Randall E. Ricker
June 28, 2014
People may wonder why the Great Lakes Church of God might be different from other churches. The difference is that we preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, and we clear God’s name. It may appear that many churches preach the gospel, but are they doing it correctly? No one else seems to see a need to clear God’s name. I will explain that. Today’s title is The Gospel and Clearing God’s Name.
There are many gospels. Some gospels talk about Christ. Sometimes they will say it’s the gospel of Christ. Sometimes they will say something to that effect, but it usually means the gospel about Christ. They may talk about gospels of salvation or of grace. They are all contradictory from one church to another, so that means they can’t all be right. They all can’t be the true gospel.
Let’s turn to Mark chapter 16 where we can learn something about how important it is to know what the true gospel is. Mark chapter 16, starting in verse 15: “And He [Christ] 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.’”
It is saying that if you believe the gospel and are baptized, you will be saved. This means you have to know what the gospel is in order to believe it, and then therefore in order to be saved. It makes it very important. Let’s see what Christ’s message was, this gospel of the kingdom. We will go to the beginning of the Book of Mark now.
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
It is talking about John the Baptist. In Mark chapter 1, verse 14 we read this: “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.’”
Some translations will say, “preaching the gospel” without saying the words “of the kingdom.” But the King James Version and the New King James Version which is what I am reading from include those words. The kingdom of God is very important. It’s not enough just to believe in Christ. We have to also believe His message.
People talk about the gospel of Christ, but we have to realize the gospel of Christ is the gospel that He preached and not a gospel “about” Christ.
People do like to talk about the miracles He performed, and that is certainly worth talking about. It is certainly true. He did perform miracles. They talk about the love that He had for people, and that is certainly true, too. People even like to talk about Christ coming back, but it’s not enough. We have to talk about the whole message that He gave. The importance of that is seen in Acts chapter 28 in the last few verses of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts chapter 28, verse 30: “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house [by the way, this was in Rome], and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”
Paul is preaching the gospel of the kingdom here. He is preaching the kingdom of God. He says it is not the same as preaching about Christ, because here it talks about both: the kingdom of God and about Christ. He spoke about both. It’s not the same thing.
Let’s study this word “gospel” first of all. You could look up the word gospel in a dictionary, and I used the American Heritage Dictionary of the American Language, 1969. It comes from an old English word godspell. Godspell means “good news.”
If you are talking about the gospel of the kingdom, what is a kingdom? The word “kingdom” also is defined in that dictionary as this: a government, country, state, or population that is nominally or actually ruled by a king or queen. When we talk about the kingdom of God, this kingdom is a population that is to be ruled by a king, that King being Christ. We will study that in a few minutes.
If you are going to have a literal kingdom, four things are necessary. We will go through each of these. One is that you have to define what is the territory of that kingdom. Of course, you must have a king. You must have subjects of a king, and you must have laws. We will go through each of these. We will study the territory first.
THE TERRITORY OF THE KINGDOM
Turn in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 7. Daniel had a dream where he saw four beasts coming up out of the sea. One was like a lion, one was like a bear, one was like a leopard with four heads, and one was something terrible and unlike anything he had ever seen before. In the vision—the dream, an angel explained to him what this meant. He explained that these were four kingdoms to come up on the earth.
If you look at history, you see that there was a Babylonian empire, which is where Daniel was living at the time. Then it was followed by the Persian Empire and then the Greek Empire. The Greek Empire was divided into four parts after the death of Alexander the Great. Another kingdom came along called the Roman Empire. We have all heard of these.
Daniel was told that after those kingdoms people, called the saints, were to possess the kingdom. Also in the Bible we can learn that the saints are those who grow and overcome and endure to the end. It’s not a certain number of people in heaven who have been pronounced saints by somebody.
After all of this, we read this in Daniel 7, verse 27: “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.”
