The word “Gospel” means ‘Good News’ – something that is in short supply in a world dominated by bad news. The “gospel of Christ” is the good news that God sent His Son into the world to save mankind from sin and death, and to offer them eternal life.
Gospel of Christ
The apostle Paul once said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). He was not ashamed of it because the ‘gospel of Christ’ gave him a life-sustaining hope, as he said to Titus:
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is according to godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:1,2).
This is the great future to which believers can look forward. God has promised eternal life, if only we faithfully obey His commandments. This is the great hope of the Gospel.
But when can we expect this hope to be realised? The Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth, and it will be at that time that the faithful will be rewarded with everlasting life. As Paul explained to Titus, he was:
“Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
This is what all true Christians should be looking for – the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, for it is at that time – not before – that those who have been faithful to God will receive the blessing of everlasting life. That is why the gospel hope can be termed “the gospel of eternal life”, but it has other names as well, and they further define how God’s Good News will take effect.
“The Hope of Israel”
The apostle Paul was under house-arrest in Rome, awaiting trial, when he explained what had brought him to the capital. “For the hope of Israel”, he said, “I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20).
When Paul said this, his life was nearly at an end, and he knew it; he was facing the prospect of execution. Yet he had a hope – of eternal life. Further, he saw this hope as centred around the nation of Israel. Why should that be? Why should Paul associate his hope with the nation of Israel? What has Israel got to do with the hope of eternal life? A bit of research will demonstrate that Israel has a great deal to do with this gospel hope.
Throne of the LORD
In the time of King David, about 1000 B.C., the nation of Israel captured the fortress of Jerusalem, previously held by the Jebusites. David was thus the first king to reign over Israel from the city of Jerusalem, from which he reigned over Israel for 33 years. David was succeeded to the throne by his son Solomon, and of him we read a most important thing, namely that:
“Solomon sat on the throne of Yahweh as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him” (1 Chronicles 29:23).
Note very carefully that it says that Solomon sat on “the throne of the LORD [i.e.YAHWEH]”. When he, and David his father, reigned as king in Jerusalem, they were in fact sitting upon the throne of the LORD.
This is such an important point that it is repeated twice, for emphasis (see 1 Chronicles 28:5). We draw from this a very important and fundamental conclusion. That when King David, and his son after him, reigned over the kingdom of Israel, that kingdom was in fact the Kingdom of God on earth. Israel, as it existed of old, was the Kingdom of God.
God’s Kingdom Lost
That happy state of affairs did not last forever. Although Israel was the Kingdom of God, and Jerusalem was the capital city of that Kingdom, it came to an end. After the days of David and Solomon, a succession of kings reigned over Israel from Jerusalem. Some were good kings, like David, but the majority were wicked men. The last king was a man called Zedekiah, who reigned about 600 B.C. He was a wicked king, and concerning him the prophet Ezekiel made this pronouncement:
“Now to you, O profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end, thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘Remove the turban, and take off the crown; nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the lowly, and abase the exalted. Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until he comes whose right it is, and I will give it to him‘ ” (Ezekiel 21:25-27).
The kingdom of Israel was going to cease to exist; it would be overturned because of wickedness. This was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon invaded the land, and took Zedekiah and the Jews captive to Babylon. From that day to this, there has never been a king in Israel. The throne of David in Jerusalem remains vacant to this day. True, some of the Jews returned from captivity after seventy years, and the nation of Israel was re-established – this was the nation to which Jesus came. But the Jews then in the land, no longer constituted a kingdom. They had no king. They were, in effect, a vassal state of the Roman Empire; an occupied people.
God’s Kingdom – Restored
Notice very carefully what Ezekiel said in his pronouncement against Zedekiah:
“Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until he comes whose right it is, and I will give it to him“ (Ezekiel 21:27).
Although the kingdom was to be overthrown, this would not be forever. One would come who had a right to the throne. The kingdom would then be given to him. Who is this person of whom the prophet speaks?
Ezekiel was speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was descended directly from King David; and being in the royal line he had a right to the throne. And he was God’s Son. No wonder the angel Gabriel told the virgin that:
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32,33).
Gabriel here predicted that, one day:
- God would give to Jesus the throne of David, in Jerusalem; and
- He would reign over the kingdom of Israel forever.
In other words, Gabriel was saying to Mary that Jesus Christ would restore the kingdom of Israel, which had existed in the days of David, but which had been destroyed in the days of Zedekiah. The Kingdom of God would once more established in the earth.
Not yet Fulfilled
Think carefully about this and you will realise that these words of Gabriel have never been fulfilled. Jesus never has reigned as king in Jerusalem; for he was rejected and crucified by the Jews. When he rose from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven, where he remains to this day. ….
