First the Kingdom, Part 3: The Good News of the Kingdom of God
What do people think of when the word “Gospel” is used? Some like to emphasize the truthfulness of a story they are telling by claiming that their story is “the Gospel truth!” Often the word even describes a certain style of music. Most of us are familiar with the great American tradition of Southern Gospel music with its lively and emotional feeling.
The word Gospel is from a very old English word “godspel,” or good spell. While I believe there is a sense that God’s work has a supernatural effect upon people, the original meaning in this case was the “spelling out” of the good story, or good news of Jesus Christ. This in fact agrees with the original Greek word in the New Testament, which is “euangélion.” The first part “eu” means “good,” while the last part “angélion,” means “message” or “announcement.”
That is why in English we call those who preach the Gospel “evangelists.” They are in fact the bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ!
The earliest “evangelists” where the messengers who ran great distances to report when wonderful events took place. Before the postal service, newspapers, telegraph, radio, telephones, and the internet these messengers were responsible to keep people informed in ancient times.
This is the background of this passage in the book of the prophet Isaiah 52:7:
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
This picture of an ancient foot messenger in actuality was fulfilled in Israel years later in John the Baptist, Jesus, and His apostles, who came with the greatest news of all!
Now every year around this time we are reminded of the heavenly news reporter who appeared to certain shepherds even before those days:
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
There are of course many kinds of announcements of happy occasions that bring joy to people. Most would consider a job promotion to be good news, or perhaps the birth of a child. Yet the appearance of Christ to the world is an event that stands alone in the minds of believers. This is The Good News, and the reason why the meaning of the phrase, “The Gospel” above all refers to the Good News concerning Him!
Isaiah prophesied centuries before that a message of peace, joy and salvation was coming. At His birth, Jesus was proclaimed by supernatural messengers that the day of salvation had come. Decades later John His forerunner and Jesus Himself began announcing the Good News that the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven had indeed come to the earth!
Some believed the Good News, repented and obeyed the God Who had come to save them. Others did not. They did not understand that this salvation goes deeper than the financial or political situation they were in. He was called Jesus, because He came to save His people from the condition of their hearts. He came to save them from their sin.
For many centuries now, people have been believing and receiving forgiveness and deliverance from their sin. This is indeed the Good News, The Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, for some reason or other, the words Jesus used in His announcement are seldom used today. The Good News according to Jesus was that the Kingdom of God was near to them, and that they could enter therein. Why is this important?
It is understood that the Gospel according the apostle Paul is the story of how “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 KJV)
The fact that the real problem was in the human heart, and that Christ came to not only to offer forgiveness but a way for us to have a new heart has been often overlooked for centuries. Like many in Christ’s time the concern in many yet today is to simply try harder to be good. therefor, Evangelical Christians in every generation have rightly emphasized what Jesus and Paul stressed, that the Gospel is the only answer. The bad news is that we cannot live righteously on our own, but the wonderful Good News is that God in Christ has delivered us from ourselves. Because He died and rose again, we can die to our old lives and truly live again in Him!
In this way we enter into the Kingdom of God. Paul states that believers have been transferred from the domain of darkness and into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son! (Colossians 1:13) There is of course a life through Christ that extends far beyond our material existence, but this Life is available to us now, and this Kingdom is here and now, by the authority and the Word of Jesus Christ, the one and only creator of all things! (Colossians 1:16-17).
Again, why is this important? Why do we need to be reminded of the Gospel in the dimension that Jesus proclaimed it? I believe we need a new emphasis on the Gospel of the Kingdom because we are so prone to focus on our own personal needs, forgetting the great desire of God for His Creation. The Gospel of the Kingdom includes me, but it is also beyond me! It is like the leaven in the flour that is hidden for a time but ultimately permeates the whole loaf of bread. It is like the tiny mustard seen that cannot help but grow into something greater and larger and beneficial. (Luke 13:18-21)
It is also possible that the present work of God in His world can be neglected if our only concern is for eternity in heaven.
It is shown in the Kings dream to Daniel who learned that the Kingdom of God was like a rock that grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth! This is bigger than you and I, and it can lift us up from a self-centered life to a vision that we can be a part of the progressing Kingdom! You and I are becoming partners with Jesus Christ who is changing this world from the inside out!
We also need to see that the Kingdom of God was as important to Paul and the other apostles as it was to Jesus. The rest of the 15th chapter of First Corinthians shows the intention of the the Gospel of Grace:
1 Corinthians 15:21-28:
“For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, ” All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.”
The Kingdom of God came to the earth 2,000 years ago in the person of Jesus Christ. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the death of the Cross. Then He was raised from death and highly exalted with a Name above all names! At the Name of Jesus Christ every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father! (Philippians 2:6-11)
Is He Lord of your life? If not, say yes to Him, believe the Good News and enter into His Kingdom of righteousness, Peace and Joy today!