It is showing the kingdom of God at least starts out on the earth under heaven and is literal. It is not something set up in our hearts. It goes further than that. We can see just how far it goes by turning to the end of the Bible, near the end of the book.
Revelation chapter 21, verse 7: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”
We take the words “all things” literally. It is sometimes translated as the universe. God’s kingdom starts out on the earth; eventually it will cover the whole universe! That is my first point today as to what the kingdom of God is and what the territory is.
CHRIST WILL BE THE KING
Then we talk about the king which is the second point. Who is the king? We know it is to be Jesus Christ. John chapter 18 is one of the places where it is explained that Christ was born to be a king. Of course, He had to pay the penalty for our sins. He was here to explain to us how we are to be living. He explained the spirit and the intent of the law, which we will be getting into in a few minutes, but He was born to be a king.
In John 18, verse 37 He is on trial before Pilate. “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.’”
Christ was truly born to be a king. He was to be king.
We can read in Revelation chapter 11 a verse that is quoted in a song that is called the Halleluia Chorus, which you may remember. It is something we definitely enjoy listening to. This is in the part of the Bible where the seven last trumpets are mentioned, and it is the seventh trumpet when Jesus Christ returns. We will read this.
Revelation 11, verse 15. “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!’”
Christ is to be the king, and He takes His throne at the seventh trumpet.
As we are talking about the king, the gospel includes what He did. He taught people. He taught people how to live. As I mentioned, He died to pay the penalty for our sins. The gospel also includes what Christ is doing now as our High Priest. He is our High Priest, interceding to God the Father for us. He lives His life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The gospel should also include what Christ is going to be doing in the future, returning as King of kings in power and glory. As we study about Christ and about the kingdom of God, we should not look at the past all the time. We should look at the future and not de-emphasize the future.
THE SUBJECTS IN THE KINGDOM
The third point is subjects. A kingdom has to have subjects. The Scriptures we have talked about in Daniel indicate that the kingdom will start out ruling people on the earth. The people on the earth will be the subjects. If you are going to have someone ruling on the earth, that means they are ruling somebody. People will be the subjects. In Daniel he talked about literal kingdoms over people under the heavens.
THE LAWS OF THE KINGDOM
The fourth point about a kingdom is laws. Every kingdom has laws. Matthew chapter 5 gives us an idea of the laws of the kingdom. Matthew chapter 5 is the chapter where we read what is called The Beatitudes. There is a lot about love and how we are to act, but there is even more as we continue. A lot of people might stop at The Beatitudes and think, we’re supposed to love each other, but not necessarily keep God’s law. We can talk about laws that will be in the kingdom that Christ preached.
In Matthew 5, go down to verse 17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
It is talking about the law having to be fulfilled, and we see in verse 19 of Matthew 5 that it says, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
We talk about the law, and then we realize He is talking about the commandments here. That’s the aspect of the law that He is talking about. We can keep on reading here because in verse 21 it says: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement’”
That tells you which commandments are being talked about, just in case we wondered. They are the Ten Commandments. There is one about not murdering.
Continuing in 22 of Matthew 5: “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Christ is giving us the spiritual intent of one of the commandments. We certainly don’t murder, but we are not to be angry without a cause. We are not to be looking down on people or insulting them. That’s all breaking the same commandment. He is raising the bar, as I like to say. It makes it a little more difficult, but it’s a better way of life when we consider it. If we are insulting people and looking down on them, it’s almost as if we are killing them verbally.
In verse 27 of Matthew 5 is another commandment: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’”
Literally people should not commit adultery.
Verse 28: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The spiritual intent of the commandment against adultery includes not to lust. The laws of the kingdom are the Ten Commandments, and having to keep them in the intent and not just in the letter of the law. You have to do both.
ENTERING THE KINGDOM
Now that we see what the kingdom of God is, let’s talk about how we enter that kingdom. We are to be born into the kingdom, but it’s not the way many people think. We should consider the conditions for entering the kingdom. In Mark 1 we read that already, and we won’t go back there. It said, to enter the kingdom, you have to believe the gospel. That’s one of the conditions. Believing the gospel includes, of course, Christ as King and accepting Him as our personal Savior, but all the other aspects of the gospel as well.
