What is “the gospel of the kingdom”?
It’s very popular these days to talk about “the gospel of the kingdom.”
Many people claim that when Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) he was preaching a message about the overthrow of evil government powers, the transformation of society, and the lifting up of the poor. All kinds of revolutionaries can get behind these ideas.
But is that what the Bible means when it speaks about the gospel of the kingdom? Not exactly.
When Philip the evangelist preached “the good news about the kingdom of God,” men and women believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). This “gospel of the kingdom” called them to turn from their sin, trust in Jesus Christ and begin a new life, symbolized by baptism.
On the other hand, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God coming near (Mk. 1:15), he is referring to something truly revolutionary. He means that with his own coming to earth, God’s saving rule and reign has come near in a way that’s never happened before in all of human history. He means that God’s promises to establish his kingdom are beginning to be fulfilled, and that God will one day usher in a new creation, which has even now been inaugurated through Jesus’ resurrection (Col. 1:18; 2 Cor. 5:17). This new creation will be a place of perfect righteousness and peace, a place in which all wrongs will be made right (Rev. 21:1-5).
Yet while this gospel of the kingdom has striking global implications, it is fundamentally a message about what Jesus has done to save sinners. Jesus said that unless a man is born again—a new birth that can only come through hearing the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23)—he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Paul makes it clear that the only way anyone participates in this kingdom is by believing in Jesus Christ and living a life that demonstrates the reality of that faith (1 Cor. 6:9-11, 15:50) The gospel of the kingdom is ultimately a message about a king who died for his enemies so that those who believe in him would inherit the very kingdom he purchased for them.