The Gospel of the King

No Bible believer can miss the fact that Jesus preached the Gospel of the kingdom ... all the way to the end. Not merely until his death, but to his last day on earth before he ascended into heaven ...

To whom he also showed himself alive after his suffering ... being seen of them 40 days and talking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

That verse tells us that Jesus' discussion of the Kingdom of God continued until he departed this earth. I tried to find out how many times the Gospels discuss Jesus' preaching or teaching (see sidebar) about the Kingdom of God. "Kingdom" is used 119 times in the Gospels, 114 of them in the synoptic Gospels.

I started to count the occurrences, leaving out the ones that didn't apply to the kingdom of God, but to some other kingdom. I got bored counting once I hit 37 in the middle of Matthew chapter 19. All of those refer to Jesus teaching or preaching about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.

Preaching and Teaching

In the Scriptures, assuming that your translation consistently translates kerusso and euangelizo as "preach" or "proclaim," the word "preach" describes proclaiming a message to unbelievers, and "teach" means instructing believers.

"Kingdom of Heaven" is only used in Matthew. Matthew's Gospel was written for Jews, who regularly substituted "heaven" for "God." No other Gospel or apostolic letter uses the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven"; they all use "Kingdom of God."

So Jesus emphasized God's Kingdom. Did he pass it on to the apostles?

  • Acts 8:12: "When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."
  • Acts 14:22: "[Paul and Barnabas] confirmed the souls of the disciples, exhorted them to continue in the faith and that it is through many tribulations they must enter the Kingdom of God."
  • Acts 19:8: "[Paul] went into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for three months, disputing and persuading concerning the Kingdom of God."
  • Acts 28:23: "When they appointed [Paul, on house arrest in Rome] a day, many came to his lodging, to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God."
  • Acts 28:31: "[Paul was] preaching the Kingdom God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus the King with all confidence, no one forbidding him."

Jesus spent his last days teaching about the Kingdom of God. Paul spent his last years and his ministry preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God.

The Gospel of the Kingdom must be awful important. What is it? What Is the Gospel of the Kingdom?

I heard reference to the Gospel of the Kingdom somewhat often as a young Christian, especially among charismatics. Amazingly, no one seemed to know what it meant! A few people made an attempt to explain it, but nothing ever stood out to me that was practical and believable and, more importantly, scripturally-based.

Only in the last year, through the help of a friend, have I found out what Jesus and his apostles meant by "the Gospel of the Kingdom" or "the Gospel of Christ" (which properly translated means "the Gospel of the King").

My friend's explanation was so easy to understand and so scriptural that I have adopted it wholeheartedly as the foundation for the Gospel the apostles preached in Acts (about which I wrote in the appropriately titled, The Gospel of the Apostles) and the response that they called for in their hearers.

So let's begin.

Psalm 2

  • Verse 2: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord [YHWH] and his Anointed [Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek)]."
  • Verse 5-6: "Then God will speak to them in his wrath ... I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion."
  • Verse 7: The Lord [YHWH] said to me, "You are my Son. Today I have begotten you."
  • Verses 10-12: Be wise ... oh you kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord [YHWH] with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little.

The word "anointed" in this Psalm, which we generally translate as Messiah, is used 66 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, but only in this Psalm, Psalm 45:7, Isaiah 61:1, and Daniel 9:24 does it refer to the coming Messiah. In all other cases it refers to the anointing of priests, prophets, and, later, kings.

There are a number of direct references to Psalm 2 in the New Testament.

The most pertinent is Simon Peter's answer to Jesus in Matthew 16:16. There Simon tells Jesus that he is "the Anointed, the Son of the living God."

Jesus' response to Simon's statement is astonishing. It is there he gives Simon the name Peter. He then tells Peter that he will build the church on that rock (Matt. 16:18). That rock may be Peter, as most people in church history have interpreted it, or it may be Peter's confession. Either one puts great emphasis on Peter's realization that Jesus was "the Anointed, the Son of the living God," which Jesus told Peter could only have come by the revelation of the Father.

Peter the "Rock"

We evangelicals like to argue that Jesus referred to a petra, a boulder, upon which he would build his church. Peter's name, on the other hand, is Petros, meaning pebble.

I doubt seriously that is an honest translation of petra and petros. My Thayer's Lexicon certainly doesn't agree, but even if it is, it is still irrelevant. Petros is a masculine word, and Petra is feminine. The Greek language required a masculine name for men. It's a grammar thing.

Further, Jesus wasn't speaking Greek. He was speaking Aramaic and thus used the same word, Cephas, both as "rock" and as Peter's new name. Peter is often referred to as Cephas in Paul's letters.

The Father did not give Peter the wording, "Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter would have gotten that from Psalm 2. The Father simply revealed to Peter that it was Jesus who was that Psalm 2 Messiah and Son of God.

Only Psalm 2:7 calls the Messiah the Son of God.

Peter was not the only one who knew about Psalm 2. From the Scriptures it is clear that all the Jews were expecting a Messiah who would be the Son of the living God and reign over the nations.

  • The high priest commanded Jesus to tell them whether he was "the Anointed, the Son of God" (Matt. 26:63; Mark 14:61).
  • Mark begins his Gospel telling us that it is "the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed, the Son of God" (1:1).
  • When Jesus cast out demons, the demons said they knew he was "the Anointed, the Son of God" (Luke 4:41).
  • The apostles in general tell Jesus they know he is "the Anointed, the Son of the living God" (Jn. 6:69).
  • John wrote his Gospel so that we would believe that Jesus is "the Anointed, the Son of God" (20:31).
  • Martha told Jesus that she believed that he was "the Anointed, the Son of God" (Jn. 11:27).
  • As soon as Paul was converted, he began to "preach the Anointed in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20).

I could go on and on, but let's focus on one verse:

Whoever transgresses and does not remain in the doctrine of the Anointed does not have God. (2 Jn. 9)

No doubt about how sharp and clear that is, but since we are not used to interpreting "Christ" and putting the word into the context of Scripture, we miss the point of the "teaching about the Anointed."

The teaching about the Anointed is that he is the Son of the living God. He is the King, described in Psalm 2, who will overthrow all other kingdoms. He is the Son, who should be kissed, lest his anger be aroused even a little.

I find it interesting that in the Septuagint, the Old Testament translation most quoted by the apostles, Psalm 2 does not tell the nations, and us, to "kiss the Son," but to "lay hold of his instruction."

Described like this, it puts a context on the Gospel of the Kingdom that was the Gospel of Jesus and the apostles. There is a new King! God's Anointed has arrived, and though the kings of the earth may take counsel against him, but he will break them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

I try to make it a habit to make suggestions about what else you can read that might be interesting. My friend wrote a book about the Gospel of the Kingdom as taught in Scripture. It is called Forgotten Gospel. It is about 150 pages of fact- and history-packed pages that I highly recommend.

Where To Go Next