The Gospel is the Kingdom

What is the good news of the New Testament? That is a question I always thought had a simple answer: "Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we might have a proper relationship with him." Although that statement is true, it is not the good news as it is described in the New Testament.

Early in his ministry Jesus started talking about the coming kingdom. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matt 4:17). This kingdom had been what God's people throughout the Old Testament had been waiting for. This kingdom would be a blessing to the world. It would finally be the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3: "Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." The kingdom that would bless the whole world was near! The people of Israel were expecting that kingdom, and Jesus' proclamation that it was near was the good news.

Jesus states, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God because that is why I was sent" (Luke 4:43). We are often taught that the reason he was sent was to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins; however, that is not what Jesus Himself said. He said that he came to preach the good news of the kingdom. His death on the cross is part of the bigger framework of the kingdom. We should not make his death and resurrection the framework or else we miss the larger picture. The death and resurrection are glorious things indeed, but they are not why Jesus was sent. Jesus was sent to preach and bring about the kingdom.

The kingdom of God, the kingdom each Christian is residents of, is "not coming with things that can be observed" (Luke 17:20-21). This transformed kingdom was not what the Israelites were expecting. If I was a Pharisee, I would've replied, "You mean to tell me that you're going to start a kingdom but that kingdom isn't going to be visible. That is not a kingdom. You say it is already here? I see Roman soldiers just down the street. How can you say the kingdom is here among us when I see the Roman kingdom all around me?"

God does not always do what is viewed as "rational". He had Gideon lower his army from 32,000 to 500 before invading another nation. He had Joshua march around Jericho blowing trumpets in order to defeat them. He saved the world by having Jesus die on a cross. In hindsight his acts are glorious, just like his kingdom. But at the time, they usually seem to be a little off.

The kingdom of God was there among the people Jesus was talking to and is here among us. Although I live in America, my true residence is in another kingdom. All of us who profess to follow Christ need to realize that we are part of a kingdom that is among us. Our nationality belongs to the kingdom of God, not to any of the kingdoms of this world. Jesus' kingdom might not have physical borders or a common language; His kingdom is unlike any other.

And the Good News that Jesus taught was that we can be citizens in that kingdom. Too often we focus on the gate to the kingdom (Jesus dying on the cross) and describe that as the good news. That is missing the point of the good news that Jesus Himself taught. We can be citizens in God's kingdom here and now. We can be vessels in helping his kingdom breakthrough to the fallen reality around us. That is the good news of Jesus. That is what Jesus came to invite us to. That is the Gospel as the Bible describe it.

(Other relevant verses if you want to do more research: Matt 4:17, Matt 4:23, Matt 6:33, Matt 9:35, Matt 10:7, Mark 1:14-15, Mark 9:1, Mark 11:10, Luke 4:18-19, Luke 4:43, Luke 8:1, Luke 9:11, Luke 9:60, Luke 9:62, Luke 10:9, Luke 10:11, Luke 16:16, Luke 17:20-21, Acts 8:12, Acts 19:8, Acts 28:23, Acts 28:30-31, Rom 14:17, I Cor 15:24-25, Rev 1:5-6, Rev 11:15.)