Now, I’m guessing that most of you are probably at least somewhat familiar with the Easter story – the one about Jesus that is, not the bunny. If you weren’t before coming here then you are now because that’s what we just watched! Isn’t it awesome?!?
But in all seriousness – most Americans have at least heard of Jesus, and how he died on a cross and rose again, though many do not believe it. I would also argue that, at least based on my experience, most of the people that go to church on Easter Sunday are people who already go to church – even if only on Easter and Christmas.
And if you happen to fall into that latter category, there’s a good chance that most of the Easter services you have been to have been pretty much the same, talking about the the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and especially His resurrection – and finished up with an appeal to believe in said story and accept Jesus as your personal savior so that you will get to go to heaven. Perhaps you’ve even heard that this story, coupled with its meaning and what it does for us, is what is known as “The Gospel” or “The Good News”.
The Good News that when Jesus died on the cross, He died in your place – taking on all of your sins and shedding His own blood to pay for them himself in the eyes of a righteous and Holy God. He took your place, in order to forgive you of your sins. And then He rose from the dead to prove that He was God, thus conquering death and the grave.
And if you believe that, and accept His sacrifice and payment for your sins, then you will be forgiven and welcomed into heaven.
That certainly is good news, and despite what it may seem like I’m insinuating – it is absolutely true!
Jesus, the Son of God, did indeed become a human being and walk this earth as a sinless man, only to voluntarily die for our sin so that whoever believes in Him will not have to perish but have eternal life.
I’m not denying that in the least and I do, in fact, stake my own life and eternity on that truth!
But what if I told you that all of that is actually not the Gospel?
That the story of Christ’s death and resurrection is not the good news that Jesus told us to preach to the world just before he ascended into heaven?
What if I told you that this story alone is not what saves you?
Perhaps you might start thinking you came to the wrong church this Easter.
But before you bolt for the door, please hear me out…or rather…hear Jesus himself out on the subject.
If you have a bible with you, turn with me to the book of Mark, and chapter 1. Mark was one of the followers of Jesus, but not an official disciple. He likely got most of his details from the disciple Peter, and at some point decided to write them down.
He begins his account with what is effectively a title. Verse 1 begins, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
The English word “gospel” derives from the Old English word, “godspell” which meant “good news” or “glad tidings” which is itself a word-for-word translation of the Greek word – euangelion – which is a combination of two words – “eu” – “good” and “angelion” – “message”.
So, that’s where we get the word “Gospel” –
And for an added bonus in your Greek lesson today…“angelion” is also the root for the Greek word “angelos” – which is the Greek word for “angel” in the Bible. Angels are literally messengers.
And so, whenever you see the word “gospel” or in some translations – “good news” – it comes from this Greek word – εὐαγγέλιον – which is also where we get our term “evangelist” – as in a bringer of good news.
And so, Mark introduces his book with the fact that he is telling the story of the Gospel, the εὐαγγέλιον, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
He begins with the brief story about John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, after which Jesus spends 40 days fasting in the wilderness and being tempted by Satan. Then, in verse 14, he gets to the first words of Jesus recorded in his account.
Now after John [the Baptist] was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
Catch the importance of this. Jesus himself is proclaiming the gospel right from the get-go. Let’s see if he talks about his death and resurrection, since that is what our modern concept of the gospel entails…
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
That’s it. That’s all Mark records of the first sermon of Jesus. Immediately after this Jesus is picking his disciples. No mention of his death or resurrection.
Now, Mark is generally rather short and to the point. So, maybe the other accounts of Matthew, Luke, and John give more details.
Matthew was one of the 12 disciples, so a direct eye witness, but he records the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in pretty much the same way. After John the Baptist’s arrest, he records..
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew doesn’t include the term “gospel” but he does talk of repenting and the kingdom, just as Mark recorded.
Luke was a doctor and a companion of Paul. He likely never met Jesus in person, as he came to the faith after the resurrection. He gives us both his gospel account and the book of Acts, which records the early years of the church. He researched his writings as a detailed and thorough historian. In his account, he doesn’t record the exact statement found in Matthew and Mark, but he does record Jesus early in his ministry talking in similar terms.
In Luke 4, just after Jesus had done a round of healing, he’s off by himself praying when the people find him and beg him to stay with them.
43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Again, no mention of death and resurrection – but instead the good news of the Kingdom…
So, that’s Matthew, Mark, and Luke…which are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are each very similar.
John, the fourth Gospel record, was written a bit later than the other three and generally tries to fill in gaps rather than repeating what they said, so he doesn’t record this part of the story.
