“I’m not even sure what the gospel even is.” This is the statement one of my students said to me when we were speaking casually after class today. “I’ve been going to church all of my life,” the student said, “but I have never heard any sermon where we were taught the answer to the question, “What is the gospel?” We have been taught about how to find happiness, what is faith, or about loving other people, but I can’t remember one of them specifically about the gospel.” I was rather dumb-founded when I heard this.
“The Full Gospel” vs. “The Whole Gospel”
I grew up attending a church that prided itself on being “full-gospel,” but by the term “full gospel,” they meant that in addition to the historical gospel message, they also believed in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the physical evidence of speaking in tongues, the gifts of the Spirit, and Divide healing. But what was revealed to me through the study of God’s Word is that neither the “historical gospel” or “full gospel” is the “whole gospel,” but that they are both in the “New Testament,” and even the “full gospel” may be more of the “New Testament,” but it is still not the “whole gospel.”
In fact, I find myself like my student today in that I have been going to churches most of my life, and I have literally heard thousands of sermons either in person or on television, and although I have heard those who have preached on what Christianity has come to call “the gospel,” it is not the “whole gospel.” I have discovered that there is a whole lot more to “the gospel” than what any Christian church has taught for the past nineteen hundred (1, 900) years. Christians have taught their version of “the gospel” around the world in different countries, places, and via different mediums, but regardless of the place or medium, the “whole gospel” has not be preached or taught. The sad reality is that there is more to “the gospel” than any of us have ever heard from the pulpit or even in a Sunday School room of any church.
“The Whole Gospel” is “What?”
Obviously, this provokes the question, “What is the ‘whole gospel’?” Not only was I surprised – if not completely shocked – to discover that Christianity has not taught the “whole gospel” since its beginning near the end of the first century, C.E., but an even greater shock came when I discovered why the “whole gospel” has not been preached – but it has only preached a portion of the message – and also what the true “focus” of the “whole gospel” originally was. Did I learn this from some other religion or from an atheist? No, in fact, I had this revelation when I was closely reading through the “New Testament.”
“In the “New Testament,” there are textual evidence that there is much more to “the gospel” than “the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus).” The original “gospel,” in fact, did not focus on the cross at all. The “gospel” that was taught by Yeshua (Jesus) and His eighty-two disciples – The Twelve and the Seventy (Luke 10:1) – was called “the gospel of the Kingdom of God.” We can see it by its full name in Mark 1,
Now after that John [Heb. Yochanan] was put into prison, Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) 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 ye, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:14-15, KJV)
In this passage, we can see that the focus of “the gospel” is on “the kingdom of God” – not on “the death, burial, and resurrection.” Therefore, the gospel that God sent Yeshua (Jesus) to preach (Luke 4:43), and “the gospel” that Yeshua (Jesus) modeled, taught, and trained His disciples to preach and proclaim, and even “the gospel” that His disciples preached and proclaimed all over Israel is NOT the same “gospel” that Christianity has historically preached since near the end of the first century, C.E.
“The Gospel” – “Began with Abraham”?
The original “gospel” message began with Abraham. In his epistle (letter) to the congregation in Galatia, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) stated that the one who heard “the gospel beforehand” or “in advance” was Abraham. There is no one mentioned in the New Testament who heard the message before him.
Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, PREACHED THE GOSPEL BEFOREHAND TO ABRAHAM, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3: 6-9)
Here we see Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) specifically tells us that “the gospel” was preached “beforehand to Abraham.”
“Christian Tradition” vs. the Bible
But did you know that what Christianity has traditionally called the “first gospel” (Gk. proto-euaggelion) was not with Abraham, but it was spoken to the serpent in the Garden of Eden:
And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; HE SHALL BRUISE YOU ON THE HEAD, AND YOU SHALL BRUISE HIM ON THE HEEL.” (Genesis 3:14-15)
This is what Christianity says was the first reference to “the gospel” in the Bible. They claim that this was fulfilled at the cross. The “serpent bruised him [Messiah] on the heel” when Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified, and by Yeshua’s (Jesus’) death, He “bruised” “the head” of the serpent. I have heard this on and off throughout my life, but I have a problem with this. This interpretation of Genesis 3:15 is not taught anywhere in the New Covenant at all – not even once! You would think if this was, in fact, the real basis for the crucifixion of Yeshua (Jesus) and “the gospel,” that it would be referenced somewhere in the New Covenant, alluded to in some way, or even quoted, but it is not – not once. Consequently, this interpretation may be “Christian,” but it is not biblical.
