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The things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ1

The word 'Gospel' is from the Old English 'Godspel(l)' meaning 'Good story'. The Greek word translated as gospel (evangelion) similarly means 'Good message' or 'Good news'.

The apostle Paul tells us that the gospel was preached to Abraham in that Abraham was given certain promises: that he and his descendants would inherit the land of Israel; and the whole world would be blessed through one particular descendent: The Lord Jesus Christ (see Gen.13:14-16 & Gal.3:8-9, 16). Thus was defined the twofold gospel nearly 4000 years ago: an individual salvation; and the saving of the whole world through the re-establishment of God's kingdom on earth, centred on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel2.

In fullness of time, about 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ (the promised seed) was to be born to a virgin in Israel. The gospel was been split in two parts when repeated separately to Mary and Joseph: to Mary, And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luk.1:30-33). To Joseph it was said, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matt.1:21-22)

When John the Baptist was born about three months later, the gospel promises were re-iterated in the prophecy concerning both the yet unborn Jesus and John, “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luk.1:68-79)

When The Lord Jesus Christ began His ministry on earth He chose twelve disciples; the name meaning “Pupils” or “Those taught”. The twelve (Luk.6:13) were also referred to as apostles; this meaning “Delegates, ambassadors” or “Those sent out on a commission”. Thus these designations describe their status at any one time. When they were being taught, they were disciples; when they were preaching the gospel or healing the sick, they were apostles.

Although Jesus preached the need for repentance and the need to be born again (or from above), the gospel He preached, and the gospel He sent the apostles out to preach, was the gospel of the kingdom (Matt.9:35, 10:6-7). Now John the Baptist clearly recognised Christ's sacrificial role (John 1:29) but this was hidden from the disciples until shortly before His crucifixion; when He began to tell them that He must be put to death, “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luk.18:31-34).

There was a general understanding in Israel that, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever (John 12:34). However, on the discovery of the empty tomb after Jesus was crucified, Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead (John 20:8-9). Thus the disciples had not been aware until then that The Lord Jesus had to die and be raised from the dead. Therefore the death and resurrection of Christ could not have been part of the gospel that the apostles had been sent out to preach while He was with them.

Later in the day of Christ's resurrection He opened the scriptures to the understanding of the disciples, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven (Luke 24:46-51).

It is important to realise that this commission to preach repentance and remission in Christ's name did not replace the gospel of the kingdom but was added to it as the way through which individual believers could partake of the promises to Abraham3. That the hope of the re-establishment of the kingdom to Israel (when the meek shall inherit the earth) was still in the minds of the disciples at the time of Christ's ascension is proved by their question as He was taken from them, When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:6-8).

As the story of the Acts of the Apostles unfold we see how their dual commission was enacted as they spread the gospel. For example: when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (Acts 8:12). Paul, towards the end of his ministry, testified to the Jews in Rome, And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: (Acts 26:6) and, For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain (Acts 28:20).

This gospel of the future reestablishment of the kingdom of Israel seems to have largely disappeared from mainstream Church and evangelical Christian teaching. In fact the apostasy started quite early as Justin Martyr (c100-165AD) testified, For even if you yourselves have ever met with some so-called Christians, who yet do not acknowledge this, but even dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, who say too that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls ascend to heaven at the very moment of their death - do not suppose that they are Christians (LXXX 4 p.170) But I, and all other entirely orthodox Christians, know that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, and also a thousand years in a Jerusalem built up and adorned and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah, and all the rest, acknowledge (LXXX - 5 p.171)4.

Being mindful of Paul's warning when he was teaching the Galatians the gospel preached to Abraham; it seems important that those who purport to preach the gospel preach it in its entirety, But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal.1:8).

[1] The name Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, derived from the Hebrew proper name meaning 'God(Yah) Saves.' Christ is a Greek word meaning 'Anointed' and is exactly equivalent to the Hebrew word 'Messiah'. Thus the Lord's name in combination may be rendered 'God's anointed Saviour.' Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

[2] It is appropriate to say re-establishment because, in ancient Israel, the kings sat on the LORD's throne over Israel (see 1 Chr.28:5)

[3] ...if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:29)

[4] From Translations of Christian Literature A. Lokyn Williams S.P.C.K.

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