So, based on Matthew, Mark, and Luke – Jesus, at the very beginning of his ministry on earth is calling the people to believe in the Gospel – the Euongellion – the Good News. But he doesn’t mention the death and resurrection he would experience three years later, that today is usually the sum total of what WE call the Gospel.
And one more important thing to note about this is that it is THE Gospel – Jesus is not just preaching good news in general – but THE Good News that leads to salvation – THE Gospel.
When we think of the Gospel that leads to salvation – we think of the cross and empty tomb.
And yet Jesus was preaching THE Gospel that leads to salvation – before He died and rose again.
How is that possible?
Maybe you’re thinking he gets to it later and I’m just cherry picking, but if you read the whole accounts of each gospel writer you, won’t see him preaching his death and resurrection to the crowds he calls to repent and believe,
though he does tell his disciples about it a few times. And when he does – they don’t believe him!
31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”
There it is – He just told them about his pending death and resurrection that would save them. The Gospel that we know and love! And their response…
34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
So, Jesus basically lays out what we call the gospel to his inner circle that had been with him the last three years – and they don’t understand a word he is saying.
And yet…just a few chapters before this, Luke reports that Jesus sent out these 12 and 72 others to preach the good news to the people. What were they preaching if they did not understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Answer: They were preaching the same thing we just saw that Jesus was preaching from the start. The Gospel. The ACTUAL Gospel.
So, if the death and resurrection are not THE Gospel that Jesus himself preached, then what is the Gospel?
And where does the death and resurrection – which are obviously important – fit in?
Both excellent questions, and I’m glad you asked…
Let’s go back to what Jesus said in Mark to answer the first question – what is the Gospel?
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Here Jesus says four important things pertaining to the gospel He is preaching.
The time is fulfilled.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
So, which of these, if any, is the good news?
Well, “repent and believe” are not “news” but an action on your part in light of the news. So, it must be one or both of the other two.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.
Looking at the other records of Matthew and Luke, the one common denominator of the three is “the kingdom of God or Heaven.” Which, consequently, is exactly what the 12 disciples and 72 followers were told to preach when He sent them out two by two – they were to preach the same thing Jesus was preaching, “the Kingdom of God has come near!”
Thus, by process of elimination, that must be the good news – the gospel. The good news that Jesus was intent on preaching himself and sent his followers out to do the same, before he ever died and rose again, was that the kingdom of God is near.
Which probably raises more questions than answers at this point…so I’ll stop with the tension and just break it down for you.
What Jesus says in Mark 1:15 is a very loaded statement that his audience in those days would have understood rather quickly while you and I scratch our heads.
That’s because in our modern western American context, the way we understand the English of this statement is rather off from the original Greek meanings behind these words – and there’s a bit of history Jesus was referencing that the people Jesus was talking to would have been steeped in – where as even the well studied Christians of today rarely connect to this.
All that to say, don’t feel bad if you’re not following where this is going yet. I didn’t get it the first time I heard it this way either.
Let’s take this statement apart together and see what we find.
“The time is fulfilled”
The “time” that Jesus is referring to is something all of his fellow Israelites would have been all too aware of.
He is referring to an OT prophecy about the timing of the coming Messiah – the promised savior and King that the Jews had been waiting centuries for while they lived under the oppression of one foreign nation after another. First it was Babylon, then Medo-Persia, then Greece, and now Rome.
Israel was supposed to be God’s chosen people and the OT prophets are filled with promises of a future day when this great leader from God would make Israel the greatest kingdom in all the world, with everyone being subject to them instead of the other way around.
So, after centuries of being oppressed, the people were anxiously awaiting this coming conquerer king. And they had a prophetic timeline that pointed to that king showing up right about now.
That specific prophecy is found in the book of Daniel. Daniel was a prophet during the Jewish exile in Babylon around 500 BC, and God gave him several amazing visions and prophecies about the future between his time and the time of Christ and about the very end of the world. As a church we literally just got done covering that topic over the last 7 months, and we spent plenty of time in Daniel.
The specific prophecy that Jesus is referring to, in saying “the time is fulfilled”, is found in Daniel 9. After a lengthy and desperate prayer by Daniel on behalf of his people, he is visited by an angel who gives him a brief summary of the major events the Jewish people will experience from then up to the end of time when they would ultimately be saved – in what is known as the Seventy “Sevens” prophecy.
