The modern, twentieth century world you live in has accepted the NAME of Jesus Christ. Christianity is THE accepted religion of the entire western world. Yet, how many professing "Christians" today really know and UNDERSTAND the way of life and the MESSAGE brought by the Son of God? You have already seen proved beyond any doubt that God sent HIS OWN SON into the world over 1,900 years ago. But what was the message He brought? Why have so few understood His preaching? And why have so few understand the message carried to the world by Christ's true apostles and ministers? In this chapter we will review the life and teachings of Christ as revealed in the four gospel accounts — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Christ Brought the Gospel
It is not startling and new to state Christ preached the gospel — everyone has heard that. BUT WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? The word, "gospel" comes into English from an old Anglo-Saxon word, "godspel" which simple means GOOD NEWS. That is what Christ brought — GOOD NEWS. But what Good News? The way for Christ's ministry had been prepared by John the Baptist. After some months of preparation, John was imprisoned by Herod. At that time the preparation for Christ's ministry was complete. "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD."1 The GOOD NEWS was a message of a coming KINGDOM — not a kingdom of men, ruled by men and for men, but a KINGDOM OF GOD. CHRIST'S MESSAGE WAS WORLD GOVERNMENT! The Jews had known for centuries the coming Messiah would set up a government. But they rejected Christ because He didn't set up the Messianic Kingdom at His first coming. Christian denominations today largely accept the person of Christ, but they do not look for a government of kingdom. The Jews rejected both Christ and His message. Today's churches, although they accept His name, have rejected His MESSAGE! At the conclusion of Christ's ministry before He ascended into the heavens He commissioned His disciples, "Go ye unto ALL THE WORLD, and PREACH THE GOSPEL to every creature."2 Christ expected His true ministers to carry the very same GOSPEL He had preached into the entire world. But somewhere along the line the message became twisted and perverted. We will see how the perversion of Christ's message started in chapter nine. What millions have accepted without knowing it is the twisting and wresting of the TRUE gospel and message brought by Christ — not the real message He brought. You need to understand the TRUTH.
Few to Understand
Amazing as it sounds to the churchgoers in our modern world of religion, JESUS CHRIST NEVER INTENDED FOR THE VAST MAJORITY TO UNDERSTAND at this time. Shocking as it may seem — THIS IS NOT THE ONLY DAY OF SALVATION (write for our free article on this subject). If it is, then God and Christ have miserably failed in their desperate attempt to save mankind. However, God is not in a "desperate" attempt to save everyone now. And, of course, GOD WILL NOT FAIL. EVERY TIME Christ spoke to the multitudes about the Kingdom of God, He spoke to them in analogies or similes called PARABLES. Notice it, and notice WHY:
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in PARABLES; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.3
And when asked why He spoke in parables, Christ answered:
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand...For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be CONVERTED, and I should heal them.4
Plainly, then, Christ did not reveal the truth about His kingdom and government to the entire world, but ONLY to His called and chosen disciples — to those who would repent and change. It was not time at Christ's first coming to set up the government of God. The parables reveal when that shall be.
A Coming Government
In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, Christ uses a parable to demonstrate a lesson about the Kingdom of God. In the story, He likens Himself unto a man traveling into a far country. He distributed talents, abilities, and responsibilities to His servants and told them to increase. The story is familiar! Yet, how many have realized Christ was showing He actually would RETURN to this earth and set up His kingdom? Notice it, "After A LONG TIME the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them..."5 After seeing some HAD INCREASED their given amounts (which means they had grown in God's Spirit and in their capabilities), Christ said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee RULER over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."6 Christ promised positions of rulership when He returned to earth. He has now gone to heaven to prepare those responsibilities.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.7
This is not talking about "mansions in the sky." It is talking about positions of responsibility Christ is right now preparing. The word "mansions" should more properly be translated "abodes" or "offices" or "positions of authority." Christ promised HE WOULD COME AGAIN and give those positions of responsibility to His servants. When the disciples asked what their positions would be in the Kingdom of God, Christ replied, "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and SIT ON THRONES JUDGING THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL."8 Everywhere in the New Testament, the message is one of rulership. Jesus Christ is to be KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS and will return to this earth.9 The reward promised Christians who overcome and qualify for Christ's kingdom is not floating around heaven all day like that lazy old sun. Rather it is one of rulership with Christ. Notice two passages from Christ's Revelation:
And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall RULE THEM with a rod of iron:...10 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.11
And where will these positions of rulership be? In heaven? No. Your Bible says, "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and WE SHALL REIGN ON THE EARTH."12 Nothing could be plainer in the Bible than the gospel Christ brought. Yet, millions of professing Christians have rejected it in favor of the ancient PAGAN idea of the immortality of the soul and going to heaven to spend eternity doing nothing. Christ's message is LIVING and DYNAMIC. It has to do with solving this world's problems by the establishment of a world government with Christ and the saints ruling, and bringing peace, health and prosperity to the world.
But What about God's Laws?
