Jesus' Gospel of the Kingdom
One of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of human thought is the way in which the obvious can be hidden from both scholar and layman. The history of Christian thought demonstrates a signal example. Jesus himself constantly taught that his Gospel Message would be hidden from the masses, whose minds were blinded by counter-interests which would preoccupy them and prevent complete devotion to him (Mat_13:11-17).
The distinguished German exegete E. Haenchen (Acts of the Apostles, Hermeneia, 1971, p. 141) stated in regard to the preaching of the early apostolic church: "The preaching of the Kingdom of God obviously refers to the Kingdom of God which will begin with the Parousia [Second Coming of Jesus]." Elsewhere in the same commentary he remarks that "Kingdom of God itself describes the entire Christian proclamation" (on Act_28:23).
While the Gospel of the Kingdom is the central concept in the preaching of Jesus and the apostles, and Kingdom of God refers to the apocalyptic Kingdom to be inaugurated at the Second Coming, the general public have been fed a very different idea. For liberals the Kingdom of God is a social program or a spiritual fellowship enjoyed now by the believer. For the fundamentalist the Kingdom of God is either an improved American society or bliss in heaven at the moment of death. None of these definitions of the Kingdom can possibly be squared with the evidence of the New Testament. The faith as Jesus preached it is therefore misrepresented at its very heart. The Gospel as Jesus taught it has been stifled. Such injustice to the historical records of the Christian faith calls for an urgent public investigation. It is a documentable fact that leading contemporary spokesmen for the Christian faith confess that they do not preach the Gospel about the Kingdom (See Anthony Buzzard, Our Father's Who Aren't in Heaven, pp. 29-34), though they recognize that Jesus always did. This astonishing discrepancy between what passes for the teaching of Jesus and what Jesus actually taught deserves the widest exposure. Restoration Fellowship hopes to make a small contribution to the righting of a historical and spiritual injustice to the man claimed by many to be the Messiah and Savior. To others at present unsympathetic to the claims of Jesus, the discovery that His message has been significantly misrepresented since the second century will be a matter of intriguing interest.
Thanks to the labors of church historians we can be certain that Jesus not only proclaimed the Kingdom as the raison d'etre of hid mission (Luk_4:43), but that by Kingdom he meant what any who belonged to his Jewiash heritage meant, namely "the world-empire of God -- the divine reign in place of every earthly monarchy. This will be perfectly realized, fully established -- here upon earth" (F.C. Grant, Ancient Judaism and New Testament Christianity, pp. 114, 115). Such a vision of a divine world empire had been indeed the vision of all the prophets of Israel.Their message Jesus merely confirmed, amplified and made the subject of his urgent call to repentance in view of the Great Event coming.
It is a matter of simple honesty that Christians claiming to follow Christ embrace in faith the Message which he and the apostles after him proclaimed. It is evidently not the case that contemporary evangelist relay the Gospel about the Kingdom. They have reduced the Message of salvation to belief in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of Jesus. But they omit the foundation of salvation which lies in repentance and 8acceptance in faith of the Gospel about the Kingdom of God (Mar_1:14-15; Act_8:12; Act_19:8; Act_20:25; Act_28:23; Act_28:31, etc., and under different terminology as "the Word," "the Gospel," "the Mystery," "the Truth," etc. in the remainder of the NT documents).
The cause of the extraordinary anomaly presented by the dissimilarity between what the NT presents as the faith and what is commonly understood is traceable, as many distinguished theologians and historians have documented, to the final mixing of Greek paganism with the early Hebrew faith, which began in the second century, after the death of the apostles and as foreseen by them (Act_20:29-31; 2Pe_2:1-3). We have documented from numerous sources the fact that just such a hellenization of the pristine faith did take over the original Gospel Message of the Kingdom (See Our Father's who Aren't in Heaven, pp. 259-267). That this is not known to millions of unsuspecting churchgoers points to the need for widespread exposure.
The results of this original departure from Truth are evident in the fragmentation of contemporary Christianity into multitudes of differing denominations. Nothing could be more salutary than the recognition of the unsatisfactory status quo and a return to the pure Gospel of Jesus in regard to the Kingdom of God.
