Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Two Gospels

What is the Gospel of the Kingdom? And what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Aren't They the Same Thing? Is There a Difference?

These refer to two distinct but complementary messages that go hand in hand. As most of us know, the word "Gospel" simply means "good news," or "good tidings." The Bible gives us both, the Good News about the Kingdom and the Good News about Jesus Christ.
Quick Notes: (1) "The Gospel of the Kingdom" is short for "The Gospel of the Kingdom of God," also called "The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven". (2) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is also called "The Gospel of the Grace of God." (Acts 20:4).

Since Jesus' resurrection, the Two Gospels have become One. Following, are their distinct differences and how they complement each other to function as One, to equip and empower us, Christ's Body of believers, to become effective ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

This gospel refers to the good news that the Kingdom of God (or of Heaven) was now going to establish itself also on earth, among mankind (Matt 3:1-2, Mark 1:14-15). It would no longer be only in heaven as during the ages before Jesus. The Kingdom is mostly about a way of life; it's about a holy culture. This means that we could now live Kingdom lifestyle and culture here on earth--The lifestyle of experiencing the Holy Spirit, of knowing or having truth, wisdom and grace from above; of having power over our own sin, and authority over sickness and darkness. Today, here on earth, we can live at a spiritually higher level than the Torah (the Law of Moses) required. We are no longer trapped in sin, because Jesus came into this world, taught us about how Heaven works, and He died to set us free from a sinful heart. 

He also taught us how God evaluates things. In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus explains to us the difference between what the Torah teaches and what standard the heart of God is really aiming for in us. "You have heard" is about the laws written in Torah by the hand of Moses. "But I say" is about the even higher standard God really desires from us: The messages of repentance, turning away from sin, and baptism were important because the Kingdom of God was getting ready to burst forth (be established) in the earth and people had to start making themselves ready for it. 

Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus also taught us about God's heart, loving-kindness and forgiveness. He also showed us how to live a life of obedience that's pleasing to God. This means that the Kingdom of Heaven would now be  established in the earth through us who believe and obey. So, the Kingdom of God (or of Heaven) is no longer up there far away. It is now here on earth, so near that we can see it in each other, experience its effects in our lives, and see its response to our prayers. And, all of us who believe and are faithful, are its messengers here on earth and have been granted authority in Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

This gospel is about the good news that God clothed Himself in a human body and came to this earth as the man Jesus Christ; that we are saved from the curse and the punishments of sin thanks to the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross (because he lived a sinless, holy life obedient to the Heavenly Father, so that we could have eternal life by putting our faith in him, and in the work he accomplished on the cross.) He paid the price for us to be forgiven, for our redemption, and for our freedom from sin and from the powers of darkness. We, those of us who have accepted Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, are no longer victims or prisoners of sin and we are no longer without power or authority against sin. We can now fight our sin nature and eventually overcome. We can now fight our own flesh and break the control of sin over us. We can now endure through this battle because victory is sure. We can now live a life of victory and obedience to God, of love for all, of inner peace and joy, of forgiveness towards our enemies in the midst of trial and adversity, and of gratitude in every situation. Thanks to Christ's sacrifice, we have been set free from the power of sin, darkness, and eternal death. We can now truly be free to become who God intended us to be. This is the good news of Messiah Jesus that the apostles preached. 

The Strategy of Heaven

In the days of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah, God's strategy was to first let His people learn what the differences were between being in an earthly religion vs being in the true Kingdom of Heaven. So, first came the message about the Kingdom of Heaven. Through both John the baptist and Jesus Christ, God rebuked the Pharisees (the religious leaders of Judea.) And Jesus himself taught the people the differences between the laws of the Torah of Moses and the way God/Heaven actually evaluated sin. This helped the people understand what it would be like to live in God's Kingdom here on earth as opposed to living in an earthly religious system governed by sinful mortals. And many chose to be baptized by John and to become Jesus' disciples. 

The people also expected Jesus to free Israel from Roman rule and wanted him to become the king of Israel, because they believed he was the foretold messiah. It is only after he died on the cross, his resurrection, and the Holy Spirit manifestation during Pentecost, that they were able to grasp God's plan of salvation through Messiah's sacrificial death on the cross. 

From then on, the disciples began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which, of course, also includes the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven).

In Short...

The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that in Christ we have forgiveness of sin, victory over sin, new life, everlasting life, and citizenship in the Kingdom of God/Heaven through the Holy Spirit living in us. In Messiah we now have access to every spiritual blessing in Heaven. 

The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven teaches us that the Kingdom of God is now operating in our midst here on earth through the lives of those who've put their trust in Jesus Christ. It is no longer far removed from us, only way up there in Heaven. Today, Heaven is also established here on earth, where we can easily enter in, by faith, through (1) repentance, (2) conversion, and (3) baptism; and where we can live our lives in God's Kingdom trusting in Jesus Christ and becoming more and more like him, every day.