Christians often speak of sharing the “gospel”, but what is the “gospel”? What is this message that everybody needs to hear? Most Christian churches have a brief version of the truth they think the world needs. Surprisingly, their versions rarely sound like the gospel that Jesus shared.
In the New Testament, one of the first things we hear Jesus saying is this: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” This does not mean “judgment is coming” or “free tickets to Heaven”. These statements may be true, but it’s not the message that was proclaimed as “gospel”. If we want to find out what this Kingdom means, our best odds is to see how Jesus demonstrated it.
Jesus performed miracles, but not the David Copperfield-kind of miracles where you make entire buildings disappear. No, his miracles were of a very specific nature:
He healed people.
Suddenly, paralyzed people were walking about.
The deaf could hear, and the blind could see.
The demon-possessed were set free.
In rare instances, even the dead were raised.
And in all instances, sins were forgiven.
There were skeptics, of course, who claimed that Jesus wasn’t performing miracles by the power of God’s spirit, but assisted by the Devil. Jesus, of course, denied this, and said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.…” This is how he saw it.
The gospel is the news that things are about to change in this world, because the Kingdom is just around the corner. On the Cross, Jesus was crowned and declared to be its King. From a cosmic/spiritual point of view, what happened at Golgotha wasn’t an execution, but an inauguration of the Kingdom.
That’s why Jesus said, when facing the disciples after his resurrection, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ (Matt 28:18) – in effect, he’s the King now, and he owns everything. Next, he sends off the disciples to announce this message to the nations as his ambassadors.
What is the gospel, then?
It’s the Kingdom proclamation.
It’s the news that things will soon change around here; it’s already begun.