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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.