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Understanding the Kingdom of Gosd












As this age draws to a close, the religious scene in the Western world is in chaos. Decades of secularist thought have taken a heavy toll on those societies that were formally quite religious and moral. The state of Western Christianity has become so secular that missionaries from Africa, South America, and Asia are trying to preach the gospel to Europe and America!

Today, among those still professing to be Christian, doctrinal confusion abounds. While three-quarters of Americans are associated with Christianity, only half consider themselves absolutely committed to the Christian faith. Less than half of Americans strongly believe the Bible is totally accurate in all its teachings—and these figures are far higher than in the rest of the Western world! With so little commitment on earth to the truth of God, it is hardly surprising there is so much misunderstanding and disagreement over the basic message that our Savior brought from the Father—the gospel.

"Just believe on the name of Jesus, and you'll be saved" is a common message of professing Christian ministers and Sunday morning "gospel programs." Others say the gospel is that God sent His Son to die for our sins. Still others condense it all down to a trite "Jesus loves you" that fits nicely on bumper stickers—and believe they are spreading the "good news"!

It is certainly true that belief in Jesus Christ is the major requirement of salvation—although more is required than just intellectual agreement. It is also true that God did indeed send His Son to pay the penalty of our sins, and, yes, God certainly does love us. But not one of these common sentiments is the true "good news" message that Jesus Christ brought! At best, these statements are each only a portion of the gospel message.

Nowhere does Jesus Christ say that the gospel is about Him coming to die for our sins! Instead, the gospel He preached answers why He did so. More than that, it reveals the momentous purpose that God is accomplishing, and declares the reason reconciliation through the blood of the Lamb is necessary. We need to know what the true gospel really is!

To understand what the true gospel is, take a tour of this foundational subject by following the link below. At the bottom of each subsequent page you will find a similar link to continue the tour

The predominant focus of mainstream Christianity is the undeserved crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the subsequent forgiveness of sins that is available through accepting that sacrifice. While this selfless act was and is unquestionably momentous, and its effects exceedingly far-reaching, many would be shocked to find out that the Bible defines the gospel differently than what they have always been told. A thoughtful reading shows that accepting Christ's blood in payment of our sins—as foundationally important as it is—is actually not the focus of the "good news" that He brought and that the apostles continued to preach.

In addition to dying for our sins, Jesus Christ came to earth as a messenger from God the Father:

Behold, I send My messenger [John the Baptist], and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

Jesus did not speak His own words, but the words that the Father gave Him (John 8:38-42; 12:49-50; 14:24). His message was not primarily about Himself, but rather the good news that the Father ordained to be announced on earth. While Jesus Christ was categorically the most important individual ever to walk this earth, the Bible shows clearly that the gospel that Jesus brought was not simply about Himself. Read His statements, and prove this for yourself:

» And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

» And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)

» Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

» [Jesus] said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." (Luke 4:43)

» Now it came to pass, afterward, that [Jesus] went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings [gospel] of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)

» The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16:16-17)

» And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

The inspired Word of God makes it abundantly plain: The "good news" that Jesus Christ brought was about the Kingdom of God! The "gospel of Jesus Christ" is simply the message of good news that Jesus preached—not a message about Jesus. It is not primarily a message about the events in His life and of His becoming the Savior of the world—although it most certainly does include all that. But if the events of His life are not seen in the context of what He said, the resulting "faith" will be full of error and ultimately disastrous!

The announcement of "good news"—the very best news that could be heard today—which the Father gave through Jesus Christ, was about His Kingdom being established on earth.

But what is a kingdom? It is essentially a nation, with all of its citizens, land, and laws, ruled by a government. In biblical usage, a kingdom can also mean a family from a single parent grown into a nation.

A kingdom has four basic elements: 1) a king, supreme ruler, or governing agent; 2) territory, with its specific location and definite boundary lines; 3) subjects or citizens within that territorial jurisdiction; 4) and laws and a form of government through which the will of the ruler is exercised. If we ignore any one of these essential elements—if we ignore the message that Jesus Christ brought from the Father—we will have a distorted faith, one that will not bring salvation.

As shown previously, a kingdom has four basic elements: 1) a king; 2) territory; 3) subjects or citizens; and 4) laws and government. There can be no doubt that the King of God's Kingdom will be Jesus Christ. Even though He did not exercise any civil authority while on earth, when He returns He will be "King of kings and Lord of lords" (I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16; 17:14).

