This Gospel of the Kingdom

If a believer today contrasts the traditional Christian message to the simple message of Jesus recorded in the gospels, he must conclude that the two different messages are very different. It becomes apparent that the message taught and preached by Jesus and the apostles after him has been set aside and "another gospel" has been embraced and emphasized in the Church. This "other gospel" is universally received today as the orthodox Christian massage.

The Kingdom of God

The message of Jesus was the "Kingdom of God". He declared that He had been sent to preach this message, "But He said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose'" (Matthew 4:43). As we consider the gospel account and the Biblical foundation on which it is based, we can formulate some cardinal points of this message. These include the teaching that: (1) God is establishing His direct rule or government in the earth, and this government will be manifested through Messiah (Psalms 2); (2) God will establish peace and judge (rule) the earth in righteousness (Psalms 98:9); (3) God will hold every man accountable for the deeds of this life (Ezekiel 18:4); (4) He will introduce a period of "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21), that will ultimately result in the removal of the curse on mankind (Revelation 22:3); and finally, (5) the Messiah will return in the Glory of God (Matthew 16:27). As He does, God's Glory will reside in Jerusalem in a way similar to the phenomenon which occurred in the wilderness as Israel came out of Egypt (Isaiah 4:5).

Some implications of these foundational points concerning the establishing of God's kingdom include:

Every form of human government (international, national, state and local) will be abolished. Every constitution written will be voided because the government will "rest on His shoulders" (Isaiah 9:6).
Human self-determination will end. "..Every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
The false dreams and illusions of man will be extinguished completely. God is the God of reality (Jeremiah 10:10).
Israel will be the only national entity that survives in the kingdom. As God's elect nation, it will be exalted high above all the nations for praise, fame and glory (Deuteronomy 26:19).
Jesus taught continually by parables to convey the basic message of the Kingdom. Prior to the time of Jesus, the Kingdom of God was envisioned as God's reign in Israel in the manner that occurred during the First Temple era. God was manifested during this era through His indwelling glory in the Temple and through His anointed prophets, priests and kings. Jesus introduced a new perspective of the Kingdom of God and began to lay the foundation for the establishment of this Kingdom during His earthly ministry. It would take millennia for its complete realization.

God would rule directly through the indwelling Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by Ezekiel that God would: "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Jesus also introduced the concept of the "Living Temple". His body was the temple during His earthly ministry. After His ascension the church would function in this capacity. Ultimately this "Living Temple" would be established in Jerusalem just like the First Temple had been. As a "living stone" of this temple the individual believer was positioned or seated in the presence of the Living God.

Many aspects of the Kingdom of God were introduce by Jesus as He taught His disciples in parables. These aspects of the Kingdom of God began being fulfilled through the early church; they have continued to be fulfilled for almost 2000 years. The vision outlined by these parables will not be fully realized until Jesus returns and reigns in Jerusalem directly in the midst of Israel.

Another Gospel

Now today, when we consider the basic message of the Church, we hear something different from Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God. The Church message focuses on the reconciliation of individuals to God. Paul outlined this message in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Indeed, this is a valid message for the Church to share in the midst of the nations. Nevertheless, as is obvious from our discussion of Jesus' message, the message of reconciliation in no way encompasses the Kingdom message taught by Jesus. The Church has basically spiritualized the Kingdom message and focused on the message or vision of reconciliation, which has been fairly faithfully set forth in the nations. Every denominational group has emphasized different aspects of this message, yet it is fundamental to all branches of the Church.

Evidently, the Church determined to de-emphasize Jesus' message and substituted the message of reconciliation in its place. There are a number of reasons for this. The message of reconciliation is a "good, positive" message causing little reproach to the one who proclaims it. The Kingdom message, on the other hand, is like a sword causing a polarization in those who hear (Matthew 10:34). The one proclaiming the Kingdom message must bear reproach.

A second reason why the Church de-emphasized the Kingdom message is that God's Kingdom, as preached by Jesus, is intimately linked with Israel and Jerusalem. The Church succumbed to the pressure to adopt a universal identity while rejecting identity with Israel. Therefore, Jesus' message became awkward for them. The message of reconciliation, on the other hand, was easily adapted to the universal identity.

A final reason why the message of reconciliation was emphasized so strongly by the Church is that it was in the process of forming a new world religion, Christianity, distinct from that which preceded it. Like all religions it mapped out a way to come to God. The message of reconciliation served this purpose very well. The Kingdom message was unprofitable in the formation of this new religion.

There are probably any number of other factors that influenced this transition, but these three should be sufficient to outline for us why the message of reconciliation was emphasized at the expense of the Kingdom message. Today, this whole sequence is simplified in the minds of Christians by the rationalization that the message of Paul is the highest form of revelation available to us. They proclaim that Jesus preached His message to Israel, who they claim rejected it; therefore, God anointed Paul to bring forth this new universal message. Hence, the Church vision is logically built on Paul's message or letters rather than on the message of Jesus.

Today, as God has re-established the people of Israel in the Land of Israel, the Kingdom message is being preached again. With endtime events rapidly being fulfilled, we are beginning to focus on the King and His message of the Kingdom. Indeed, this in itself is a sign of the end. Jesus proclaimed, "This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come" (Matthew 24:14). Jesus was not speaking of the "gospel of reconciliation", which has been set forth by the Church for almost two millennia. He was speaking of the message of the Kingdom of God. The message of reconciliation could be preached to every living soul and we would not necessarily be nearer the goal of seeing the kingdom established. It is the message of the Kingdom that must be proclaimed.

Source: Ken Garrison


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