-4).
In Acts 28 this was brought to a conclusion by a formal rejection on the part of "the chief of the Jews" (Acts 28:17-20), and of these, not a few, but "many" (v. 23); and, after a discussion, which lasted throughout the whole day, the proclamation was finally rejected; and, after the prophecy of Israel's blindness (Isa. 6:9, 10) had been quoted for the third and last time (*1), the dispensation of the proclamation of "the Gospel (or good news) of the Kingdom" ceased, and is now, therefore, in abeyance, for "NOW, we see NOT YET all things put under Him" (Heb. 2:8).
All these "mysteries" (or secrets) concerning the postponement and abeyance of the Kingdom were spoken "in parables", "because (the LORD said), it is given unto you (unto the disciples) to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (to the People) it is not given" (Matt. 13:11); going on to explain His action by quoting (for the first time) the prophecy of Israel's blindness (Isa. 6:9, 10) (*1).
There was nothing in Old Testament prophecy that told of what the Lord reveals in these Parables of the Kingdom : how it would be rejected, and to what lengths the People would go in the rejection of the King; what would happen in consequence; how a second offer would be proclaimed, and how that too would be rejected : and what new revelation would be made in consequence.
All this was hidden in the parables spoken by the Lord, yet revealed to the disciples, and written for our learning (Matt. 13:16, 36, 51, 52. Luke 24:26, 27, 44-46. Acts 1:3, 6, 7). Any interpretation which proceeds on other lines can only end in a blindness equal to that which fell on the Jewish nation. This interpretation will in no wise detract from, or lessen, the value of such application as we may make for ourselves, so long as such application does not ignore the definite revelation made subsequently in the Prison Epistles in fulfilment of the Lord's promise in John 16:12-15.
The following parables set forth the proclamation of the Gospel of the
Kingdom, from various points of view :--
This, the first parable, covers the whole ground.
The "seed "was" the word of (or concerning) the Kingdom". When repeated later (Luke 8:5-15), the sphere is extended and widened, and is less local and exclusive. This is by way of application.
The First Sowing was "by" the wayside. This must have been the proclamation by John the Baptist (Matt. 3. Mark 1:1-8. Luke 3:1-18. John 1:6-36). This was "by the wayside", and the opposition of the evil one is shown in the birds of evil omen (as in the case of the mustard tree, vv. 31, 32). Hence the seed was "devoured" and the word was "not understood" (vv. 4, 19).
The Second Sowing was by Christ Himself (Matt. 4:17), and Twelve (Matt. 10:7), and the Seventy (Luke 10:1-20). This sowing was on the stony ground, and was received "with joy" (Matt. 13:20; see Mark 6:20, and 12:37. Luke 4:22). This was unfruitful (Mark 4:16, 17).
The Third Sowing was by Peter and the Twelve, and "by them that heard Him" (the Son, Heb. 2:3) during the Dispensation of the Acts. It was "among the thorns". Peter proclaimed the Kingdom (Acts 3:18-26), and repeated the call to national repentance, which was the one abiding condition of national blessing. But the seed was choked. The "thousand of jews" who at first "received the word", continued "all zealous of the law" (Acts 21:20. Gal. 3:1-5, 10-13; 4:9; 5:1-4). This sowing came to a crisis in Acts 28, when the Kingdom was rejected, and has since been in abeyance. See Ap. 112, 113, and 114.
The Fourth Sowing is in the future. It will be the final
proclamation of "the Gospel of the Kingdom", immediately preceding and
during the Tribulation (Matt. 24:14). Blindness has "happened to
Israel", but it is only "in part" (Rom. 11:25). The "how long" of
Isa. 6:11 will ere long be seen. This sowing will be of short duration
only, as were the other three, and numbered by "days" (Dan. 12:13.
Matt. 24:22. Luke 17:26). There will be a special manifestation
of the presence and power of the Lord (Matt. 28:20), at the end (sunteleia)
of this age; and when this sowing is over, the end (telos) will
come (Matt. 24:13, 14), concerning which the disciples had enquired in
The servants first sent forth were John the Baptist, the Twelve, and the Seventy, and there were sent to those who had been previously bidden. But "they would not come".
