If we are to understand the whole point of Jesus’ teachings, message and mission, we need to be sure we understand the gospel—the good news—that He taught.
What is the message Jesus Christ brought and taught?
It seems like a simple enough question, but most people don’t give it much thought. They know Jesus preached a “gospel”—an old English word meaning “good news” or “good message”—but what was that message?
This is where things get a little murky for some people. Many think that the gospel of Christ is a gospel about Christ. In doing so they focus on the messenger rather than the message. They miss the point that when the Bible speaks of the “gospel of Christ,” it is referring to the message He proclaimed, not simply a message about Him.
Is the distinction that important? Absolutely. If we fail to understand His central message, we will fail to grasp the whole point of His teachings, the reason for His coming and why He promises to come again to earth. We will also fail to comprehend dozens of vital prophecies throughout the Bible. Jesus Christ’s message ties all of these things together in a central theme that is truly good news that has great implications not only for your future, but that of the entire earth!
So what was Jesus’ message? Let’s go through some of His statements to be sure we understand this important truth.
We find Christ’s message summarized in Mark:1:14-15: “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’” (emphasis added throughout).
Jesus’ message, then, centered on the gospel—the good news—of the Kingdom of God. He also taught that people must repent and believe that message.
Other verses confirm that the Kingdom of God was at the heart of Christ’s message. Matthew:4:23 tells us that “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, [and] preaching the gospel of the kingdom...” Several chapters later he adds, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, [and] preaching the gospel of the kingdom...” (Matthew:9:35).
After Jesus was crucified and resurrected He appeared to His disciples, “being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts:1:3). Luke:4:43 records Jesus saying, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”
Confusion about the Kingdom of God
It’s clear from the Scriptures that Jesus’ teaching focused on the Kingdom of God. As Luke recorded, Christ said that He had been sent to proclaim this specific message.
There should be little doubt about what Jesus taught. Regrettably, that isn’t the case. People have differing ideas of what the Kingdom of God is. Some believe it is all of Christianity. Some view it as the sum total of all that is good and right in the world. Others think that the church is the Kingdom of God.
Regarding the latter, notice how The Catholic Encyclopedia explains this common perception: “...The ‘kingdom’ means not so much a goal to be attained or a place... It is rather a tone of mind... At one time the ‘kingdom’ means the sway of grace in men’s hearts... As men realized that this kingdom stood for a certain tone of mind, and saw that this peculiar spirit was enshrined in the Church, they began to speak of the Church as ‘the kingdom of God’... The kingdom of God means, then, the ruling of God in our hearts; it means those principles which separate us off from the kingdom of the world and the devil; it means the benign sway of grace; it means the Church...” (1908 edition, “Kingdom of God”).
Continuation of earlier messages
Did Christ intend for us to be so confused about the central theme of His teaching?
Christ’s teaching about the Kingdom of God becomes clear when we understand that Jesus was continuing the message God had revealed centuries earlier through the prophets of Israel. These men were inspired to write of a coming world-ruling government—a physical, literal kingdom—in which the Messiah would administer God’s laws and way of life to bring peace and prosperity to all humanity.
The prophet Daniel, for example, saw a vision in which the Messiah receives this kingdom: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel:7:13-14; see also Daniel:2:44).
Isaiah also wrote of this coming Messiah and kingdom: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever...” (Isaiah:9:6-7).
Luke records that Jesus didn’t hesitate to apply a prophecy of Isaiah of the Messiah and Kingdom of God to Himself. “[Jesus] was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’
“...And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke:4:17-21; quoting from Isaiah:61:1-2).
The plain meaning
Jesus was plainly affirming the messages of the earlier prophets of the coming Kingdom of God. Did Christ’s followers understand that His teaching about the Kingdom of God concerned a literal, world-ruling kingdom? Indeed they did.
Notice this promise He gave to His disciples: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew:19:28; see also Luke:22:28-30).
After Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, the disciples had a burning question for Him: “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority’” (Acts:1:6-7).
They plainly understood that a part of Jesus’ mission involved a restoration of a physical kingdom, with Christ as ruler and the disciples reigning under Him. Jesus told them, however, that the timing of the establishing of that kingdom is known only to God the Father (Matthew:24:36).
In Revelation:11:15 we read that this kingdom will be established at the seventh prophetic trumpet: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”
The Kingdom of God and you
What does this kingdom have to do with you and me? A great deal in every way.
On a purely physical level, Jesus Christ will return at a pivotal time in human history—when humanity teeters on the brink of annihilation. In His remarkable prophecy in Matthew 24, He tells us that He will intervene in a period of world crisis, “a time of great distress, such as there has never been before since the beginning of the world, and will never be again.” Conditions will be so grave that “if that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive . . .” (verses 21-22, Revised English Bible).
Reading the rest of His prophecy (and parallel accounts in Luke 21 and Mark 13) is remarkably like reading today’s headlines. Yet most people will be unaware of the seriousness of the times in which they live.
Jesus had much more to say, too, about the Kingdom of God. In the first passage we read, Mark:1:14-15, a vital part of Christ’s message was “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Two millennia later, those words continue to have deep meaning. While the good news of Christ’s coming world-ruling kingdom is truly good—in that humanity will at last see a world of peace, happiness and purpose and an end to war, violence, starvation, disease and every other form of suffering—there’s more to the story.
To enter that kingdom, we must be transformed from physical and mortal to spiritual and immortal. As Paul explains: “...Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians:15:51-53).
Jesus says of those who are transformed in this way: “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew:13:43). Jesus Christ, glorified and immortal, now shines as the sun at full strength (Revelation:1:16). If we are willing to repent and believe, as He commands, He extends to us the opportunity to be glorified as He is (1 John:3:2).
Those given eternal life will live and reign with Christ in that kingdom (Revelation:20:4, 6). They will be “kings and priests to our God... reign[ing] on the earth” to teach and bring others into this eternal kingdom (Revelation:5:10). Jesus promises us, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation:3:21).
As the prophet Daniel had written centuries earlier: “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel:7:27).
This is the wonderful news of a future of awesome power and purpose revealed in the gospel of the Kingdom of God Jesus Christ taught. Would you like to share in that future? The choice is up to you!
This article has only briefly surveyed the central theme of Jesus Christ’s teaching. To learn more, please request your free copies of the booklets The Gospel of the Kingdom and What Is Your Destiny? You’ll discover a great deal more about the astounding future God has in store for you!