Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Gospel of the King in John

The Gospel According to John does not use the noun “gospel” (Greek, euaggelion, evangel) as in Matthew and Mark, or the verb for “preaching the gospel” (Greek, euaggelizo, evangelize, “gospeling”), but it is about the gospel all the same.

John uses the word “kingdom” only five times. Two of these are found, significantly, in Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, which we will look at in just a moment. The other three are found in just one verse, John 18:36, which we will also see in a minute. However, John does use the word “king” quite a bit, as do the other Gospel writers, and all in reference to Jesus. Also, like the other Gospel writers, he frequently uses the word “Christ,” which means “Messiah,” or more literally “Anointed One,” and which refers to the one God has anointed to be King (see Psalm 2). And, as in the other Gospels, He is called “Son of God,” the implications of which, also in view of Psalm 2, identify Him as King.

All three —“Christ,” “Son of God” and “King” — establish the identity of Jesus as King in the Gospel of John and, indeed, in all four Gospels. We find these three in the first chapter of John and they all attest to Jesus as King.
  • From John the Evangelist’s exposition on Jesus as the Word: “For the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v. 18).
  • From the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus: “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (v. 34).
  • Andrew’s testimony to His brother Simon Peter after encountering Jesus: “We have found the Messiah” (v. 41).
  • Nathanael’s exclamation to Jesus: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (v. 49).
Let’s look at Jesus’ famous encounter with Nicodemus, who came to him late one night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” A few verses later, He reiterated, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 6).

The language of being “born again” has everything to do with seeing and entering the kingdom of God. The language about being born of water and the Spirit goes back to Ezekiel 36:24-28, which looked forward to the time of God’s Anointed King coming to establish His kingdom on earth. (For more on this meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, see my four-part series: 1. Nicodemus and the Gospel of the Kingdom, 2. The Promised Kingdom, 3. Water, Spirit and the Kingdom of God, 4. Believing the King.)

Now, let’s look for a moment at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which all four Gospel writers record. All four understand it in terms of the kingdom of God and its King. Matthew sees it as fulfillment of Zechariah’s messianic prophecy: “Behold, Your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Matthew 21:5, quoting Zechariah 9:9).

The people shouted loud Hosannas, a word which comes from the first part of Psalm 118:25 (Hebrew, Hoshia na!, “Save now!”). Psalm 118 is a messianic psalm about the stone rejected by the builders but who has become the chief cornerstone, and about Israel’s day of deliverance and victory over the nations.

The Gospel writers draw out different elements of praise that were brought along with those Hosannas. Mark shows the people saying, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:10). Luke records them saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD” (Luke 19:38). And John recalls, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13). John also quotes Zechariah in connection with it: “Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt” (John 12:15).

All four Gospel writers also deal with Jesus’ dialogue with Pilate. John’s treatment, though sparse, is the most extensive:
Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:33-37)

Pilate then had Jesus scourged and, at the insistence of the chief priests and Jewish leaders, had Him crucified. Then we read:
Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:


Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” (John 19:19-22)
The crowd on Palm Sunday, the chief priests and Jewish leaders, and Pilate all recognized that Jesus claimed to be the King over Israel. The Jewish crowd received His claim and celebrated Him. The chief priests and the mob they instigated denied His claim. Pilate accepted His claim, though he clearly did not understand the deep significance of it.

Throughout the Gospel According to John we also see the identity of Jesus as Christ (Messiah) recognized and affirmed.
  • John the Baptist identified Him as Christ (John 1:20-30; 3:28).
  • Andrew told his brother, Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41).
  • The Samaritan woman at the well testified, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29).
  • Many of her fellow Samaritans agreed, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
  • Simon Peter and the disciples affirmed it: “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69).
  • Many Jews agreed. “And many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?” (John 7:31). And again, “Others said, ‘This is the Christ’” (John 7:41).
  • Jesus understood Himself to be the Messiah. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
  • John wrote his Gospel account so we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
The significance of Messiah, as found for example in Psalm2, is that He is the one anointed by God to be King. Likewise, the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, seen in some of the examples above as well as other places in John, also shows Him to be King, because the one God anointed to be King, in Psalm 2, is His own Son.

The Gospel of John, then, is the good news about God’s Anointed King.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gospeling the Kingdom in Luke

While Mark speaks of the gospel itself (euaggelion, the evangel), Luke speaks of the act of preaching the gospel (euaggelizo, evangelizing).