David, one of ancient Israel 's greatest kings, was well aware that the physical kingdom of Israel was only a type of the Kingdom that God would later establish. He recognized that there were two God Beings (Psalm 2:6-8; 110:1), and that one of them—the one who became the Son (Psalm 2:7)—will be the King over the earth and all of its inhabitants. He will be given "the nations for [His] inheritance, and the ends of the earth for [His] possession" (Psalm 2:8). He will be "King forever and ever" (Psalm 10:16; 29:10; 45:6; 145:13).

When that Kingdom is established, "all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before [Him]. For the kingdom is the LORD's, and He rules over the nations" (Psalm 22:27-28). While it is a given that God is sovereign over the earth, it is also painfully obvious from looking around us that this prophecy of the world turning to Him has yet to be fulfilled.

God made promises and recorded prophecies about the coming King as far back as Abraham's time. He made the first promise, though not detailed, to the patriarch when he was 99 years old, just after God made a covenant with him and changed his name: "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you" (Genesis 17:6; emphasis ours throughout).

God later repeats this promise of royal offspring to Abraham's grandson, Jacob (Genesis 35:11). His prophecy through Jacob to his sons also predicts a coming King, saying of Judah, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people" (Genesis 49:10). Centuries later, He inspires Balaam to prophesy: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel. .. . Out of Jacob One shall have dominion" (Numbers 24:17, 19).

Other prophets also foretold of a coming King, not just of Israel and Judah, but also extending to the entire world. Isaiah tells us:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Similarly, Jeremiah writes,

"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

The prophet Micah foretells the Messiah coming out of Bethlehem, who would be "the One to be ruler in Israel "—but also "He shall be great to the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:2-4).

It is easy to understand why, when Christ came proclaiming the "Kingdom of God," the people of Jesus' day—including His disciples—were expecting the Messiah to be a conquering hero (Acts 1:6). They were familiar with the Psalms and other prophecies that described the Savior as a "King of glory ... strong and mighty", even "mighty in battle" (Psalm 24:7-10), who would "command victories for Jacob" (Psalm 44:4). They knew that one of the coming King's titles was "the LORD of hosts," meaning armies (Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 48:15; 51:57). When the people witnessed Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:2-9), they recognized it as a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.

However, they thought that the next verse would also be fulfilled at that time, yet it remains unfulfilled even today:

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.' (Zechariah 9:10)

This same King, the "First and the Last" (Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:11, 17; 2:8; 22:13), who entered Jerusalem on a donkey two millennia ago, will shortly fulfill this prophecy by establishing His Kingdom on earth (see also Zechariah 14:9). Jesus Christ has already fulfilled parts of these prophecies because He is a King (Matthew 2:2-7; 21:4-5; 27:11; Luke 1:30-33; John 12:13-16; 18:36-37; Acts 17:7).

However, when He came to earth the first time, He fulfilled the role of a messenger rather than as a ruler (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 11:10; John 6:15). He came to deliver the good news about His coming Kingdom, but that Kingdom will not be established on earth until His return when "all nations shall come and worship before [Him]," their King (Revelation 15:3).

A dominant falsehood that Satan has foisted on mankind is the belief that one's soul goes to heaven after death. Many people assume that the phrase Kingdom of God is synonymous with heaven, but the Bible teaches that when Jesus Christ returns, the Kingdom of God will be established on earth!

First, notice how the Bible completely refutes the notion of "going to heaven" after death. Peter tells the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.. .. For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). This "man after God's own heart" is not in heaven, but still in the grave! Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."

The dead saints of the Old and New Testaments alike are sleeping in their graves, awaiting the resurrection—without consciousness (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). Job describes waiting for the resurrection in this way: "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You. . ." (Job 14:14-15).

Many verses refer to the dead as "sleeping," and this analogy comes from the fact that when a person sleeps deeply, many unaccounted hours may pass. Likewise, during the time we are dead, we will have no consciousness, no awareness. Many years may elapse between the time that we die and our resurrection, but we will not be aware of the passing of time. It will be as if we blinked, and then are alive again. Thus, from the point of view of consciousness, it will seem like we have gone from the physical body to the spiritual immediately, despite perhaps many years separating death and resurrection.

Paul teaches in I Corinthians 15 that the resurrection does not occur until Jesus Christ returns—at which point the "dead in Christ" will be resurrected with spiritual bodies, and the living saints will be changed to spirit "in the twinkling of an eye" (verse 52). If the saints were to go to heaven automatically after death, what need would there be for a resurrection? In verse 53, Paul even says that the "mortal" will have to "put on immortality," meaning we do not now have it (see also Romans 2:7). Only God has immortality now (I Timothy 6:15-16).

