By Ryan Shaw
What is the Gospel? I have asked this crucial question to believers from many cultural and national backgrounds over the years. Generally, I receive a hodge-podge of responses, mostly limiting the Gospel to eternal salvation.
As those caring deeply about the Great Commission, it is necessary to ask what message we are bearing. This is especially needed in a day when the Gospel is often reduced in its scope. To conclude this we first need to know what the Gospel is in its purest reality.
Jesus declares in Matthew 24:14, “and this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
In this statement, Jesus gives one of the clearest verses in Scripture of the timing of His return. He directly connects His future Second Coming with the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
He simultaneously reveals the message we bear as a witness among all ethnic people groups – the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Gospel of the Kingdom provides a clear roadmap for experiencing God’s fullness for every human being as intended in the heart of God.
The Gospel isn’t just for evangelistic purposes alone but for the subsequent, comprehensive development of true disciples living out their calling and purpose as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
The message we bear among the unreached and unengaged, then, revolves around the nature and notion of the Kingdom of God. Gospel presentations void of these themes may include a portion of the Gospel, yet are not revealing the whole message.
The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God in the world. It is the realization of God’s perfect will and the enjoyment of His accompanying blessings. That Kingdom is what God intended for all creation from the foundation of the world yet was mired through Adam and Eve’s choices.
Their choices enacted the plan of God to restore that Kingdom existence – through the first coming of Jesus in humility to inaugurate that Kingdom. And through His later second coming to bring the full expression of His Kingdom in the world.
We tend to see the Gospel in terms of “coming to saving faith in Jesus” – or the making of converts. Yet the Gospel of the Kingdom is much more comprehensive and exhaustive, covering the fullness of what God has made available to all humanity as they become born again disciples.
Salvation is obviously the introduction, yet Jesus calls His body in Matthew 28:20, to “teach them [unreached and unengaged peoples] to observe all things I have commanded you.”
I find it helpful to use the following framework for the Gospel of the Kingdom. I find a five phase overview in Scripture – each phase including many sub-truths necessary to rightly communicate the Gospel.
Skipping one or over emphasizing another often does not make sense to people. We may conclude they are rejecting the Gospel, when instead we’ve not necessarily been faithful to the whole message.
It is common to find disciples deficient in their faith due to a failure of those bearing the message to communicate all five phases of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
This process takes time. The truths of the five phases cannot be shared in one sitting. The idea of “giving the Gospel” in a one-time meeting has been part of our problem. We want the quick, simplified version. Yet that often leaves people anemic.
Instead, the phases and truths are communicated over time in the context of trust relationships. Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists alike begin to piece the whole together over time, seeing the supremacy of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Together, these over-arching five phases and their sub-truths contribute to the full message the body of Christ is entrusted with demonstrating and proclaiming among all ethnic peoples and cultures.
The Gospel of the Kingdom includes (5 phases):
1) Phase One – The Kingdom has come near through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made King.
2) Phase Two – Human beings enter that ‘brought near’ Kingdom by being born again from above.
3) Phase Three – Those entering the Kingdom receive all the benefits, blessings and privileges of their new inheritance.
4) Phase Four – Citizens of the Kingdom are responsible to live according to its ways, principles and operations, spreading it among all ethnic peoples throughout the whole world.
5) Phase Five – The ‘brought near’ Kingdom in this age will be fully established in the world by a glorious transition to the next age through the physical and visible return of Christ.
The Gospel of the Kingdom revolves around a King restoring His Kingdom, currently reigning in the lives of those who trust in Him by faith, coming again to rule the whole world (with His beloved bride) in visible, physical splendor and His people living forever with Him face to face.
Some will notice many important areas left out of this list. In the next five articles we will dive deeply into each one of these phases, unpacking the necessary sub-truths we are called to communicate among the nations.