DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE PARTS OF THE GOSPEL THAT MOST PEOPLE HAVE NOT HEARD, PARTS THAT FULLY INTEGRATE THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS? Why have these parts NOT been openly discussed and connected to the Gospel all these years? And did you know that parts of the original gospel message were deleted to make Christians more acceptable to the emperors of Rome? This is a presentation of that undiscussed material. (Note: The first part of this series, I entitled: “Why Do Christians Have a Problem with the Bible?” in which we discussed three myths mainstream Christians popularly teach about God’s law and the reasons for this.)
THE GOSPEL AND THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus proclaims and teaches “the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven” or “the gospel of the Kingdom of God.” For example, in Mark 1:14-15, we read,
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the KINGDOM OF GOD is at hand: REPENT and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. (Emphasis Mine)
Notice that the content and focus of what Jesus clearly identifies as “the gospel” is “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” The word “gospel” comes from an Old English word that means “good news.” So this begs the question, “What is the ‘good news’ about the Kingdom of God/Heaven’?” We will answer this question by the end of this second part of the study. Notice in Matthew’s parallel to this verse, we read,
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent: for the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is at hand.” (Matthew 4:23; Emphasis Mine)
Matthew uses the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” from the Hebrew malkhut hashamayim, and Mark uses the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” Mark understands his Roman audience and knows if he uses “heaven,” instead of “God,” they will imagine their own Roman pantheon of gods in the heavens, so Mark just comes right out and says “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
The kingdom of God/Heaven is the heartbeat and pulse of all that Jesus did and taught during his years of ministry. To misunderstand the centrality of this message to the life and teachings of Jesus is to misunderstand what Jesus’ life and message was really all about. This message should be part of the basic understanding of every Christian, but it’s sadly the least understood.
Many people believe that the phrase “the kingdom of God/Heaven” originated during the time period between the Old and New Testament with the ancient sages and teachers of Israel. I’ve heard others say that this phrase was coined by the Pharisees, but that Jesus came along and gave it His own unique “twist.” Although who “coined the phrase” can be debated, the concept of God’s KINGDOM did not begin during this intertestamental period, but it’s seen throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM’S EARLY HISTORY
The concept of the Kingship of God is seen throughout the Bible from beginning to end. For example, if we were to ask the question, “What is the overall topic of the Bible?” I would say, “It’s about the building and establishment of God’s KINGDOM here on earth.” So contrary to what many people have been taught, sin and redemption are the Bible’s secondary theme, not its primary one.
The first specific reference we have to God’s KINGDOM is found at the end of “the song of Moses” in Exodus 15: “The LORD shall reign forever and ever” (15:18). The context of this statement is a POLITICAL ONE, not a RELIGIOUS ONE. God’s KINGDOM had just defeated the most powerful military KINGDOM of that time, the Egyptian army. And after watching the defeat of this army by God drowning them in the Red Sea, Moses breaks out in song, which culminates in this praise of God’s KINGSHIP.
We see throughout the Exodus and the life of Joshua, God’s rule and reign as KING over Israel. However, during the Judges, we see Israel’s rebellion against the KINGSHIP of God in their lives, for as the Bible states, “every man did WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Then under the last judge, but the first of the prophets, Samuel, we see Israel for the most part living under God’s KINGSHIP, but near the end of his life, the people wanted a human king. This upset Samuel, but God told him to do what the people wanted, “for they have not rejected you, but THEY HAVE REJECTED ME, that I should NOT REIGN over them” (I Samuel 8:7; Emphasis Mine). God then instructs him to anoint Saul as King.