The "other servants" who were next sent were Peter, the Twelve, and "them that heard Him" (Heb. 2:3, 4) during the dispensation of the Acts, as foreshown in v. 4.
They proclaimed that "all things were ready". Nothing now was wanting. The "sufferings" had been fulfilled and the glory was ready to be revealed (Luke 24:26, 46. Acts 3:18. 1Pet. 1:5). Therefore, "Repent ye", &c. (Acts 2:38, 39; 3:19).
But instead of repenting they "took His servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them" (Matt. 22:5, 6). Some they imprisoned (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 8:3; 9:1, 13, 21); one they stoned (Acts 7:59); another they "killed with the sword" (Acts 12:2). This shows that that dispensation could not have ended with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, for James was slain after that; and other persecutions were continued up to the end (Acts 28:17).
"But the King was wroth, and sent His armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city" (Matt. 22:7). The Temple was burned, and the nation dispersed.
The last servants sent will go "into the highways" of the world. Here we have, again, a reference to the yet future proclamation of "the Gospel of the Kingdom".
Now, this marriage-feast is postponed; and all invitations to it are
in abeyance. Its future fulfilment is yet to take place. This
is referred to in Matt. 24:14, and is proved by Rev. 19:6-9, where we have
the same word in v. 9 as in Matt. 22:2.
This was spoken in immediate connection with the blessedness of eating bread in the Kingdom of God.
Again we have the Four Ministries, as in the above parables.
The supper was made by "a certain man", and many were bidden. This bidding was the ministry of John the Baptist. It is set forth as a simple statement of a past and accomplished fact. This was the First Ministry (v. 16).
The Second Invitation was sent to those who had been already bidden by John. It was sent by "His Servant", Who was none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. His Ministry is expressed in one sentence : "Come; for all things are now ready" (v. 17). he was sent "at supper time", according to Eastern custom. But they all with one consent began to make excuse (vv. 18-20).
The Third Invitation was sent, not to those who had been already bidden, but to another class altogether. It was sent by "The Master of the House", Who has perfect right and authority to invite whom He will. He sent "quickly" : i.e. very soon after the return of the second servant; and "into the streets and lanes of the city". This was the ministry of Peter, the Twelve, and Paul.
The Fourth Invitation is yet future, as shown above in the other parables. It will be sent forth by "the Lord" (v. 23), by Him Who has all power in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18-20). This will be a ministry of compulsion, carried out in the "highways and hedges" of the wide world; and it will be effectual like the last in the preceding cases. All, in turn, receive the call, but it is the last who "hear and understand" (Matt. 13:23); who "hear and receive" (Mark 4:20); who "hear and keep" (Luke 8:15); and who "bring forth fruit". For this, special wisdom and understanding is needed, as foretold in Dan. 11:33; 12:3, 10.
Thus the present dispensation (since the destruction of Jerusalem and
dispersion of Israel, which took place shortly after Acts 28, has nothing
to do with the Kingdom, and the proclamation of the good news connected
with it is postponed and in abeyance. Meanwhile, and during this
dispensation, we have :--
This is the Gospel unto which Paul the Apostle was separated (Rom. 1:1), and is supplementary to "the Gospel of the Kingdom", of which it was another aspect.
"The Gospel of the Kingdom" was first proclaimed by John the Baptist and the Lord. But both were rejected and put to death.
The Lord, however, was raised from the dead and the Gospel of God has to do with a risen Messiah. It characterizes the ministry of the Acts rather than that of the Gospels; especially Paul's share in it.
The Gospel of a risen Messiah, re-proclaimed as about to come and restore all things, was the burden of the apostolic proclamation during the dispensation of the Acts. See Acts 2:23-36; 3:12-18; 4:2, 10-12.
"With great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all" (4:33). Also 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 13:23-29.