In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, Jesus says that the poor in spirit receive the "kingdom of heaven," while the meek "inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:3, 5; see also Psalm 37:11). Will God divide the "poor in spirit" saints from the "meek" saints, sending them to different places? If a saint is both meek and poor in spirit, will he inherit both heaven and earth? No—this apparent conundrum dissolves when we realize that Matthew uses the phrase "kingdom of heaven," whereas the other gospel writers refer to the "kingdom of God." Obviously, the "kingdom of God" does not mean that the Kingdom is located in God, but that it belongs to God. In the same way, the "kingdom of heaven" simply means that the Kingdom is owned by "heaven," where God's throne is. The poor in spirit will inherit the same Kingdom that the meek will—and that Kingdom will be set up on earth.

Galatians 3:29 says that if we belong to Christ, then we are considered to be Abraham's seed, and thus heirs (though not yet inheritors) of the promises to him. Whatever Abraham inherits in the resurrection, we also will inherit. Genesis 13:15 says that the inheritance is eternal, and Romans 4:13 explains that the promise is expanded to include the whole world. "Heaven," though, was not a part of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or to us.

The Bible shows that the Kingdom of God will be set up on the earth: "And You have made them a kingdom (royal race) and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth!" (Revelation 5:10, The Amplified Bible). Notice Revelation 11:15 as well, which prophesies that Christ's Kingdom will take over the kingdoms of this earth:

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"

Three times in the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes the "holy city," New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, rather than being in heaven (Revelation 3:12; 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem will be set up on the new—cleansed and purified—earth. God Himself will dwell with men—not in heaven but in New Jerusalem on earth:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. ... He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." (Revelation 21:1-4, 7)

Many centuries of pagan tradition have convinced people that heaven is their "home" and their reward when they die. Nevertheless, the biblical record is plain: God's Kingdom will be established on the earth He created, and it will be an everlasting Kingdom. (For more examples of the Kingdom being established on earth, see Psalm 2:6-8; 47:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:17-18, 27; Micah 4:1-5; Zechariah 9:9-10; 14:9, 16-17; Revelation 2:26-27.)

We have already seen a handful of prophecies about the coming King of kings. Over whom will He rule? At the time of Jesus' birth, "wise men from the East" came seeking the "King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:1-2). Pontius Pilate likewise asked Jesus if He were the "King of the Jews," and He assented (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33, 37). But will Christ's authority be limited to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin—commonly called "Jews" today—when He returns?

The Bible shows that the coming Kingdom will encompass more than just the Jews—more than even all of Israel. As mentioned previously, the coming King will be given "the nations for [His] inheritance, and the ends of the earth for [His] possession" (Psalm 2:8). Psalm 22:27-28 likewise prophesies, "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before [Him]. For the kingdom is the LORD's, and He rules over the nations" (emphasis ours).

Even though the entire world will be ruled by Jesus Christ when He establishes the Kingdom on earth, not everyone on earth will be a citizen of that Kingdom. Everyone will be subject to the King of kings, but not everyone will have entered into that spiritual Kingdom.

Jesus revealed this truth to Nicodemus. When Nicodemus came to Him at night, Jesus told him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Paul told the Corinthians "flesh and blood [mortal humans] cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption" (I Corinthians 15:50). While we have a physical, flesh-and-blood body, we may be heirs of the Kingdom, but we cannot enter fully into the Kingdom, nor can we see it, until we become spirit—given a glorious spirit-composed body in the resurrection. This means that, even though all of mankind will be subject to the Kingdom that Christ will rule on earth, they will not necessarily be a part of it.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that we are born "of the flesh"—through the natural process of human birth—and thus we are flesh (John 3:5-8). But it is possible to be "born of spirit," and thus able to come under the rule of the Kingdom. Thus, one is "born again"—or perhaps more correctly, "born from above"—immediately upon accepting the blood of Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. At that point, one becomes a "new creation" (II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) or "a new man" (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Christ gives a simple illustration to show that an individual is may be "born again" despite still being a physical human being:

Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8)

Wind, composed of air, is invisible to the eye. When the wind blows, a person can see, not the wind, but its effects. He cannot see the wind moving, but the objects that it moves are readily observed. This illustrates one who is born of the Spirit—they are not composed of spirit themselves, not having been glorified, but one can see how the Spirit has worked in them to change them: They change from sinners to righteous, from mean to kind, from proud to humble, etc.

