The world of professing Christianity is full of "gospels" — but what is the true gospel message taught by Jesus Christ and found throughout the whole Bible?
The apostle Paul twice wished a curse upon any who would preach another gospel: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preach to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6-9). Paul wrote this in the mid-50s A.D., just two decades after the death and resurrection of Christ. In twenty short years the message of the gospel had become perverted by those who would "make merchandise" of the people of God. Christ's message — Christ's own gospel — was being lost in a torrent of word pollution. False apostles and ministers arose everywhere, each trying to capture a following for themselves. Paul warned the Corinthians: "... Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants [ministers, KJV] also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds" (II Cor. 11:14-15). The Spirit of Antichrist. In the twilight years of the first-century Church — near the end of the century — the aged apostle John also warned of what was taking place: "Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us" (I John 2:18-19). To be "antichrist" is to be against or opposed to Christ. Those who presumptuously preach a gospel other than that which Christ preached are opposed to Christ. They are in the spirit of antichrist! Those who deny Christ's message deny the Messiah Himself. True Christians must preach the true gospel! But what is that gospel? What is Christ's message for the world? Of what did Jesus preach in His earthly ministry? Remember, it is "the gospel of Christ" — Christ's own gospel message — that Paul said we must preach. What the Gospel Accounts Say. The best place to begin our search is in the synoptic Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Let's begin with Mark, which is believed by many to be the earliest written account of the life and teachings of Christ. Notice Mark 1:14: "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (KJV). What was the central theme of Christ's gospel? The Kingdom of God! Notice also Matthew's account: "And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matt. 4:23). "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom"(Matt. 9:35). Luke, too, confirms that the Kingdom message is the heart and core of the gospel of Christ: "Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:1). (That's why this magazine is named The Good News — it means "The Gospel"!) In the Galilean city of Bethsaida, Jesus "spoke to them of the kingdom of God... " (Luke 9:11). It should be plain, by now, that the central theme of Jesus' Galilean ministry was the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God. But that message was not confined to Galilee. In fact, Jesus explained that the very reason He had been sent from the Father was to preach that message everywhere! Notice Luke 4:43-44: "But he said to them, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I WAS SENT FOR THIS PURPOSE. And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judah." We have now firmly established the theme of Christ's gospel — the Kingdom of God. But what about that Kingdom? What is the nature of the Kingdom? How did Jesus apprehend and teach the Kingdom? What is the Kingdom? Where is it? How is it to come? Who will head it? Who will be its subjects? Jesus Christ elaborated on all of these points in His gospel. The Hope of Israel. The idea of the establishment of a divine Kingdom — the Kingdom of God — is not unique to the New Testament. It is found in the Old Testament and in the highly popular apocalyptic writings of the pre- and post- New Testament periods. Daniel prophesied of the establishment of a divine, world-ruling Kingdom: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.... It shall break in pieces all these [worldly] kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44). This was the hope of the Jewish community of Jesus' day. Since the time of the House of Judah's captivity to the Neo-Babylonian empire in 587 B.C., Palestine had been a much-occupied territory. First the Babylonians, then the Persians, after that the Greeks and finally the Romans.' No longer was Israel a pure theocracy. The Jewish people had lost much of their sense of community and national, religious identity. The Roman occupation was a humiliating bone of contention. There were those among the Jews who spoke of rebellion. Later, once the Christian Church was well established, major rebellions did take place. But that's getting ahead of the story. When Jesus began His public ministry in A.D. 27, the occupied people of Judah were yearning for liberation from the Roman heel. While there were elements within the community who were content to submit to the occupying forces, many were not. They looked for a kingdom. They looked for the reestablishment of the glories of the theocracy as it had existed from Moses to Samuel. They hearkened back to the golden age of the monarchy under kings David and Solomon. The people of Israel desired emancipation from the indignity of being a subjugated people. They were ready for a powerful Deliverer who would lead them to victory. Some began to sense that Jesus might be that Deliverer. Even Jesus' own disciples had no clear picture even after three and one-half years of accompanying Christ in His ministry! Perhaps they had lacked the spiritual discernment to really comprehend Jesus' teaching prior to the day of Pentecost. God explained through Paul that "spiritual things are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14-15). As a result, the very men chosen to be apostles of the gospel asked Jesus after His resurrection: "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Jesus replied: " It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:6, 7). The disciples still thought of a revival of the national fortunes of Israel under the rule of the Messiah. Yet the Old Testament prophesied of a world-ruling Kingdom which would encompass all nations and tongues (Dan. 2:44; 7:14). The capital of the entire earth in that day will be Jerusalem, and the law shall go forth from Zion. The prophet Micah explained: "It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain [symbol for nation or government] of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Micah 4:1-3). The "Lord," of course, is Christ. Jesus was born to preside over a world government emanating from Jerusalem, Palestine! He is destined to sit upon the throne of David from whom He was descended: "He will be great," explained Gabriel, God's messenger, "and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:32-33). Co-Heirs With Christ. Jesus was born to be a monarch, a King over Israel and all of the world! But that Kingdom is yet to be established, It is not the Church. The Church is the spiritual body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13), which exists for the purpose of carrying out Christ's own Work upon this earth. The people of the Church are called "saints" in the Bible. We are the children of God and co-heirs with Christ of the Kingdom! Paul explained this to the Romans: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,.. " (Rom. 8:15-17). But what will the saints co-inherit with Christ? Jesus, in His gospel, explains: "Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34). Now is it plain what Jesus meant when He taught "the meek shall inherit the earth"? (Matt. 5:5.) He meant that literally! All of the kingdoms of this world are destined to become the kingdoms of God and Christ. The saints of God will corule with Jesus Christ over those kingdoms. There will be one world government originating in Jerusalem. It will not be administered by mortal men (Dan. 2:44; 7:18). It will be governed directly by Christ and the co-heirs of the Kingdom — the saints of God! Zechariah prophesied of that future Kingdom: "And the Lord will become king over all the earth... " (Zech. 14:9). But Jesus will not rule unassisted. His triumphant return will not be a "solo flight"! "Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him" (Zech. 14:5). Daniel spoke of a time when "the saints received the kingdom" (Dan. 7:22). In verse 27 of the same chapter, he made it even clearer: "And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them." This is the very heart and core of the "gospel of Christ"! Jesus' gospel message, His teaching and preaching, concerned that Kingdom. The Kingdom In Parables. Jesus imparted knowledge of just how one could qualify to enter the Kingdom of God. His parables had the Kingdom as their central theme. Often Jesus did not want those who were not then being called to really understand the message concerning the Kingdom. Yet He had to respond to their questions and inquiries. So he spoke in parables which He interpreted privately to His own students (disciples). This is made plain in the case of the well-known parable of the sower: "Then the disciples came and said to him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' And he answered them, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt. 13:10-11). (Notice that it is the "kingdom of heaven" — not the Kingdom in heaven! The English expression "of" denotes ownership — not locality. The Kingdom of heaven will come to this earth as many other scriptures show. Matthew used the more Jewish expression "kingdom of heaven" for a reason. The literal Kingdom of God will be a spiritual Kingdom far transcending any physical kingdom on earth. Matthew wanted to be sure his Jewish audience understood this difference. Mark, Luke and John all used the term "kingdom of God." But Matthew meant the same thing they did.) Jesus' parables concerned the Kingdom. In giving the parables, Christ frequently began by saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to... " or "The kingdom of heaven is like... " (Matt. 13:24, 31). The parable of the grain bf mustard seed indicated that the Kingdom would begin small (the fledgling beginnings of the early. Church) and that it would finally grow to fill the whole earth (Matt. 13:31-32). The same point is illustrated by the one verse parable of Matthew l3:33: "He told them another parable, 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.'" Just Like Christ! The Kingdom will eventually fill the entire earth! Once that Kingdom is established, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears let him hear" (Matt. 13:43). That is the ultimate destiny of the Church of God — to shine like the very sun in the fullness of its strength in the Kingdom of God! As the apostle John explained: "When he appears we shall be like him... " (I John 3:2). And what is Christ like in His present, glorified state? Again John explains: "Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle [belt or sash] round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire" (Rev. 1:12-14). "His face," explained John, "was like the sun shining in full strength" (verse 16).. Those who are privileged to join Christ in the Kingdom will be just like that! Incredible? An apocalyptic fantasy? Not at all. What you have just read is a part of the Word of God. It is a component of the gospel of Christ! It is part of His message to this suffering world. A New World Coming. There is hope in the gospel. A better world is coming. A world of justice, peace and mercy for all. Jesus Christ, and the saints with Him, will usher in a millennium of healing and universal blessings. The Church will be "a kingdom and priests to our God, and they [we] shall reign on earth" (Rev. 5:10). Those who have died in Christ throughout the centuries since His ascension to the Father "came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4). And that rule will be a rule of law and justice. The social injustices and oppressions of this present evil world (see Gal. 1:4) will become a thing of the past. Racial prejudice will be banished. Sickness and disease will be phased out (Isa. 35:5-6). War will give way to farming, and swords (symbolic of all weaponry) will be "beaten into plowshares" (Micah 4:3). Jesus Christ will institute vast ecological reforms and the world will again become art Eden of lush beauty: "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and, singing. The glory of Lebanon [giant cedars] shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon [among the more beautiful parts of modern Israel!]. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God" (Isa. 35:1-2). Justice will prevail in the courts of the land. There will be no bribery or favoritism. God is not a respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11). He will judge with fairness, mercy and justice in every case: "He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.... Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins" (Isa. 11:3-5). Isn't that what the world needs? Isn't that GOOD NEWS?! It is indeed. And it is the very essence of the message of the whole Bible — the gospel of Christ! It is a gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13) for the whole world. It is a message about the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21, KJV). It is the only true gospel. Kingdom Now Being Prepared. Jesus is even now preparing positions of rulership in His eternal Kingdom for those who are willing to accept the call (John 14:1-3). Some of those positions have already been spoken for: "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me [the twelve apostles] will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28). David will be king over all Israel (Ezek. 37:24) under Christ. Abraham will apparently preside over the entire earth as "second ruler in the kingdom" (see Rom. 4:13). But there are many other positions available. Crowns of rulership are awaiting those who are faithful to the end. Jesus is merely the "firstborn of many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). God has a position waiting for you if you really want it. Are you willing to give up everything and turn your life over to Jesus Christ in order to obtain the "pearl of great price"? (Study the parable in Matthew 13:45!) Will you give your life to God as a "living sacrifice"? (Rom. 12:1) Or will you forfeit your position in the Kingdom by accepting another gospel — or no gospel at all? Jesus gave a stern warning to the congregation of Christians in the ancient town of Philadelphia: "I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown" (Rev. 3:11). Will you heed that warning or will you give up your birthright for a bowl of this world's "lentil soup"? Will you truly "repent and believe the gospel" of the Kingdom of God? For that alone is "Christ's gospel"!