This too, was the burden of Paul's proclamation, as we may see from Acts 17:1-3, 7. He proclaimed "Jesus, and the resurrection" (vv. 18, 31, 32). True, it was the proclamation of the Kingdom, and, in its wider aspect, "the kingdom of God" (14:22; 19:8); because it was He Who had raised Christ from the dead, and the proclamation was being sent out by God Himself. It was His own special good news. It was of His own motion and will. And it was all of grace. If "His own" would even now receive Messiah, He would "send Jesus Christ" (Acts 3:20).
In spite of all their sins, and their heinous crime in murdering His
beloved Son, He would blot out all their sins and fulfill all His promises.
Truly, this was in very deed :--
This is why, in the canonical order of the books of the New Testament, God's overruling is seen in the fact that the first writing which comes to us following on the double rejection of His Son (in the Gospels and the Acts) is the word and good news of His grace in Rom. 1:1. In spite of all that we should consider the unpardonable nature of Israel's crime, the first written words which meet our eyes are these :--
"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called Apostle (or, an Apostle by Divine calling), separated to God's Gospel (or glad tidings), which He before promised by means of His prophets in sacred writings concerning His Son, Who came of the seed of David according to the flesh, Who was demonstrated [to be] God's Son, in power, with respect to [His] holy spirit [body, 1Cor. 15:45], by resurrection of the dead --even Jesus Christ our Lord, by Whom we received GRACE -- yea, apostolic grace, with a view to the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His Name (or for His glory), among whom yourselves also are [the] called of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:1-6).
Here we have the sum and the substance of the good news of the grace of God.
It was not new. It was promised before and written down by His prophets. The sufferings, death and resurrection and glory, were all foretold. But now "those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled. THEREFORE, Repent ye, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out, so that [haply] may come seasons of refreshing from the presence (or face) of the Lord, and [that] He may send Him Who was before proclaimed (or according to all the critical texts, "was foreordained") for you -- even Jesus Christ" (Acts 3:18-20).
Thus "God's Gospel" was based on the prophecies of the Old Testament, and was the logical development of them.
It is in this that it is distinguished from that which had not been before revealed by the prophets in the concluding verses of Romans. That epistle begins with what had been written in the Scriptures; it ends with what had never been written till "now", when the SECRET which had been kept in silence from times eternal, or during [the] times of [the] ages was then at length made manifest (Rom. 16:25, 26. Eph. 3:1-12. Col. 1:26-28). (See Ap. 192).
The time had come fro this secret to be revealed, and to be committed to prophetic writings. This revelation is contained in the three Epistles written by Paul from his prison in Rome, to the Ephesians, Phillippians, and Colossians.
Thus "the Gospel of the Kingdom" was the proclamation by and concerning the Messiah made by John the Baptist and Himself, and is the subject of the Four Gospels.
Thus "the Gospel of the Kingdom" is the proclamation concerning the
same Messiah, made by the Twelve, the apostle Paul, and "them that heard"
the Lord, during the dispensation of the Acts of the Apostles, and is the
subject of their testimony and of their writings and the earlier Epistles
of Paul. Seeing it was good news sent after the resurrection of Christ,
it is all of pure grace and favour, and hence is "the Gospel of the Grace
This is connected with Christ's exaltation as Head over all things to His church, which is His body, which is developed and revealed more fully in the Prison Epistles (Eph. 1:21-23. Phil. 2:9-11. Col. 1:14-19). It not only involves the present glory of Messiah, but includes the final defeat of Satan, the crushing of his head, and the subjugation of all spiritual beings, be they powers, principalities, authorities, dominions, or thrones, &c.
Hence, it is Satan's great aim now, at this present time, to blind the eyes of them that believe not, so that they may not learn of his coming defeat, as foretold in Gen. 3:15, and seen fulfilled in Rev. 20 (see 2Cor. 4:4).
Knowing his object, and being "not ignorant of his devices", we know
also what should be our own object : viz. the making known this good
news which he would seek to hide; and proclaiming "the Gospel of the glory