The Gospel of Luke begins with a statement about fulfillment: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us …” (Luke 1:1). The gospel is the fulfillment of what God promised Israel in the Old Testament. Concerning the birth of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah and said,
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17-18)
There is fulfillment here concerning what was prophesied at the very end of the book of Malachi, about Elijah coming to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. There is also fulfillment here of passages such as Isaiah 40, about “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the LORD’” (v. 3). This fulfillment is about the gospel, as we can see in what the angel said next:
And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings [euaggelizo].” (Luke 1:19)
Likewise, the birth of Jesus is gospel fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. The same angel that appeared to Zechariah also came to Mary and said,
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:30-33)
As we saw in Matthew and Mark, so we find also in Luke the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to David about an heir who would reign on his throne forever. There is also an echo of the promise of Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder … Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

Mary, in her praise song to the Lord, recognizes the fulfillment that God was now bringing about. “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever” (Luke 1:54-55). The promise God made to Abraham, to David and to Israel all find fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. The is the good news of the gospel.

Zechariah also, in his praise song to the Lord after the birth of John, sees the fulfillment of God’s great promise to His people:
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. (Luke 1:68-75)
Here again, the promises to Abraham, David and Israel find fulfillment in the gospel. So, when Jesus is born, the angels come to announce the good news to shepherds nearby:
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings [euaggelizo] of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
When Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple to present Him before the Lord, old Simeon observes and sings, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Once again, we see that the good news of Jesus’ birth brings fulfillment to God’s promise to Israel. There is also indication here that this good news is not just for Israel but also for the Gentiles (the nations). This echoes Old Testament promises such as Isaiah 60:3, “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist begins his ministry as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way of the Lord” (v. 4). Luke comments about John’s gospel ministry: “And with many other exhortations he preached [euaggelizo]to the people" (Luke 3:18).

When Jesus came to the synagogue at Nazareth, He preached the promise God made in Isaiah:
And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel [euaggelizo] to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:17-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2)
Then Jesus sat down to teach and declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Though He was not well received at Nazareth, He went down to Capernaum, where He astonished many with the authority of His teaching. After healing many diseases and expelling many demons, He said, “I must preach [euaggelizo]the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” Here we see that His gospel was explicitly about the kingdom of God, and is what He preached in the synagogues throughout Galilee (Luke 4:43-44). “Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings [euaggelizo] of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him” (Luke 8:1).

Not only were the twelve disciples with Jesus as He gospeled the kingdom but He also sent them out to do the same. “He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). The word for “preach” here is not euaggelizo but kerusso, to herald or proclaim. However, the content is the same, the kingdom of God. A few verses later, we see that the disciples were actually evangelizing: “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel [euaggelizo] and healing everywhere” (Luke 9:6). Jesus’ ministry of preaching and teaching and healing was always about the kingdom of God.
And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11)
To one who wished to become a disciple but first wanted to wait until he could rebury his father’s bones, Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). The word for “preach” here is not euaggelizo, but a related one, diaggelizo, which means to announce the message thoroughly and everywhere.

When Jesus sent the seventy disciples out as laborers into His harvest, the message was the kingdom: “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:8-9).

The Pharisees supposedly valued the law and the prophets, but they did not recognize the fulfillment of what was promised in them, so they derided Jesus. But Jesus answered, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached [euaggelizo], and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16).

The message of the kingdom of God is pervasive throughout the Gospel According to Luke. There are at least 43 explicit references to it from beginning to end. These include (in addition to the ones we have already seen):
  • For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luke 7:28)
  • To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:10)
  • But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)
  • But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luke 12:31)
  • Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
  • They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29)
  • The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)
  • Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life. (Luke 18:29-30)
  • And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29:30)
There are also references to the kingdom that are similar to what we have seen in Matthew and in Mark. The preaching of the gospel that we find in the Gospel According to Luke is about the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament, which are summed up in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Gospel of the Kingdom in Mark

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)

There are four Gospels in the New Testament, but only one gospel. The books that are commonly called “Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are each about the one gospel. That is why they have traditionally been called “The Gospel According to [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John].” These books do not merely contain snippets of the gospel, but everything in them is about the gospel.

Matthew began his telling of the gospel with, “The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David” (Matthew 1:1), marking Jesus’ connection to the promise God made to Abraham to bless the whole world, and the promise to King David about the messianic descendent who would reign on his throne forever.

Mark begins his telling of the gospel very directly, as is his style throughout, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Then he moves quickly through the identification of John the Baptist and what his role was, the baptism of Jesus by John, and the temptation in the wilderness. Then on to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry:
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to 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.” (Mark 1:14-15)
The gospel Jesus preached was about the kingdom of God. The content was the announcement that the time was fulfilled and the kingdom of God was now at hand. In verse 1, we see “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and in verses 14-15, “the gospel of the kingdom of God.” These are not two different gospels. Rather, the gospel is the announcement of the good news that the kingdom of God has come and that Jesus the Messiah is the King. The response that is called for is to repent and believe that good news. Repentance is a change of mind that brings a change of direction. In this case, repentance is turning toward the kingdom of God and its King.

