Study: Three Minute Message
"Understanding the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of God!"
By Dr. Jerry Wayne Bernard
If I could give a title to the book of Romans, it would be "The Gospel of God."
Paul was separated from the others to preach this supplementary to "the Gospel of the Kingdom." The Gospel of the Kingdom was rejected and it's two preachers, the Baptist and Jesus were put to death. However, the Lord was raised from the dead and the "Gospel of God" has to do with the death, entombment and arising from the dead a living Messiah who ascends into the heavens and returns in salvation. During the Acts period of some 32 years, this message was preached. "With great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33).
Paul says in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Paul further says, "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the atonement" (Romans 5:8-11). Paul says, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved" (Romans 10:9). This is the Good News, the Gospel of God that salvation is in Christ alone.
Now, here is something to think about.
The "Gospel of the Kingdom" was the proclamation concerning the Messiah made by John the Baptist and Jesus... and is the subject of the four Gospels. The "Gospel of God" is the proclamation concerning the same Messiah, made by the Twelve, the Apostle Paul and "them that heard" the Lord, during the Acts period and is the subject of their testimony and of their writings and the earlier Epistles of Paul.
In the four Gospels, we see that Jesus called His twelve disciples and gave them power over devils, He sent them to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God. And they did. "And they departed and went through the towns, PREACHING THE GOSPEL and healing everywhere" (Luke 9:6).
Do we fully understand what "gospel" they preached? We know that they did not preach the gospel of the death, entombment and resurrection like Paul preached during the Acts period. Why do I say that? It is because they did not acknowledge nor understand the death, entombment and resurrection at this time. In fact, Jesus told them not to tell anyone of His death and resurrection. "And He (Jesus) straitly charged them and commanded them to TELL NO MAN THAT THING; saying, The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected of the Elders and Chief Priests and Scribes and be slain and be raised the third day" (Luke 9:21,22).
Jesus later on, examined the disciples thoughts to see if they understood and had grasped the fact of His death, entombment and resurrection. And still, they did not associate this truth with the gospel of the kingdom of God. "Jesus said unto His disciples, 'Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But THEY UNDERSTOOD NOT this saying, it was hid from them, that they perceived it not" (Luke 9:43-45). This gospel that Paul preached was hidden from them. They just would not understand it. Since it was hidden from them, Jesus said to His disciples, "But first must He (Son of man) suffer many things and be rejected of this generation" (Luke 17:25). Jesus explained that His death is associated with the rejection of Him by this generation. However, the disciples could not relate the nation's rejection with His death.
Later, Jesus says to His disciples for the final time, "Then He took 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" (Luke 18:31-34).
The gospel of His death and resurrection was truly hidden from the closest followers of Jesus, who were going everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom.
Then, after the events of His death, entombment and resurrection, He took the initiative to open their understanding to the Old Testament Scriptures that spoke of His death, entombment and resurrection. "THEN OPENED HE THEIR UNDERSTANDING, that they might understand the scriptures. And said unto them 'Thus it is written and thus it behooved 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" (Luke 24:45-47).
Now, the disciples can add to the preaching of the kingdom of God, the death, entombment and resurrection, for they understand it now. However, what was the Gospel that they understood and preached before their eyes were opened to the gospel of His death, entombment and resurrection from the dead?
The Gospel of the kingdom was preached to Israel by the ministries of John the Baptist and of Jesus. The record stated that they proclaimed the nearness of the kingdom of God. No word of explanation is ever offered, and the conclusion must be that the idea of God's kingdom was a well known message. It was accompanied by healings, cleansing lepers, raising the dead and casting out demons. Only Israel could go into the way of the Gentiles with that type of Gospel. However, Peter preached this gospel of the kingdom to Israel and, at the same time, didn't want Jesus to go to Jerusalem and die (Matthew 16:21-23).
The concept of the kingdom of God in early Judaism was shaped principally by three factors.
The kingdom message that Jesus had given His disciples had continuity with the Old Testament promise as well as shared certain features with apocalyptic Judaism, particularly Daniel, but went beyond them in certain important respects:
With the Jewish apocalypticists Jesus held that the kingdom of God was no human achievement but an act of God. However, unlike them He did not expect the kingdom of God to follow on upheavals and catastrophes, but to appear in a gentle, quiet and unobtrusive manner. The catastrophic element for Jesus lay in the upheaval His call caused to His followers' relations with their family, friends and even their own self. Jesus' followers should be willing to "hate" their own life in order to be worthy of Him, worthy of the kingdom of God.
If we do not make it abundantly clear that the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of God are different gospels, our Gospel message of the Grace of God will be a garbled mess. The proclamation of the Kingdom and its wider aspect, "the gospel of God" developed with the different events of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is called the gospel of God because it was God Who had raised Christ from the dead and the proclamation was being sent out by God Himself. It was His own special good news. And it was all of Grace.