Daily Gospel Reflection
KINGDOM IS NOT
As I began to learn about the Kingdom of God Gospel from various sources, it gradually became clear that several of the most foundational concepts I had been taught did not stand up to closer scrutiny from the Bible. It is not my intention to criticize any former teachers, but simply to demonstrate what I believe can be plainly seen from the Bible when it is read without preconceived notions.
The things that I say are not unheard of concepts, but are known by many biblical scholars and theologians. They may contradict what is commonly assumed by the average church goer, but they can be readily seen from a simple reading of the Bible. I missed some of them for years, however, because I accepted what I was taught, without examining the evidence.
Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven
The simplest example is one regarding terminology. While I (and others) may have used the term "Kingdom of God," I was not using it according to its Biblical definition. I was taught that the Kingdom of God was over all, while the Kingdom of Heaven referred to the personal presence of the king from heaven (Jesus Christ) on earth. According to this theory, the Kingdom of Heaven started when Jesus began his public ministry, and will again be reinstated when he returns to reign, as described in the Book of Revelation.
I began to realize that my understanding of the Kingdom of God was sorely lacking when it was pointed out to me that the two phrases "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" are synonymous. The first article in this section demonstrates how parallel passages referring to the same thing call it "Kingdom of Heaven" in Matthew, and "Kingdom of God" in the other Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Both terms refer to something more than just the overall sovereignty of God.
Another common misconception among Christians involves the nature and content of the Gospel that we are supposed to preach. If you were to ask the average Christian, "What is the Gospel?" you would either get a vague answer, or else they would say it had to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus, or that he died for our sins. But while his death and resurrection are definitely vital elements of the Gospel, do they constitute the whole Gospel?
The second article in this section shows how Jesus and his disciples preached "the Gospel" for quite a long time before he ever began to speak about his death. There was a message that he preached consistently, and it is clearly identified as "the Kingdom of God." Yet we hardly ever hear about it in most Christian circles. If it was the subject that Jesus most often preached on, shouldn't we understand it and preach on it too?
A system of interpretation artificially divides the Bible and presents two completely separate plans of salvation, one for Israel and one for the Christian Church. But as the fourth article in this section shows, there is one consistant message all the way through the Bible. The good news was preached to Abraham, and we are declared to be heirs of the promises and the seed of Abraham if we accept Jesus Christ.
Paul preached the same Gospel that Jesus had preached, as can be seen from the book of Acts. His "gospel of grace" is not a different gospel, but the same gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus had preached. It is the central theme in his epistles as well, which is why he so frequently quoted from the Old Testament to make his points. He didn't preach a whole new and different message, but further details concerning the same message that Jesus had preached.
In light of these things, one might wonder how so much misunderstanding came about. One of the biggest factors, historically, was the fact that after the Apostles died and more and more Gentiles became Christians, the understanding of the Hebrew foundations of the Gospel were gradually lost. Without the understanding of the foundation, the message itself became muddled. The fifth article in this section shows that the Bible is a Hebrew book, and reading it in light of its Hebrew origins is vital in gaining a true understanding of its overall theme.
The Old Testament is the foundation for the whole Bible, and especially for the understanding of the subject of the Kingdom of God. Without the Old Testament background, it is impossible to fully grasp the overall message, especially the words of Jesus. For this reason, the next section examines the Old Testament Foundation of the Gospel.