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.
Is Belief in Jesus all that is required?
Promoting the belief that Christians only need faith in Christ's sacrifice does an enormous disservice to believers. It creates a false sense of security that can never be realized. Belief in Christ's atonement is absolutely essential, but it is only the foundation of what is required.
Consider that the devil recognizes the power and the majesty of God. He understands and believes in the life and sacrifice of Jesus, but he has chosen the side of darkness, and purposely violates God's law. In that context, the apostle James reminds us of this vital truth, stating:
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble, but wilt thou know O vain man that faith without works is dead (James 2:19-20).
Belief in Christ is essential, but truly believing must be reflected in a conviction to change our way of life! It will result in subjecting our will to God so that we can harmoniously live forever in His Kingdom. Genuine faith will function as a catalyst, promoting change in our character and producing the lasting fruit of obedience to God's law. No matter what your local minister, pastor, or priest might say, the Almighty is the one we should listen to and He is perfectly clear on this point. Certain "works" are a prerequisite to attaining God's Kingdom. Absolutely nothing in His Holy Word ever contradicts this truth!
Without this kind of life-altering faith, our religion is in vain. It is empty of substance and useless! Jesus warned that some would profess just such a belief in Him, but their faith was unacceptable. He warns:
These people draw near to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9).
The gospel of the Kingdom demands much more of us than mere lip service! It requires repentance-a change in the way we live. It requires that we overcome sin and our own human nature. This gospel of Christ insists that we quit behaving in ways that continue to break God's law. We must begin to actually keep the Ten Commandments (Mat. 5:17-19, 19:16-19). The gospel Jesus preached demands that believers prepare for the Kingdom of God by actively practicing the way of life that will be taught and lived in His Kingdom in the world to come.
The Gospel of the Kingdom Changes Lives
The gospel of Jesus Christ captivated and motivated His followers to such an extent that they became dramatically changed people. They grew to become individuals totally committed to obeying God. They were willing to give up everything if necessary for Christ and many of them did. They felt honored to suffer persecution, torture, and even the loss of their lives to preach this message of God's Kingdom to others! Why would they be so willing to endure such things?
The answer is that after Jesus was resurrected, He visited His disciples and taught them about the Kingdom of God. Then, after the day of Pentecost, they received the Holy Spirit. Finally they had a clear picture of His message. They now grasped what the Kingdom was all about. The disciples became radically changed by what they saw and what Jesus taught them after He was raised from the dead. It is this that made such a tremendous difference in their lives. Luke records that Jesus:
Shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
The disciples saw Christ in His resurrected state. They then realized the reality of the resurrection. They witnessed His glory, the majesty that they would one day inherit. Very likely, Christ taught them intimate details of the Kingdom, and it finally began to make perfect sense.
They now understood what Christ meant when He said, "seek ye first the Kingdom of God" (Mat. 6:33). They were filled with a profound hope that deeply motivated them. They became totally convinced that the entire world would one day come under God's rule, and that man would experience all the joy and happiness that God intended for us to have from the beginning. Armed with their faith in a far better and glorious world to come, the disciples went forth into a hostile world and they preached the gospel of the Kingdom with enormous hope and joy.
We Need the Kingdom of God
In the history of mankind we have seen very few years of peace. Since 3,600 B.C. the earth has seen 14,000 large and small wars that have resulted in the death over more than 3.5 billion people.
this last decade we have witnessed attempts at ethnic cleansing, genocide, hideous terrorist acts, and massive killing in racial wars. Everyday man is faced with the terrifying threat of a suicidal nuclear war. As Jonathan Schell writes in his book, The Fate of the Earth, should nuclear war break out, there would
The world today also suffers from rampant diseases. Pollution is out of control in most industrialized countries. In addition to this destruction that man inflicts upon himself, our planet is constantly experiencing convulsions in the form of natural disasters. There is only one real and lasting solution-a superhuman solution. It is the coming Kingdom of God!
There is Good News
As the proverb states, "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Pro. 25:25). The gospel of the Kingdom of God is truly "good news" from afar.
This fantastic message of hope began long ago and is documented by literally hundreds of prophecies throughout the Old Covenant. Throughout these writings, intimate details are shared about the coming Messiah and the Kingdom that He will eventually establish on earth.
Just before the Savior would be born, the angel Gabriel came to the priest Zacharias with exciting news. This righteous spirit being informed him that he would have a son whose name would be John, and that he would be a precursor to the prophesied Messiah:
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings (Luke 1:19).
Later, this same angel came to Mary, who was espoused to Joseph, and revealed additional details of the coming Messiah:
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:30-34).
The amazing good news is that Jesus Christ was born for this magnificent purpose: to be a King over a literal Kingdom. One day very soon, He will return with power, glory, and magnificent majesty to rule the world in righteousness. As the Almighty God, He will set His hand to correct every problem man has created on this globe.
