Today I want to focus in on one aspect of that idea: what gospel do we preach in this age?
Did you know there is more than one true gospel? Hold your horses, I am not saying there are many paths to God. Faith in the true God and in his revelation apart from our works has always been the path to resurrection life. We are entirely dependent on his wonderful grace! But it should be obvious that the revelation we believe changes.
Obviously, Adam could not possibly have "the hope of Israel" nor could he be part of the "one new man." He lived before Abraham and Sinai. He also could not understand the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We can take that a step further and say the same concerning the "gospel" of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, or David.
What we can say of that last group is that each had faith in something different. Abel had faith in the God of Adam, that one day Paradise would be restored. Noah believed God would preserve him through his judgment of the earth. Abraham believed God in that he believed in his promise of an earthly land for him and his descendants. David believed God would one day put a descendant of his on the throne until the end of the age. None of these had faith in themselves, but only in the word of God. They all received grace through faith.
None of these would have heard or have preached, or have fully understood the specific "gospel of the Kingdom" preached by the Lord in his earthly ministry. It should not be shocking or necessarily heretical, then, for us to consider the same for us in the current age.
John the Baptist Sows the Gospel of the Kingdom
The gospel of the Kingdom itself changed from its introduction by John the Baptist (who sowed it along the path - Matt 13). When the Lord went about preaching it, it did not reflect what was later preached in the Acts Age. But all these preached "the kingdom" gospel. John's gospel was a modification of what Isaiah had spoken centuries before:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’ ”
John was preaching preparation for the King who was coming on the scene. For Isaiah, this was yet future. But more importantly for us, there is no way we can preach this gospel in our age. All of Isaiah 40 should be read, but let's just pull out this from the voice crying out passage:
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
-Isaiah 40: 9-11
The passage states that this comes after a period of Israel's judgment (v.2) and at a time when the glory of the Lord is revealed (v.5). John does not preach the entire passage just as the Lord does not preach the entire passage in Isaiah 61 when he reads in the synagogue (Luke 4). The Lord "rightly divides" the blessings promised if Israel will repent with the vengeance he will one day meet out on his and her enemies.
Israel rejected her King, was put aside at the end of the Acts offer (the age in which we live), and will one day have her kingdom restored and the King present after her great day of atonement in the Great Tribulation.
What also jumps out of the Isaiah 40 passage concerning the kingdom and the future is that when the Lord does show his "strong hand" we see "His reward is with Him." This should immediately take us to the Revelation and to the Lord's words in Matthew. These are two very Jewish, Kingdom-based books. The rewards in these passages are given out as the result of works. This has no part in our age. This is the King returning to set up his kingdom in a specific land and he brings rewards with him. He brings the "treasures in heaven" those believers have stored up (Matt 6).
The Lord Sows the Gospel of the Kingdom
The Lord starts his public ministry in Matthew 4 after the arrest of John the Baptist (the sowing among the stones). Note the similarities to John's gospel (good news):
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." ... And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom...
-Matt 4:12-17, 23
Again, Isaiah is referenced and we see the Kingdom offer front and center in this gospel to Israel alone. We know it was offered to Israel alone based on the passage in Isaiah and on the words of the Lord himself when he sends out his disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom he had been preaching.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. -Matt 9:35
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. -Matt 10:5-8
We stop here to note that this gospel, at that time, had nothing to do with understanding the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. The disciples had not had that part of "the Mystery of Christ" (Romans) revealed to them. It was known in scripture, but hidden from their understanding until his resurrection.
We also note that miracles followed this gospel of the kingdom. This is the commission in Mark 16. It is a preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom, to Israel, and miracles would follow.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The Apostles Sow the Gospel of the Kingdom
Peter, in the Acts, called on Israel to repent and promised the King and the Kingdom if they would (sowing among the thorns). This followed the 40 days being taught by the risen Lord concerning the Kingdom after which the disciples had but one question, "will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1).
Look at this thoroughly Jewish passage. It is so rich, yet so neglected.
Can I come to your church and preach this message and its promises?