As we saw in Matthew, so we find in Mark: Jesus preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God in numerous parables and sayings (Mark 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47). In Mark 10:14-15, for example, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” His message was not just that the kingdom of God was at hand but that one must “receive” it, that is, to take hold of it, as if by hand (Greek, dechomai). We must take hold of it as a little child, in full dependence and trust.

A few verses later, Jesus encountered a rich, young ruler who came seeking “eternal life.” Jesus told him, “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (v. 21). But it turned out that the young man valued his possessions more than the kingdom of God, so he went away.

Seeing this, Jesus said to the disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23), and “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (vv. 24-25).

The disciples were astonished and asked each other, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26). Jesus answered, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (v. 27).

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You” (v. 28). It sounds like a statement but he was really asking a question, looking for some assurance: Is there a place for me in the kingdom of God?
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
Notice that throughout this dialogue, the theme has been the kingdom of God. So when Jesus speaks of “My sake and the gospel’s,” it is about the good news of the kingdom, of which Jesus Himself is King. Eternal life, which is what the rich, young ruler came seeking, is also about the kingdom. The kingdom of God has to do both with the time that is now (“now in this time) and also with “the age to come.” Indeed, it is the life of “the age to come” breaking into this present time.

In Mark 11, we read about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Many people came and spread out their clothes and palm branches on the road before Him and shouted, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (v. 10). This is the same kingdom Jesus gospeled about in Mark 1:14-15, because He is the one who fulfills the covenant promise God made to David.

To the scribe who responded well to Jesus’ word about the Great Commandment (see Mark 12:29-31), He answered, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34).

In Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:1-37), Jesus said “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” (Mark 13:10). There is no other gospel that has been presented in Mark except the gospel of the kingdom. It is not just for Israel but also for the nations of the world.

In Mark 15, Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews. Jesus answered that this was so. In this chapter, He is referred to as King of the Jews five times (Mark 15:2, 9, 12, 18,26), the final time being a reference to the inscription over Jesus’ head as He hung on the cross.

When Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and being prepared for burial, we read of Joseph or Arimathea, and another reference to the kingdom:
Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Mark 15:43)
After the resurrection but before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission:
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. (Mark 16:15-20)
As Jesus ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, the place of ruling and reigning, what gospel would He send the disciples out to preach to the nations except the one He Himself came preaching — the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Gospel of the Kingdom in Matthew

The “gospel of the kingdom” is very prominent in the Gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist came preaching about it, saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). He identified himself, in Matthew 3:3, as the forerunner prophesied in Isaiah 40, a passage that speaks of Messiah, God’s Anointed King, in gospel terms: “bring good tidings” (found twice in Isaiah 40:9, the Greek word used in the Septuagint is euaggelizo; see Gospeling in the Old Testament).

Jesus also, after His baptism and the temptation in the wilderness, began His ministry preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:17). Matthew records, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). The Sermon on the Mount gives us the substance of that preaching. It is the announcement that the kingdom was at hand and what it means to participate in it.
  • The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) are bookended by the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • The passage on the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-20) is in reference to the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (vv. 19-20).
  • In “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus teaches us how to pray: “You kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and glory forever. Amen.”
  • In regard to the daily necessities of life, Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
  • There is a warning about false prophets, with the conclusion, “Not everyone ho says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:15-21).
This sermon was not a one-off. Everywhere Jesus went, He preached about the kingdom of God: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).

When John the Baptist sought reassurance about whether Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, Jesus sent back the answer, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). The gospel He preached to the poor was surely the same one He had been preaching all along, the “gospel of the kingdom.”

Then, concerning John, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:11-12).

Jesus not only preached the gospel of the kingdom, He demonstrated it as well. He said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).

The parables Jesus taught were about the kingdom of God. When the disciples asked why He taught the people in parables, Jesus answered, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11). That is why He said to the people, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (v. 9). Those who had ears to hear His parables would understand the mysteries of the kingdom. Jesus explained the parable of the sower with these words: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom …” (Matthew 13:19). Many of Jesus parables are expressly about the kingdom, using His customary formula, “The kingdom of heaven is like …” (Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47).

Jesus concluded the parables in Matthew 13 and said to the disciples, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52). He instructed His disciples concerning the kingdom of heaven because that is what He was training them to preach and teach.

In Matthew 18, the disciples asked Jesus, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus set a little child before them and answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). In Matthew 19:14, Jesus reiterates, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

In the next chapters are additional parables explicitly about the kingdom, again beginning with introductory words, “The kingdom of heaven is like …” (Matthew 18:23; 20:1; 22:1).

In Matthew 24, which contains what is known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus addresses the disciple’s questions about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the sign of His coming and the end of the age. In His answer, He said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (v. 14). The gospel Jesus preached and taught to the disciples was not just for Israel but for all the nations of the world.