With the anointing of Saul, we see God continue to rule and reign over Israel, not directly as before, but through three branches of government: the King, the Prophet, and the High Priest. In order for someone to be in one of these three governmental positions, they had to be ANOINTED WITH OLIVE OIL by either a priest or a prophet. Samuel was both. After which, they were an ANOINTED ONE, or “MESSIAH” (or in Greek christos or “CHRIST“). Saul, unfortunately, did not obey God on a number of occasions, and so God tells Samuel to anoint David as king. And it is under his rule and reign that Israel really begins to flourish. It is also with him that God enters into covenant with David, and He promises him,
…I will raise up your seed after you, which shall be of your sons, and I will establish his KINGDOM. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish His throne forever. I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son: and I will not take My mercy away from Him, as I took it from him that was before you: But I will settle Him in My House and in My KINGDOM forever: and His THRONE shall be established forevermore. (I Chronicles 17:11b-14)
This passage is extremely important in understanding aspects of the New Testament. Notice that this future “SON OF DAVID” would build God a house, and God promises that He would establish HIS THRONE forever, and that God Himself would be HIS FATHER, and that this “SON OF DAVID” would be HIS SON. Also, that God would not take His mercy (steadfast love and grace) away from Him. But that God would establish HIS KINGDOM FOREVERMORE.
During David’s reign, he wrote many of the psalms that’s in the Bible. Many of these talk about God and His KINGDOM. But when he was getting close to death, David gathered the people together to announce his successor, His son, Solomon. He said,
And of all my sons, (for the LORD has given me many sons,) He has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD over Israel. And He [God] has said to me, “Solomon your son, he shall build My house and My courts: for I have chosen him to be MY SON, and I will be HIS FATHER.
(I Chronicles 28:5-6)
God’s covenant with David is crucial in understanding the Messiah as “the son of David,” as well as “God’s Son” and God being “His Father.” Beginning with Solomon, every male descendant of David had the potential to be GOD’S SON, but they failed in this expectation, because they fell into sin. However, with the Immaculate conception of Jesus in the New Testament, we see how God would both keep His promise to Abraham, as well as His promise here to David, in that He was, and lived up to the expectations of God in being, HIS SON.
What’s also important about this passage is the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD.” Again, we should note that the context in which this phrase is used is POLITICAL, and not a RELIGIOUS one. Solomon is being announced as being the next King of Israel, and his position as “king” (a POLITICAL ONE) is subordinate to “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD” (Heb. malkhut YHVH), likewise presented here as a POLITICAL ONE, which rules and reigns over the nation of Israel, as well as all other nations.
Also, after the Babylonian captivity, Jews stopped using the covenantal name of God, YHVH (translated as “THE LORD“), and started using evasive synonyms for His name, like “Power,” “Heaven,” “the Name,” or “God.” So the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD” (Heb. malkhut YHVH) here in I Chronicles 28:5 becomes in the New Testament “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” (Heb. malkhut hashamayim) or “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam takes the throne. However, when the people come to him and ask him to lighten the taxes off of the people, because they were being taxed to death under Solomon to pay for the building of the Temple, as well as his many other building projects, he ends up telling them, “No,” and that he was going to be even tougher than his father. This results in the KINGDOM OF ISRAEL splitting into TWO KINGDOMS: THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (consisting of 10 Tribes; also called EPHRAIM), and THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH (consisting of 3 tribes). The Kingdom of Israel was the NORTHERN KINGDOM and the Kingdom of Judah was the SOUTHERN KINGDOM.
From this moment on, both kingdoms were on and off in their obedience to God. We read about the kings of these TWO KINGDOMS from 1 Kings 12 to the end of 2 Kings, and another presentation of this same time period is seen from I Chronicles 10 to the end of II Chronicles. We also read about in the writings of the Prophets whom God sent to these TWO KINGDOMS to turn the people away from their lives of sin and idolatry to a renewed relationship with Him as THEIR KING.
However, the NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL is eventually attacked by Assyria in 722 B.C., and most of its people were taken into captivity. They were scattered throughout the empire, assimilated there, and became lost to history. They became known as “the lost 10 tribes.” And then, 136 years later, in 586 B.C., the Babylonians invaded the SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, and taking the people captive into Babylon. All of this history is necessary backdrop if we are to properly understand the prophecies of ISRAEL’S RESTORATION, and the gospel writings of the New Testament, including those of Paul.
