I got the phrase “Kingdom Gospel, surrender, and baptism” from Marc Carrier, a missionary to Africa. He wrote on Facebook, “Over 20 pastors in attendance. Taught kingdom gospel, surrender, repentance, and baptism.”
What he meant by that is desperately important. If we all taught Kingdom Gospel, surrender, repentance and baptism, we would lose well over half the Christians in our churches, but we would transform the United States, and we would be able to ask God for anything and receive it.
Thus, this post qualifies to be among my “Teachings That Must Not Be Lost.”
There is no way I can do justice to these subjects in one blog post, but I’ll do my best.
I have a friend who is coming out with a book on this subject. It is clear, amazing, and important. You might have to wait for his book to get a full picture that runs through all the Scriptures. (Heh, heh. I got an advance copy to review for him. It’s awesome to have writer friends, especially if they have great content!)
Until then, here’s the short version.
No Bible believer can miss the fact that Jesus preached the Gospel of the kingdom … all the way to the end. Not merely until his death, but to his last day on earth before he ascended into heaven …
To whom he also showed himself alive after his suffering … being seen of them 40 days and talking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
That verse tells us that Jesus’ discussion of the Kingdom of God continued until he departed this earth. I tried to find out how many times the Gospels discuss Jesus’ preaching or teaching (see sidebar) about the Kingdom of God. “Kingdom” is used 119 times in the Gospels, 114 of them in the synoptic Gospels.
I started to count them, leaving out the ones that didn’t apply to the kingdom of God, but to some other kingdom. I got bored counting once I hit 37 in the middle of Matthew chapter 19. All of those refer to Jesus teaching or preaching about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.
So Jesus emphasized God’s Kingdom. Did he pass it on to the apostles?
- Acts 8:12: “When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
- Acts 14:22: “[Paul and Barnabas] confirmed the souls of the disciples, exhorted them to continue in the faith and that it is through many tribulations they must enter the Kingdom of God.”
- Acts 19:8: “[Paul] went into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for three months, disputing and persuading concerning the Kingdom of God.”
- Acts 28:23: “When they appointed [Paul, on house arrest in Rome] a day, many came to his lodging, to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God.”
- Acts 28:31: “[Paul was] preaching the Kingdom God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus the King with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”
Jesus spent his last days teaching about the Kingdom of God. Paul spent his last years and his ministry preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God.
The Gospel of the Kingdom must be awful important. What is it?
What Is the Gospel of the Kingdom?
I heard reference to the Gospel of the Kingdom somewhat often as a young Christian, especially among charismatics. Amazingly, no one seemed to know what it meant! A few people made an attempt to explain it, but nothing ever stood out to me that was practical and believable.
Only in the last year, through the help of a friend, have I found out what Jesus and his apostles meant by “the Gospel of the Kingdom” or “the Gospel of Christ” (which in context means “the Gospel of the King”).
My friend’s explanation was so easy to understand and so Scriptural that I have adopted it wholeheartedly as the foundation for the Gospel the apostles preached in Acts (about which I wrote in the appropriately titled, The Gospel of the Apostles) and the response that they called for in their hearers.
So let’s begin.
- Verse 2: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord [YHWH] and his Anointed [Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek)].”
- Verse 5-6: “Then God will speak to them in his wrath … I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.”
- Verse 7: The Lord [YHWH] said to me, ‘You are my Son. Today I have begotten you.”
- Verses 10-12: Be wise … oh you kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord [YHWH] with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little.
The word “anointed” in this Psalm, which we generally translate as Messiah, is used 66 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, but only in this Psalm, Psalm 45:7, Isaiah 61:1, and Daniel 9:24 does it refer to the coming Messiah. In all other cases it refers to the anointing of priests, prophets, and, later, kings.
There are a number of direct references to Psalm 2 in the New Testament.
The most pertinent is Simon Peter’s answer to Jesus in Matthew 16:16. There Simon tells Jesus that he is “the Anointed, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus’ response to Simon’s statement is astounding. It is there he gives Simon the name Peter (or Cephas, from the Hebrew, or “Rock,” the English translation). He then tells Peter that he will build the church on that rock. That rock may be Peter, as most people in church history have interpreted it, or it may be Peter’s confession. Either one puts great emphasis on Peter’s realization that Jesus was “the Anointed, the Son of the living God,” which Jesus told Peter could only have come by the revelation of the Father.