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
To the Jews these statements are part of the various promises of the restoration and glorification of Israel. The angel continues…
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
It’s a bit cryptic, as most prophecy is, so let me explain. First, the “Anointed One” is none other than the Hebrew word, “masiah” – which in the Greek is “Xristos”, or “Christ” in English. Christ is not Jesus’ last name – it’s his title as Messiah – the Anointed One.
And here in Daniel 9, the angel is telling Daniel the timeline to when this Messiah would come.
That timeline is seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ for a total of 69 sevens, with the “sevens” being groups of seven years. The final or 70th seven is the seven years of tribulation at the end of time, but that’s a talk for another day or month or so.
69 x 7 = 483. The angel is saying that 483 years after the “word goes out to restore and rebuild the recently destroyed Jerusalem”- the promised Messiah would come – a Messiah the Jews expected to bring Israel to power over their oppressors.
And guess when that 483 year clock runs out?
- Daniel heard this prophecy from the Angel Gabriel while in captivity in Babylon around 500 BC.
- Some time later, Medo-Persia conquered Babylon, and the Persian King Artexerxes issued a decree to Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem in the year 445 BC.
- Jewish years back then were 360 days long, so 483 of their years equals 476 of our years (which is how modern historians date the past, even if those in the past used different dating methods – hence the need to convert).
- 445 BC + 476 years (counting the final year inclusively as they did) puts this prophecy’s fulfillment in AD 30.
- Most scholars date the death and resurrection between AD 30 and 33.
Which fits perfectly with the very next thing the angel says about the Anointed One…
26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.
So, what the angel told Daniel was that after 483 years, the Messiah would come, and then be put to death.
The Jews of Jesus’ day generally ignored that part about him dying and focused only on his ruler status – and thus were not expecting the Anointed One that actually showed up.
Which is why Jesus preached the way he did, and why he was ultimately killed – thus fulfilling the prophecy.
So, when Jesus was saying – “The time has been fulfilled” – he was saying, my fellow Jewish Brethren, the prophecy clock you have been watching for 483 years has ticked down to it’s final moments – and your Messiah, your Anointed One, your King is here.
“and the kingdom of God – MY KINGDOM – is at hand;”
Jesus was effectively saying, “Good News everybody – that promised Kingdom you’ve been waiting for – it’s here. I’m the Anointed One. I’m your promised King, here to save you!”
Which, for the Jews of that day, that was indeed extremely good news! That was THE GOOD NEWS they had been waiting centuries for!
So why did they reject it?
Well, what Jesus says next is a clue..
After telling them what they’ve been anxiously waiting to hear – before he calls them to believe it – He first tells them to REPENT.
“Repent” is a word that has been used and abused in the church world and generally completely misunderstood.
In the Greek, it is the word “μετανοέω” – METANOEO – which means to change your mind. Repent does not mean to stop sinning. Repent means to change the way you think -which will result in a change of action.
Why is Jesus telling them to change their mind?
Well, because here at his first coming, Jesus is not going to be the conquering king that they are all waiting for. You see, in the OT prophecies, the Messiah is described as both a conquering king and a suffering servant, and the Jews of that day mistakenly thought this meant there were two Messiahs because they couldn’t conceive of a king that would die for his people.
In the Daniel 9 prophecy, in the Hebrew he is called “Messiah Nagib” – Messiah the Ruler – so they all assumed that the Messiah that shows up around this time would be that ruler, the king who leads Israel to world dominance.
But they were only partially right. Jesus was and is indeed the king of kings and lord of lords and in the end he will most definitely rule the whole world with Israel as his chief nation – but something extremely important had to be done first, before that could even be possible.
And this is where the cross comes in.
In most Christian circles, we are generally led to believe that on the cross, Jesus died to pay the debt owed to God because of our sins – because of all the things we’ve done wrong in our lives. Every lie we tell, things we steal, hurting and killing each other, greed and gluttony, sexual immorality, and so on. Those sins were nailed to that cross 2,000 years ago.
Which is totally awesome!! and partially true.
A careful study of Scripture reveals that it was not our SINS – plural and general – that Jesus had to die for, but THE SIN – singular and specific – that required His death on the cross.
That’s exactly what John the Baptist was referring to the first time he saw Jesus…
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
The Lamb of God, who takes away THE SIN – singular and specific – of the world.
In the Jewish culture of the time, the image of the Lamb would have immediately been understood to them to mean the lamb of atonement that the high priest would sacrifice once each year to cover over the sins of the people according to the Law of Moses. John looked at Jesus and said that HE, Jesus, is THE LAMB – the ultimate and final lamb – to take away THE SIN of the whole world.