The apostle Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Corinthians that physical flesh and blood cannot inherit, or fully enter into, the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15:50-54). However, through the resurrection of those begotten by the Holy Spirit of God during this physical life, the mortal life then puts on immortality, and we become immortal, incorruptible, and enter fully into the very God Family—the Kingdom of God. It is only our spiritual birth that takes place when we receive God's Spirit. Our glorification—analogous to full spiritual maturity—does not take place until after we are resurrected. Just as the resurrection from the dead will not take place until Jesus Christ returns (I Corinthians 15:51-52; see Matthew 24:31; I Thessalonians 4:16-17), so inheriting the Kingdom will not happen until after He returns and judges the peoples of the earth:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:31-34)

The Kingdom of God, then, will be ruled by Jesus Christ, and will be inherited by those who have been glorified upon being resurrected from the dead. The resurrected saints—citizens of God's Kingdom—will rule along with Jesus Christ over the remaining peoples of the earth (Daniel 7:27; II Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-28; 5:9-10; 20:4-6; 22:5).

A kingdom—like any nation today—cannot function without laws. There must be a standard of conduct for subjects and citizens to follow, or chaos and anarchy would result. Following the laws of a kingdom or nation does not grant a person citizenship—that is not the purpose of law. Law is simply a guide for people to follow to ensure cohesion, agreement, and peace in civil and interpersonal relationships. Without an understood standard, enforced by a sovereign ruler, everyone would act according to his own whim or desire, and nothing good or worthwhile would be produced (Judges 21:25).

The Kingdom of God is no different. God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). His Kingdom will be peaceful and orderly because everyone who will enter into it will have voluntarily submitted himself to the law—the commandments—of God. God will not have anyone in His Kingdom who demonstrates, by the pattern of his life, that he will not obey Him (Matthew 7:21-23; Hebrews 10:26-31). Revelation 12:17 describes the saints as those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

A Pharisee once asked Jesus, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36). His response shows that the intent behind God's law is love—love toward God, and love toward fellow man:

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

These two statements—loving God and loving neighbor as oneself—encapsulate the first four and the last six commandments respectively. The commandments merely define further how to love God and love man. We love God in general by placing Him first, by not adopting physical aids in worshipping Him, by not bearing His name in vain, and by keeping the seventh-day Sabbath holy. We love man, in general, by honoring our parents, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not lying, and not coveting.

When Jesus Christ came, He revealed the spirit—the intent—of His law. He showed that the sixth commandment extends much further than merely prohibiting the taking of human life, but covers even hating (Matthew 5:21-22). Similarly, the intent behind the seventh commandment is to stop adultery at its source: the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Following God's commandments in both their letter and spirit ensures the best quality of life for everyone.

When Jesus was asked what one must do to have eternal life, His response was simple: "If you want to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). To reinforce this, in His last words to the disciples before His arrest and crucifixion, He had much to say about keeping God's commandments. He was giving them (and us) instruction that would not be absolved by His death:

"If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)

"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (verse 21)

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." (verses 23-24)

The apostle James calls the ten commandments "the royal law"—meaning that it came from a King, and is worthy of His Kingdom:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:8-12, emphasis ours)

While a man cannot earn entrance into God's Kingdom—that is a gift that God must bestow (Ephesians 2:8)—it is plain from Scripture that willful rebellion against God's standard of righteousness will keep a man out of the Kingdom:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you. .. that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

I Corinthians 6:9-10 includes homosexuals (catamites), sodomites, thieves, coveters, and extortionists in the list of those who will be barred from entering the Kingdom of God. Revelation 21:8 mentions that the cowardly, the unbelieving, and the abominable will not live eternally. Revelation 22:15 adds "whoever loves and practices a lie." These examples show that there is a standard of conduct by which God expects the heirs to His Kingdom to live. After all, eternal life is more than just length of days—living forever would be a terrible curse if there were not also quality of life to match it.

Our Savior tells us what He means by eternal life: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). He defines eternal life as "to know God." "Know" suggests a close intimacy, just as a husband and wife are intimate in marriage (Genesis 4:1). It indicates experiential knowledge, not theoretical. In Amos 5:4, God exclaims, "Seek Me and live!" He is saying, "Turn to Me and My way of life; seek to know Me," not "Search for Me." He is saying, "Seek to know Me by living the same way I do." That is how experiential knowledge of Him becomes an intimate knowing of Him. We know Him, in large part, by living the same law of love that He lives by.

Jesus' words in Mark 1:15 come in the form of an urgent command: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Not only does Christ come to announce the soon-coming Kingdom of God, in particular to those whom God calls (John 6:44), but also to prepare the elect for their spiritual responsibilities now and in the Kingdom. Notice, though, that this emphasis on repentance does not end with Christ's death. After His resurrection from the dead, but before His ascension to the Father, He tells His disciples:

Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)

Notice that following repentance is the remission of sins, which baptism signifies, being a symbolic dying to sin and resurrection to a new life (Romans 6:1-12). This is why on Pentecost, AD 31, Peter instructs the assembled crowd, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Likewise, Paul teaches the men of Athens:

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31; emphasis ours)

Repentance is a prerequisite to belief. What is repentance? Its basic meaning is "to change" or "to turn." Once a person hears the gospel and is convicted that his way of life is wrong, he must change his present behavior and "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is not merely feeling sorry or remorseful, but being so stricken in one's heart that one seeks the cleansing of baptism and begins to live according to God's standards—according to God's law. Remorse without a corresponding change in conduct is not repentance!