I am currently working on a book that demonstrates and shows that the “whole gospel” is not just “the death, burial, and resurrection,” but it also includes the redemption and restoration of Israel. The redemption and restoration of Israel is actually the context and framework that God has given us for understanding Yeshua’s (Jesus’) death, burial, and resurrection, and soon return. Israel’s restoration has been in God’s plans since the beginning, and it is something that God has been working on for the past two thousand years, or what Christians have mistakenly called “the Church Age,” God has been reaching back into the world and drawing Jews and Gentiles [non-Jews] back to Himself and Israel one person at a time. Most people have the erroneous idea that when the Bible discusses “Israel,” this was only the Jewish people, but this is not true. There were a mixture of Israelites and Gentiles [non-Jews] with Abraham, Mosheh (Moses) during the Exodus, and within the Promised Land, all up until the Babylonian Exile. It was after the Exile that the Jewish people started to isolate themselves from the surrounding Gentile [non-Jewish] world. The process of restoring God’s vision for Israel has been going on behind the scenes until about 1881, and then we can begin to see visible evidence of His work to bring restoration to Israel. I will bring this out in much more detail within my book. But Christianity was in shock when Israel became a nation again on May 14, 1948, and it was in shock again, when on June 7, 1967, the whole city of Jerusalem came back into Jewish hands.
The Missing Link of the Kingdom?
The link between the “death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus)” and the redemption and restoration of Israel is found in the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” or “the kingdom of God.” These phrases are the focus of the biblical gospel. This provokes the question, “What is ‘the kingdom of heaven’ or ‘the kingdom of God’?” Christianity does not understand this link because they have taken the New Covenant, as well as “the gospel” out of context, reduced it, refocused it, and repackaged it for centuries now. They reduced it by isolating the New Covenantal teachings from the rest of the Bible, refocused them, and by stripping everything “Jewish” from their original faith – which was as a branch of Second Temple Judaism – they have altered and repackaged the message.
Instead, all three phrases – “the kingdom of heaven” (used in Matthew), “the kingdom of God” (used in the rest of the New Covenant), and “the kingdom of the Almighty” (commonly used in some rabbinic works) – can be traced back to the phrase used by King David in the inauguration of his son, Solomon. In 2 Chronicles 28, King David is giving his last speech to the people of Israel before he places the crown on Solomon. During this speech, King David says,
But God said unto me, You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war, and has shed blood. Howbeit the LORD God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever: for He has chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father he liked me to make me king over all Israel: 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. (1 Chronicles 28:3-5)
This phrase “The Kingdom of the LORD,” or in the Hebrew malkhut YHWH, is the source for the two New Covenant phrases: “The Kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God,” as well as the rabbinic use of the phrase “the kingdom of the Almighty.” During the Babylonian exile, the Jewish people created evasive synonyms for the holy covenant name of God. They created words, like “heaven,” “Almighty,” or “God” to use instead of His covenant name. They got this idea from God Himself who used an evasive synonym for His own name when He gave a portion of the Written Torah to Mosheh (Moses) during the Exodus wanderings. In the book of Leviticus, we read,
And you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “If anyone curses his God, then he shall bear his sin. Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien [non-Jew] as well as the native [Jew], when he blasphemes THE NAME [Heb. HaShem], shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:15-16, NASB)
In this passage, we can clearly see the context is dealing with the mishandling of God’s sacred covenantal name, and in this same passage, God uses HaShem (“The Name”), as an evasive synonym for His own covenantal name. So when the Jewish people also created other evasive terms for the sacred covenantal name of God, they were only following God’s own example used here in the Written Torah.
Therefore, when we take the original phrase malkhut YHWH (“the kingdom of the LORD”) and we substitute the word “heaven” (Heb. shamyim) for YHWH, God’s covenantal name, then we get malkhut shamayim, or “the kingdom of heaven.” When we substitute the “Almighty” (Heb. Shaddai) for YHWH, God’s covenantal name, then we get malkhut Shaddai, or “the kingdom of the Almighty.” Finally, when we use the word “God” (Heb. elohim) as a substitute for YHWH, God’s covenantal name, then we get malkhut elohim, or “the kingdom of God.” As you can see, we can easily explain the formation of all three phrases by taking them back to this Davidic phrase used in I Chronicles 28.
“God’s Kingdom” – A Political Context?
Therefore, if we look back at the original expression – “the kingdom of the LORD” – the context of it is clearly political – the inauguration of a king, the son of David – and if we go back to the time period of the Second Temple period of the 1st century, C.E., Yeshua’s (Jesus’) disciples used the terms “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” with the same political overtones. However, the disciple Yochanan (John) mentions at the end of his Gospel that there was a rumor, soon belief, that was circulated among the other disciples that Yochanan (John) would not die until Yeshua (Jesus) came back. He wrote,
Peter [Heb. Shi’mon Petros], turning around, saw the disciple who Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] loved [a common phrase John uses for himself] following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast [chest] at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays you?” Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus [Yeshua], “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus [Yeshua] said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” This saying therefore went out among the brethren that disciple would not die; yet Jesus [Yeshua] did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want for him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21: 20-23)
Yeshua’s disciple viewed “the kingdom” as a literal, political kingdom ruled over by God in and through His Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus); however, when Yeshua (Jesus) had not come back yet and Yochanan (John) died, they somehow had to explain this, so they changed the nature of “the kingdom” from a literal, political kingdom to a “spiritual kingdom.” I personally do not believe that just because Yochanan (John) died and Yeshua (Jesus) had not returned yet, that this was sufficient enough reason for the Gentile disciples, who were being called “Christians” – a derogatory term, much like “Jesus Freak” was used in the 1960s -70’s in the United States – changed the nature of “the kingdom” from a literal, political kingdom to a “spiritual kingdom.” I believe that we need to return back to this view of God and His Kingdom.
Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) saw the nature of the Second Temple movement changing from what it was to becoming something completely different, and it broke his heart. On his way to Jerusalem to observe the biblical feast of Shavuot (Weeks/Pentecost), he stopped off in Miletus to speak to the congressional leaders in and around Ephesus. When the leaders arrived, he gave his farewell speech to them, as well as the following warning:
I know that after my departure (i.e., death) savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)
Here we can see that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) telling us that the changes were coming from two sources: one external and one internal. Those “savage wolves” (“sinners” or “Torah-violators”) were going to come inside the congregations (“will come in among you”), and they would “not [spare] the flock.” They would either physically or spiritually destroy them. The other source would be internal, from the leaders themselves (“from among your own selves men will arise”), and these men would speak “perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
The Meaning of “Perverse”?
But what does Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) mean here by “speaking perverse things”? The English word “perverse” is the translation of the Greek word, diastrephō (G1294), which means “to distort, i.e., (fig.) misinterpret, or (mor.) corrupt: – perverse, pervert, turn away. (“Greek Dictionary of the New Testament” 23) Most English speakers do not see “misinterpret,” “distort,” and being “morally corrupt” or “perverse” in the same light. Yet this one word carries all of these meanings. I found it translated as “perverse” in four verses (Matthew 17:17; Luke 9:41; Acts 20:30; Philippians 2:15), “pervert” in one verse (Acts 13:10), and “perverting” in one verse (Luke 23:2).
The Prophecy Fulfilled
Did Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) prophecy then come true? It absolutely did. Two years after his “departure” (or “death”), four Roman legions and their auxiliaries, which according to Chaim Potok’s book, Wanderings: Chaim Potok’s History of the Jews, this fighting force numbered 80,000 soldiers. It took them the entire summer of 70 C.E., from May 30 to the middle of September for them to breach the walls of Jerusalem and then destroy the city and the Temple (293-294). When the Gentile followers of Yeshua (Jesus) – who were being called “Christians” at this time – a derogatory term as I mentioned, heard about the destruction, they erroneously misinterpreted it to mean that God had turned His back on Israel and the Jewish people, including the Jewish disciples, which was one of the “perverse things” they would say.
They began to see themselves as the “New Israel,” the “New People of God,” who would get all the blessings, while the Jews would get all the curses. This belief became known as “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology.” To reconfirm this belief, they also began to teach that the “New Testament” (representing Christianity and the Church, they believed) has “replaced,” “annulled,” and “did away with” the “Old Testament” (representing Israel and the Jewish people, they said). They also began the process of stripping away anything that would associate them with Israel and the Jewish people: the Sabbath, the feasts, the dietary laws, the purity laws, as well as the other commandments in the Torah – thus we have here “moral corruption” and turning people away from God’s Torah – and they began to mold and shape themselves into their own religion, called “Christianity.” It was only less than thirty years after their destruction when we hear Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, begin preaching against Judaism. In his letter “To the Magnesians,” he wrote,
For if we continue to live in accordance with Judaism, we admit that we have not received grace. (qtd. in The Apostolic Fathers, Second ed., p. 95)
It is utterly absurd to profess Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity, in which “every tongue” believed and “was brought together” to God. (qtd. in The Apostolic Father, Second ed., p. 96).
Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch from 98 – 117 C.E. This is only twenty-eight to forty-seven years after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. The change of some disciples from being God’s sheep to becoming “wolves” began only 30-50 years later.
About the Anti-Christ, the Tribulation & the Second Coming
We also see this predicted of “the last days” right before the return of Messiah at the end of “the Didache,” one of the oldest Christian documents outside of the New Covenant:
“Watch” over your life: “do not let your lamps go out, and do not be unprepared, but be ready, for you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.” Gather together frequently, seeking the things that benefit your souls, for all the time you have believed will be of no use to you if you are not found perfect in the last time. For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will abound, and THE SHEEP WILL BE TURNED INTO WOLVES, and love will be turned into hate. For as lawlessness [i.e., Torah violations] increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. (qtd. in The Apostolic Fathers, Second ed., 158).