THE PROBLEM CAUSED BY CHRISTIANITY’S DIVISION OF THE TWO TESTAMENTS
By Christianity dividing and separating the OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS, and telling us that “the Old Testament is no longer relevant,” that “it has been done away with,” that “the New Testament is an entirely DIFFERENT DIVINE PROGRAM than the Old Testament,” and that “Christians should not use it for their own value system or go back to it in their understanding of God and the gospel” has clearly been detrimental. Because of this division and separation, many of us Christians have grown up with an erroneous view of “the gospel of the kingdom,” “the church,” and our role within the overall plan of God. We have been taught to view the KINGDOM strictly as a “SPIRITUAL KINGDOM,” rather than an actual KINGDOM, that’s POLITICAL, HISTORICAL, SOCIAL, CULTURAL, and yes, SPIRITUAL. God’s KINGDOM has its own WORLDVIEW, and it’s own VALUES AND BELIEFS.
Many of us have grown up with the idea that we are first Americans who are Christians, living the American dream until we die, and then believing we will go to heaven. This is a very different mindset than the biblical one, which is to see ourselves as citizens of God’s KINGDOM, who happen to live in the United States (or wherever you are living), serving the needs of our KING and His KINGDOM, until the return of our KING, or until we come into His Presence at our death.
So although we may not see God’s KINGDOM in its full manifestation yet here on earth (this will happen when Jesus returns), but this does not mean that it’s NOT a PHYSICAL KINGDOM somewhere else NOW. People who have been allowed to gain a glimpse of heaven all report that it is a PHYSICAL PLACE. They report things they SAW, HEARD, SMELLED, TASTED, and TOUCHED. What we call “Heaven” is in a parallel dimension that co-exists with our own (what is commonly called “the spiritual realm”), and it is a PHYSICAL KINGDOM there. And one day soon, Jesus will return and complete the establishment of HIS KINGDOM here on earth. He’s NOT coming back to continue a RELIGION, but to finish establishing a KINGDOM.
THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL – THE COMING PROMISED RESTORATION OF THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN KINGDOMS
Throughout the writings of the prophets, God promises that one day that He is going to restore and reunite the NORTHERN KINGDOM and SOUTHERN KINGDOM again into ONE KINGDOM under ONE KING, MESSIAH. In Ezekiel 37, for example, God prophecies concerning the coming RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. Ezekiel writes,
The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, “And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For JUDAH and for the sons of Israel, his companions’ [the Southern Kingdom] ; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of EPHRAIM and all of the house of Israel, his companions’ [the Northern Kingdom]. Then join them for yourself to one another into ONE STICK [ONE RESTORED, REUNIFIED KINGDOM], that they may become ONE in your hand,
When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of EPHRAIM, and the tribes of Israel, his companions [THE NORTHERN KINGDOM]; and I will put them with it, with the stick of JUDAH [THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM; THE JEWISH PEOPLE], and make them ONE STICK [ONE RESTORED, REUNIFIED KINGDOM], and they will be ONE in My hand. The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.
Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them ONE NATION in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and ONE KING [Jesus] will be King for all of them; and they will no longer be TWO NATIONS and no longer be divided into TWO KINGDOMS. (Ezekiel 37:15-22; Emphasis Mine)
This is the “GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM” proclaimed by Jesus and His early disciples. The GOSPEL (“good news”) was that with the coming of the Messiah [Jesus] that God would begin the process of restoring and reunifying His people. In addition, the Messiah Jesus Himself was giving the invitation for people to come and to become a part of the newly RESTORED and REUNIFIED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (called “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” or “THE KINGDOM OF GOD“) and to join in the PROCESS of establishing His KINGDOM here on earth.
