The theme of Jesus Christ's gospel message was the good news of the Kingdom of God.
"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom 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).
The theme of Jesus Christ's message was the good news of the Kingdom of God. This is made clear by Matthew, Mark and Luke. Luke records Christ in His own words describing His purpose: "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent" (Luke:4:43).
Mark relates that, at the beginning of His ministry, "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark:1:14).
Matthew tells us, ". . . Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' . . . And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom . . ." (Matthew:4:17, 23).
Luke:8:1 confirms that Jesus Christ did exactly what He said He would: "Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings [the gospel, or good news] of the kingdom of God . . ."This message of the Kingdom was the heart and core of Christ's teaching from the very beginning. Together, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John use the term "kingdom of God" in 53 verses. The gospel Jesus Christ brought is clearly about this Kingdom.
Others told to spread this message
What about His disciples? What did He command them to preach? "Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (Luke:9:1, 2).
Later He instructed others to proclaim this same message. "After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go." He instructed the seventy to proclaim, "The kingdom of God has come near to you" (Luke:10:1, 9).
The Kingdom of God was clearly the theme of Christ's ministry. In the Sermon on the Mount, one of the most familiar examples of His message, He pointed His followers toward the Kingdom. He began His message with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ... Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew:5:3, 10).
Christ told His followers of the importance of obedience to God's law in entering this Kingdom: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew:5:19, 20).
He also warned that we must be submissive to God's will to enter the Kingdom: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew:7:21).
He taught His followers to pray "Your kingdom come" (Matthew:6:10). And notice this! He commanded them to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew:6:33). Seeking to enter the Kingdom of God should be our top priority.
Time and time again He used parables to illustrate aspects of the Kingdom (Matthew 13, 20, 22, 25; Luke 13, 19). In some of His last words before His crucifixion, He remarked to His disciples that He would not partake of the Passover symbols until He would once again do so "with you in My Father's kingdom" (Matthew:26:29).
Over a 40-day period immediately after His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ was seen by His followers. Notice that even then He continued "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts:1:3).
What message did Christ's followers preach?
Jesus Christ was not the only one to proclaim this message. Before Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist commanded people to repent, announcing that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew:3:2).
As we have seen, Jesus' ministry centered on the Kingdom. In keeping with Christ's direction, His disciples continued to proclaim the Kingdom after His crucifixion.
The importance of Jesus Christ's life, sacrifice and resurrection was a vital part of the message taught by the apostles. The apostle Peter made this clear in his first public preaching on the very day the Church began with the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts:2:22-24, 36).
Peter also spoke of the broader concepts of the Kingdom of God in his ministry. In 2 Peter:1:10, 11 we read, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Notice, too, that people requested baptism as a result of Philip's message about the Kingdom. "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized" (Acts:8:12).
Paul proclaimed the Kingdom
What about the apostle Paul? The book of Acts records that early in his ministry, as he raised up congregations in various cities, he "strengthen[ed] the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God'" (Acts:14:22). Later, in Ephesus, "he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God" (Acts:19:8).
Paul described his own preaching in Corinth as relating to "the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians:4:20). He referred to himself and his companions as "fellow workers for the kingdom of God" (Colossians:4:11).When under house arrest in Rome near the end of his ministry, Paul received a number of visitors, "to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening" (Acts:28:23). Notice that Paul used the Old Testament scriptures—"the Law of Moses and the Prophets"-to preach about both the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.
Paul is misrepresented as preaching a gospel about only the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The reality, however, is that Paul preached a message about both Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. The last verse of the book of Acts describes Paul "preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ . . ." (Acts:28:31).
Those who followed in Jesus Christ's footsteps taught the same message He taught. The book of Acts and the apostles' letters to the early church make it clear that they taught about the Kingdom of God.
The gospel before Jesus Christ
Some have assumed the gospel was first introduced by Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry. The gospel, however, is much older than that. It is called "the everlasting gospel" (Revelation:14:6).
The last four verses of Hebrews 3 speak of ancient Israel's unbelief and the sad fate of those who died in the wilderness, not entering the promised land. Hebrews:4:2 continues the story: "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them . . ." Israel had heard the gospel but failed to respond because of lack of faith.
Hundreds of years before that, the patriarch Abraham also heard the gospel (Galatians:3:8). Both of these passages confirm that the gospel was being proclaimed before Christ's ministry on earth.
In describing how, at His return, He will reward those who have been faithful to His way of life, Jesus Christ revealed that the Kingdom of God has been prepared for us far longer than we can imagine. "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew:25:34).
This good news about the glorious future of humanity has been God's plan from the very beginning! Christ's part in that plan, including His sacrifice to pay the penalty for the sins of humanity, was also established from the very beginning (Revelation:13:8; 1 Peter:1:18-20). This was the good news given to Abraham—that through his descendant, Jesus Christ, all nations would be blessed (Galatians:3:8, 16).
Few understood before Jesus Christ
The Kingdom of God was proclaimed by God's servants before Jesus Christ's ministry on earth. King David, in some of his psalms, looked prophetically to God's Kingdom. As he wrote in Psalm:145:10-13: "All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations."
The prophet Daniel also knew of the coming Kingdom of God. He, too, was inspired to write of the future reality of the Kingdom: "Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him" (Daniel:7:27, New International Version).
However, even though the gospel originated at the foundation of the world and was proclaimed through the ages, few understood it until Jesus Christ and the apostles declared it to the world.
But why? Ancient Israel, as noted earlier, lacked the belief and faith to understand and act on it (Hebrews:3:19; 4:2). In addition, the Old Testament scriptures did not connect all the pieces of the puzzle. They provided tantalizing glimpses of the Kingdom, but greater understanding had to wait until the coming of Jesus Christ, the revealer of "the mysteries of the kingdom" (Matthew:13:11).
When Jesus Christ came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, He built on the foundation already planned by God the Father from the beginning and revealed by the earlier prophets. As the messenger of the Kingdom, He revealed vital truths that were not understood from the Old Testament prophecies.
One of the great misunderstandings about the Kingdom, not made clear until revealed by Jesus Christ, was that thousands of years would separate His first coming as the sacrificial Lamb of God (John:1:29) from His return as the conquering King of the Kingdom (Revelation:19:11-16). His first coming fulfilled a vital part of the gospel of the Kingdom—His sacrifice to make possible our forgiveness, justification and ultimate entry into the Kingdom. His second coming will bring the establishment of that incredible Kingdom.The Bible proclaims a consistent message from beginning to end concerning the Kingdom of God, a message delivered throughout the ages by God's servants. But, paradoxically, the part of the revelation about the Kingdom of God that was most fully and clearly described in prophecy after prophecy in the Old Testament—a literal kingdom ruled over by a prophesied Messiah—seems to be the least understood aspect of the gospel today.
Many believe that the fantastic truth that followers of Jesus Christ will enjoy eternal life in an eternal Kingdom renders any need of a literal earthly reign over physical human beings totally unnecessary.
But what does the Bible say? Let's put aside all preconceived ideas and believe the plain teachings of God's Word.