Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Gospel in the Gospels

I said yesterday that I plan to write in positive terms what I believe the Gospel to be, and how it has made a difference in my life. The first step will be to analyse what the New Testament writers proclaimed as the Gospel, so I plan to write a brief sketch of:

- the Gospel in the Gospels

- the Gospel in Acts

- the Gospel in the Letters

- the Gospel in The Revelation

The Gospel in the Gospels is simply looking at what Jesus taught. Matthew sums it up like this:

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." … Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." (Matthew 4:17, 23)

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matthew 9:35)

Jesus whole message could be summed up as "the good news of the Kingdom of God". So far Christadelphians have gotten that point pretty right and that's certainly a plus for Christadelphianism (a very big plus in my opinion). But the traditional Christadelphian expositions of the Kingdom leave several aspects of Jesus' teaching unexplained and the details which don't fit in don't get much coverage in lectures and studies about the subject.

Jesus taught that there would be two major stages in the establishment of His kingdom:

1. During His ministry He taught that the Kingdom was “near” (Matthew 4:17), had “come upon you” (Matthew 12:28), and was “among you” (Luke 17:21). In the parable of the wheat and weeds He taught that the “sons of the Kingdom” will grow side by side with “the sons of the evil one” until “the end of the age” when the angels will “weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Matthew 13:36-43). This is speaking about the period of time between His first and second comings when these two groups of people, described as wheat and weeds, grow together in “his kingdom”.

2. Yet there would be a time yet future when the Kingdom would be fully established. Hence, He taught His disciples to pray “Your Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). His parable of the sheep and goats points to a future time when the King will say “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Similarly, at the Last Supper Jesus said to His disciples “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

The second stage gets good coverage with Christadelphians, but the first is often neglected (or even dismissed). The first stage is what dispensationalists would call "the church age", or what many scholars would call a "now, but not yet, eschatology". In other words, there is a present reality to the kingdom ("now") although there is also to be a final consummation ("not yet").

I'll come back to what Jesus taught about the present kingdom reality in some future messages, but next I'll sum up the Gospel in the Acts.

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