A brief summary of the section. One paragraph should do it.
After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his apostles and followers began the work of preaching the gospel message throughout the world. Some of the significant milestones of that work are recorded in the Bible in the book of Acts. It describes the rapid growth of Christianity as it spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire.
What was the Message?
One of the interesting things about Acts is that it contains several summaries of the gospel message that the apostles originally preached. These are very useful in allowing us to determine just what the gospel message. Unfortunately, in later times a number of pagan ideas and philosophies were brought into the church and mixed with the original truth, but by going back to Acts and other places in the New Testament we can determine the essence of the gospel that Jesus and the apostles believed.
Here are a couple of summaries of that gospel message:
“But, when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12) (ESV)
“When they had appointed a day for (Paul), they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God, and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” (Acts 28:23) (ESV)
“(Paul) lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30-31) ESV)
Notice that in each of these passages, there are two elements of the gospel message:
- (The things concerning) the kingdom of God
- (The name of) Jesus Christ
These two aspects provide a kind of short-hand summarizing what the gospel message, and thus Bible hope, is all about.
The teaching of Jesus
In the Christmas story the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to announce that she will have a child. It’s fascinating to notice that Gabriel speaks about exactly these same two aspects we have found in Acts:
“And the angel said to (Mary), ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33) (ESV)
We are finding an interesting thread here, then. And if we were to continue through the gospels to look at Jesus’ teaching, we would find that he had a lot to say about the very same subjects: himself (as Saviour and God’s unique messenger), and the kingdom. Here are just a few examples of each:
Jesus’ teaching about himself:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6-7) (ESV)
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9) (ESV)
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12) (ESV)
Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom:
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15) (ESV)
“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:v3) (ESV)
Two problems, two solutions
So the evidence is pretty compelling: the gospel message in the New Testament focuses on the kingdom of God and on the name and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But why these two aspects in particular?
Well they match up precisely with two types of human need. There are universal or society-wide problems that needed fixing (crime, political unrest, racial tensions, climate change, sickness, and so forth) – all these are met and will be solved by God’s plan to set up His kingdom upon earth. But the problems don’t stop there. There are also problems of sin at the individual level as well which have to be dealt with. How are human beings, with all their inadequacies, going to have a hope of being a part of God’s kingdom? It’s all very well God’s planning a kingdom, but if no one is going to be good enough to be there then it won’t be much use! The answer to that problem is provided through the work and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.
Let’s take the 50,000 foot view of these two subjects (they are developed further in other pages of this part of ‘Nuts & Bolts’). God has promised a time when He will take control of world affairs by sending His son the Lord Jesus Christ back to the earth again to be king. It will be a kingdom of peace, a time when the world will be run according to God’s ways and principles rather than man’s; a time of amazing blessing for the world. It is the very essence of Bible hope.
But how will we get there? What are the credentials that will be required for a passport to God’s kingdom, so to speak? The Bible explains that the only way to have hope of being part of God’s kingdom is through association with the Lord Jesus. Jesus described himself as a ‘door’ and a ‘way’ – he is the way to God’s kingdom. Because of Jesus’ work, sins can be forgiven and we can begin a new life following his example. This is how the kingdom ceases to be an abstract factual concept, but rather something which is relevant and possible for real people.