There’s always something to learn when it comes to the widely disparate beliefs, assumptions and positions of those who claim to be followers of Messiah Jesus.
While I have always been less concerned about what man thinks about the Bible than what the Bible clearly teaches, I’ve recently become exposed to some ideas that would have never occurred to me about the nature of the Gospel.
For instance, I asked readers to provide their own thoughts about the essence of the Gospel message. Suffice it to say I got a lot of contributions – some remarkably lucid and cogent, others … well, surprising.
My two goals were:
- To survey what Christians believe about the primary message of the Good News, something I previously thought was self-evident, apparent and non-controversial. Boy, was I ever wrong!
- To validate something amazing I recently learned – that many Christians don’t believe Jesus ever preached the Gospel, and, further, that we cannot learn what the Gospel truly means to us today by reading the four books of the Gospel by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
When I first embarked on this daunting project of finding “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” – or more precisely the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Tanach – my most recent book, I focused on what Jesus preached – what He called “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) It had occurred to me in my research of the Old Testament that this Kingdom message was prevalent throughout the first Scriptures. Having written another book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” I found most of the prophetic details about this future Kingdom on earth in the Old Testament. This represented the breakthrough for finding the Gospel in each and every book of the Bible.
But, I admit, I found out – much to my surprise – that apparently many Christians believe that Jesus and Paul preached different Gospels. Even more shocking to me was that these folks assert that Paul’s Good News message trumps that preached by the Son of God, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of all things, the One and only Mediator between man and God.
Let me state my position on this: There can be no disagreement within Scripture. If you think you find contradictions in God’s Word, it’s a problem of misinterpretation. If the Gospel could be boiled down to one word, that word – that Name – would indisputably be “Jesus.” He is the essence, the personification, if you will, of the Gospel message. To suggest that Jesus didn’t preach the Gospel means you don’t grasp what the Gospel really is.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe Paul contributed greatly to our understanding and illumination of the Gospel, as did Peter and other apostles. But, they all preached the same Gospel, with differences only in emphasis.
To quote one of those who responded to my survey, John A. “Jack” Crabtree, director of the Sound Interpretation Project, he suggests: “In the Bible, the concept of the ‘Gospel’ is used in two distinct senses. One sense concerns the Gospel (Good News) to the people of Israel. The other sense concerns the Gospel (Good News) to mankind universally. The first sense describes something that, first and foremost, is Good News to Jews who have a heart to know, serve, and obey God. The second sense describes something that is Good News to every human being whom God has chosen for Himself – whether Jew or Gentile. Because its relevance is universal (and not just for Jews) and its implications are eternal (and not just for history), the Good News in the second sense is the one we typically think of as the ‘Gospel.’ It is the one that is normally the subject of Gospel tracts.”
I do not disagree with a word of what Crabtree writes.
But the problem is that followers of Jesus need to be true to BOTH aspects of the Gospel message. While most believers are familiar with what I will call “the Gospel of personal salvation,” many are largely unfamiliar with the other critical aspect, what Jesus called “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” Both, by the way, were preached by Jesus, though He came first “for the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)
The trouble begins for people who believe there are two different Gospels and not one. There’s an abundance of Good News in the Gospel. It’s not an either-or situation.
For instance, one dear brother who wrote to me had this to say: “The Gospel of the Kingdom was preached to Israel. Paul’s Gospel is preached to Gentiles. Why are you having such a hard time understanding that fact? Jesus is the author of both gospels, and He does not make mistakes!”
Here’s where I think the confusion comes in: The Gospel is actually a story, not just a prescription for individual salvation. It’s a story about God’s redemptive relationship with mankind through His covenant with Israel – a promise from the beginning to restore the world through faith in the prophesied Redeemer. That is the same “Gospel of the Kingdom” preached by Jesus, Paul and all the other apostles and disciples of the first century.
Personal salvation, therefore, is not the essence of the Gospel. It is not the entirety of the Gospel. Rather it is the intended result of hearing the Gospel. Personal salvation comes when those touched by the Holy Spirit accept the Gospel and become disciples of Messiah Jesus and, as Paul preached in Ephesians 2:15, “one new man” – all a part of “the commonwealth of Israel,” whether Jew or Gentile. (Ephesians 2:12)
Why is all this important?
Because too many throughout the history of the Christian church have believed the deception that God is done with Israel – that His promises to Israel have been not just extended to the other nations and other peoples of the world, but rather that His covenant with Israel has been replaced with a New Covenant. Yet, as defined in both in Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8, that New Covenant remains with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” – as well as those adopted into the commonwealth of Israel through the sacrificial atonement and resurrection of Messiah Jesus.
Jesus is coming back to fulfill His destiny as King of Israel on David’s throne and to restore the world to an Eden-like paradise of righteousness, justice, peace, abundance and life. And that’s the rest of the Good News. Satan and evil will be restrained. That Kingdom will last 1,000 years. Then Jesus will destroy Satan and there will be a new heaven and a new earth with life everlasting for all God’s children.
The question I have is how many “Christians” understand this? Or, how many pastors do?
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