The gospel is among the most widely celebrated themes in all Christianity. Ironically, differing gospel messages are printed in literature, broadcast on television, preached from the pulpit, and solicited door to door. In our modern age, competing denominations have advanced a gospel of grace, a gospel of salvation, a gospel of peace, a health and wealth gospel, a social gospel, and even gospel music.
However, while enormous attention has been focused on what various religious leaders have proclaimed, few have truly understood Christ's gospel of the Kingdom of God. In fact, religious leaders have deceived millions of sincere men and women regarding Christ's message to mankind. Certainly, they talk about Jesus, His life and His death, but they ignore the profound message that He preached.
Ministers lure members into their congregations by teaching that by professing belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, one gains an almost effortless and automatic ticket to salvation. By this, they lead followers to believe in Jesus, but they don't teach them to believe the message that Jesus preached
The Gospel Jesus Preached
During His ministry, Jesus Christ powerfully and passionately preached a message about the Kingdom of God. This gospel was to be the motivating hope of true Christians. It was to be their reason for being. But tragically, few have understood it. What was this gospel that Jesus preached?
After years of silent preparation, Christ launched His ministry in Galilee. There, speaking with urgency and authority, Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God was coming: As Mark writes:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).
This profound message affected people in different ways. A few were inspired by His words, some were bewildered, and others actually felt threatened. Nevertheless, His declaration of the Kingdom was relentlessly consistent. As Matthew records Jesus to say:
Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand... and Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:17-23).
When the crucifixion of Jesus drew near, He entrusted the gospel of the Kingdom to His disciples. They were to continue to preach His vital message of hope. In fact, He explained, that this gospel of the Kingdom was to continue to be preached right up to the very end of the age. As Matthew writes:
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14).
After Christ's resurrection, the apostles traveled to local cities and faraway nations, preaching Christ's message. They taught that we must have faith that Jesus is the promised Messiah. We must believe that His Kingdom will reign on earth, and that to be a part of that Kingdom, we must repent of breaking God's commandments, be baptized, and strive to overcome our human nature and live a Godly life.
The Original Corruption of the Gospel
The disciples faithfully preached Christ's gospel, but it was not long until Satan began his work of corrupting this message. A mere twenty years after Christ's crucifixion, the apostle Paul found himself forced to battle false teachers who had infected new Gentile converts with the idea that, to become a Christian they must first become Jews by being circumcised. Combating this, Paul wrote to the brethren in Corinth, warning them:
For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him (II Corinthians 11:4).
A Modern Counterfeit
Paul confronted a growing perversion of the gospel in his day. It was one which required Gentiles to be circumcised and keep Jewish ceremonial laws. While few would ever be fooled by such a message, many must now combat another perversion of the gospel.
In the heresy widely preached today, thousands of false ministers propagate a gospel in which the focus is only about the life of Jesus. This teaching purports that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died to pay the penalty for our sins. While this may be true, they then add a heretical twist by teaching that all one must do is believe on Him and they will live forever in heaven.
In their theology, there is no longer a need to keep any of God's laws. They promote the idea that belief in the life and death of Jesus as our Savior alone grants people eternal life. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary is an example of this common belief. The Editors write:
One may conclude that the facts of Jesus' life constituted the Gospel, which was interpreted and applied to suit the occasion on which it was preached (P. 319, Article Gospel).
Certainly the facts of Jesus' life are part of the Gospel. Christ's life has deep and profound importance. The behavior He displayed and the events surrounding His life are essential to understanding the example we are to follow. Further, His death and resurrection make eternal life possible for believers, but the facts of His life are not the complete gospel. They certainly were not the focus of Christ's ministry. They were only a part-only the beginning of the gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples preached!
Believing in the facts of Christ's life, death and resurrection is a prerequisite to the Kingdom. However, those who preach that this is all that is required are giving individuals a false sense of comfort. They teach followers that by accepting these facts, they will go to heaven when they die, but such a message is actually damnable! The consequence of such belief is that many mainstream Christians are left with only a sentimental concept of Jesus as a God that exists primarily for their comfort. Vast numbers trust that if they give their heart to the Lord, He accepts them just as they are. They think that since Christ's death paid for their sins, all they have to do is profess belief and this makes them "born again." They imagine that the kingdom is set up in their hearts and that eternal life in heaven is guaranteed, but this is far from the truth.