What Is the Gospel?

Randall Ricker

Years ago, I was told I would be out of the country for two to six weeks on a project with another company. The project ultimately lasted six months–needless to say, the project was not going well. In a strange place without any friends, I got bored in the evenings and didn’t know what to do. I began listening to religious radio broadcasts in the motel room. I was becoming interested in the big questions.

I remember there were several of them preaching various versions of the gospel. Yet there was something missing in the message that most were giving.

I remember one man, Herbert Armstrong, who spoke quite differently than anyone else and with quite a bit of authority. It did not take me too many weeks to learn that he knew more about the Bible than all of these other ministers to whom I was listening, so I tuned in to his broadcast just about every evening. He was preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

I wanted to order the free literature that he offered. I remember there was one article in particular on predestination that sounded fascinating. He went through the broadcast telling us what predestination was not, then told us we could order the booklet to find out what it was. There I was stuck a thousand miles from home thinking, if I order this book and have it mailed to the motel, that will be the week I’m finally sent back home, and I’ll miss it. I held off ordering the book until I could come home. Eventually I requested the literature and found my way into God’s Church.

As I mentioned, there are many gospels. Some talk about gospels about Christ. Sometimes they will say “of Christ,” but they usually mean “about Christ.” Some talk of gospels of salvation and of grace. Many are contradictory, and they cannot all be right.

Mark chapter 16:15 teaches the importance of knowing what the true gospel is: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” This means you have to know what the gospel is in order to be saved, making the true gospel very important.

Read II Corinthians chapter 11, verse 3: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted you may well put up with it!” This different gospel became the dominant gospel that was preached. At this point Paul already knew there was a different gospel going around, and things began changing sometime soon after the death of Paul. By 150 A.D. the Church bore very little resemblance to how it was in the time of Christ.

Jesus Christ predicted that there would be other messages, and, in fact, He called them deceptions. Turn to Matthew chapter 24, the Olivet Prophecy, starting in verse 4: “And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’” As you may remember, the New Testament was written in a type of Greek very different from what we have now. Everything was in capital letters, and there was no punctuation. The people who translated either the King James or the New King James tried to put punctuation in this verse, and I am afraid they have messed it up in this case.

Take a look at “…many will come in My name, saying…” and take out the comma and quotation mark there as you read it. “Many will come in My name, saying I am the Christ” (without the quotation) “and will deceive many.” In other words, many will come in Christ’s name saying Christ is the Christ, which is certainly true. Many people say Jesus is the Christ and the Messiah. They are not claiming that they, the persons saying it, are the Christ. You get a few individuals once in a while claiming to be Jesus Christ; you get a few claiming to be Napoleon, too. They do not deceive many people. But many will say Jesus Christ is the Christ, stating a truth among untruths. I heard the radio broadcasts in another city, one after another for two or three hours, and each one was saying Christ was the Christ. By itself, that is not the gospel.

Paul talks about another gospel again in Galatians chapter 1, starting in verse 6: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 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. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” This is a double curse of sorts on someone who preaches another gospel.

So what is the true gospel?

A MESSENGER

We will start in Malachi chapter 3:1, where God promised to send a messenger with a message: “’I will send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.’” Let us keep our finger in Malachi and go on to Mark chapter 1, verses 2-4. These verses tell us that this messenger referred to in Malachi who was to come before the Lord was John the Baptist.

Half way through Malachi 3:1 it says, “’the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant.’” Of course, Jesus Christ is the messenger of the covenant, coming with a message.

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Mark 1:14 tells us what this message was: “Jesus came to Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God…” This is the gospel: the gospel of the kingdom of God. Some translations of the Bible omit “of the kingdom” in this verse, but the King James and the New King James Versions include those words. This knowledge of the kingdom of God is vital; it is to be our priority. Matthew 6:33: “’But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.’”

Believing in Jesus Christ but not believing His message is insufficient. John 8:30 tells us that many people in Christ’s time believed in Him. But continue on to verse 31: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him…” (or “believed on Him” in the King James Version or the Greek Interlinear) “’If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.’” Continue reading verses 32 to 33. Here they were. They supposedly believed in Him, but they did not believe what He was saying. Right away they became argumentative and said they had never been in bondage, which of course was a ridiculous statement for them to be making in the 30’s A.D. Here they were with the Roman occupation troops, hardened soldiers to keep them under control, all around them. Yet they would not admit that they were in physical bondage, much less spiritual bondage to sin as Christ was explaining.

Read John 8:45-46; He knew they did not believe what He was saying.

