What Is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

    This might seem like an easy question to answer – and I think it is easy.  But, sometimes we’ve become so familiar with terms like “the Gospel” that we fail to really understand what it means.

I have heard people often describe the Gospel this way… The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, and by accepting Jesus we have our sins forgiven.

Or, some describe it this way, the Gospel means that God has made a way for us to go to heaven when we die.

Now, I believe that both of the above statements are true.  However, I do not believe that they accurately describe what the “Gospel” really is.  Let me explain.

In Mark 1:14-15 we read, “…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel.”

This is the earliest mention of “the Gospel” in the ministry of Jesus.  Mark tells us that just after John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus came “preaching the gospel.”  If “the gospel” is that Jesus died for our sins, then how can we fit that into this passage?  This is probably 2 ½ years before the cross.  Jesus hadn’t yet died for our sins, so how could He be preaching that He died for our sins – if that is the so-called Gospel?

Also note in Luke 9:6 that the disciples were sent by Jesus to all the towns, “preaching the gospel.”  Again, if the gospel means Jesus died for our sins, then how could they preach this since Jesus hadn’t yet died – and it is obvious that at that point they had no expectation that He *would* die?

Now don’t be mistaken – I am not suggesting that Jesus’ death is not part of the Gospel.  It is.  However, if we limit the Gospel to only this fact then it does not fit into the Biblical account of Jesus’ preaching.  There has to be more to it.

Maybe the Gospel means we go to heaven when we die?  Well, first of all, the passage in Mark says that Jesus was announcing that the Kingdom of the Gospel “was at hand.”  This phrase suggests that Jesus was not talking about something in the distant future, but was speaking of something extremely close (as close as your hand!).  Also, it is interesting to note that when the Apostles preached the Gospel in the book of Acts, there is no record of them preaching about getting to heaven.  They never mentioned it!  Therefore, it would seem clear that the Gospel is not just about making it to heaven when we die.

So, what *is* the gospel?  I believe the passage from Mark that I’ve already cited should give us a clue.   Look at it again, “…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 and believe in the Gospel.’”

Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.”  He said “the kingdom of God is at hand.”  In my opinion, this gives us a glimpse of what “the gospel” is – it is “the kingdom of God” and it “is at hand.”

Jesus later admitted to Pilate that He was a king, but that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).  I believe that it is this kingdom which Jesus and the disciples preached.  I believe they told people that God’s Kingdom was breaking into our world, and that we must repent of our sins in order to enter this kingdom.  Those who by faith confessed their sins and likewise repented of them could enter the Kingdom.

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, preached that God raised Jesus from the dead and honored Him by giving Him a place at God’s right hand (Acts 2:33). By making His enemies as His footstool (Acts 2:34), Peter implied that God was calling all men everywhere to repent and submit to King Jesus.

This, I believe, is the Gospel.  It is not about going to heaven when we die (which we will).  And it is not just about Jesus dying for our sins (which He did).  The Gospel is about submitting to the reigning King, and transferring our citizenship from this world to the Kingdom of God.  Anyone who has not submitted to the reigning King is living a life of rebellion to God, and the Gospel.



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