It's amazing, but the world has little understood the REAL life and teachings of Christ. Scores of churches today believe and teach that Jesus Christ came to DO AWAY WITH GOD'S LAW — that Christ nailed it to the cross, taking it out of the way. But did He? Let's look to Christ and His own teachings to see. The very focal point of all Christian doctrine is the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Concerning the law of God, Christ said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am NOT come to destroy, BUT TO FULFIL."13 That doesn't sound like Christ intended to do away with God's law at all. In fact this and the entire Sermon on the Mount are a fulfillment of the prophecy about Christ's message from the prophet Isaiah, "The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; HE WILL MAGNIFY THE LAW, and make it honourable."14 To magnify the law means to focus on it, to make it more applicable and binding — it does not do away with it. Magnifying the law makes it clearer and easier to see. That is just what Christ did. When the rich young nobleman came to Christ and asked Him, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have ETERNAL LIFE?" Christ answered, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but IF thou wilt enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS." The question then followed, "Which commandments?" The answer, "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself."15 Which commandments, then? Why, the TEN COMMANDMENTS — the Ten Commandments as expounded and amplified through the entire NEW TESTAMENT. They were not done away at all.
Even the Sabbath?
Many are willing to accept Christ taught some of the Ten Commandments. But did He also teach His disciples to observe the "Jewish" Sabbath — Saturday today — the seventh day of the week? Let's again look into the BIBLE to see. As Jesus began His preaching ministry, "he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, AS HIS CUSTOM was, he went into the synagogue ON THE SABBATH DAY, and stood up for to read."16 He then preached to them from the book of Isaiah to show He was the prophesied Messiah and that they were hearing and seeing the very fulfillment of the prophecy THAT VERY DAY. We see, then, Christ's custom was to observe and preach on the Sabbath weekly. In Capernaum He entered into the synagogue and taught.17 When He came into His own country, "when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue..."18 And Christ "taught them on the SABBATH DAYS."19 The same is true throughout the entire ministry of Christ. He faithfully observed every Sabbath day and taught the disciples to do so as well. When asked about the observance of the Sabbath and how it should be kept, Christ replied, "THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR MAN, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is LORD ALSO OF THE SABBATH."20 That doesn't sound like it's a harsh law of bondage which Christ would have to nail to His cross, does it? Certainly not. The Sabbath was MADE for man. But when was the Sabbath made?
And on the SEVENTH DAY God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he made. AND GOD BLESSED THE SEVENTH DAY, and SANCTIFIED IT: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.21
The Sabbath was made when man was made — AT CREATION. It was a part of the creation of GOD. And it was just as vital and integral a part of the life of Jesus Christ as it could possibly have been. Christ, remember, came to magnify and make God's law even more honorable — not to nail it to the cross. The Sabbath is the very center of Christ's teaching and the day on which He preached throughout His ministry.
The Selecting and Training of a Ministry
As Christ carried out His three and one-half year ministry, He also carefully selected and trained His twelve disciples who were to become the apostles of the New Testament Church. Although Christ's message was clearly a message of world-ruling government, it very obviously was not a government which was to immediately be set up. It was the intention of Christ to establish His Church and for IT to be the instrumentality by which the gospel would go to the world.
Go ye therefore, and teach ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in [into] the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost [Spirit]: TEACHING them to OBSERVE ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.22
It has been over 1900 years since the foundation of Christ's Church. His government is not yet established upon the earth, but His gospel is going around the world as a witness to all nations before the end.23 If Christ meant what He said, and HE DID, then somewhere on earth TODAY is a work proclaiming the very SAME MESSAGE which Christ brought — fulfilling the very same commission given to the first twelve apostles. This chapter has discussed the very heart and core of Christianity — not only the person and name of Christ, but also THE MESSAGE HE BROUGHT, the way of life He lived, and the training of His disciples. When that message and training was complete Jesus Christ reached the hour of His greatest trial — when He was to be offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Christ's Death and Resurrection
Three and one-half years after Christ began to preach saw the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy, "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself...and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to case..."24 In prophetic times, as we have seen, His ministry lasted three and one-half years. On April 25, 31 A.D., the date of the Passover that year, Jesus Christ died a death of crucifixion on the stake. For exactly three days and three nights He lay dead in a sealed tomb.25 But early on Sunday morning, when the woman came to anoint His body, HE WAS ALREADY GONE.26 The Passover in the year 31 A.D. fell on a WEDNESDAY. That is an absolute fact, and the Jewish calendar proves it. Christ was not crucified on a Friday as so many assume. Three days and three nights later means Christ was raised from the dead precisely at sundown SATURDAY night. For a complete explanation of the death and resurrection of Christ, write for our free articles on the subjects of Easter and the Resurrection. The death of Christ is a recorded FACT of history. We have seen how Roman records bear witness of His life and of His death and of the establishment of Christianity as a way of life. But there is only one source which goes further. That is God's Holy Word, THE BIBLE. In it is undeniable proof Jesus Christ was RAISED FROM THE DEAD. In this FACT lies the whole hope of Christianity. Just as surely as Jesus lived and walked in Palestine over 1900 years ago, three days after He was crucified He was once again alive — not just made alive, but raised to immortal life — spirit life. He became the firstborn from the dead. The summarization of his ministry is, once again, rulership of the world — not by human government, but by born-again spirit beings changed from mortal to immortal to rule with Christ on the earth. That is the message of Christ and the hope of a Christian. This has been a thumbnail sketch of Christ's life, teachings, and death. Understanding this background is necessary for a study of Church history — after all Christ was the Founder of the Church. Next we will see how that Church was started, what it believed, and how the gospel spread throughout the Roman empire, and beyond, within thirty years after Christ's death.