The fruits of repentance are visible actions—often called "works"—that show that a person has indeed changed. When John the Baptist preached repentance to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry, his audience asked him what they should do to repent. He answers: Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, do not steal, do not use one's authority to oppress, do not lie or accuse falsely, and be content with one's wages (Luke 3:10-14). In general, these actions are either obeying God's laws or showing love for one's neighbor.

Jesus says, "If you want to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). Later, when requested to name the greatest commandments, Jesus answers, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart. . . .' And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:36-40). When we put all these things together, bearing fruits worthy of repentance is simply living as God does!

Believing the gospel is closely related to having faith. When one believes something, he has faith, trust, and confidence that it is true. This confidence leads him to begin to act in accordance with what he believes, and the result is obedience to it or following it. Notice how the apostle Paul shows this in Romans 10:8-10:

But what does [Scripture] say? "The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.

Verse 10 provides the balance to verse 9. It is not enough just to confess Jesus verbally and believe in the resurrection as an intellectual exercise. Paul explains that heartfelt belief leads to righteousness, which is simply right doing or godly behavior (Psalm 119:172). Faith, then—living faith (II Corinthians 5:7)—is trusting God's Word and practicing it, whether in the face of hardship, sacrifice, the contrary opinions of friends and family, or even death. The author of Hebrews commends the "Heroes of Faith" to us for just these reasons (Hebrews 11).

Thus, Jesus' urgent command for us to repent and believe the gospel provides us with the negative and positive sides of a single, godly action. He tells us to rid ourselves of the evil we have been doing ("repent and . . . be baptized") and to begin doing what God expects of those to whom He has revealed His way of life ("believe"). This will lead to righteousness and salvation and—God promises!—entrance into His Kingdom (II Peter 1:2-11).

The carnal man is typically concerned only with forgiveness and with not having to pay the cost of his actions. There is little, if any, contemplation of what happens after forgiveness—or why God gives forgiveness in the first place. For its true significance to be understood, Jesus Christ's death must be seen within the context of all that God is working out. God is in the process of accomplishing much more than merely "saving" mankind or forgiving its sins!

God determined, even before Adam sinned and this present evil world was founded, that Christ, the Lamb of God, would have to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind (I Peter 1:17-21; Revelation 13:8). The present order of mankind rebelling against God was begun when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden and was subsequently banished. The relationship with God was severed; man had no access to Him and eternal life, represented by the Tree of Life:

Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"—therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)

God knew what would happen if He allowed these now-tainted human beings to take of the Tree of Life also—they would live eternally, but because of their corrupt state, they would be eternally miserable. They would become like Satan and the demons—in a miserable condition because of sin, yet not able to die. Therefore, God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden, placing a flaming sword in the path to guard the way back to the Tree of Life. Mankind was cut off from God.

Two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement (Amos 3:3), and when Adam sinned he plotted the course for all who would follow after him—a course that had some good but also some evil. Humanity would walk a path that ultimately could only end in death, one that was definitely not in alignment with the life of the Eternal God. The prophet Isaiah explains this division that sin—the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4)—causes:

Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2; emphasis ours)

Romans 6:23 explains how far sin separates man from his Creator: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Sin, being the opposite of all God stands for, causes the bitter harvest of death to be reaped. Yet, even though He is under absolutely no obligation to do so, God gives the gift of eternal life to pay the debt that every man incurs: the debt of his own, sinful life.

Most people believe that "eternal life" means "living forever." However, length of life is only one aspect of eternal life. Satan and the demons will live forever, but their quality of life is the farthest thing from desirable! They do not have quality of life, because they are in constant disagreement with God—the source of eternal life!

Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that God's gift is eternal life, and in John 17:3, Jesus defines that gift further: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." God's gift, then, is a life wherein a person knows—understands, has experience with—the Father and the Son. The gift is a life that not only stretches on forever, but also has a spiritual quality that makes such length of days desirable! That eternal quality—that perfection in living—has its only source in God, and a relationship with that supreme Source is only possible when man's sins, the cause of the great gulf between man and God, are atoned for. For this reason, God sent His Son to pay the debt of mankind's sins, so that man might know the Father and the Son in an intimate relationship, and be able to live life as They live.

