The Kingdom Gospel
by Bill Hull
In my previous post, "The Six Gospels We Preach Today," I described the most prevalent gospels people preach today. Here I will focus on the one that I believe is the Gospel of Jesus: The Kingdom Gospel.
What we can call the kingdom gospel best captures the preaching of Jesus and the early church. This is the gospel first announced by John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus preached this gospel as well: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). Right up to his ascension, Jesus’ disciples expected him to establish the kingdom (Acts 1:5–8). The early church also expected this throughout the thirty years after, right up to Paul’s last days. “For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him” (Acts 28:30–31 NLT). Jesus promised that this gospel of “the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
What is the kingdom gospel? It is the proclamation of the rule and reign of Christ over all of life. This good news began with his deliverance of ancient Israel and his promises to save human kind from the kingdom of darkness, despair, sin, and death through a Messiah. It is the announcement that the promised Messiah has come as Jesus, who is the long-expected king who will sit on God’s throne. Though him we have access to eternal life, and we come under his rule by following him and becoming his disciples. From him we learn how to live our lives to the fullest. The good news is that it doesn’t matter if we are Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. Jesus came for us. He lived for us, died for us, was raised from the dead for us, and will return for us and reconcile all things to himself. Those who follow him will live in his presence, under his rule. Those who reject him will eternally exist apart from his loving presence, which is called hell—the best God can do for those who don’t like him or desire to be with him.
How do we enter this kingdom of God?
Entrance has always been the same. Jesus has invited us to follow him, and he is the entrance to the kingdom. So start walking! We enter by accepting him as our rabbi and our king. We agree to learn from him by following his teaching, submitting to his direction, and praying for his help and provision. As we do, we grow to know him and love him, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, we start to become like him.
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." The kingdom gospel tells us why we were born— for the kingdom of God. The kingdom is the realm of God’s effective will, where his will is done, and it has arrived. His will is becoming a reality in the lives of those who follow Jesus and who make up his body, the church.
More Than Forgiveness
While the kingdom gospel speaks of forgiveness of sin and eternal life, it is about more than forgiveness, where we will go after we die, or how to get into heaven. It is about more than self-interest, and more than trying to create a better world that fits our political or religious perspectives. Unlike the aforementioned gospels, the kingdom gospel includes a call to self-denial. It is focused on giving ourselves for the sake of others rather than on becoming financially prosperous or satisfied religious consumers.
In short, the kingdom gospel calls us to discipleship. Being a disciple of Jesus, learning from him and submitting to his leading and his teaching, is the norm rather than the exception or the option. It calls us to become apprentices of Christ and learn from him how to live our life as though he were living it. If he were a plumber, what kind of plumber would he be? If he were an accountant, what kind of accountant would he be? This is the gospel for real life.
Dallas Willard speaks of the power of this gospel in his classic work, The Divine Conspiracy:
If [Jesus] were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles.
In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job, have your education and life prospects, and live with your family, surroundings, and time. None of this would be the least hindrance to the eternal kind of life that was by his nature and becomes available to us through him. Our human life, it turns out is not destroyed by God’s life but is fulfilled in it and in it alone (13).
For the Ordinary People
In other words, the kingdom gospel speaks to ordinary people and brings transformation to ordinary lives as people listen to and obey the teachings of Jesus. This is the gospel Jesus preached to ordinary people and related to their everyday experience. Yes, we need to remind people of the background story of Israel and include the apostles’ teaching. But the heart of this gospel brings us to knowing, following, and obeying Jesus.
This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.
Image credit: Unsplash.