The formula for entering the kingdom is given in Acts chapter 2. This is where Peter, the apostle, was giving the first inspired sermon on the Day of Pentecost—that first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection in 31 A.D. He had given a sermon, and the people said, what shall we do? We have to do something.
In Acts 2, verse 38 he says this: “The Peter said to them, ‘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.’”
We have to repent in order to enter the kingdom, and we have to know what to repent of. We repent of sin. I won’t turn there now, but I John chapter 3:4 defines sin. It says “sin is the transgression of the law.” That is the Old King James Version. It says “sin is lawlessness” in the New King James Version.
It says to repent, and then it also says to be baptized. Baptism is another condition for entering the kingdom. Then it says you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But that’s only the beginning, because then we have to grow in God’s holy righteous character throughout the rest of our entire lives. At times we have defined character as knowing the difference between right and wrong, and always choosing the right regardless of the circumstances; always doing what’s right whether we feel like it or not.
After we grow and overcome and endure to the end of our lives, whether it’s the end of our life or till Christ’s return, then we have a resurrection—or our change—into immortal spirit beings. Then we enter God’s kingdom.
MISUSING GOD’S NAME
When I started the Bible study, I said besides talking about the gospel of the kingdom of God, we also are going to talk about clearing God’s name. We think that is very closely associated with the gospel of the kingdom. The reason is that when people try to preach the gospel, some people include their own views on end time prophecy. They teach that God will soon cause most of the population of the earth to die a horrible death, and only those who follow them will be spared in a rapture or a place of safety. Those left behind will suffer for three and a half years or seven years, depending on their theology. This belief leads to hatred of those who don’t believe or at least an indifference toward them. It’s a save-your-own-skin mentality!
God is a god of love. People who preach that message are misusing the name of God. He is not going to destroy all these billions of people that He created in His own image and likeness. We have to think about this. There is something inconsistent here. As we preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, we also clear God’s name because it has been misused. Let’s look at one of the major characteristics of God in I John chapter 4.
In the epistle of I John chapter 4, we are going to start in verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
He is saying love comes from God. It says God is love. That’s His major characteristic for it to be worded this way.
Continuing in verse 9: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
In other ways, payment for our sins.
Verse 11 of I John 4: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
This is a great characteristic of God, and the apostle John is telling us to emulate that characteristic. We are to love just as God loves. God loves tremendously to the point that God the Father gave His only Son.
God’s name is important to Him. In Exodus 20 we have the listing of the Ten Commandments. If it wasn’t important to Him, He would not have made it one of the commandments not to misuse His name.
Turn to Exodus chapter 20, verse 7 for the third commandment. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
We usually think of taking God’s name in vain as misusing it, like in anger or some people do it in humor. That’s wrong, but there is more to it than that. This word “in vain” in the Strong’s Concordance is #7723 (1995 edition). It means to destroy to the point of desolation, evil as destructive, literally ruin, figuratively useless deception.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SATAN
We find that besides people misusing God’s name in anger, people associate His name with destruction and with ruin, and they are deceiving as they do it. We need to clear God’s name and not use it that way at all. What they are doing is they are putting someone else’s attributes on God without even knowing they are doing it. There is someone else who has the destructive, hateful attributes that people are trying to put on God, and his name is Lucifer—Satan the devil. In Isaiah chapter 14 we see some of the characteristics of Satan. He started out being called Lucifer, one who brings light, and his name was eventually changed to Satan which means adversary.
Isaiah 14, verse 12: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!”
Satan certainly does weaken the nations.
Continuing in verse 13: “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [stars being angels]; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’”
Satan wanted to take over God’s throne. Instead verse 15 tells us what happened.
Verse 15: “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?’”