… The Roman armies came and besieged the city of Jerusalem. When it fell, they ploughed it up like a field, and the Jews were scattered from the land into the four corners of the earth.
That’s how the situation remained until about 55 years ago, when the state of Israel was reborn, in 1948. Notice that modern Israel is a state – not a kingdom. Even today, Israel has no king.
What then of the words of the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1? When will the kingdom of Israel be restored, with Jesus as king?
Kingdom Restored to Israel
This was a question that also puzzled the disciples of Jesus. Some of them had been expecting Jesus to take the throne after he had risen from the dead. For, in a conversation they had with the Lord after his resurrection, they asked:
“When they had come together, they asked him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
They were hoping that Jesus might restore the kingdom to Israel then and there. But this was not to be. For Jesus explained that it was not for them to know the time of Israel’s restoration – only the Father knew that – and shortly after this discussion with his disciples Jesus ascended into heaven, where he remains to this day. Imagine what the disciples were thinking, as they watched Jesus leave.
If Jesus was in heaven, how could the kingdom ever be restored to Israel?
Jesus was the King – the one “whose right it is” – and his throne was in Jerusalem; but he was not there to occupy that throne.
As they were wondering about these things, two angels appeared to them, and clarified the situation:
“While they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven“(Acts 1:10,11).
Here was the answer to their dilemma. Jesus was going to come again to earth! It was to be at that time – when he appears – that the kingdom will be restored to Israel, and Jesus will assume his rightful position as king in Jerusalem. No wonder they excitedly preached that very message to the crowds in Jerusalem, who were eager to share the gospel hope:
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21).
Future World Capital
When Israel is restored as the Kingdom of God on earth, the city of Jerusalem will once again become the capital city of the Kingdom of God. The prophet Jeremiah saw this:
“At that time Jerusalem shall be called ‘The Throne of Yahweh’, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of Yahweh, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jeremiah 3:17).
Just as the throne of David was called “the throne of Yahweh” … so in the future, Jerusalem will be the throne of Yahweh, when Jesus reigns as King from that place. In fact, Jesus himself, in his great Sermon on the Mount, said of Jerusalem that it is “the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35).
But we mustn’t think that Jesus’ future dominion will be confined to Israel. King David’s dominion was; but this will not be the case when the Lord Jesus returns, as King. His Kingdom ultimately will be worldwide, as God’s prophets understood very clearly:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of Yahweh’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2,3).
The prophet says here that many nations will go up to Jerusalem … to learn of God’s laws, which will issue forth from Jerusalem. In fact, all nations of the earth will be expected to go up year by year to Jerusalem, to pay homage … to … the Lord Jesus Christ. If they refuse, then they will be punished, until they learn to submit to God’s righteous laws. This is what Zechariah foretold:
“It shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, on them there will be no rain” (Zechariah 14:16,17).
Gradually – little by little – the rulership of Christ will extend beyond the boundaries of the land of Israel, to incorporate the whole world. As Zechariah says:
“Yahweh shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – ‘Yahweh is one,’ and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
What, then, about our role in these exciting future events? We have seen at the beginning … that the hope that the Gospel extends to us – for the hope of everlasting life is very much linked to the nation of Israel, so much so that the apostle Paul styled this “the hope of Israel”. The prophecy of Zechariah tells us why this is – because when Jesus comes again in the name of Yahweh to establish his throne in Jerusalem, he will not be alone:
“… You shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus Yahweh my God will come, and all the saints with you” (Zechariah 14:5)
Jesus and his Saints
Jesus will be accompanied by “the saints” – a Bible term for men and women who have separated themselves from the things of the world, and have chosen in their lives to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. In the coming Kingdom of God the saints will receive the reward of everlasting life.
In His Word, the Bible, God invites us all to be amongst these saints – the people who will be with Jesus at his Coming. For when he establishes his Kingdom, Jesus is going to need helpers, who will work with him in bringing the world into subjection to his righteous reign, and help him rule over the nations. This is the wonderful hope that the Gospel holds out to each one of us – that we can be with Jesus when he establishes his Kingdom in Jerusalem. As the Lord Jesus said himself:
“He who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations … ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter’s vessels shall be broken to pieces’… as I also have received from my Father; and I will give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:26-28).
This could be true of us – each one of us. Jesus invites each of us to be with him, to receive everlasting life, and to help him rule the nations with righteousness and justice. In return, what does Jesus want from us?
He tells us here – we must keep his works until “the end” – until he returns to Jerusalem as King. This involves reading the Bible for ourselves so that we can find out about its promises and its commands. When we know what we have to do, we must then walk in obedience day by day. …