In John 8:37 Jesus Christ says, “’I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.’” These people believed in Him but still wanted to kill Him! Clearly, just believing in Christ is not enough. John 8:59 states: “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

NOT A GOSPEL ABOUT CHRIST

People talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we have to realize is the gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel that Christ preached, not a gospel about Jesus Christ personally.

People talk about the miracles He performed; that is certainly true, He did. They talk about the love that He had for people; that is certainly true. People talk about Jesus Christ coming back, but that is still not enough: we have to talk about the entire message that He gave.

Turn to Mark chapter 1, verse 1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is clarified depending on what translation of the Bible you are using. The correct translation is “gospel of Jesus Christ”. However, some translations incorrectly render it, “The gospel about Christ…” It is not the gospel “about” Christ; it is the gospel “of” Christ, Christ’s message.

Read Acts chapter 8:12. Philip discusses both the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.

In Acts 28:30-31, Paul also preaches the kingdom of God. The gospel of the kingdom is not the same as preaching about Christ; he discusses both aspects.

WHAT IS THEKINGDOM OF GOD

What is the gospel of the kingdom of God? According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1969, “gospel” comes from an old English word, “godspell,” which means “good news.” The word “kingdom” means, “A government, country, state or population that is nominally or actually ruled by a king or queen.”

Four things are necessary for a literal kingdom: a territory, a king, subjects, and laws or a form of government.

THE TERRITORY

The kingdom of God is mentioned in the Old Testament in Daniel 2. Remember, Daniel 2 is where Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a dream and wished to have it interpreted. He knew anyone could make up an interpretation, but if someone could accurately tell him what the dream was, then he could also rely on his interpretation. So Daniel was brought before this king.

Read Daniel 2:28, 31-36 for a description of the dream. At this point the king could clearly see that Daniel knew what he was talking about. He related the dream perfectly; I’m sure the king was listening attentively.

Continue reading verses 37 to 38. Since we later read that these are kingdoms, we realize that the head of gold the Babylonian Empire, the first world-ruling empire.

Read verses 39 to verse 45 of Daniel 2. He has mentioned four literal, world-ruling kingdoms or empires so far. Now he comes to the kingdom of God, which will replace all of those. This is a literal kingdom on the earth; the earth is the territory.

Daniel chapter 7, starting in verse 2, describes Daniel’s dream and vision. Read to verse 4. Of course, this again is the Babylonian Empire, and later on we read that these are kings on the earth. Read verses 5 and 6. These are the Persian and the Greek Empires, respectively. As you may know, the Greek Empire was divided into four parts after the death of Alexander. Verse 7 refers to theRoman Empire. Skip down to verse 13 and read to verse 14. Jesus Christ often called Himself the Son of Man

The interpretation begins in verse 16. Read through to verse 22. The saints are to possess the kingdom, and elsewhere in the Bible we learn that the saints are those who grow and overcome and endure to the end.

Read verse 27 of Daniel 7. This kingdom is not something in heaven; it is “under the whole heaven” and starts out, at least, on the literal earth.

Hebrews chapter 2:5 tells us that this kingdom will eventually cover the whole universe. The context of this chapter is “the world to come,” the world in the future.

Let’s go on to verses 6 through 8: “’…You have put all things in subjection under his feet.’” Paul is quoting from Psalm 8. David continued in Psalms showing that God put in subjection under man the earth and everything that is in it, and this is certainly true. Paul leaves off quoting Psalms and goes in a little bit different direction here. The rest of verse 8 says, “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.” God is going to put all things– the universe– under us!

Verses 9 to 10 describe our potential, to be brought to glory. Read verse 11: “…He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (that is, brothers). Brothers are of the same species, the same existence. We will be part of the God family. Right now, of course, we do not have access to everything in this vast universe. If we traveled at the speed of light, the nearest star would take four years to reach, and we cannot travel at a hundredth of the speed of light. There are a hundred million galaxies and a hundred million stars in each galaxy. The scale is unimaginable, and yet that is our potential: to be given a portion of that universe.

Read Revelation 21, verse 7. Ultimately the kingdom will cover everything. The Parable of the Talents in Luke 19 gives us an analogy for rulership. Christ tells the good servant that he will be ruler over many things. In the Parable of the Pounds He gives rulership over literal territories, rewarding servants according to their works.

THE KING

A kingdom needs a king. Read Luke 1:31-33 where the angel Gabriel talks to Mary: Christ was born to be a king. Jesus Christ Himself told Pontius Pilate that in John chapter 18:37 during the trial for His life: “Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” Revelation 11, verse 15, from which the Hallelujah Chorus is taken, also confirms this point.