But to what end? Why is God doing this? The gospel of John begins the explanation:

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [power; authority] to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born [begotten], not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)

With the true acceptance of Jesus Christ—that is, receiving not only His sacrifice but also all of His teachings—come the power and authority to become a child of God! The eternal life that God gives as a gift is within the context of a family relationship. God plainly shows it is His purpose to increase His divine Family by bringing many children into it (Hebrews 2:10). Jesus Christ is actually the "firstborn" of many sons of God (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18).

the gospel Jesus brought to mankind is the "good news" of the Kingdom of God—and that Kingdom is dual. It is not only the ruling government that Christ will establish on earth when He returns, but it is also the Family of God—the God Kingdom composed of the spirit members of the God Family. Jesus taught that humans can be "born" into the Family, or Kingdom, of God (John 3:3-8).

There are only two full members in the God Family or Kingdom at the present time—God the Father and Jesus Christ, the firstborn Son. Spirit-begotten Christians are likewise a part of that Family, just as a fetus is a part of a human family, but they will not be born into the Family of God until they are likewise composed of spirit, through being resurrected (or changed, if they are still alive when Jesus Christ returns to establish His Kingdom on earth; see I Corinthians 15:50-52; I Thessalonians 4:14-17).

This, then, is why God has provided a way for the separation between Himself and man to be removed through the atoning sacrifice of His firstborn Son. God is creating man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). The death penalty incurred by the sins of mankind had to be paid to make possible God's great purpose of bringing many sons to glory. Without the removal of the defilement of sin, God the Father could not walk in agreement with His as-yet-unborn children.

What many people have accepted without question as the gospel offers no solution to humanity's sufferings, frustrations, and perpetual troubles. The true gospel Jesus brought proclaims the solution to the world's troubles, but men rejected that gospel and crucified Jesus for preaching it!

Millions of people today believe on Christ—they believe that He lived, died for our sins, and was resurrected—but they do not believe His gospel because most have never heard it! They have heard of Christ—of what He did—but not His message of how to solve all of mankind's troubles and how to receive eternal life with joy, abundance, and accomplishment. Thus, millions have been deceived into believing a false gospel that does not lead to salvation.

The evangelist Mark begins his recounting of Jesus' ministry with these words:

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

Gospel in English derives from godspel, meaning "good news." Similarly, in the Greek in which Mark wrote, evangelion means "good tidings."

Why is the announcement of God's Kingdom being established on earth "good news"? As strange as it may seem, for many people this is not good news at all! People like the gospel when it is limited to the forgiveness that is available through Christ's sacrifice. However, when they hear that God's Kingdom includes obedience to His standard of conduct, they cannot tolerate it, preferring the pagan fantasy of easy grace and its self-indulgent reward of floating around heaven in eternal idleness to the truth of the Bible. For many, the true gospel is anathema because it contradicts them, their traditions, and their ideas.

Yet, to those who "have an ear to hear," the gospel is good news. Christ's gospel is the proclamation of the coming government of God to govern all nations. The establishment of God's rule is the only way today's confused, embattled earth will ever have peace, joy, and abundance. The true gospel is the powerful message of God's government, now over individuals in God's church who voluntarily submit to that government, then later over all nations at His return.

Mankind's history is a sordid record of destruction, corruption, oppression, immorality, and abuse. "The way of peace they have not known," Paul tells us, quoting the prophet Isaiah (Romans 3:17; Isaiah 59:8). God says through Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). We simply do not have it within us to build a society that is benevolent to all its members and will last for more than a few generations. Even though there have been times of relative peace and prosperity, they are inevitably interrupted by war and destruction. Rather than "evolving" to a better place, the Bible shows mankind's plight getting continually worse:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22; emphasis ours)

In the years following World War II, mankind has developed the capacity to wipe all life off the planet. God will allow events and conditions to progress to the point that we will be forced to admit that we are not capable of living peacefully and in abundance. If God did not intervene in world affairs, this world would cease to exist! But God will intervene—although not before we recognize the bloody futility of man attempting to govern himself. God's solution is to establish a world-ruling government led, not by selfish, corruptible men, but by His own Son and the glorified saints.

The prophet Daniel. given a vision of the end of man's rule on the earth and the beginning of God's Kingdom, writes:

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. ... Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him. (Daniel 7:13-14, 27)

The perfect government headed by God Himself, with just laws, benevolently looking out for all of its subjects to produce unprecedented prosperity and abundance—what could be better news than that?

Maybe the most amazing fact gleaned from Christian history appears in Galatians 1:6: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel." When the apostle Paul penned this epistle in the early AD 50s, only two decades had passed since the death and resurrection of Christ and the founding of the church. It took only twenty years before someone perverted the gospel into something so different that it was no longer "good news" (verse 7)!

