The Gospel of the Kingdom—that’s a phrase we’ve heard over and over again, and yet we comprehend so little about it. It’s been a source of debate and contention for millennia. Is the Kingdom now, or future? Is the Kingdom a national Jewish dominion, or a spiritual entity from above? And what about the gospel? What is the message of the Gospel? That Jesus has died, been buried and resurrected? These are all valid questions that we have about this topic, and it’s the purpose of this series to address these questions.
Years ago, a friend of mine pointed out to me that if you look at a tree, it’s full of branches reaching out in all directions; but as you follow those branches back to their source in the trunk, they all come together again. This is true with the Kingdom of God as well. There are both national and spiritual aspects to the Kingdom ofGod, and the Kingdom is both present and future. If we attempt to search out truth only as seen on the outer branches, we’ll fall into error regarding central truths taught in the Scriptures, but if we trace the roots, or sources of those ideas, they all come back to the center in the ancient faith of our fathers.
So let’s look at the Scriptures a little closer as we study the Kingdom of God, and search out the meaning of the Gospel!
Gospel of the Kingdom of God
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into 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 the gospel’”. (Mark 1:14-15)
“And He said unto them, ‘I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore I am sent. And He preached in the synagogues of Galilee.’” (Luke 4:43-44)
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” (Mt. 9:35)
These few verses are just a sample of many verses throughout the gospels declaring that Jesus went forth preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. His message was the same as John the Baptist before Him, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand’ (compare Mt. 3:2 and Mt. 4:17). Now what’s amazing to many of us is that the people didn’t scratch their heads and say, “what’s He talking about?” “What’s the Kingdom of God?” I mean we find this reaction later when Jesus gives a hard-to-understand message like, “you must eat My flesh and drink My blood”, but not here! In fact, all signs point to the fact that the people understood the message of John the Baptist and Jesus. And what’s more, later, when Jesus sent out the twelve in pairs throughout the towns and villages of Israel, the people seemed to understand their message of the Kingdom of God also. In fact, let’s look at this record of the sending of the twelve a little closer and see what “gospel” they were preaching.
“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…And they departed, and went through the towns preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9:1-2, 6)
Now just a few verses later, we find that upon their return, Jesus continued to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the people—
“And the apostles, when they were returned, told Him all that they had done. And He took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. And the people, when they knew it, followed Him: and He received them, and spoke unto them of the Kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.”(Luke 9:10-11)
It was into this setting that the day wore on and the people became hungry. Jesus fed the 5000 that day. Then we come to verses 18-22:
“And it came to pass, as He was along praying, His disciples were with Him, and He asked them, ‘Whom do the people say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist, but some say Elijah, and others say one of the old prophets is risen again.’ He said unto them, ‘But whom do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said, ‘The Messiah of God’. And He straightly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; saying, ‘the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.’” (Luke 9:18-22)
What?! Did you catch that? Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ), and Jesus charges, even commanding them, not to tell anybody that! Well if this revelation of Jesus being the Messiah had just come out, and Jesus didn’t want that spread around, what in the world were the twelve just preaching in all the cities and villages of Israel? They were preaching the Gospel (vs. 6), but it didn’t involve the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, or His death, burial or resurrection! Curious, wouldn’t you say?
And not only that, after being told about the future work of the Cross, they still didn’t understand it!
“Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask Him of that saying.” (Lk. 9:44-45)
Let’s compare Luke’s account to some of the other gospel writers and see if their versions validate what Luke said—
“He said unto them, ‘Whom do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the Living God’. And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonas (son of Jonah): for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but My Father which is in heaven…Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Messiah.” (Mt. 16:15-17, 20)
Well, obviously Matthew believes the same story. But notice the very next verse, where Matthew reveals that it wasn’t even until this time that Jesus started to tell His disciples about His future work:
“From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Be it far from you Lord: this shall not be unto you’. But He turned, and said unto Peter, ‘Get thee behind Me satan: for you savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.’” (Mt. 16:21-23)
Wow. Not only do we see that Jesus just now began to tell them about His future work on the Cross, but He got rebuked for it from Peter! Haha! Obviously, Peter wasn’t preaching that Jesus was the Messiah and His future death was going to remove their sins! Haha!
Let’s check out Mark’s account, and see what he says—
“And He saith unto them, ‘But whom say you that I am?’ And Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah’. And He charged them that they should tell no man of Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests and scribes, and be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mk. 8:29-31)
There we have it. Three gospels all saying the same thing—Jesus had sent His men out to preach the Gospel, the same gospel that He and John the Baptist before Him had preached, but obviously it didn’t declare His messiahship or his work on the Cross. Doesn’t that strike you as strange? I mean in our day, if I were to ask you what the Gospel is, you would list off the very things that Jesus just began to teach these men in these passages—Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for the removal of our sins. And to be sure, this is the central pillar of our gospel now! But our Scriptures reveal that there was a gospel before this message ever came into being! And this proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom was the purpose that Jesus had been sent! (Lk. 4:43) If we don’t understand this message of the Kingdom of God, we’re missing the great context of our faith!
A Two-part Gospel
We find later in the gospels that Jesus added an element to the Gospel of the Kingdom that He had been preaching. We find this recorded for us in Luke 24.
“And He said unto them, ‘These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, ‘Thus it is written that Christ must suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.” (Lk. 24:44-48)
Notice here the same declaration in the Gospel of the Kingdom—Repent! But now added to that message of repentance is the message of the remission of sins in His name. This two-fold message must now be proclaimed among the nations!
And we see this in the book of Acts—
“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)
There’s the two-fold message: the Kingdom of God (original message) and the name of Jesus Christ (remission of sins through Jesus)!
[Paul speaking to the elders at Ephesus] “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ…And now, behold I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.” (Acts 20:21, 25)
There it is again—repentance and faith in Jesus. Notice the consistent message of the Kingdom of God in John the Baptist, Jesus, His apostles, Philip and Paul. This is not a fringe doctrine—it’s a central pillar to our faith.
Once again, we see the last verse in Acts echoing this same two-part message as it closes its witness to us—
“And 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)
Can it become any clearer to us? There is a two-fold message in the gospel. We seem to have one side of the Gospel message down. We preach the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus all over this planet, but that’s just half a message! We’ve strayed from the message of the Kingdom of God. Our preachers have long forgotten the context of this message. Our commentaries work feverously on one half of the message, but the other half is just as important! Jesus preached the Kingdom of God before He preached the message of the Cross. So did His apostles! Without the understanding of the Kingdom of God, the message of the Cross, as powerful as it is, loses some of its edge. The message of the remission of sins was designed to be proclaimed in the context of the Gospel of the Kingdom. We can spend our lives proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ and seeing a little fruit, or we can take the time to understand the greater context of the Kingdom of God so that we can bear greater fruit.
But there’s another incentive for us to rediscover the Gospel of the Kingdom—it must be preached to the nations before the end will come!
“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.” (Mt. 24:14)
It’s very possible that during this series, you’re going to hear a message of the Kingdom of God that you’ve never heard before. The Kingdom of God was not a new idea that Jesus came up with. God had been revealing His Kingdom from ancient time to men in the sun-soaked sands of Israel. Through this study, we’re gonna dig into some of these revelations and learn some history along the way. As we do, listen and try to understand the message that our Father reveals in its context. Afterward, when we revisit the message presented in the gospels, things will begin to snap into place like you didn’t see before. It’ll be a fun journey for all of us!
Till next time—