One of the keys to restoring the ministry of Jesus is restoring the message of Jesus. What was the message that Jesus preached? Matthew 4:23 says that Jesus went throughout Galilee “preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Let’s also look at Mark 1:14-15:
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.”
There must be a shift in our message. Jesus did not preach the gospel of salvation; He preached the gospel of the kingdom and it is critical that we see the difference. We commonly preach a gospel that basically says, “Believe in Jesus so that when you die you will go to heaven.” Though there is truth in this, it is not the complete picture; rather it is only a part of the gospel that Jesus preached. If we reduce the gospel to this message it will severely limit the full ministry of Jesus—including healing the sick and casting out demons.
What’s the Difference?
So what’s the difference between the gospel of salvation and the gospel of the kingdom?
The gospel of salvation emphasizes Jesus as Savior. The gospel of the kingdom emphasizes Jesus as Lord. The gospel of salvation speaks of freedom from the penalty of sin. The gospel of the kingdom speaks of freedom from the power of sin. The gospel of salvation aims to produce converts. The gospel of the kingdom aims to produce disciples. The gospel of salvation is about escaping. The gospel of the kingdom is about advancing.
One way to summarize it is this: the gospel of salvation focuses on bringing people to heaven while the gospel of the kingdom focuses on bringing heaven to people. I am not implying that these two messages are in opposition to each other. The message of salvation must be preached as a part of the overall gospel of the kingdom; but not as the entire message itself.
The Kingdom: God’s Revolution
Jesus came to establish and advance God’s kingdom—His rule and reign, or lordship—on the earth. He did not come only to bring people from earth to heaven; He came to bring heaven to earth. The kingdom of heaven is God’s revolution being launched on the earth. It calls for a complete revolt against sin and this world system that is under the control of the evil one (see 1 John 5:19), and total allegiance to Jesus Christ as King.
Jesus came to displace the kingdom of darkness and establish the kingdom of God. By declaring that God’s kingdom was at hand He was saying that Satan’s reign of terror was over. The kingdom of darkness is characterized by sin, sickness, torment, and fear. The kingdom of light is characterized by salvation, healing, deliverance, and peace. What Satan had gained through the fall of man, Jesus had come to reclaim.
Let me summarize it like this: God created man and gave him dominion over the earth. Man sinned, coming into agreement with the serpent and joining him in his rebellion. What we may not realize is that when man sinned he gave his God-given authority over the earth to the devil. This is why Jesus called Satan the “ruler of the world” and why Paul called him the “god of this age.” Through His death and resurrection Jesus reclaimed this authority and has given it to the church.
The Place of Repentance
Immediately after declaring that the kingdom of God was at hand Jesus gave a call to repentance (Mark 1:14-15). Sin empowers the devil’s kingdom and therefore repentance undermines it. The devil is defeated and he knows that the only way he can gain control of people’s lives is when they agree with him. Sin is agreement with the devil and enables him to have authority over areas of our lives.
Repentance from sin and faith in Jesus not only bring salvation but also make the way for God’s kingdom to invade our lives and ultimately the world around us. The gospel is meant to restore man to a right relationship with God and at the same time to release His kingdom in the earth.
The gospel message is not simply about securing people a place in heaven–as important as that is. It is about the kingdom of heaven invading the earth, and bringing everything under the authority of the King!
Questions: Have you ever considered that the “gospel of the kingdom” might be different than the gospel message we commonly hear and teach? How would it change your perspective to embrace the message of the kingdom?