by winston davenport, march 13 2014
What is the Gospel of the Kingdom? The word Gospel is haphazard in today's world, describing everything from the basic message of Christianity to a certain style of music. I recently heard a pop-artist announce that she was going to sing a "gospel song." She proceeded to croon, Aretha Franklin-style, how she met a guy at the club, they were drinkin' and dancin' it up, and he was going to take her home toniiiiight. And this was marketed as "Gospel."
But the true Gospel Jesus came to demonstrate wasn't a doctrine, a theological concept, or a style of music. He came preaching the "Gospel of the Kingdom." The word Gospel means "good news." Jesus came to Earth to tell everyone the good news, and to teach them to go around preaching this same good news. The good news—the Gospel—is stated in conjunction with the words the Kingdom (see Matthew 4:23). Jesus's good news has to do with God's Kingdom, or to use a word relevant to our culture, God's government.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah talked about Jesus's future arrival, saying, "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders.... There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7 NASB). Much later, Isaiah articulated the details of this government:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Isaiah 61:1-2a NASB).
At the beginning of Jesus's ministry, He opened to this scripture and read it aloud: "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord'" (Luke 4:18-19 NASB). This passage clearly shows us what Jesus's anointing, or calling, was. This is the true good news. It consists most faithfully of good news!
We have been told that the Gospel message sounds like this: "Repent! You are going to hell if you don't turn from your wicked ways and accept the Lord!" But this cannot be the true Gospel message because it is not good news! Good news is not that you're going to hell, unless! This common interpretation violates the very definition of the word gospel. We have been preaching bad news and calling it good news. We must stop doing this.
The word repent literally means, "Change your mind." Indeed, this word has been misconstrued to mean, "Weep and cry out to God, declaring that you are a sinner, asking for His forgiveness." But the true message of repentance is simple: Think different. This is a word that today's Church must start heeding. We must begin to think differently about the message Jesus came to preach. In addition, the Gospel has nothing to do with telling people to stop sinning. This instruction is moot. They can't stop sinning! That's why God had to show up in the first place!
The true good news sounds like this: Your behavior is not separating you from God, unless you believe it is. God is not angry with you. You aren't on His bad side. Change your way of thinking, of believing, of relating to the Father.
As you read this, you might be thinking, But our sin does separate us from God.
This couldn't be further from the truth. Jesus came to show us the way—relationship, not behavior—is the substance of salvation. All throughout the Bible we see that sin wasn't able to keep man and God apart. This notion was developed by hierarchical Church leaders in order to try and control society; it was never God's heart. From Adam to Enoch to Abraham to Moses to David to Jesus to Saul of Tarsis, sin couldn't separate humans from divinity! Even before Jesus died on the Cross, God made it crystal clear that "He wasn't counting sins against you," and "He remembers your sins no more." He even removes them from you, "Casting them as far as the east is from the west."
Friends, if this was the good news proclaimed in the Old Testament, how much more GOOD must the GOOD NEWS of the New Covenant be? I COULD GET UP AND DANCE JUST THINKING ABOUT IT!
Even those people who aren't Christians, who haven't accepted Jesus yet, are just as forgiven as you and I are! The Bible says, "[Jesus] Himself is the propitiation (satisfaction and removal) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2 NASB). It couldn't be any plainer than this. Jesus's forgiveness was not only for those who would receive Him, but for every single person on Earth!
The apostle Paul teaches this exact same Gospel. He wrote, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB). Paul tells us that our job of preaching the Gospel, which he calls the ministry or word of reconciliation, is to tell people this good news: "World: God, through Jesus, has reconciled you to Himself. He is not counting your trespasses against you!"
It doesn't matter who it is—a prostitute, drug dealer, or thief—God is not counting their sins against them. Are you bold enough to tell them that message? The real good news? This Gospel has rarely been preached. All you have to do is try to talk to a stranger about Jesus. Their perspective is always the same: They know that they're going to hell because they're a sinner, and they will never be able to be good enough to merit Heaven. What this response demonstrates is that few people actually understand the message of the Gospel. If an unbeliever still believes that his or her sins are keeping her out of Heaven, they have not heard the good news, the word of reconciliation.
Now, if everyone on Earth is forgiven and reconciled to God, does that mean that everyone is going to Heaven? Unfortunately, no. You see, having your sins forgiven is not what gives you access to Heaven. Hell will be filled with forgiven people. The Bible teaches that because of sin, unbelievers suffer from spiritual death. While sin itself has been forgiven, unless a person accepts Jesus and is born again (see John 3:3), they remain spiritually dead. Spiritually dead people cannot enter the Kingdom of God. They must receive new life in order to partake of the Kingdom. They are reconciled to God even without accepting Jesus. His death purchased forgiveness for absolutely everyone. However, forgiveness is not salvation. You can be totally forgiven and still dead—it doesn't do you much good. Paul said it well: "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10 NASB).
Do you see what Paul is saying here? Clearly, in the mind of the greatest preacher of the Gospel ever recorded, reconciliation is separate from salvation. Whether or not someone receives Jesus, becoming born again and receiving new life, all people everywhere are reconciled!
Think of it this way: Because of Adam's transgression, all men were brought into this world spiritually dead—sinners. Jesus, the last Adam, reversed Adam's sin, resulting in the opposite effect: The same all men have been reconciled, sin reversed. The only thing left to do is receive this forgiveness. This results in new life, salvation. If we would quit preaching condemnation and fear to the unsaved, if we would begin preaching the true Gospel of the Kingdom—"Good news, everyone: You are all set right with the Father!"—we would start seeing the monumental results that Jesus promised. In addition, the signs and wonders that accompany the Gospel would be far more frequent because we would be preaching the real Gospel! Miracles endorse the Good News, and it's no wonder we haven't seen very many miracles. The Church has failed to preach Good News! Jesus's ministry was clear. Let's examine how He presented the Gospel, and use that as our model. When we do the same things He does, we'll get the same results He gets!
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." (Matthew 9:35-37 NASB)
When Jesus saw all these broken, sick, sinners, He did not warn them, commanding them to weep and cry out for God's forgiveness! This so-called gospel was unknown to Him. Rather, He preached the message of reconciliation. He told them that their sin were forgiven. To prove it, to demonstrate God's good will and compassion, He healed their physical ailments as well. He didn't feel angry at them; He wasn't giving ultimatums; He had compassion. He wanted to shepherd them. Jesus recognized this key reality: The harvest was plentiful—people were ripe for salvation, eager and ready to hear the Good News. But sadly, those who were willing to preach actual good news, were few.
Friends, I believe we are in this same place today. There are billions of people who simply do not know the Good News, that they have already been reconciled to the Father. They still feel like they have to do something to be forgiven. But Christianity isn't about what we do, it's about what God did! When we preach this true Gospel, the word of Christ, faith will blossom in people's hearts (see Romans 10:17). Unfortunately, the workers are few. There are few people willing to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom today. Will you be one of them?
by winston davenport, march 13 2014