I recently read a blog trying to explain the Gospel message. In it, the author stated that the gospel message isn’t about us doing anything, but all about what Jesus did so we could go to heaven. But is that true?
In the gospel of Matthew and Mark I hear Jesus saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God is at hand.” In reading the gospels, I never find Jesus saying, “Believe that I died for your sins (or I will die for your sins) and you will go to heaven when you die.”
First Fruits of Zion does an interesting piece that defines ‘the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God’ from a Judaic understanding. I suggest you view it when you have a few minutes. Bottom line is this: the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’/‘Kingdom of God’ is a circumlocution for the sacred name of God. But even if it isn’t, then I hear Jesus saying, “The Kingdom of God, with the King ruling, is nearby.”
When I look at Matthew 10:7 and Mark 6:12, I see Jesus sending his disciples out to preach the gospel (the good news). If the ‘good news’ is that He is dying so we can go to heaven, I don’t understand why Peter was so shocked when Jesus told him He was going to die. Didn’t Peter understand what he had been preaching?
I highly recommend a book by D Thomas Lancaster entitled “Elementary Principles”. It sheds light on what the early believers in Jesus understood about what happens after we die; what the Jewish expectation of ‘the world to come’ is. We are talking here about resurrection, physical resurrection and the Kingdom on earth, ruled by King Messiah.
So many times, we in Christianity think that because the Jews were wrong about Messiah’s first coming, they are wrong about His second coming.
Now before you throw bricks and call me a heretic, please know that I absolutely agree that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But what does that mean?
First, let’s look at the definition of sin, as the Apostle John defined it. In his 1st letter John says that ‘whoever commits sin commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.’ What ‘law’, you ask? God’s law as defined in His Torah (the first five books of the Bible).
But wait a minute; I thought we were under grace, not law.
As I’ve explained before, God’s grace is evident throughout the entire Bible, especially in the Torah. Remember, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Sin gets on stuff and God is Holy, so there must be a constant sacrifice cleansing us. The provisions in the Torah do just that. The sacrificial system within the Torah is evidence of God’s grace. And Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God, is the manifestation of that same grace.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, God told the Israelites that when they sin, they should offer a sin sacrifice. They would lean on the animal, transferring their sin to the animal, because the wages of sin is death. The animal then died as a substitute for the person who sinned. Yet later that day, or the next day or next week, that person might sin again, requiring another sacrifice.
So if the only thing Jesus’ death accomplished was to make it easy for us in that we no longer had to make daily offerings for sin, then all He did was make it convenient for us.
At this point, I’d like us to get reacquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures and Israel’s history. God’s presence was with the Israelites in the camp in the wilderness. He was with them in the tabernacle in Shiloh. He was with them in Solomon’s Temple. But His presence was not there in the Second Temple.
So when John the Immerser began preaching, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” it really was good news! God’s presence was returning to Israel! Jesus preached the same thing, and sent His disciples to preach the same thing – God is near. And because God is near we should repent from lawlessness.
But there’s more, and this is where the good news becomes GREAT news! This is where the blood of goats and bulls can’t compare to the Blood of Messiah.
John the Immerser announced that Jesus, the Lamb, takes AWAY the sin. John the Apostle tells us that the Son of God manifested to destroy the works of the devil – the rebellious sin nature. That sin nature is defeated. No one born of God continues to sin. That part of us that wants to disobey God and His righteous standard is defeated.
So the good news for us on the other side of the resurrection is – the King of the Universe is here and He defeated that which separates us from Him.
Does that mean we continue to live our lives as we please? Does this mean we have no part in our salvation as is often suggested? Or does it mean that we react with gratitude to this great news and repent from breaking God’s law, longing for the day when we will completely walk in righteousness, as He is righteous?