“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
We know from scripture (and clearly stated in Ephesians) that Gentiles were strangers to the covenants and promises (even in the Acts Age apart from Israel). From Abraham on, a gentile could only find blessing through Israel. Even the Lord declared that entrance into the Kingdom was "of the Jews" (John 4). You will not see a Gentile, from Nineveh to the Centurion who was blessed apart from Israel. In Romans we are told it was to Israel that the Oracles of God have been given to us. Even the gospel of this age was delivered through an Israelite (Paul).
At this point, I hope you can see that we do not preach the same gospel that John the Baptist or the Apostles in the Acts Age or the Lord himself preached. So what should we be preaching in this age?
The Two-Fold Gospel of the Current Age
(The Dispensation of the Mystery)
We have a two-fold message today based on the 8 books which followed the plan of Israel and the Kingdom gospel (and Israel) being set aside at the end of the Acts Age. We have the gospel of "life through his name" preached in the gospel of John. This is the gospel of the Lamb of God, who is God incarnate, who takes away all the sin of the whole world. It is a gospel without a Passover. It is a gospel to "whosoever will" believe. It is the gospel of the free gift of resurrection life.
While we start there, we cannot finish there. We preach a message to these believers of another Mystery, the Mystery of the "one new man" found in Ephesians and in the 7 post-Acts epistles of Paul. This is a gentile gospel. It does not depend on Israel and claims none of Israel's promises or ordinances or hopes.
In our Acts 3 passage, Peter speaks of truths spoken "since the world began." In Galatians and Romans Paul opens up the scriptures revealing the plan that gentiles would be blessed through and with Abraham. This was not understood, but it was always in the plan of God. In Romans we see gentiles grafted into ISRAEL to make ISRAEL jealous.
None of that is part of the gospel of this age, the Mystery which was hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the world and unknown to the prophets. There is no longer a "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile. In a sense, all are gentiles. This age has no Passover (Lord's Supper). It has no washings (water baptism). It has no feast days. It has no earthly hope.
The hope of this age is not an earthly kingdom, it is blessings in the "far above the heavens" (Eph).
The Final Sowing of the Gospel of the Kingdom by the 144,000
If you've followed the sowings above, you will notice I have not mentioned the fourth and final sowing of the gospel of the Kingdom from the first parable in Matthew 13 (the Kingdom gospel). As we have seen this is for Israel and Israel will one day soon again be at the center of the God's dealings. Attention will turn back to the earth, to the promised land, to the Kingdom, to David's throne, the twelve tribes.
12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be called out to again preach the promises of the Kingdom on earth (Revelation 7 & 14) along with the two witnesses of Rev 11.
In our most recent study we noted the coming Great Tribulation yet to come on Israel. In the passage we reviewed in that study from Matthew 24, we have this:
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:13-14This is the fourth sowing of Matthew 13, and it will bear much fruit among the good soil, cleansed through the fiery trials of the tribulation. This has nothing to do with us in this age.
This is what will happen at "the last trump." This is where the fulfillment of the passages in Isaiah and the prophets will come to fruition. This concerns the earth and the promised land.
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [resurrection].
-1 Cor 15:51-53
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first [resurrection].
-1 Thess 4:16
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
As we have seen, there are a number of proclamations of "good news" [gospels] throughout the ages. We need to be sure we are not preaching a false "good news" or only a partial "good news." It all starts with faith and God's free gift of life by grace, but from there, there are different hopes, rewards, and blessings.
There are many issues raised here. I hope you will search the entirety of the blog to see if we have covered these issues elsewhere. But the first step is to understand the current age. All the scripture is FOR you, but it is not all directed TO you. If you believe it is, good luck building that ark or visiting the temple to offer your sacrifice!
Once you grasp the basics to understanding the Bible, and you come with an open heart willing to be taught by the Holy Spirit, God will start to reveal greater and deeper truths to you. But if you sit back and rely on a pastor, or a church, or catechism, or a creed to be your arbiter of truth, you will miss out on all God has in store for you. You will be trying to live in another's blessings and may never come to experience the fullness of God's grace.