For example, although the parable of the PRODIGAL SON (Luke 15:11-32) is used to talk about people being away from God, and God’s love for us, which is a surface-level view and understanding of the parable, but we need to understand that the parable has has a much deeper meaning than this. In telling this parable, Jesus is speaking with the Pharisees and scribes, representatives of the SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH. [“Jew” being a shortened, abbreviated form of “Judean,” or one from the Southern Kingdom]
In the parable, a certain man [GOD] has TWO SONS [TWO KINGDOMS]. The YOUNGER SON is THE NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, and the ELDER SON is THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH. In the parable, the YOUNGER SON [NORTHERN KINGDOM] goes off into a far land [just as the NORTHERN KINGDOM was taken away into captivity into far and distant countries], but after awhile, he decides to return. Jesus is saying that He is going to be bringing the NORTHERN KINGDOM back as God promised. But in the parable, the ELDER SON [SOUTHERN KINGDOM] is upset when the father [GOD] receives the YOUNGER SON [NORTHERN KINGDOM] back, and he refuses to go into the celebration [THE RESTORED, REUNIFIED KINGDOM], so the father goes out to speak to him. But in the parable, we never hear the response of the ELDER SON [JUDAH]. Jesus has told them through the parable what He is about to do, and He leaves it up to Israel [THE ELDER SON] to decide how they are going to respond.
This meaning of the parable is missed by Christians because of their insistence of dividing and separating the two testaments, instead of what they should be doing, which is viewing and understanding the New Testament from the framework, content, and context of the Old Testament, which is what God intended and how Jesus and His early disciples viewed it as well.
WHAT ABOUT THE CROSS?
Some may be wondering, “If the focus of the gospel preached by Jesus and His early disciples, then where does the cross fit in?” The cross was (and continues to be) a necessary part of God’s plan too. But we miss the KINGDOM CONNECTION by dividing the Old and New Testaments. Jesus’ death on the cross was not only for the purpose of liberating us from the captivity of sin, as well as to pay the penalty for our sins (JUSTIFICATION), as well as provide the basis for our REGENERATION (New Birth), ADOPTION, and SANCTIFICATION, but it also provided the basis and means for God to begin the PROCESS of RESTORING and REUNIFYING the people and KINGDOMS of ISRAEL. The NATIONAL (or KINGDOM) aspect of God’s plan of SALVATION is an important, fundamental part of the gospel message that has been largely omitted by the Christian church since the mid-to-late second century, A.D.
In fact, have you ever wondered why Paul, such a highly trained Pharisee, was sent out to the nations? Because that is where God had driven the descendants of the NORTHERN KINGDOM, as well as where the majority of the JEWISH PEOPLE were (only 2% of Jews at the time lived in Israel). God was reaching back into the nations and calling back His people.
IS THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM ONLY FOR ISRAEL – NO!
Does this mean that the Gospel and the Kingdom are only from those who made (and continue to make) up the tribes and Kingdoms of Israel? God’s covenants have NEVER EXCLUDED those from the nations (non-Jews) from becoming a part of God’s people. In fact, from the time of Abraham on, God’s plan has included both Jews and non-Jews. The non-Jews in the Old Testament are called “strangers” or “foreigners” or “gentiles,” who attached themselves to Israel, and then became a part of the Kingdom of Israel.
For example, there were the non-Jews that came out with Abraham (Genesis 12:5), there was the “mixed multitude” that came out with the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:38), and there were other non-Jews, like Rahab, Ruth, and even Doeg, a soldier in King Saul’s army, who became an intricate part of the people and KINGDOM of Israel.
And by the time of the New Testament, there were many non-Jews or “gentiles” who had attached themselves to the Jewish people, attending synagogue, obeying many of the commandments, including following the dietary laws, the times of prayer, etc. Many of them, though, had NOT gone to the extent of completely converting and getting circumcised. These non-Jews were called “God-fearers,” or what is translated in our New Testament as “those who fear God.” For example, consider the following references:
Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and YOU THAT FEAR GOD, give audience.” (Acts 13:16)
Men and brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and WHOSOEVER AMONG YOU FEARS GOD, to you is the word of this salvation sent. (Acts 13:26)
As we can see, the “God-fearers” were a normal part of the synagogue life and worship during the time period of the first century, A.D., the time period of the New Testament. And a more popular “God-fearer” known to most Christians was Cornelius, the Roman centurion. In Acts 10:1-3a, we learn the following about him.
