“Gospel” is simply a word that means “good news” but many people use it as shorthand for the central message of Christianity. Usually then, “gospel” refers to the good news about Christ and his Kingdom.
So what’s the good news about Christ and his Kingdom?
To understand that good news, we have to understand its place in the larger history of the world. Everything we need to know about that context and the good news itself is revealed in the Bible.
God Is The Creator
The opening statement of the Bible tells us that: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Just a few paragraphs later, we read that God declares everything he created to be very good or perfect. He created mankind to be like him (very good, creative, intelligent, etc) and essentially gave them stewardship over what he had made.
God Is The King
Stewards serve under a king. Mankind is the steward; God is the King. As King, he is the lawgiver. Because he is good, the law was good. And it was simple: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Mankind Rebelled Against Their King
Mankind disobeyed God’s command. They rejected God’s authority over them.
As a result, sin entered the world. Sin is anything that we do that rejects God’s authority as King. More than that, sin causes all sorts of problems for us and those around us. Death entered the world, hunger, bitterness, anger, jealousy, murder, and every other sin spread out as mankind continued to reject God.
But God promised he was going to fix it. He began speaking to various people, prophets who would share his message with those around them. It wasn’t always clear to the people what God was up to, but he was preparing the world for his sin solution. As he spoke throughout the centuries, he revealed to the people of Israel that he would send a Chosen One (Messiah in Hebrew or Christ in Greek) who would conquer sin and death and make the world “very good” again.
God Keeps His Promise
Then, he quit speaking to anyone for about 400 years. It seemed like God had forgotten his promise. It seemed like he had given up on mankind.
But after that silence, he appeared to a young, engaged couple, Mary and Joseph, and told them that, before they were married, Mary would have a child who would be the Son of God.
Sure enough, Mary did have a son and they named him Jesus.
He was human but he was also the Promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. He showed and told people the truth about God, about the Kingdom of God. Jesus preached the good news about that Kingdom’s arrival through him and told people to believe in him and his message and to love God, love others, and tell others about the Kingdom. He gathered a group of followers who believed his message.
Mankind Rebels Again
But most of mankind didn’t like Jesus’ reminding them that God was King. So they killed him. They actually had inside help: one of Jesus’ followers betrayed him. Jesus’ message of God’s authority and man’s responsibility simply wasn’t popular with rebels.
They thought killing him would be the end of it.
Not The End
But Jesus didn’t stay dead.
Instead, he rose from the grave and appeared to his followers, who were all convinced that he was really alive again. He was human and thus could die but he revealed that he was also God and therefore had the power over life and death.
Jesus Inaugurates His Kingdom
Jesus told his followers that by his dying and rising, sin and death had been conquered for all who would believe in the good news of his message and the truth of his resurrection. He reminded them that even though he was going to leave the earth, his Kingdom would continue through the lives of those who submitted to him as King together. He called this gathering of those who believed his message “the church.” After telling them to make sure the gospel, the good news of the Kingdom, was told throughout the whole world, Jesus ascended into heaven. But, before he left, he told them that help was on its way.
The Holy Spirit
Jesus’ followers had a big task: represent the Kingdom of God to everyone on earth. Jesus knew that they weren’t able to do this on their own. So he sent the Spirit of God to live in and through his followers. “Spirit” doesn’t mean an impersonal force: this is God himself. He works in many different ways. By making people aware of their rebellion against God, he helps them submit again. He empowers people to follow Jesus. He shows the reality of the Kingdom in different ways. And he gives comfort to those who believe in the Kingdom as they wait for Jesus to return.
Jesus Will Complete His Kingdom
Jesus returned to heaven with the Kingdom of God established in the lives of those who believe in him by the power of the Holy Spirit. But he also promised to come back one day, after the gospel had been spread to every tribe, tongue, and nation, to finally eradicate sin and death and rebellion and fully establish his Kingdom in a new heaven and new earth.
I am curious: do you believe?