And the way Jesus would do that is the same way a lamb was used to do that – he would have to shed his blood and die. But because he was the lamb from God, spotless and perfect in every way, and not only that but the very and only Son of God – His death was enough to cover the sin of the whole world for all time, thus requiring no more animal sacrifices.
Which is a normal part of the gospel we usually hear. But what we don’t generally discern is the distinction of THE SIN, as opposed to all sins in general. What is THE SIN that John is speaking of that warrants the death of the Messiah, the Son of God?
THE SIN – is the very first sin – committed by the first people on earth – Adam & Eve – and by every human being thereafter.
But it’s not what you’re probably thinking right now.
Let’s read the story.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
First, I want to briefly point out that Adam is said to have been right there with Eve as this happened and he did nothing to stop it. So, fellas, don’t blame Eve – they were both to blame.
So they ate the fruit and were banished from the garden and the whole earth has been suffering for this ever since. And many have since mocked the idea and asked “What was so bad about eating the fruit that God would curse us this way?” And the answer is that their sin had very little do with the fruit.
THE SIN that Adam and Eve brought into the world was not the sin of eating a forbidden apple – that was just the physical action that resulted from the sin they had already committed in their hearts. It was the same sin that Satan himself, the Serpent, had committed probably only moments before He tempted them.
The wording that Satan the Serpent uses here is so extremely deceptive…
First, he puts the question in their head – probably a question they had never entertained before – “Did God really say…?” –
He wasn’t asking because he didn’t know. He was trying to insert a little doubt into her mind. And it worked.
At first, the woman dutifully responds with the command they had been given and the consequence they were told would be the result of disobedience. But something in her demeanor probably tipped the serpent off that he had at least raised the question in her mind so he goes for broke and flat out accuses God of lying…
4 “You will not certainly die,”
Then of having wrong motives…
5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Now, at this point, THE SIN had not yet happened – even if Adam and Eve were tempted by this (which clearly they were) – it’s not a sin to be tempted. But if you dwell on the temptation rather than fleeing immediately, it quickly results in sin – which in this case it did. Here was her response…
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Most people focus on the act of eating the fruit, but THE SIN had already occurred before she took the first bite. The bite was just a symptom. Just like all of our various named sins. They are all just symptoms of THE SIN that Adam and Eve stepped into and we are each guilty of.
It says she did three things here.
She ate the fruit – not it, just a symptom.
She also desired the gaining of the wisdom the Serpent told her about.
Also not it – It’s not wrong to desire something, just like it’s not wrong to be tempted.
THE SIN happened when she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye.”
Maybe you’re thinking, what’s the big deal? Perhaps God made the forbidden fruit look rather delicious and she noticed…
But it really doesn’t matter what the fruit looked like.
God had set the rules clearly and he didn’t stutter.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
In other words, God told Adam, and Eve by proxy, that all the fruit from all the trees in the garden are good for food for you – but the fruit from this tree is NOT good for food for you.
The rule was clear and absolute, but then Adam and Eve, when prompted by Satan to question God – looked at the tree God had clearly forbidden – and came up with their own opinion.
What did they just do?
They played God.
Follow me, this is so important.
You see, when the serpent told Eve she would be “like God, knowing good and evil,” there’s another very subtle lie insinuated in that statement.
God does not just KNOW what is good and evil, as if there was an objective standard outside of himself that He must adhere to. God DEFINES what is good and evil, and only HE, as the Creator of all this, is allowed and able to do that.
When Eve looked at the fruit and decided for herself that her own judgment was better than what God had defined and instructed – she decided she could define what is good for herself, despite what God said.
Before even eating the fruit, she had been tricked into thinking she was already like God, able to define good and evil for herself.
That is THE SIN.
And upon making her decision that the fruit was good in her eyes, contrary to what the God who created her had defined, the immediate symptom of that root sin was another sin of eating the fruit in direct disobedience to God.
THE SIN that Jesus chose to die for was THE SIN we are all guilty of when we play God and define for ourselves what is good and what is evil.
That is THE SIN that is at the root of all other SINS.
When we decide that we get to set the rules.
When we, the created beings, think we know better than our Creator and act accordingly by completely rejecting all of His laws and doing things our own way.
Or, to put that into the terms that Jesus uses – when I decide that I am king instead of Him.
The kingdom of God is not some mystical place with borders and a castle. The kingdom of God is his whole entire creation.