A Gospel Without a Future
An identifiable malaise has struck the theological enterprise. It has to do with the content of the Gospel itself, From the Jesus Seminar to evangelical tracts a common failure to define Jesus by his Kingdom message is evident. Theology at all levels continues to express its unease over the eschatological, Jewish Jesus who preached a Gospel about a coming Kingdom and judgment.
Members of the much-publicized "Jesus Seminar" have determined by vote that most of what Jesus is reported to have said in th Gospels never actually passed from his lips. Rather, his over-enthusiastic biographers attributed to him their own ideas and turned him into the bearer of Good News about the coming Kingdom. The real Jesus of history -- so these scholars say -- should be thought of in the category of wisdom-teacher, a figure much too calm and collected to have said anything alarmist or apocalyptic.
Evangelicals pride themselves on their firm grasp of the essentials of the Gospel of Jesus. But an examination of their writings shows that to a man they steer away from the awkward fact that Jesus preached as Gospel much more than a message about his death and resurrection. The statistics look like this: there are 25 chapters of Gospel preaching (Matt. 3-15; Mark 1-7; Luke 4-8), during which Jesus and the Apostles take the Gospel to the public, in which not a single word is said of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The gospel, on this evidence, stands at that stage without the inclusion of any fact about the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The case can be made even more impressively if we add that throughout Jesus' entire historical ministry the disciples, even when told, did not understand what was entailed in the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Luk_18:31-34). It follows then that the Gospel was at first a message about the coming Kingdom of God (97% of the Synoptic Kingdom texts plainly have to do with the inauguration of the Kingdom at the Parousia) and not about the death and resurrection of Jesus. These latter facts were added, after they happened, to the existing substratum of the Kingdom Gospel. Thus in Act_8:12 the content of the Gospel put to the convert was "the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ."
While the Jesus Seminar tames the eschatological, Kingdom-oriented Jesus by the use of the critical axe and the consequent murder of Jesus' Gospel of the apocalyptic Kingdom texts, evangelicals who cannot espouse the "scholars" technique of denying the sacred documents arrive at a similar result by a different method. They decide to define the Gospel of salvation on carefully worked selective basis. By setting together certain isolated texts, mostly from the letters of Paul, or from one of Peter's sermons in Act_2:22-29, they ignore the massive quantity of Gospel-data provided by the accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus. Thus Paul is made to appear the real author of th Gospel and the significance of Jesus is reduced to his death and resurrection. Jesus came, says a popular evangelist in a widely distributed tract, "to do three days work -- to die, to be buried and to be raised." But this is obviously not true. It is a serious misrepresentation of the Savior's own sense of his purpose. He declared in Luke 4:43 that he had come to "preach the Gospel about the Kingdom of God: that is the reason why I was commissioned." It was even possible for Jesus to say, before the crucifixion, that he had "completed the work" which the Father had assigned him (Joh_17:4). this work was the transmission of the Father's Gospel-Word to the disciples who were now charged to preserve and pass it on to others (Joh_17:6; Joh_17:8; Joh_17:20).
It ought not to be possible to claim the Great Commission as one's marching orders and then to propagate a Gospel shorn of its most fundamental element -- the Kingdom of God. But this appears to be what evangelicals have done. No sooner have they read Mat_28:19-20, the Great Commission, than they leap to their favorite verses in Romans and Galatians, forgetting that Paul in his letters assumes a lot of Gospel information already held by his audience, for whom he was not presenting the Gospel for the first time.
A much sounder procedure would be to consult Luke's account of what Message Paul brought to the unconverted world -- and here the testimony is more than clear. Paul, faithfully carrying out the mandate of the Great Commission to take the very Kingdom Gospel-words of Jesus to all nations, proceeded to enter the synagogue and continually speak out boldly, "reasoning, arguing and persuading about the Kingdom of God" (Act_19:8). Summarizing his life's work for the Ephesian elders Paul recalled that he had everywhere urged repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus (Act_20:21). Hr then supplied a concise definition of what this means.It was a solemn testifying of the "Gospel of the grace of God," in other words "the proclamation of the Kingdom" (Act_28:31).
Paul, then, did not just rehearse a few of his own sayings from the epistles in order to convey the saving Message. He deliberately imitated the Gospel preaching of the historical Jesus in fulfillment of the Great Commission. In fact, just as Jesus had "welcomed the people and begun speaking about the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:11), Paul "welcomed all who came to him and heralded the Gospel of the Kingdom" (Act_28:30-31). the same cannot be said of modern evangelists who have dropped the phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom" from their vocabularies.
