What is the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached:
The gospel of the kingdom of heaven is the good and joyful news the Lord will establish a kingdom on earth. Jesus Christ, David’s descendant, will reign with all subject to his righteous rule. This essay may appear controversial; it seems failure to rightly divide render many unwilling to understand. This topic does not encompass the kingdom of God. We are not discussing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are not the same kingdoms. Our purpose is to discuss the kingdom of heaven and its related gospel.
When the Bible refers to the gospel of the kingdom, it directly refers to the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is defined as the physical visible kingdom on earth. Currently, it’s under Satan’s dominion and ruled by governments that have set themselves against the Lord (Psalm 2:2). God’s desire from the beginning was to establish a kingdom, he created man and gave him dominion (Genesis 1:26). From that time, man was placed over the works of God’s hands and all was put in subjection under him (Hebrews 2:6-8). Alas, Genesis 3 describes man’s fall thereby abdicating dominion to Satan. As we dive into this biblical concept, please keep in mind we are not discussing forgiveness of sin, but rather the eventual revolution that will restore the physical kingdom on earth to its rightful King.
One gospel for all ages:
The term “gospel” is defined as good or joyous news from God to man. As with any Bible term, we must establish its use and context to gain proper biblical definition. It’s wrong to assume the word “gospel” always refers to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation for man. “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Without a risen Saviour, there is not yet a gospel of Jesus Christ to preach, but with the King present on earth, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is preached.
Yet Christ did go on to suffer on the cross, he did die and rose again the third day. Now we preach Christ crucified, assured that whosoever will trust in that gospel shall be saved. Yet this is not the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news regarding Jesus Christ and his eventual kingdom on earth. As Bible-believing Christians we have a biblical responsibility to set assumption and tradition aside. These often run contrary to scripture and prevent many from growing in truth. Let’s continue with a brief look at the history of the kingdom of heaven.
A brief history of the kingdom of heaven:
We mentioned at the onset of this essay God’s desire to establish a kingdom on earth, his plans were set in motion when he created man in his own image (Genesis 1:26-28). Man was crowned with glory and honor then placed over the works of God’s hands (Hebrews 2:6-8). It wasn’t long before the realities of man became manifest, Adam sinned against God and was ushered out of the garden (Genesis 3). When man fell into sin, dominion was transferred to Satan who is now the Prince and the god of this world (Matthew 4:8-10, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4). All this power is now delivered unto Satan who often offers the kingdoms of this world in exchange for loyalty to himself (Luke 4:5-6).
The question of God’s power:
It’s essential to understand we are not questioning God’s power or control in these matters. The fact is that Adam forfeited the dominion given him by God turning authority over to the prince of this world. Yet, God himself can and often will exercise his power to establish kings for the purpose of carrying out his will when necessary (Daniel 2:21, 2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Furthermore, Satan, while exercising the dominion that Adam lost through disobedience, must report to God and work within certain limitations (Job 1:6-12). Finally, the Lord our God pre-planned Satan’s end along with them that reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While we are discussing the transfer of power between man and Satan let’s not confuse this with some sort of weakness on God’s part (Revelation 20:10). Surely the Lord will come quickly and all will be set in order. He has been given all power but he does not yet exercise that power (Matthew 28:18).
The brief history continued:
Eventually, God spake to Abram making him great promises, he believed God and left Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham’s call would be the start of a people on earth through whom the Lord would reign. Thus the Lord took the Hebrews unto himself to make of them a great nation. The Lord used Moses to free Israel from bondage then delivered them the laws that would govern that nation. Moses led them to the promised land, then his servant Joshua escorted them in (Joshua 1:1-2). This the physical location where God would establish his kingdom and rule over his nation.