Paul continues in verses 11-12: "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ." The glad tidings Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles proclaimed throughout the world is revealed—that is, it comes from God and can be learned only through supernatural disclosure (Romans 16:25-26; I Corinthians 2:10; Colossians 1:26).

The true gospel message, then, is not readily available to all. In fact, a person cannot even pick up the Bible and find it there! One cannot stumble over or happen upon it. God must open one's mind to receive it (I Corinthians 2:7-16), "because the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). Jesus says that He designed even His parables—seemingly simple stories with obvious lessons—to hide meaning rather than reveal it (Matthew 13:10-17)!

In the first century, the apostles battled two pernicious false gospels: legalism and Gnosticism. Legalism—the improper use of law—grew primarily out of Judaism, holding that justification and salvation came through works of the law rather than by grace. Paul preached against this deception repeatedly (see, for example, Galatians 5:1-6; Ephesians 2:8-10, etc.), affirming that salvation is by grace, though good works form a necessary part of Christian growth and are indeed what God is working with us to accomplish.

Gnosticism consists of a whole group of heresies, all with the central ideas that knowledge (gnosis) is the means to salvation, and that spirit is good and flesh is evil. In practice, it soon devolved into the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as peculiar ideas about the nature of God and Christ (see Colossians 2:8, 18, 20-23; II Peter 2:4-22; I John 1:5-10; 2:18-23; etc.). Eventually, Gnostic ideas came to dominate "Christianity," and its modern descendants are proclaimed far and wide every Sunday.

The most pervasive false gospel today is also quite deceptive: the gospel about Christ. Churches that preach this gospel teach about the Messenger rather than the message He brought. Certainly, we are to study Christ's life, for He is our example of Christian living (I Peter 2:21; I John 2:6, etc.). However, when He preached the gospel, He did not trumpet His own virtues but revealed the way to the Kingdom of God.

In commissioning His disciples, He says: "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:7-8). Nowhere does He tell them to "preach Jesus"; His concern is always in proclaiming God's Kingdom! He never said, "Preach Me!" Before His ascension, He tells them "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in [My] name to all nations" (Luke 24:47). He was so fixated on preaching the gospel of the Kingdom—and ensuring that His disciples understood it before He sent them out to preach it—that it filled His conversation during His post-resurrection appearances to them (Acts 1:3).

What gospel we learn is vitally important! We need to be sure that the one we learn is the true gospel Christ brought, the revelation of the imminent Kingdom of God. Paul's warning about false gospels should give us the proper perspective: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed!" (Galatians 1:8).

The "good news" that Jesus Christ brought has tremendous effectiveness in the lives of its hearers—if they believe it. Throughout the New Testament, the gospel is associated with power:

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient—in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:18-19; emphasis ours throughout)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (I Corinthians 2:4-5)
But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (I Corinthians 4:19-20)
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. (I Thessalonians 1:5)
Moreover, in writing to the established congregation in Rome, Paul directly identifies the gospel as "the power of God to salvation":

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

Notice, though, the qualifier that Paul attaches: "for everyone who believes." Simply hearing the basic announcement of the coming Kingdom of God on earth will not accomplish anything. Merely reading God's instruction manual for mankind—the Bible—serves no purpose if it is not believed.

What is the proof of belief? It is far more than just mental agreement, but rather agreement along with carrying out requirements that show whom one trusts. Those who believe will provide evidence that God is continuing to work in them. They will change, that is, repent. Good works will be the evidence (James 2:20, 22, 26). A person who truly believes the gospel will be motivated to change his or her life to fit the purpose God is working out, and to be in alignment with His government.

As Romans 1:16 says, the gospel is so powerful that it has the authority and the means to bring us to salvation. Through the gospel, God exercises His power to save men. It is a potent means by which God teaches, motivates, and creates salvation in a believer. This power is available, however, only to those who exercise trust in those words. The "good news" is composed of words—words that carry in them the power to move our lives toward salvation if we believe them enough to unleash their power by putting them in practice. Words are spirit (John 6:63), and they impel us in the direction of their meaning if we choose to submit to them. The gospel is not a passive force, latently waiting to use its power, but it is constantly working toward the fulfillment of God's purpose. As soon as we hear or read it, it begins to work—if we believe.

What, then, is contained in the gospel? Verse 17 makes it clear: God, in the gospel, reveals His righteousness. What is righteousness? It is an Old English term that means "right-wise-ness"—essentially, "doing what is right." Psalm 119:172 gives its definition, "For all Your commands [all of God's instructions] are righteousness." Righteousness is God's way of life—the way He lives and the way He desires His creation to live. Verse 17 could be paraphrased, "For in the gospel, God's way of life is revealed." Put simply, the gospel message includes everything we need to know to live God's way of life—to live as God does.