Christ's Good News is the Kingdom of God
The prophet Isaiah foretold that a Son would be given, and that God's government would be conferred upon His shoulders (Isa. 9:6). This is the good news that the angel proclaimed to Mary. She would bear the Messiah, and her child would one day sit on the throne of David to rule over a Kingdom which would never end. He will bring peace, harmony, happiness and prosperity to all. It will be a virtual utopia for all of mankind.
Most of those holding to the Jewish faith realize that the Messiah was to rule over Israel, but the full truth is that His heavenly government will expand to include the earth and eventually the entire universe. One of the most wonderful aspects of this good news is that Christ's divine rule will bring heavenly counsel that will be able to solve all of mankind's overwhelming problems and difficulties.
This message of hope originated with God the Father (John 8:28). It was the prime subject that Christ preached throughout His ministry. It is directly referred to over one hundred times throughout the New Testament and is indirectly referred to in nearly every sentence uttered by Jesus. Regarding all of the necessities we as mortal beings need in life, Jesus says:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
Christ's message did not emphasize His life, and death. His gospel primarily consisted of God's communication to mankind of an incredible divine government that would be established on earth-THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
Jesus spoke of a future government. But this new establishment will be composed of leaders that are resurrected saints. They will be spirit beings who will possess the very character and integrity of God. Such leaders will be capable of discerning the hearts of men, and posses the ability to judge righteously. They will always act in love and they will serve in the best interests of all concerned.
This is the good news! It is the gospel of the glorious Kingdom to come. It is the core of God's message to man, and one of the primary reasons Christ was sent. As Jesus said:
... I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent (Luke 4:43).
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom... (Matthew 9:35)
The prophesied Kingdom of God is the common thread woven throughout all that Jesus taught. For example, when He gave the Sermon on the Mount, He openly spoke of it. Christ reminded His followers that the poor in spirit were blessed "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." He taught that the meek "shall inherit the earth." He explained that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake will ultimately receive the Kingdom (Mat. 5:3-10).
Then again, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the Savior taught them that the Kingdom was to be an integral part of their daily thoughts and communion with God. Jesus trained them to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done." He also told them that they should pray, "...For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen" (Mat. 6:10-13).
The Kingdom consumed Christ's thoughts. It was His magnificent obsession. He lived and died in order to bring the children of God into that coming Kingdom. His divine rule is the most glorious hope that mankind will ever envision. It was this good news that inspired His followers to continue preaching that same gospel message throughout every age.
The Apostles Preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
Christ had commanded His apostles to preach the same gospel that He powerfully proclaimed. That proclamation was the Kingdom of God to come. Luke records Christ's words, saying:
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).
At a later point, Christ sent out another group, this time seventy strong. They were sent forth in pairs to serve a specific purpose and to perform miraculous acts. Luke explains:
After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come (Luke 10:1).
Christ told these seventy to go out and spread the good news of His coming Kingdom. They were to do so, not only by words, but by divine healing which was to be a reflection of what that Kingdom will bring. Jesus instructed them to:
Heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you (Luke 10:9).
Christ's reign will usher in a new era of restoration. He will reclaim the earth and fashion it to conform to the way God originally intended. In so doing, He will demonstrate His awesome power to restore, comfort, and heal mankind. The blind shall see, the lame walk, the dumb speak. Water will flow in arid lands and the desert will blossom like a rose (Isa. 35:5-6).
Later in His ministry, Christ commanded His disciples to go into the world preaching the gospel to every creature (Mat. 24:14). His disciples obeyed these orders and went forth bringing His message of enormous hope to various nations.
From Christ's day down to ours, this message has been preached, and it will be proclaimed right to the end. In fact, Jesus said that before He would return and establish the Kingdom on earth, this gospel message must be announced to the entire world. Matthew records Jesus to say:
And 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).
As the early Church faithfully fulfilled their commission to preach the gospel, they encountered enormous opposition. Persecution first broke out in Jerusalem, and in order to escape, many fled the area. Philip, one of the newly ordained deacons, fled into Samaria. There he preached the gospel of the Kingdom and many were converted:
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (Acts 8:12).
The apostle Paul said that he was one born out of due season. By this, he meant that he was converted after Christ was resurrected, and likely personally taught by Jesus in the desert of Arabia (Gal. 1:11-12). Even so, Paul continued to preach the same gospel of the Kingdom. This is demonstrated by one occasion when he was forced to leave the brethren he had faithfully served. He wrote:
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more (Acts 20:25).
Finally, the apostle ended up chained to a Roman guard, imprisoned, and waiting to face the Roman emperor. Even while enduring such hardship, Paul could not, and would not, stop preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. As Luke recorded:
Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him (Acts 28:30-31).
Thus we see that Christ preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. His disciples continued to preach about the Kingdom of God. The twelve apostles preached about the Kingdom and Paul preached this same message of hope. But what exactly is the Kingdom? What will it be like? When will it come? How will it come? And-how vast will it be?
We need to know the answers to these questions. However, In order to answer them, we must first understand what the Kingdom is not!
Is the Kingdom in the Hearts of Men?