But it was not the Father who gave Peter the wording. Peter had read or heard the wording from Psalm 2. The Anointed would be a King reigning over all kings, and he would be the Son of God. The Father simply revealed to Peter that Jesus was the prophesied Psalm 2 Messiah, King, and the begotten Son of God.
Only Psalm 2:7 calls the Messiah the Son of God.
Peter was not the only one who knew about Psalm 2. From the Scriptures it is clear that all the Jews were expecting a Messiah who would be the Son of the living God and reign over the nations.
- The high priest commanded Jesus to tell them whether he was “the Anointed, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63; Mark 14:61).
- Mark begins his Gospel telling us that it is “the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed, the Son of God” (1:1).
- When Jesus cast out demons, they said they knew he was “the Anointed, the Son of God” (Luke 4:41).
- The apostles in general tell Jesus they know he is “the Anointed, the Son of the living God” (Jn. 6:69)
- John wrote his Gospel so that we would believe that Jesus is “the Anointed, the Son of God” (20:31).
- Martha told Jesus that she believed that he was “the Anointed, the Son of God” (Jn. 11:27).
- As soon as Paul was converted, he began to “preach the Anointed in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
I could go on and on, but let’s focus on one verse:
Whoever transgresses and does not remain in the doctrine of the Anointed does not have God. (2 Jn. 9)
No doubt about how sharp and clear that is, but since we are not used to interpreting “Christ” and putting the word into the context of Scripture, we miss the point of the “teaching about the Anointed.”
The teaching about the Anointed is that he is the Son of the living God. He is the King, described in Psalm 2, who will overthrow all other kingdoms. He is the Son, who should be kissed, lest his anger be aroused even a little.
Described like this, it puts a context on the Gospel of the Kingdom that was the Gospel of Jesus and the apostles. There is a new King! God’s Anointed has arrived, and though the kings of the earth may take counsel against him, but he will break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
A Rod of Iron?
Is Jesus really going to reign with a rod of iron and break the nations in pieces like a potter’s vessel? Is that something the Jesus of the Gospels would do?
No, the Jesus of the Gospels emphasized love. It was not a syrupy form of love. He rebukes and chastens those he loves, and he doesn’t believe you love him unless you keep his commandments (Jn. 15:14; 1 Jn. 2:3-4; which is not to say that he doesn’t love you anyway).
Nonetheless, he is characterized by love.
So what about that rod of iron?
It is love!
From the beginning disciples proved that entering the kingdom of God and living out his reign of love would shatter governments like a potter’s vessel. It took them almost 300 years, but they shattered the power of the greatest empire of their time, though they unfortunately took some of that power for themselves.
We all know how the Christians multiplied until Rome could no longer ignore them and loved until pagans were flocking to the pure community of the Christians. We know little about what went on outside the Roman empire. One of the more likely “rumors” found in the writings of the early churches is that Thaddeus went to Odessa in Syria and converted the king there.
The usurpation of the power of the world through the iron rod of love was common in the early churches. Even in Acts we see the ascent of the Messiah King establishing his rule. Paul and Barnabas went through an area called Paphos and converted the chief there by healing his son (Acts 13:4-13).
Many of you know the story described in The End of the Spear, both a movie and a book by Steve Saint, whose father was killed along with four other missionaries (Jim Elliot being the most well-known) by a savage tribe. The Messiah King of Israel later established his rule in that tribe as well.
Many people, many tribes, and many nations have been overcome by rod of love and suffering wielded by Jesus. He does not wield it from heaven because his hands are on earth. They are our hands, and we will conquer in the same manner he conquered, the apostles conquered, and the early church conquered, by gladly suffering for the joy that is set before us.
I hate to quote Napoleon Bonaparte for support, but I agree with this, and it expresses the conquering reign of the Anointed well:
Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. (ref)
There is a prophesied return of Jesus the Anointed in which everything will come to an abrupt end, but do not be mistaken, the breaking of the governments of men and the rise of the kingdom of God happens already where his people hear the Gospel of the Kingdom and act in his love.
A few poor people from tiny, conquered Palestine overthrew the Roman empire with the love of Jesus Christ. They defeated military force by dying. As Tertullian put it, “The oftener you mow us down, the more of us there are. The blood of Christians is seed.”
This is the Gospel of the Kingdom. God has sent his Anointed to the earth to begin the reign of God.
God overlooked at the former times of ignorance, but he is now calling everyone everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)
I have dwelt on Psalm 2:7, but you’ll get benefit out of reading the other Messiah passages I mentioned in the beginning of this blog.
This is plenty for one day. We will cover surrender, repentance, and baptism in the next one, two, or three posts.