THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
We missed it! He required we accomplish just one thing before His
return. He said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the
whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will
come." Do we preach the gospel of the kingdom? Notice His exact words,
"This gospel of the kingdom..." We have a message we call "gospel"
daily into every nation on earth, but rarely does an evangelical
believer proclaim "This gospel of the kingdom."
One then asks, "What is 'This gospel of the kingdom'?" Mark 1:14-15 records, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near! Repent, and believe in the gospel.'" Simply put, this gospel of the kingdom is, "The kingdom of God has come near." Matthew 4:17 says, "From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, 'Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.'" Six verses later, we read, "Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom..." Six chapters later, He instructed His followers, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven has come near.'"
Luke records the same pattern of preaching in 9:60 and 10:9-11. The King's comments in Mark's record are listed above. In John's record, Jesus preached the kingdom to Nicodemas in the famous John-chapter-three from which we preach our new gospel while managing to ignore how our King steered Nicodemas to consider the kingdom in 3:3 and 3:5, then quoted Psalm Two's claims about God's kingdom in John 3:16 and following.
THE POST-RESURRECTION GOSPEL
Some believers claim Jesus discarded the gospel of the kingdom when Israel rejected His kingship, but His demand on the Mount of Olives occurred in His rejection-filled week between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Even on the day of His execution after Israel had handed Him over to Pilate in rejection, Jesus still claimed to be King and to rule a Kingdom "not of this world."(Jn18:36)
Perhaps we should expect Jesus to discard "This gospel of the kingdom" when He rose from death. Acts 1:3 recounts how He spent His 40 resurrection days on earth: "appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." Then His ambassadors did exactly what He demanded of them and still demands of us. They preached "This gospel of the kingdom." Acts 8:12 for example says, "they believed Philip preaching good news concerning the kingdom of God..." Their enemies said in Acts 17:7, "These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus!" Paul says in Acts 20:25, "I went about preaching the kingdom of God..." The book of Acts closes with these words: "Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who went in to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus the King with all boldness, without hinderance."
GOSPEL OF THE JUDGE
The King's ambassadors had no new gospel. They preached the nearness of God's kingdom. When they preached how near the kingdom is, it apparently sounded something like "God has made Jesus King." Specifically, Peter said in Acts 2:36, "God has made Him both Lord and King, this Jesus whom you crucified." In chapter three, he says about Jesus, "the things which God announced by the mouth of all his prophets, that the King should suffer, he thus fulfilled."
To be more exact, they called Jesus the "Anointed" when speaking to Jews because "the Anointed" in Psalm Two was the promised King over all other kings. The word Anointed can be translated "King" to reflect the meaning of "Anointed" to Jews. To audiences who were not Jewish (also known as Gentiles), the ambassadors of the King called Him the highest "Judge" because the greatest authority for Gentiles was Rome's Emperor whom they called "Lord" as the highest judge in the world. In Acts 10:38, Peter reported to Cornelius, "He charged us to preach to the people, and to testify that this is He who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead." Paul preached at the Acropolis saying God "has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead." The development of "This gospel of the kingdom" then played out in three steps:
- The gospel of the kingdom first sounded like, "The kingdom of God has come near."
- Then God proved the authority of Jesus by raising Him from the dead. As Acts 17:31 puts it, "he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead." Romans 1:4 states the same proof, "who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, King Jesus our Lord."
- The gospel of the kingdom was then preached to Jews like, "God has made Jesus the Anointed (King)." The gospel of the kingdom was preached to Gentiles like, "God has made Jesus the Judge of the world."
KINGDOM IN THE EPISTLES
One may fairly ask, "Why do the books after Acts fail to preach the kingdom of God like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts preached it?" The books after Acts agree with the gospel of the kingdom, but their primary purpose is not to preach the gospel because the remaining books were addressed to people who already believe the gospel. Perhaps the most direct reference to the gospel is Colossians 1:13 which states that God "liberated us out of the domain of darkness, and removed us into the kingdom of the Son..."
The word "kingdom" is used 27 times in the books after Acts, primarily in the phrase "kingdom of God." Throughout the books which follow Acts, Jesus is called the "Anointed" which is the Psalm Two King of Kings, the only begotten Son of God. Most translations only transliterate christos (meaning anointed) into Christ, so we fail to see the Anointed King throughout the epistles. The "International Standard Version", "The Kingdom New Testament", and "The Voice" all translate christos which makes the Kingship (Psalm 2) of Jesus a little more obvious in the epistles.
Our modern "gospel" presentation is actually a summary of Reformation soteriology as documented here. We do well to teach soteriology, but neither Jesus nor His ambassadors called soteriology the gospel. When we fail to preach "Jesus is King" or preach Him as the ultimate authority, we do not accomplish what our King demanded must be done before His return. "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Those who desire the end of the age would do well to preach the one thing Jesus called the "gospel" - His kingdom. How has the kingdom of God come near? It has come near in the person of Jesus when God made Him the King and Judge of all the earth and proved it by raising Him from the dead! When soteriology is taught as kingdom benefit, it can empower the believer to daily transformation (as documented here), instead of being compartmentalized as something nonbelievers need to learn.
"The Gospel of the Kingdom" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on July 3rd, 2013. All rights are reserved.