Some believe that the Kingdom Jesus spoke of is not a literal Kingdom, but it is more a feeling that God places in peoples hearts. Is such a teaching true? Is God's kingdom no more than an emotional feeling? Those who teach this support their belief by a statement Christ made to the Pharisees. These religious leaders demanded that Jesus tell them when the Kingdom of God would come. He answered them saying:
...The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21).
What does this verse really mean? Did these Pharisees somehow have the kingdom within them? Consider that Jesus could not possibly be saying that the Kingdom of God was in the hearts of these men! Christ said that these religious leaders were hypocrites. He called them the blind leading the blind. In fact, this group of men literally wanted to kill Jesus (Mat. 23:15-19; John 8:37). They were enemies of God's Kingdom! Would Christ tell these heretical religious leaders that the Kingdom of God was in their hearts? The obvious answer is no.
In addition to that fact, the Bible refers to man's heart over nine hundred times, and upon careful examination of each scripture, there is virtually not a shred of evidence supporting the view that God's Kingdom dwells in man's heart. As the prophet Jeremiah explained:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Jesus, Himself spoke about the heart of man and he most certainly did not teach that the Kingdom was in the heart of sinners. Instead, Christ clearly said:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:19).
Since these Pharisees did not have the Kingdom within them, what exactly did Jesus mean? The answer is that the word "within" is a term used to convey various aspects inclusion. A person may dwell "within" the walls of a building. One sits "within" a car while driving to work. While standing in formation, each person is "within" a group of people. With this in mind, it is easy to understand what Jesus meant by His statement. Christ is the King of the coming Kingdom, and He was "among" or in the "midst" of these men that He spoke with. Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of the New Testament explains the meaning as follows:
The RV margin (has) "in the midst of," (and this) is to be preferred; the kingdom of God was not in the hearts of the Pharisees.
As Vines illustrates, Christ was stating that the Kingdom was "in the midst of" this crowd of Pharisees. Since Jesus is the vital part of that Kingdom, His statement was true. Most Bibles with marginal notes also indicate that the word should be "among," and therefore the point Christ made was that He was the earthly representative of the Kingdom of God. He is the King of that Kingdom. He was right there in their midst, and yet they did not recognize Him. Of course, they could not see this truth. Christ's true identity could only be spiritually discerned, and Jesus had said that these supposed spiritual leaders were blind!
The Kingdom is not within the hearts of individuals. Christ's very next words were directed to His disciples, and He explained to them that the Kingdom would come externally-visibly:
And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day (Luke 17:22-24).
The apostle John also wrote:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7).
Christ revealed that His return to establish the Kingdom would be visible, like the rising of the sun which cannot be hidden. Christ will come with myriad angels and ten thousands of His saints. Every eye on earth will see Him (Jude 14, Rev. 19:12). He will literally descend to the Mount of Olives, and begin His rule from Jerusalem (Acts 1:9-11, Zec. 14:4-16).
Rather than telling the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was in their hearts, Jesus warned these men, who were His antagonists, that their hearts and minds were so spiritually darkened that they could not comprehend what was right before their very eyes. The Messiah that they claimed to seek, the one they wanted to deliver them, the King of God's Kingdom, was standing right there. He was "among" them. He was in their midst-and they knew Him not.
The Kingdom will be on Earth
Heaven is now the place of God's realm, but Christ is going to bring that Kingdom to this earth. As Jesus said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven... Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:3-5).
In some cases, believers read the term "Kingdom of heaven" and believe that the Kingdom will be IN heaven. This is not the case. Christ says the Kingdom OF Heaven. By this Jesus meant that heaven is the source of the Kingdom, and He will bring it to the earth. Yes, the Kingdom is presently in heaven. Jesus Christ rules with the Father from Heaven right now. However, Jesus will bring His power, majesty, laws, statutes and judgments and He will rule right here on this earth. For this reason, the Scripture clearly states that Christians are going to inherit the earth. The saints will rule with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-4). The Bible nowhere states that they will rule with Jesus in heaven!
In other Scriptures, Jesus plainly said that no man has ascended up to heaven (John 3:13). Further, before He ascended to the Father, Jesus told His disciples they could not come where He was going (John 13:33). The Scriptures also states that David will be made king and rule over all Israel when Christ returns. However, Luke writes that "David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:34).
There is absolutely no Scripture in all the Holy Bible that promises heaven as the reward of the saved. Yet, most people have blinded their minds to these plain statements from God Almighty. Instead of focusing on the truth, they have carelessly accepted the unsubstantiated claims of preachers that teach them that they will go to heaven.
Jesus repeatedly said that He would leave this earth and that at the end of the age He would return to set up His Kingdom and rule over the entire world. The Scriptures also state that the faithful saints will rule with Him for one thousand years. But where exactly will they rule? Notice the prophecy in which the saints who have inherited the Kingdom sing to Christ, saying:
Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
The resurrected saints will rule on this earth. Christ will bring them with Him when He takes over the kingdoms of the world. He will rule in righteousness, restore His law, and bring peace to this world. This is the good news. This is the message of enormous hope that Jesus preached during His ministry. It is the message that His apostles preached after His resurrection, and is the message His church still preaches today. It is no less than the gospel of the Kingdom of God!