The gospel is God's means for bringing us to salvation—not merely for forgiving our sins. It is not only the announcement of the Kingdom of God, but also the process by which we can enter God's Kingdom. But this does not happen all at once—it is a lifelong educational process. The gospel is God's system of impressing upon us where we are headed and how we should live so we will reach His goal. His message of "good news" has tremendous power to motivate us and propel us in right direction—if we truly believe.

Near the beginning of the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus Christ foretells that the good news of the coming Kingdom of God will be preached to the entire world:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

This verse is not a commission to anyone in particular—neither to the first-century apostles, nor anyone else. Jesus simply makes a statement of fact, prophesying that the entire world will hear the gospel preached as a witness and then God will act to bring about the end of this present age of man. Precisely how He will accomplish this He does not specify.

However, Christ does give His disciples a commission—and through them, His church:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20; emphasis ours throughout)

Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20 are not synonymous. In the latter verses, though preaching as a witness is included within the scope of the commission, it actually places more emphasis on the entire process of conversion, feeding, growing, and overcoming than merely witnessing, as in Matthew 24:14.

The term "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19 holds the key to this understanding. "Teach," as it is rendered in the King James Version, is not a wrong translation, as long as we understand that it implies a process. Not all of the teaching required to make a disciple can occur just in making a witness to him. There are major differences between the witnessing and making disciples. At best, preaching the gospel to the world begins the process of making disciples. Disciples are created through steady spiritual feeding and a believing response in those who hear, which includes overcoming their sins.

A second factor appears in verse 20: "Observe allthings that I have commanded you." Observing "all things" cannot be done merely through making a witness. Observing all things is a lifelong project requiring the structure and nurture of a church. This is why the church of God exists (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

In verses 19-20, though witnessing is included, Jesus is primarily emphasizing the feeding of the flock (John 21:15-17), for it is the called, the elect—God's children —who are His greatest concern. These special called-out ones are being prepared to inherit the Kingdom of God. It takes a great deal of feeding and experience with God for Christ to be formed in us (Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).

The gospel message, then, is more than just an announcement, or a basic truth to be impressed upon unbelievers. It is just as applicable to the converted church member—almost certainly more so. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he commends the congregation at Rome because their "faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Romans 1:8). The congregation was already established and apparently thriving. Yet Paul says, "So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also" (Romans 1:15).

Why did Paul want to preach to them—for them to be converted? No, but to continue the process of conversion. How did he plan to do this? He was going to preach the gospel to them! He desired to preach it to people who were already converted—in fact, to those who were already so well-established in the faith that others had already heard of their remarkable devotion to God. Yet, even though they had already exhibited outstanding Christian faith, he nonetheless wanted to preach the gospel to them. This shows that it is the responsibility of the ministry—apostles, evangelists, pastors, and elders—to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God continually to the church.

The apostle Paul is referring to "feeding the flock" and preaching "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) in minute detail. The gospel—the Word of God, when we understand it in its broadest sense—includes the entirety of the Bible. God's focus is on preparing His children to share a relationship with Him for all eternity. He requires that everyone who enters His Kingdom to be in His image (Genesis 1:26) and to live exactly as He does. To achieve this goal, He requires his ministers to expand infinitely on the bare basics that bring a person to conversion. God wants each of His children to see the application of His way in every possible situation in life.

God's message is called "the gospel of the Kingdom of God" because that is the goal that He wants us always to focus on. He wants it to come immediately to mind that we are headed toward His Kingdom. We not only have to know that it is coming, but also what we must do to prepare ourselves for it. God calls it by what it ends with, what it will produce—the aim, the result.

However, it also includes all the preparatory material that we need to get there, as well as any other information that may be helpful or provide background to those instructions. "The gospel of the Kingdom of God" is a huge umbrella, under which stands a massive amount of teaching. Each piece of knowledge contained in the gospel ultimately feeds into this central truth: that humanity can have salvation by being born into God's Family—His Kingdom—through the resurrection from the dead.

The gospel message includes topics like the nature of God, the fruit of the spirit, the Beatitudes, law and grace, loyalty and devotion to God, and other foundational topics. It contains the promises made to Abraham, the history of Israel, and the prophecies. It includes the creation and God's sovereignty, providence, and intervention in its affairs. The gospel includes everything that is necessary to call, teach, correct, and motivate an individual so that he can be saved and inherit the Kingdom. The true gospel is the complete revelation of God to man. It includes everything contained in the Bible.

This is the good news!

From the Desk of Bishop Paul E Jones
























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