First the Kingdom Part 22, Only One Gospel?
The word “gospel” has come to mean many things today. Anyone who has a new idea or a supposedly better way of doing things is often seen as presenting his or her gospel. In the time that the New Testament of the Bible was written, there was one word commonly used to convey that a wonderful event had come or was coming. It was the Greek word “euangélion,” which means “a message of good news.” From this we get our English word “evangelist,” who is a messenger of good news, and the word “evangelical,” which usually describes those who promote the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Since the old English word for good news, “Gospel” was used in the early English bible translations it has found a permanent place in our language to this day.
In the New Testament the word is used exclusively in connection with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul the apostle of Christ left no doubt about his confidence in The Gospel:
In Romans 1:16-17, he writes:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Elsewhere in his letter to the Corinthians he clearly states the content of the gospel he had been proclaiming:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
Right here is the heart of Evangelical Christianity. Around the world there are people and churches with differing beliefs, but this one message either unifies or divides them. The one living and vital group of people who know the Christ of the Bible, know that He came to save sinners by laying down His life for them, and by taking it up again to prove His Lordship.
But what of the Good News of the Kingdom of God? Is the Gospel that Jesus preached a different one than the one Paul proclaimed? There are those who would say yes. Some believe that the Gospel of the Kingdom was rejected, and that the Kingdom was postponed for over 2,000 years. They teach that it was necessary for the Gospel of Grace to intervene until a time in the future. At this future time, they look for the world to be judged in 7 years of great suffering and sorrow known as the Great Tribulation. After that Christ will come and establish His reign in the earth, which He had intended to do at His first coming.
To be fair, I believe this is a sincere attempt to reconcile both the Old and New Testament prophecies that seem to conflict with one another. Even the disciples of Jesus had questions about prophecies concerning Israel which had not yet come to pass. Jesus told them it was not for them to know then, but He did give them what they needed to know for that time.
He told them that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and that they would bear witness of Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samariah and to the ends of the world. (Acts 1:6-8)
At this time I would like to propose a simpler solution to the problem of fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy. But before I do that we need to look at another statement of Paul’s upon which everything else pivots. In Gal 1:8-9 he writes:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Think of it! Twice he calls down a curse upon anyone, including himself, who preaches another gospel!
There is only one true Gospel! The Gospel of the Kingdom is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
The problem might be in our limited understanding. The early believers received grace of course, but they also looked for the new heavens and new earth to come very soon. over time some began to think that the prophecies of the kingdom coming to earth were only spiritual, and that the real and ultimate goal was to go to heaven. People were dying from sickness, old age and persecution. It was a great comfort to know that Christ would eventually return and bring them back with Him when He comes. But that time seemed so far away. Even Peter reminded his readers that “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” He urged patience.
Over time the expectation and hope of a better world here and on this time line almost completely faded. Only during times of great refreshing from the presence of the Lord did that expectation become renewed. We are living in one of those very times! Thank God we are living in a day when the salvation that is brought by the Gospel is being more fully understood! Personal peace with God must come first. After that peace with one another. And yet there is a peace that permeates the creation!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes! Now I ask you, if Jesus Christ is truly Lord of all, demonstrated by His resurrection, why could He not bring a salvation to His people that goes even beyond anyone’s imagination? How small a view we at times have of His grace, of His power to do more than forgive us. Do we possibly have the guts, the courage to believe what Jesus said about the fulfillment of all that the prophets had spoken? (Luke 24:25).
The Bible is full of symbolic language. In our modern world we also use symbolic language without realizing it. We have traffic signs that use symbols in the place of words to warn of sharp turns, to watch for children and animals. Colors are also used to indicate whether or not to stop or go on the road. We use symbols in music and in art, and in advertising as well. Since we have become familiar with all these symbols, we usually know what they represent and take this knowledge for granted.
When the Bible was written the use of symbolic words was common. I would guess that the people of that time understood which words were symbolic and not to be taken in the usual way. An easy example I can think of is in young Joseph’s earliest dreams. In one of them he saw the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. Immediately his family members understood and were angry because this depicted all of them bowing down to serve him, the youngest! (Genesis 3:5-10)
This was in fact a prophesy, and it is in prophesy that symbolic language is most often used. People then knew the language was symbolic, but they did not always know what it meant, including the prophets themselves. (1 Peter 1:10-12). So here we are, centuries later, trying to understand the words of the prophets. As in Joseph’s and Daniel’s day, the wisest and most knowledgeable try to understand the prophecies and visions in the Bible. We all sense that they contain important truth, but we differ in how to understand them. We need gifted individuals, like Joseph and Daniel to hear from God and to help us!
While some believe the Bible contradicts itself, those of us who have been blessed with anointed teachers have discovered wonderful unity and harmony in both the Old and New Testaments. There are truly mysteries yet to be unveiled, but what we have seen has overwhelmed us! There are keys to understanding the plan of God. We must begin with the clear message, and allow the pieces of the puzzle come together to reveal the full picture.
So let us proceed with the premise that the message of Jesus, the Good News that the Kingdom of God had come is the Gospel that Paul preached concerning the grace of God. It begins with your personal salvation, my personal salvation by grace through faith. These are critical pieces of the puzzle. Kingdom prophecies in this area have already been fulfilled. We who have believed, repented and trusted in Christ are in His Kingdom now! Because we have seen a measure of the glory of God, we have hope for seeing more of Him!
He is still at work and we get to partner with Him in the completion of His plan to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory! There is both a present and future fulfillment. Let’s rejoice in them both! We hope you will continue with us in this study as we look at other pieces in this “puzzle” that reveals God’s wonderful purpose of the ages!