There are the characteristics of Satan. He is someone who makes the earth tremble. In other words, he puts people in fear and shakes the kingdoms. He makes the world like a wilderness. There has been so much destruction during the wars that he has caused. He destroys cities in his wars that he inspires, and he holds the whole world captive.
We talk about the whole world being captive by Satan the devil. He is the one who is the prince of the power of the air and the one who inspires the bad things that happen on the earth. He would destroy humanity if he could. He has a motivation for doing that because the kingdom of God is to replace Satan’s rule over the earth. If he can destroy humanity, there will be no one to replace him. That’s not going to happen, but that’s what he is trying to do. Instead of the earth being destroyed, we read in Genesis 8 that it will never be destroyed.
In Genesis chapter 8 you will remember Noah was the one who was put in the ark with his family. All other people and all other animals on the earth were destroyed. After a time the ark landed on dry land. Then we read this in Genesis 8, verse 20: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.’”
A BEAUTIFUL MILLENNIUM
There is a promise. We don’t have to worry about God destroying everything in the end time. Instead of that we read of a beautiful Millennium. Revelation chapter 20 is where we will turn to next. Millennium means a thousand years. You won’t find the word “millennium” in the Bible, but you do see “thousand years.”
We will pick it up a little bit early here in Revelation chapter 20, starting in verse 1: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.”
Satan the devil is causing all the things that people try to blame on God at times. The term “act of God” is totally inaccurate. Satan will be put away for a thousand years.
Continuing in verse 4 of Revelation 20: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
There is that Millennium, that thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth with those who gave their lives for Him. It can be a literal loss of life, or as we know, we are to be giving our lives to Christ as living sacrifices. They are the people who have grown and overcome and endured to the end, ruling under Christ for a thousand years.
God has a number of beautiful names. Some of you who know Hebrew better than I do can forgive my pronunciations. There is El Shaddai which means God Almighty. Then there is a term in the New Testament called the Father of Lights. Lights means to shine and make manifest. God is the one who makes things manifest. Yahweh Rapha means God of healings. Emmanuel means God with us. We see Savior, Redeemer, Rock, and the word YHWH itself. We are not sure exactly how to pronounce it. I Am And Will Continue To Be What I Am is another one. These are all good and beautiful names.
There are a few more names we can turn to in Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6: “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 [there’s a beautiful name], Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” These are all beautiful names of God.
There is more good news. Let’s continue in verse 7 of Isaiah 9: “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.”
It is talking about God’s government increasing forever! It will go on forever, and that’s why we say our potential is to inherit the universe. God’s government will extend over the entire universe!
THE GREAT COMMISSION
Now that we see what the gospel of the kingdom of God is, should we still be preaching it? That’s our job. Turn to Matthew 28. Matthew 28 has been called the Great Commission. That’s not just called that by our church, but it is actually written as a heading in some Bibles. In Matthew 28 this is after Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
Matthew chapter 28, verse 18: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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.’”
When it says, make “disciples,” that word means student. A disciple is a student. Make students, or, in other words, teach. We are to teach all nations. We teach by preaching the gospel.
We already read toward the end of the Book of Acts how the apostle Paul preached the gospel. He thought it was very important. Here he was in prison, or at least house arrest, in Rome, and he still preached the gospel! Others in the New Testament preached the gospel. We find the Scriptures where people kept doing that. We are to preach the gospel. Also it says “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” We are to be giving people the spiritual food that they need, too—teaching them what they need to know about the Bible on how to live and what is going to happen.
The gospel of the kingdom has been preached as a witness at least to every nation on earth. We know that has happened but not to everybody in every nation. There is an innumerable multitude that we read about in the Bible that still needs to have the gospel preached to them. We still should be preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God to the world.
One of the ways the gospel is preached is on the website TheBeautifulThoughtsOfGod.com. On this website people can learn about all aspects of the gospel of the kingdom of God including so many beautiful thoughts of God.