In Matthew 25, after two more parables explicitly about the kingdom of heaven, Jesus spoke of when the Son of Man gathers together the nations for judgment. He will separate them like a shepherd separates sheep from goats, with the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Jesus, who has throughout the Gospel of Matthew identified Himself as the Son of Man, now refers to Himself as the King: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand …” (v. 34), “And the King will answer and say to them …” (v. 40).

At the end of Matthew, after the cross and the resurrection, but before He ascended to heaven, Jesus came to the disciples and announced: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). This is the language of kingdom dominion, with both heaven and earth as His domain. In other words, the kingdom of God was now active on earth, with Jesus as King over all. Then Jesus commissioned His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The word “therefore” connects verses 19-20 to what Jesus said in verse 18. The kingdom of God was now active in the world, and King Jesus was ascending to His throne at the right hand of the Father. Now the disciples were to take the news to all the world, to make disciples of all the nations and teach them everything Jesus taught. Throughout the book of Matthew, everything Jesus did and taught and preached was all about the gospel, and the gospel was all about the kingdom of God.

For more about the kingdom in Matthew’s Gospel, see The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gospeling in the Old Testament

What does gospeling — the preaching of the gospel — look like in the Old Testament? The Greek word for “gospel” is euaggelion (Strong’s Greek #2098) which means “good news.” Associated with it is the word euaggelizo (Strong’s Greek #2097), from which we get the word “evangelize,” which means to “announce good news.” I call it “gospeling.” In the Septuagint, (or LXX , the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) we find the word euaggelizo a number of times.
  • It is used to announce the defeat of an enemy (1 Samuel 31:9; 2 Samuel 4:10; 2 Samuel 18:19-31).
  • It is used to announce the anointing of a new king: “Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound. Now Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the horn, he said, ‘Why is the city in such a noisy uproar?’ While he was still speaking, there came Jonathan, the son of Abiathar the priest. And Adonijah said to him, ‘Come in, for you are a prominent man, and bring good news.’ Then Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, ‘No! Our lord King David has made Solomon king’” (1 Kings 1:39-43).
  • It is used to proclaim God’s righteousness, His faithful acts in delivering His people: “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation” (Psalm 40:9-10 ESV).
  • It is used to proclaim a great victory. In Psalm 68, which extols the victory of Yahweh over the enemies of His people, we read, “The LORD gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it” (v. 11).
  • In Psalm 96, it is used to speak of God’s saving acts for His people and to declare His glory to the nations: “Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:2-3; see Exploring the Gospel ~ Psalm 96).
  • Isaiah 40, a Messianic passage, speaks of the coming of the LORD to shepherd His people and rule over their enemies: “O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (v. 9).
  • In Isaiah 52, another Messianic passage, it is used to announce the peace (shalom, wholeness) and salvation that comes from God, and to proclaim His reign: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (v. 7).
  • In Isaiah 60, still in Messianic mode, it is used of all the nations coming to proclaim the praises of Yahweh. “A multitude of camels will cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba will come; they will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the LORD” (v. 6 NASB).
  • In Isaiah 61, is it used in regard to the anointing of the Messiah (“Anointed One”). “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” The whole chapter speaks of God’s Anointed King coming to set everything right in the world. It is this entire passage that Jesus indicated when He quoted the first verses and then declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21).
  • In Jeremiah 20:12, euaggelizo is used to announce the birth of a child.
  • In Joel 2:32, it relates back to the promise in Isaiah 40:9, about good news coming out of Zion and Jerusalem. “And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved: for in mount Sion and in Jerusalem shall the saved one be as the Lord has said, and they that have glad tidings preached to them, whom the Lord has called” (Brenton’s English Septuagint).
  • In Nahum 1:15, it speaks of the deliverance of God’s people from their enemies. “Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off.” (A similar word, apaggelizo, is here translated “proclaims.”)
The use of euaggelizo in the Septuagint is significant because the Septuagint was the Bible for the early Church. Also, the New Testament writers, whenever they quote from the Old Testament, most often do so by way of the Septuagint. So the early Church was conversant with what euaggelizo and euaggelion conveyed.

The gospeling we find in the New Testament fits very well with the gospeling we find in the Old Testament. All its categories find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah. He is the One whose birth was announced when angels brought “good tidings” (euaggelizo) to the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:10-11). He is the King whose kingdom the gospel proclaims (e.g., Mark 1:14-15). He is God’s Anointed King who fulfills the gospel in Isaiah 61. He is the Good Shepherd who gives His people peace (John 10:11, John 14:27). He has destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:18) and disarmed the “principalities and powers” (Colossians 2:15). Not only has He won the victory over the enemy, but through Him we also are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

Like the old Gospel song said, “Ain’t that good news!”