Overview: What It Is Not

As I began to learn about the Kingdom of God Gospel from various sources, it gradually became clear that several of the most foundational concepts I had been taught did not stand up to closer scrutiny from the Bible. It is not my intention to criticize any former teachers, but simply to demonstrate what I believe can be plainly seen from the Bible when it is read without preconceived notions.

The things on this web site are not unheard of concepts, but are known by many biblical scholars and theologians. They may contradict what is commonly assumed by the average churchgoer, but they can be readily seen from a simple reading of the Bible. I missed some of them for years, however, because I accepted what I was taught, without examining the evidence.

Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven
The simplest example is one regarding terminology. While I (and others) may have used the term "Kingdom of God," I was not using it according to its Biblical definition. I was taught that the Kingdom of God was over all, while the Kingdom of Heaven referred to the personal presence of the king from heaven (Jesus Christ) on earth. According to this theory, the Kingdom of Heaven started when Jesus began his public ministry, and will again be reinstated when he returns to reign, as described in the Book of Revelation. In the meantime, it is "held in abeyance" during this Church age, when a new aspect of God's plan has been revealed.

I began to realize that my understanding of the Kingdom of God was sorely lacking when it was pointed out to me that the two phrases "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" are synonymous. The first article in this section demonstrates how parallel passages referring to the same thing call it "Kingdom of Heaven" in Matthew, and "Kingdom of God" in the other Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Both terms refer to something more than just the overall sovereignty of God.

What is the Gospel?
Another common misconception among Christians involves the nature and content of the Gospel that we are supposed to preach. If you were to ask the average Christian, "What is the Gospel?" you would either get a vague answer, or else they would say it had to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus, or that he died for our sins. But while his death and resurrection are definitely vital elements of the Gospel, do they constitute the whole Gospel?

The second article in this section shows how Jesus and his disciples preached "the Gospel" for quite a long time before he ever began to speak about his death. There was a message that he preached consistently, and it is clearly identified as "the Kingdom of God." Yet we hardly ever hear about it in most Christian circles. If it was the subject that Jesus most often preached on, shouldn't we understand it and preach on it too?

One reason we didn't in the organization with which I was involved, was because of the system of interpretation called Dispensationalism (although we didn't call it that at the time). It colored my understanding of the Bible for years. But I came to realize that there was actually no Biblical basis for the system. There are certainly "dispensations" in which God deals with people in different ways (such as the differences under the Old and New Covenants).
But there is nothing in the New Testament which suggests that after Pentecost the Gospel of the Kingdom was "held in abeyance" until the future. Nor is there anything that suggests that a new, completely different gospel was revealed by the Apostle Paul. The third article in this section demonstrates that this idea is not only unscriptural, but is particularly dangerous because it separates Jesus from his words, and he told us that his words are spirit and life.

One Gospel
This system of interpretation artificially divides the Bible and presents two completely separate plans of salvation, one for Israel and one for the Christian Church. But as the fourth article in this section shows,
there is one consistent message all the way through the Bible. The good news was preached to Abraham, and we are declared to be heirs of the promises and the seed of Abraham if we accept Jesus Christ.

Paul preached the same Gospel that Jesus had preached, as can be seen from the book of Acts. His "gospel of grace" is not a different gospel, but the same gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus had preached. It is the central theme in his epistles as well, which is why he so frequently quoted from the Old Testament to make his points. He didn't preach a whole new and different message, but further details concerning the same message that Jesus had preached.

Hebrew Origins
In light of these things, one might wonder how so much misunderstanding came about. One of the biggest factors, historically, was the fact that after the Apostles died and more and more Gentiles became Christians, the understanding of the Hebrew foundations of the Gospel was gradually lost. Without the understanding of the foundation, the message itself became muddled. The fifth article in this section shows that
the Bible is a Hebrew book, and reading it in light of its Hebrew origins is vital in gaining a true understanding of its overall theme.

The Old Testament is the foundation for the whole Bible, and especially for the understanding of the subject of the Kingdom of God. Without the Old Testament background, it is impossible to fully grasp the overall message, especially the words of Jesus. For this reason, the next section examines the Old Testament Foundation of the Gospel.

Mark Clarke
E-mail: mclarke@godskingdomfirst.org