The gospel includes what Christ did, what He taught, how He taught people how to live, and that He died to pay the penalty for our sins. The gospel also includes what Christ is doing now as our High Priest; He is living His life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel also includes what Christ will be doing in the future, returning as King of kings in power and glory. We should be cautious of de-emphasizing the future by looking continually at the past as we study about Christ. Matthew 24, verse 48-51, describes the dangers of not looking ahead. (Physically beating one’s fellow servants is of course wrong, but we should not do so verbally either.)

THE SUBJECTS

A kingdom requires subjects. The scriptures we have read so far indicate that the kingdom will begin by ruling people on this earth. We read earlier about cities, and in Daniel about literal kingdoms, populated by human beings.

THE LAW AND GOVERNMENT

A kingdom needs law and form of government, and Christ preached about the laws that will be in His kingdom. Matthew chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount, includes the Beatitudes, which discuss love. But many people do not realize that love and God’s law go very much together. Read verses 17-19 of Matthew 5. “To fulfill, to fill to the full with their complete meaning” is another way to phrase this concept. Verses 20-21 mention a few of the commandments, in case we weren’t certain which ones He was referring to.

Verse 22 tells us that we will all obey God’s commandments in the kingdom, not just in the letter of the law but in the spirit and intent of the law as well. He tells us that the commandment against murder is also broken if we are angry without cause, if we look down on others, if we insult others. Matthew 5:27-28 gives us the spiritual intent of the commandment against adultery: it is also broken when we lust.

Matthew 19:17 includes further discussion about the laws that will be in the kingdom of God. The young man who was talking to Jesus Christ asked which commandments to keep, and Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery…’”, etc. He named several here just to make it clear which commandments He was referring to.

In the Old Testament, Micah chapter 4:1-3 tells us that we will know, teach, and live by God’s ways in the kingdom. If our gospel only concerns Christ the Man, we are not conveying that we must now live by the laws that everyone will live by in the kingdom.

Government in the kingdom will be from the top down; people will be coming to the Lord’s house to learn His ways, and “Out of Zion the law shall go forth,” as the Scripture says. The government will not be a democracy. Luke 22:25-27 discusses the proper leadership that will be utilized in the kingdom, which Jesus Christ expects us exemplify right now in the way His Church is governed.

Luke 22:28-30 describes more of the kingdom’s governmental structure. Jesus Christ’s twelve apostles will judge the twelve tribes ofIsrael, ruling under Christ. The Father is at the top, then Jesus Christ, then a governing structure under Him.

HOW TO ENTER THE KINGDOM

We will be born into the kingdom, but not in the way that many people think. Look at what “born again” really means in our Bible study, “Born To Be Born Again.” You may also want to read the Bible study, “Our Potential.”

To enter the kingdom, we have to believe the gospel, as we read in Mark chapter 1. We have to believe in Christ as king and accept Him as our personal Savior, we are required to believe the other aspects of the gospel as well.

Peter gave us a formula in Acts 2:38, Peter’s first inspired sermon on Pentecost 31 A.D. We must repent to enter that kingdom, and first, of course, we have to know of what to repent. We repent of sin, which is defined in I John 3:4 (King James Version): “Sin is the transgression of the law.” After we repent, Peter instructs us to be baptized to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit is only the beginning; after that, we live a life of growing in God’s righteous character. Righteous character is knowing the difference between right and wrong, always choosing the right regardless of the circumstances, and always doing it, whether we feel like it or not. We grow, overcome, and endure to the end of our lives, and after Christ’s return we resurrected or changed into immortal spirit beings. Then we enter God’s kingdom at last.

SHOULD WE PREACH THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM TODAY?

The gospel of the kingdom was preached by twelve apostles, as we read in Luke 9:1-2. People who believe that the gospel is only preaching about Jesus Christ dying to pay for our sins would have a little bit of a problem with this verse because this happened before Jesus Christ had died. He sent His disciples out to preach the kingdom of God. They could not say He died for our sins, obviously, because He had not done so yet.

Paul also preached the kingdom of God. Acts 20:17-38 is a rather touching portion of Scripture; Paul was talking to the Ephesian elders, and he thought he would never see these men again. He had worked with and taught these men, and he wanted them to continue to teach the people.

Paul, years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, was still preaching the kingdom of God, as we see in Acts 20:25. Philip also preached the kingdom of God.

What is our job now? Matthew 24:14 tells us the end will come after the gospel has been preached. Today the gospel of the kingdom has been preached as a witness to all nations, but not to everyone in each nation. The innumerable multitude of Revelation 7:9 must yet receive the gospel, and we must still preach the gospel of the kingdom of God to the world, as we strive to do today.

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