The term kingdom has two parts – KING and DOM – as in dominion. A kingdom is the king’s dominion – the domain over which he rules – over which he, as the rightful king – sets the rules. As part of a kingdom, you are subject to the king – and whatever he personally loves or hates, likes or dislikes, becomes the law of the land.
That’s how human kingdoms work, because that’s the way God’s kingdom works. And God’s kingdom is the whole of creation, meaning all of creation is obligated to abide by whatever he loves and hates, likes and dislikes. As the rightful king, God sets the rules of the universe that we must obey.
To do otherwise – to decide, no, I’m going to abide by my own likes and dislikes, make my own rules rather than obeying the king – is nothing short of TREASON.
And what is the penalty for treason in all nations throughout history? Death.
And since God’s kingdom encompasses all creation – both physical and spiritual – there is nothing outside of his domain. Not even your own individual life.
Believing you have dominion over your own life to do as you please, defining what is good and evil for yourself while being a part of God’s kingdom is like attempting to establish your own sovereign nation inside the borders of the United States. No matter what you may think or even get others to believe, you are still within the dominion of the government of the United States of America, and your attempts to deny or change that, as history has shown us, will not come to a good end for you.
God’s dominion is everything and everywhere and everyone. And attempts to deny or change His rule by enforcing your own – even on your own singular life – is TREASON in God’s eyes – and the penalty is death.
In other words, you don’t get to sit on His throne and live.
And that, my friends, is why Jesus had to die.
Because the penalty for treason is death.
Treason is THE SIN of the world that he paid for.
It’s THE SIN that each human being is individually guilty of the moment we choose, like Eve, to call something good that God calls evil.
As God warned through Isaiah the prophet…
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
When Scripture says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” this is what it means. It means we tried to be God, and it didn’t work, and are now guilty of treason against the High King of the universe.
We are all guilty of this, and thus we are all condemned to die. Because contrary to what we want or feel – we don’t get to make the rules. We don’t get to decide or define what is right and wrong.
You and I are not in charge.
You and I are not God.
You and I are not the King.
And we are all guilty of treason against him.
But here is where the story takes an unexpected turn.
In any other human story about an attempted coup, the guilty parties are always put to death – as they rightfully should be.
But in this story, instead of the traitors being put to death right away – the King we tried to usurp decides to flip it around and let US put HIM to death instead.
This is why Paul says that the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. The Jews could not accept that their Messiah King would die rather than overthrow the Romans, and the Gentiles (like us) who are all about reason – could not believe that a King would die for the traitors who tried to overthrow him.
It’s crazy! That the rightful king of the universe would die for the people who betrayed him. But that is exactly what Jesus did for us!
That’s also why he died on a cross, rather than something else. The Romans used the brutal crucifixion to deter would-be uprisings, by killing anyone suspected of sedition, rebellion, or treason. Jesus was executed by the Romans because he was seen as a potential rebellion leader. They didn’t dare about the Jewish religious reasons.
Jesus died a traitor’s death!
My traitor’s death!
Your traitor’s death!
And as amazing and wonderful as that is – it’s not the end of the story.
If it was, we wouldn’t be talking about it today because everyone would have just assumed that he must NOT have been who he said he was. He must NOT have been the Messiah, the king, the Son of God. Because He’s dead, just like a normal person.
He didn’t save anyone.
No doubt that’s how his followers felt, and really everyone who lived around Israel at that time, when his body was laid in that tomb.
Because people don’t come back from the grave.
Death comes to us all and it is final.
But we ARE still talking it.
Because unlike the result of the thousands of other Roman crucifixions we don’t talk about, this one had a different ending.
Because on the third day, something happened that literally rocked the world.
The King came back….from the dead.
And he didn’t just walk out of the grave like a zombie still bloodied up and weak. He was resurrected and given a new heavenly body with power and abilities that these bodies only dream about!
He went into the grave as the suffering servant but came out of it as the victorious champion! He conquered the enemy that no human army or great warrior has ever or will ever be able to defeat. He defeated death itself!
Death could not hold him.
The grave could not keep him.
He is alive. He is risen. He is risen indeed!
Which is why we celebrate!
Because it means that his dying for us worked!
That his payment was accepted by God.
That our treason is truly paid for in FULL!
It means that he is indeed the king of kings and lord of lords.
It means that His Kingdom will indeed last forever where as all kingdoms of men and the kingdom of Satan will fail.
Jesus began his ministry on earth preaching the good news about the KINGDOM because the good news is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, just as was promised through the prophets of old – and God’s kingdom is going to outlast and defeat all other kingdoms.