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and ONE THAT FEARED GOD with all his house, which gave alms to the [Jewish] people and prayed to God always. He saw a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day...
Cornelius is identified as a “God-fearer” or translated here as “one that fears God with all his house,” and he maintained a certain level of obedience to God’s laws. We learn here that he “gave alms to the people,” most likely the Jewish people, and we learn that he was in prayer during the “ninth hour of the day” (3 pm). This was one of the three times a day that most Orthodox Jews spent in prayer. For example, in Acts 3:1, it says,
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the HOUR OF PRAYER, being THE NINTH HOUR.
Cornelius maintained many of the same beliefs and practices of the Jews, including what times of the day he spent in prayer; however, he was NOT considered “a convert” to Judaism, since he had not been circumcised, even though he did follow many of the same laws and practices of the Jewish people. Therefore, Cornelius was NOT a pagan or someone who had no knowledge or understanding of the Scriptures, particularly God’s law, contrary to how he is often presented within the church.
Consequently, the idea that the Old Testament is about the Jews, and the New Testament is about Jews and non-Jews is NOT TRUE. Although the gentiles (or non-Jews) are not part of the dominant discussion in the Old Testament does NOT mean that they were NOT there. Also, just because THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM includes Gentiles (or non-Jews), we also need to remember that it is an intricate part of God’s promises to ISRAEL and the JEWISH PEOPLE. And by dividing and separating the two testaments, we are omitting a part of the gospel that Jesus intended His people to hear and to understand. Consequently, as Paul writes, “it is to the JEW first, and also to the GREEK (or non-Jew)” (Romans 1:16c)
THE RESTORED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL IN PAUL’S WRITINGS
Paul, in his epistles, needs to distinguish two groups within the nation of Israel: those who were not part of the RESTORED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, which alludes to simply as “ISRAEL” and those who are part of the RESTORED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (that would be made up of people from three groups of people:
- the NORTHERN KINGDOM,
- the SOUTHERN KINGDOM, and
- GENTILES (NON-JEWS)
And most of the time, Paul did not use the term “KINGDOM,” like Jesus did, I believe because he did not want people to think that they were to have the same type of relationship with MESSIAH (CHRIST) as people had with the emperor of Rome. So he used many other titles, such as ‘EKKLESIA [“church”], BODY OF CHRIST, the BRIDE OF CHRIST, IN CHRIST and ONE NEW MAN to indicate the intimacy that we are to have with our KING.
To be part of the RESTORED and REUNIFIED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, both Jews and non-Jews must accept the Messiah Yeshua/ Jesus Christ, the One chosen and anointed by God by a priest and prophet, John the Baptist, to be His KING, PROPHET, and HIGH PRIEST over the RESTORED KINGDOM. [Note: the term “Messiah” from the Hebrew or “Christ” from the Greek, again refers to the “son (or descendant) of David” who would be chosen by God and given the anointing, not of ONE governmental office, but He, and He alone, would walk in ALL THREE governmental offices: Prophet, Priest and King at the same time; thereby, constituting Him as “THE MESSIAH” or “THE CHRIST”].
And so when we fail to look at the New Testament from the framework, content and context of the Old Testament, then “THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM” preached by Jesus and His early disciples is not properly understood. And the cross, as I said earlier, was a NECESSARY PART of this process, for it dealt not only with humanity’s sin issues, but it also has become the doorway into the KINGDOM and has provided the basis and means for God to begin this RESTORATION PROCESS (or what Christians have traditionally called “the Church Age” is, in fact, God continuing to build and extend the KINGDOM, He began with ABRAHAM, ISAAC, and JACOB). Thereby, keeping His promise to Abraham: “In you shall ALL the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). So has God changed His program in the New Testament? Not at all.
In this next article, we will look at what happened to the Gospel message between the 2nd – 4th centuries, AD.