There is a very great danger that major elements of the Gospel can be eliminated if we rely on condensed statements from Paul" epistles. The method is flawed and the Gospel is distorted. Elements of the Gospel which do not fit into the "received" account of the Gospel ("What we have always preached") are quietly ignored and discarded.
As if to anticipate the catastrophic loss of Jesus' own Gospel Matthew, when he uses the noun "Gospel" (evangellion), always qualifies and defines it as the "Gospel about the Kingdom" (Mat_4:23; Mat_9:35; Mat_24:14). In a verse designed before all others to lay out the quintessential Gospel, Mark records that Jesus urged the public to "Repent and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom" (Mar_1:14-15). This is a programmatic summary of the christian faith as Jesus perceived it. Luke records from the lips of Jesus that the Gospel concerns the Kingdom of God. it si this message which summarizes the Son's preaching career (Luk_4:43; Luk_16:16; cp. Act_8:12; Act_28:23; Act_28:31). The "Roman Road," which falls for the trap of thinking that Paul's Gospel message can be gleaned from a few verses in the epistles, should be scrapped and replaced by "the Jesus method" of evangelism, the announcement of the very Hebrew-based Gospel of the Kingdom coming. This, of course, will involve a much overdue rediscovery of the Hebrew prophets of Israel, for whose hope Paul, the christian, was on trial (Act_24:14; Act_26:6-8).
God's Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mar_1:14-15). Condensed, shorthand references to "the Gospel" need to be related to the "parent" definition of the Gospel provided by the early chapters of the synoptic Gospels. But that is an area of Scripture which evangelicals and the Jesus Seminar dismiss, the latter by critical excision and the former by an uncanny avoidance of the plain, simple and obvious.
It seems most odd to raise the banner of the Great Commission in Mat_28:19-20 where Jesus says "preach my Gospel" to everyone, Jew and Gentile, and then to skip the beginning of the teaching of Jesus entirely and take a gospel from individual verses in Paul, neglecting the critically important Gospel definition provided by Paul (in Act_20:25). If the Christian church is serious about following Jesus and teaching everything he commanded, it would be common sense and sound theological method to turn over one page from Matthew 28:19-20 and seek out the very first command of JesusL "Repent and believe God's Gospel about the Kingdom" -- a message which at that stage contained not a word about the death and resurrection of Jesus, added later.
Let Jesus' Gospel of the Kingdom be "A." Let the sacrificial death and resurrection be "B." What business do evangelicals have substituting a part for the whole, separating "A" from "B" instead of adding "A" to "B" (as in Act_8:12), and then starting with "A"?
The Greatest Career Opportunity of All Time -- for You!
Stop and listen!
We have some spectacularly good news for you and your family. Some time in the future, Jesus of Nazareth is going to become the world's first successful super-ruler. He will totally reorganize human society, and produce the peace on earth we all want.
Under Jesus' government, there will be no more wars, no more wars, no more feminine; no more murder, rape or theft; no more alcoholism and depression; no more divorce, and no poverty.
Does this sound too good to be true? God, the Creator of all things, has personally promised that a Golden Age for all mankind will come. He has been promising it since He first placed man on our earth. The arrival of that era of glorious peace and prosperity is guaranteed.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to announce the dramatically important good news concerning the future government on earth. He is coming back to take up His office as world super-ruler -- and He is now recruiting men and women to assist Him in the administration of His coming Kingdom. He wants you to be a ruler in that Kingdom.
What a tragedy if you were to allow this greatest of all career opportunities to pass you by. You can so easily neglect the information you have just been given, But don't do it. Do yourself and your family a favor. Check up on the facts. We might just have given you the greatest piece of Truth you have ever heard!
There was a time when we did not know that Jesus wants to train men and women now for positions in the world government of the coming New Age on earth. When we found out, our lives were radically changed. We want to share with you what we have discovered about the Christian Gospel -- the Good News about God's coming world government.
There could be no greater honor. It is high time for you to be preparing, with God's help, for that position of responsibility. Your training will entail tests and trials to ensure that your character and integrity are beyond suspicion. God does not intend to allow corrupt rulership to continue anywhere on earth once His Son come to office.
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