And you and I have the amazing opportunity to be a member of that winning kingdom in good standing, rather than be put to death for our treason.
That’s because the King Himself – Jesus – paid the penalty for our treason for us by dying on that cross, and then he rose from the dead victorious!
Without the cross and without the resurrection – we would still stand condemned of our treason, and we would not be allowed into the kingdom when Jesus comes back the second time at the very end.
Without the cross and the resurrection, the Kingdom of God would just be the Triune God and his good angels, because no human being who ever lived would be able to stay in it. We are all guilty of treason and there is nothing that we can do to change that or make it up to him. The only way to pay for your treason is with your life, and so – because God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – loved us and wanted to spend eternity with us in His Kingdom – He solved the problem by taking the penalty on himself, because He and He alone was powerful enough to be victorious over death.
And that my friends, is the very good news.
And so the proclamation that Jesus made at the beginning of his ministry is the same as what he told his followers to proclaim to the world after he rose from the dead.
The kingdom of God is here – and not only here, but accessible to you and to me because of what our King has done for us – SO REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS.
REPENT for you and me is not about two Messiahs – but about changing our minds about the way we view ourselves. We have to change our minds from thinking that we are the masters of our own destinies to realizing and recognizing that there is only one KING and it’s not ME, and it’s not YOU. And He sets the rules, not us. Repenting in our context is about recognizing the guilt of your own treason – that’s why I spent so much time explaining it.
People don’t go to hell because they told a lie or stole something or even for murder or sexual immorality. People go to hell for ignoring what God said about those things and setting our own definitions of good and evil, then acting on them.
To repent is to admit you have been wrong, and that you recognize you don’t get to make the rules because you are not King.
Once you come to that realization, then you can step off the throne that doesn’t belong to you, and believe. Just as Jesus calls – repent and believe.
But BELIEVING is not about mental acknowledgment that certain facts are true. BELIEVING in the New Testament, in the Greek, is more about putting your trust and faith in something. Like believing that a bridge will hold your weight and thus walking across it.
To believe the Gospel is to put your total faith and trust in the fact that you can be a part of the Kingdom of God because the King died for you and rose again!
Paul sums it up best in Romans 10:9 – 10.
9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess your faith and are saved.
Paul here is saying that the salvation Jesus procured for us is obtained by a two-part simultaneous decision/action combination.
Listen closely because this is the most important part and you’ve likely never heard it this way before…
It’s interesting that Paul spells the two parts out in one order in verse 9 and then the opposite order in verse 10. I think it’s because these are not sequential steps, but one decision/action that happens simultaneously.
One part is that you must believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead – meaning you acknowledge it’s a true historical fact AND you are banking your eternal future on what it means. You are putting the full weight of your eternal destiny in the fact that since Christ paid your debt and rose from the dead, that you also will be raised from the dead and live forever just as Jesus said to his disciples past, present, and future:
John 14:19 – Because I live, you also will live.
If you believe that and put your faith and trust in that to solve your sin problem, then you are justified – declared innocent of treason in the eyes of God. To attempt that status by being “good enough” is actually an act of treason itself because you are again defining “good enough” by what you want it to be, rather than how God defines it. The only way to be “good enough” in God’s eyes is to put your trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus as being enough to pay the death penalty for your treason.
But that alone does not save you.
The other part is that you confess that Jesus is Lord. Which means you swear your allegiance to Him as your King and Master. To confess here means you own the truth that Jesus is indeed the Lord and King of everything- not you. Because without doing that, you still stand convicted of treason.
You may have made a mental acknowledgment that Jesus rose from the dead, but if you are still sitting on His throne as if you are the king, then you are denying who He really is and just looking for some kind of cheap salvation that costs you nothing.
In other words, Jesus is not your Savior unless He is your Lord, your King, your Master. The Gospel King Jesus preached was about His kingdom, that you can be a part of, and thus be saved.
And so Paul urges us to both believe in our heart the truth about Jesus, and especially his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, and all that it means – and get off of His throne, confessing, acknowledging, agreeing that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord and King of the universe and I pledge my full allegiance to Him. That, and that alone, will save us from facing the penalty for our treason and allow us a place in the Kingdom of God in which we will live forever.
That, my friends, is the full Gospel. The cross and the resurrection are vital and necessary parts of the Gospel, and it wouldn’t be very good news without them, but the whole picture is really about the Kingdom and the risen King. And my hope and prayer today is that you will take Jesus up on his offer if you haven’t already done so.