Sometime later king David conquered Zion, where God placed his name forever, here, will sit the throne of the Great King (2 Samuel 5:1-7, 1 Kings 14:21). The lineage of David eventually produced the King of kings, the man Christ Jesus who will reign someday from that throne. This back and forth battle between Satan and man will continue until the Lord’s final return to earth. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
From the time of Adam to the close of the book of Malachi God’s people heard nothing from the Lord until the King of the Jews is born in Bethlehem (Luke 1:26-33). Some thirty years later came a man sent from God whose name was John (John 1:6-7, Matthew 3:1-3). Through John’s preaching, the kingdom of heaven was announced and the Messiah was made manifest to Israel (John 1:29-34, Matthew 3:1-2). John was the forerunner sent to prepare the way of the Lord and to prepare a people for his coming (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:1-3, Luke 1:17)
John was a bold preacher, the exercise of which landed him in prison where he questioned if Christ was Messiah (Mark 6:17-18, Matthew 11:2-3). He had an expectation that with Messiah physically present, and the physical earthly kingdom at hand, Rome and Herod would be subdued and brought under Israeli rule. Of course, this was not the case, the Lord came unto the Jews and they received him not (John 1:10-11) “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12). Finally, the forerunner lost his head and the King went to the cross to be crucified (Matthew 14:8-11, Luke 23:33).
This, of course, is not the end of the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of the Lord’s first coming was to die on the cross for sin not to establish a kingdom (Isaiah 53). The kingdom could be offered at that time because the King was physically present in the form of the man Christ Jesus. Regardless, in the end, the Jews rejection of their King was not a failure on God’s part. The day is coming when the Lord himself will return to earth, as the descendant of Abraham and David, King Jesus will establish his throne.
The gospel of the kingdom of heaven:
The gospel of the kingdom of heaven is the “good news” God will establish a literal, visible and physical kingdom on earth. Jesus Christ will institute his righteous rule and reign from Zion (Luke 1:30-33). This gospel is referenced in preaching or parables concerned with the kingdom of heaven; where Christ will be King and Israel will be head of the nations. John the Baptist made the initial announcement and prepared the way (Mark 1:2-4). Once the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, was made manifest, he also proclaimed; repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17-23). The twelve apostles, likewise, were sent out by the Lord to the lost sheep of the house of Israel also to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 10:5-15).
When was this gospel proclaimed:
There are three distinct moments in biblical history when the gospel of the kingdom was preached. Each moment is noted by the individual or group sent, all three took place during the Lord’s physical presence on earth. The three distinct moments were the announcement by John the Baptist, the offer made by King Jesus himself, followed by the preaching of the apostles. The preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is exclusive to the book of Matthew. Though it is mentioned in Acts 1:6-7 as well as in the prophecy of its final establishment in various biblical texts. Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as King of the Jews. When reading this particular book it helps to keep this in mind. Understanding this will help the book of Matthew become more clear to the sincere Bible student.
John the Baptist:
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:1-3). John the Baptist came preaching the baptism of repentance to the Jews. His message of repentance was in preparation for the kingdom of heaven, not the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The King would be on the scene at any moment, John was sent to prepare the way for his coming. This gospel, much like the gospel we preach, centered around Jesus Christ, but rather than looking for a suffering Savior they were seeking a living King. John would make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17).
Jesus Christ the Lord:
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). The Lord met with Satan who offered him the kingdoms of this world. Yet he rejected this offer understanding a day is coming when at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess him as Lord. The King stands before his people offering the kingdom they so desire. Yet the nation united in voice declared they will not have this man to reign over them (Luke 19:14, John 19:15). It’s essential again to note while Jesus offers the kingdom of heaven to the Jews his purpose for coming was to die on the cross. This was not an alternative to the failure of establishing the kingdom, Old Testament scripture is very clear that Messiah would be cut off and Jehovah would be pierced. The Lord fulfilled every jot and every tittle of prophecy concerning himself, he went to the cross with or without the Jews repentance.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 10:5-7). This gospel is preached to Israel for they are the subject to the Jewish King, consider the instructions given the apostles. Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and tell them to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. This was an exclusive gospel, to a chosen nation. This gospel, again, is not a reference to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but rather a call to repent in preparation for the kingdom of heaven.
The gospel of the kingdom always refers to the establishment of God’s reign over the physical earthly kingdom. Christ will reign from David’s throne, and Israel will be head of the nations. This gospel will be preached again someday, Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Until that day we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and remain instant in season and out of season.
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