Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God

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In its essence, the word "gospel" simply means "good news." We can speak of the gospel of a new baby, the gospel of a pay raise, the gospel of a peace treaty or the gospel of discounted tickets to your favorite activity. But normally we don't. We don't use the word "gospel" for these things. It has taken a pretty specific meaning.

When Christians speak about "the gospel," we are talking about a particular gospel -- the good news about the Kingdom of God. Over and over again, the Biblical writers tell us the Jesus "proclaimed" or "preached" the gospel "of the Kingdom." What is the good news specifically? This is the good news (gospel) -- The Kingdom of God is Near.

What does that mean? Many books have tried to answer this question, but basically, it means that God has come to restore his world back to it's original intent. Everything that went wrong with the world is being reversed by God. Jesus' kingdom will reverse all evil. All personal sin, all sickness, all chaos, all diseases, all death, all oppression, all pollution will be reversed so that righteousness, justice, creativity, health, progress, happiness, harmony and growth pervade every area of the world. That is the gospel! That is the good news.

The gospel is far bigger than personal salvation, and it is far more profound than simply empowerment for the less fortunate. It includes those things, but goes far beyond them. As we sing at Christmas time in "Joy to the World" the gospel is that Christ's victory over Satan, sin and death is applied "far as the curse is found." Wherever we see evil overcome, we see a glimpse of the Kingdom of Jesus, and evidence of the gospel.

So, according to Jesus, when we speak the good news without reversing real evil, we lie. However, when we reverse evil without speaking the truth about Jesus, we rob Jesus of his glory. There is no gospel without the King, nor without his work. We cannot pick one. Word and deed proclaim together.

Mark 1.14-15, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Luke 4.18-19, [Jesus said,] "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Luke 4.43, But [Jesus] said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose."

Matthew 4.23, Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

Luke 8.1, After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

Luke 9.1-2, When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Luke 10.8-9, [Jesus said,] "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' "

Luke 7.18-23, John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' " At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

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