This writing is dated to between 75 – 150 C.E., so at the earliest, this was written about five years after the destruction to about fifty years after the book of Revelation at the latest. Perhaps, this author had already witnessed “the sheep” being “turned into wolves,” which is why he included it in his description of “the last days.” It is after this, though, that it begins to describe “the coming of the Anti-Christ and the Tribulation period, culminating in the return of the Messiah:
And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the abominations the likes of which have never happened before. Then all humankind will come to the fiery test [the Tribulation period], and “many will fall away” and perish, but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself [Galatians 3:13]. And then there will appear the signs of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of a trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead – but not of all, rather, as it has been said, “The Lord will come, and all his saints with him.” Then the world “will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (qtd. in The Apostolic Fathers, Second edition, 158)
As we can see here, these early believers did not believe in a “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” as many Christians do today. But they believed that they would be here up until the Second Coming. Somehow, somewhere along the way, beliefs about a “secret rapture” were introduced into Christianity, which was not part of these believers’ doctrine back in 75-150 C.E.
We Need a Return!
Therefore, since we are now at the end of “the last days,” we need to return to the “whole gospel” and how God’s Kingdom was originally viewed by the disciples: as a literal, political kingdom that is both physical and spiritual. God is King over all that He has created, which would involve not only the physical universe and the nations, but what we call “the spiritual realm” as well. He rules them all simultaneously, so it is not a matter of either “physical” or “spiritual,” but it is instead both “physical” and “spiritual” at the same time.
Therefore, the call of the gospel is the call for us to return to God, His Kingdom, and His Kingdom ways. His Kingdom is what He named “Israel,” so “Israel” is so much more than the nation-state that it is today. It is the beloved Bride of God, and as such, it is also called by other names in the New Covenant, such as “the bride of Messiah,” “the body of Messiah,” “the ‘Called-Out Ones’ (Gk. Ekklesia; trans. “church”), “in Messiah” and “the One New Man.” All these terms and phrases refer to us belonging to God’s call for all of the people of Israel – Jew and Gentile – or who Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) calls “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
We Need to Repent for the Past
Since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, many Christians have forsaken the call of God to come together with the Jewish people and to formulate God’s call on all of Israel, the “One New Man.” Instead, we have separated from them, and throughout the centuries, we have persecuted, attacked, and even killed many of the Jewish people, and it was all done in the “name of Jesus Christ.” This hellish doctrine of “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology” has led to untold millions of Jews and Christians being killed, leading up to such things as the Inquisition, the various Pogroms, and the Holocaust.
We need to repent for the deeds that is in our history. No, we may not have personally committed these acts, but if we call ourselves “Christians,” then we represent those who did. As author, Michael Brown, has said in one of his books, “Our hands are Covered in Blood.” It is time that we put away our “anger, malice, division, and bitterness,” and we seek forgiveness, peace and unity with the Jewish people. Let us move toward becoming the One family, One Community, and One Kingdom that God has called us all to be. It will only be when we come together as One (Heb. ‘echad) that we will experience what Yeshua (Jesus) prayed to His Father,
And the glory which You have given Me I have given to them; that they may be ONE, just as We are ONE; I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in UNITY, that the world may know that You did send Me, and did love them, as as You did love Me. (John 17: 22-23; emphasis added)
Notice, what He says here: we are “perfected in UNITY” – not in division. So why do Christians continue to divide and divide into more and more denominations? And why do they continue to divide and separate themselves from the Jewish people? We should be looking for opportunities to work together, to fellowship together, to get to know one another. Division happens as a result of the flesh (Heb. yetsar ra) – not the Spirit (Heb. Ruach Elohim). We need to start walking according to the Spirit – not the flesh.
Because “the flesh” is enmity (or hostility) toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)
In Conclusion — We Are All “One Family”
Finally, the fact is – whether-or-not Jews or Christians like to admit it – we are all One family, and we need to start behaving and acting as if we are all One family. Through our division from Israel, and all of the Anti-Semitic attitudes, actions and behavior throughout the centuries, the only thing that we have done is brought dishonor to God, and made Yeshua (Jesus) the “butt of a joke” or a laughing stock around the world. Division is not what shows people that Yeshua (Jesus) was sent by God – UNITY does, and there are many churches that belong to the same denomination and they can’t even work together! Some years back, I mentioned to a pastor at the church I was attending at the time that we should get together with the other churches of our denomination who were also on the south side of town. I told him, “If we work together, we can really turn this town upside down and bring revival to this whole city.” His response surprised me.
He said, “It will never work.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because,” he said, “there’s too many egos involved. Who will get the credit? Whose church name will go on the material? Who will get the people who decide to convert? Who will pay for it all?” I was just floored!
I told him, “There are thousands in this city going to Hell, and we can’t save them because churches are more worried about their egos?”
He said, “It is an unfortunate truth.”