The Message of Jesus: A Call to Live the Future Here and Now
Chapter 2 of The Gospel: Your Invitation to the Kingdom
Some people can get quite excited about Bible prophecy, it seems, but have a hard time getting excited about the central message of the Bible — salvation through Jesus Christ. God has given Christians the most precious gift possible and the role of telling others how they can also receive that gift.
Peter described the apostles’ commission: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:42-43).
This is the supreme message, the good news, which the apostles came to see was the central message of all the prophets — that Jesus Christ is the One appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead, and that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name!
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Paul described the gospel Jesus gave his church. Notice his words:
Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
What Paul calls “of first importance” is the fact that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ, that he died for our sins, was buried and was raised, all according to the Scriptures. Further, he highlights the fact that there were plenty of witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, lest anyone should doubt that Jesus was really raised from the dead.
“By this gospel you are saved,” Paul asserts. Our goal, like Paul’s, should be to pass on the message we have received, which is “of first importance.” We must pass on what Paul and the other apostles received — “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
All other biblical teaching hinges on these primary facts. Only the Son of God could die for our sins, and it is only because he died and was raised again from the dead that we can live in steadfast assurance of his return and of our inheritance of eternal life.
Therefore John could write:
We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12)
Most central truth
Luke wrote that Jesus reminded his disciples of the central truth of his message just before he ascended:
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:45-48)
When Jesus opened the apostles’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures, what did they understand the Scriptures to contain? In other words, what is, according to Jesus, the central, most important truth to understand from the Old Testament Scriptures? It is that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations!
But what about the gospel of the kingdom of God? Didn’t Jesus preach the good news of the kingdom of God? Of course! Is the gospel of the kingdom of God different from the gospel Paul, Peter and John preached about salvation in Jesus Christ? Not at all!
Entrance into the kingdom of God is salvation. Being saved and entering the kingdom of God are the same thing! Receiving eternal life is the same thing as receiving salvation, because salvation is being saved from sin, which brings death.
In Jesus there is life — eternal life. Eternal life requires forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness of sin, or justification, comes only by faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is both Judge and Redeemer. And he is also King of that kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom of God is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus and his apostles preached the same message — Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to receive salvation, deliverance, eternal life and entrance into the kingdom of God.
When a person’s mind is opened to understand the Old Testament prophecies, as Jesus opened the apostles’ minds (Luke 24:45), it becomes plain that the central message of the prophets, too, was Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43).
Let’s go further. John wrote, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). That’s plain language!
Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If there is anything we must understand from the Word of God, it is that a person cannot come to the Father, cannot know God, cannot inherit eternal life and cannot enter the kingdom of God, apart from Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote:
Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14)
Notice how the inheritance of the saints, the kingdom of light, the kingdom of the Son, redemption and forgiveness of sins all come together as one seamless garment of the word of truth that is the gospel.
In verse 4, Paul speaks of the Colossians’ “faith in Christ Jesus” and “the love you have for all God’s people.” He describes that faith and love as springing “from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you” (verses 5-6). Again, the gospel is centered in the magnificent hope of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by whom we have received redemption.
In verses 21-23, Paul continues:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
In verses 25-29, Paul continues to underscore the gospel to which he was commissioned and his goal in proclaiming it. He wrote:
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
What the gospel is all about
Jesus Christ is what the gospel is all about. It is about his identity and activity as the Son of God (John 3:18), as judge of the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1), as the Christ (Acts 17:3), as Savior (2 Timothy 1:10), as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), as advocate (1 John 2:1), as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14), as the firstborn among many siblings (Romans 8:29), as friend (John 15:14-15).
It is about him as Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25), as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), as our Passover sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7), as the image of the invisible God and the firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15), as the head of the church and the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead (verse 18), as the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3), as the revealer of the Father (Matthew 11:27), as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), as the door (John 10:7).
The gospel is about Christ as the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), as the ruler of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14), the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13), as the Branch (Jeremiah 23:5), as the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6), as the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), as the desired of all nations (Haggai 2:7). It is about Christ the faithful and true witness (Revelation 3:14), the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), the light of the world (John 8:12), the living bread (John 6:51), the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10), our salvation (Luke 2:30), the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), the Word of life (1 John 1:1), declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
Paul wrote, “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus Christ is the heart and core, the central theme, the foundation of the gospel.
One cannot preach anything else and be consistent with the Bible. Jesus told the leaders of the Jews: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
Message of salvation
The message Christians are called to proclaim is about salvation, which is eternal life in the kingdom of God. To receive that eternal salvation, to enter the kingdom of God, one must come through the only true Door, the only true Way — Jesus Christ. He is the King of the kingdom.
John wrote, “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). Paul wrote to Timothy, “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
We are warned in Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” The message of salvation was first announced by Jesus himself — it was Jesus’ own message from the Father.
John wrote of God’s own testimony about his Son: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).
John again showed the emphasis on the Son in John 5:22-23: “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”
That is why the church is to preach about Jesus Christ! Isaiah prophesied,
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. (Isaiah 28:16)
Walking in the new life to which we as Christians are called in Jesus Christ, trusting in him as our sure foundation and eagerly looking forward to his second coming, we can rejoice in the hope and assurance of our eternal inheritance.
Author: Neil Earle