Typically, Jesus' mission to earth is characterized something like, "Jesus came to die for us so we can have salvation." But to leave the purpose of Christ at this is incomplete.
Jesus taught, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).
Notice Jesus' teaching in chapter 19 of Matthew's Gospel. The rich young man came to Jesus and asked, "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16). Jesus responded, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). He went on to explain to His disciples that "it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:23) and "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). His disciples, hearing Jesus' comments, "were greatly astonished, saying, 'Who then can be saved?'" (Matthew 19:25).
Jesus clearly taught, and the disciples clearly understood, that eternal life, being saved and entering the Kingdom of God are all synonymous!
In the same passage (Matthew 19:27-29), when Peter remarked that they had left everything to follow Jesus and asked how this would be re-warded, Jesus answered, "When the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel ... and inherit eternal life."
The apostle Paul elaborates on Christ's teaching about entrance into the Kingdom of God. "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God ..." (1 Corinthians 15:50). "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" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
"The last trumpet" will sound when Jesus Christ returns to reign in His Kingdom. Jesus Himself inspired this prophecy in Revelation 11:15: "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!'"
How important is it to believe in the gospel of the Kingdom of God? Jesus said in Mark 1:15 that you have to believe the gospel of the Kingdom of God if you want to be saved!
The salvation that Christ preached must be understood in terms of entering the Kingdom of God. This tells us clearly what salvation or eternal life is and that it includes a serving style of leadership in the Kingdom of God, which will replace all other human kingdoms and be the ruling kingdom on this earth (Matthew 20:25-28; Revelation 20:4-6).
Every purpose and teaching of Jesus was concerned with the future establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus began His ministry with the simple statement, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). He was offering His followers a place in that Kingdom.
Peter, Andrew, James, John and the rest of the first disciples of Jesus saw the decisions they made to leave all behind in light of the unique opportunity to be "on the ground floor" of the Kingdom of God. They knew the Kingdom of God was a literal kingdom; they just didn't know when it would be established. They did know that they had to make a once-in-a-lifetime decision then and there.
The same message is still being preached, and the opportunity is still there for those who can grasp the vision of what Jesus meant.
To know the real Jesus, you have to understand clearly the Kingdom of God. To be with Him, you have to believe the message He preached. (To learn much more about this Kingdom, request or download our free booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom.)