Our King’s announcement of good news
You may have noticed, Christians often talk about “the gospel.” But did you know that originally, “gospels” were not a Christian thing at all? In the ancient world, kings used to send out “gospels” when they had good news to announce to their people. “We won the battle!” for example; or, “A royal son has been born, as heir to the throne!” At Redemption Church, we describe ourselves as a “gospel-centered family of disciples.” This means that, at the very center of who we are, there is one specific message of good news from our King ─ Jesus Christ. If you really want to know what we are all about as a church, then first, you have to understand the gospel we believe in.
So, what is the gospel we’re always talking about at Redemption?
Who is this “King”?
All of Creation is God's Domain
In one sense, the entire Bible is the story of God creating his Kingdom. In the beginning, he creates all things, and then makes human beings “in his image” so that we could have “dominion” over creation (Genesis 1:26). The idea is that God is the real King of creation. The world is his domain. But as his image-bearers, we are meant to represent his authority in the world.
We were created to rule and reign over creation on God’s behalf, in a way that brings glory and honor to him.
Our Sin Led to a World of Raging "Kingdoms"
Unfortunately, sin ruined that good design. Rather than representing God’s authority in the world, we tried to undermine his authority and steal it for ourselves. Ultimately, this is what sin is. It is not just a list of bad things we do, but a spiritual condition that sets us at odds with God. And this spiritual condition has corrupted our human nature. As a result, the world is filled with sinful people and nations that constantly rage against each other. (Like the world we live in today.) All people are born with this self-worshiping sin nature that separates us from God. No one naturally loves or worships God; we are all born wanting to be our own “gods.”
God Raised up an Earthly Kingdom
The story of the Old Testament is all about God raising up a nation of his own ─ Israel ─ so that he can use them to bless and redeem the raging nations. There are many twists and turns in the story: blessings, rebellion, victory, defeat, promises, etc. Israel does eventually grow into a great Kingdom. Some of their Kings were very good, like David; some were pretty terrible, like Saul and others. But all of them were very complicated and imperfect. By the end of the Old Testament, though, the Kingdom of Israel collapses. The citizens of God’s Kingdom were scattered and sent off into exile ─ without a King or a Kingdom.
And at least for a while, it seemed as if God’s plan had failed. Until Jesus was born.
God Sent His Son to Be Our Heavenly King
Although, in one sense he was just a poor Jewish man, Jesus also claimed to be God’s “King.” He didn’t have any political power or authority in the world; he didn’t even have many possessions. But he claimed he had the authority to forgive people’s sins (Mark 2:5) and he did heal the sick and perform many different miracles (Matthew 8:26).
It turns out, Jesus was a very different kind of King.
Most people didn’t get it. Even God’s own covenant people were not expecting a heavenly King like Jesus, who would bring them back to God’s good design for creation. Many of them were just hoping for an earthly King, like the ones who ruled all the other raging nations. So, when Jesus kept insisting that he was God’s Son and the King of God’s people, eventually, they accused him of blasphemy. And even though he was without sin, they had Jesus killed.
Rome, the Kingdom in power at the time, crucified Jesus as a criminal.
Jesus Rose Again to Be the King of All Creation
Usually, Kings don’t get executed. And if they do, it means they’re done being King. But Jesus is no ordinary King. In Jesus’s case, his death on the cross was the very thing that guaranteed his authority forever and ever. Because he would not stay dead for long! After dying in our place to atone for our sins, Jesus rose again to live forever as the King of all creation. After rising, he even told his disciples, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
Spoken like a true King!
Then, as the Apostles' creed says, “He ascended to heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” In other words, even today, Jesus is still alive and well! He is ruling and reigning over all of creation, and he is waiting to return and establish his Kingdom here on earth, forever and ever.
He is our King.
After dying in our place to atone for our sins, Jesus rose again to live forever as the King of all creation.
What is the good news King Jesus came to announce?
So, what exactly is the gospel of King Jesus? Thankfully, the Apostle Paul defined it for us very clearly in his letter to the church in Corinth. He even explained that this message was of “first importance.” He wrote:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you … For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve (1 Cor. 15:1-5.)
In short, the good news of Jesus’s gospel is that he died for our sins, he was buried, he rose again, and he now has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). These were real events that actually took place in the world. After he rose again, Jesus even appeared to his disciples. And notice, all of these things happened “according to the Scriptures” ─ which means the entire point of the Bible, every story, has always been moving and pointing us in this direction. King Jesus was always God’s plan from the very beginning. And now, because he lives forever to be the King of all creation, people of all nations can be redeemed and gathered into his heavenly Kingdom.
This is the gospel we believe in. This is the one message that is at the very center of who are.
How will you respond to Jesus’s message?
When Jesus came into the world preaching this message, he also encouraged his listeners not just to hear it, but also to respond in a very specific way. In Mark 1:14, we read, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” In other words, once we hear this good news of King Jesus, there is a two-part response that God expects from us. He wants us to repent and believe in the gospel.
What does it mean to repent? The good news of King Jesus will only be good news for us if he becomes our King. And in order for him to become our King, we have to “surrender” and stop trying to be our own Kings. This is the idea of repentance. The word “repent” just means: to turn around and go the other way, or to change your mind. In order to truly repent, we have to take full responsibility for rebelling against God in the first place, and also make a conscious (usually public) commitment to stop living in rebellion. This does not mean we will be perfect or sinless, but it does mean that our overall posture towards God has completely changed. We’ve gone from hating his authority over us, to loving and submitting to Jesus’s authority ─ even when it’s hard.
What does it mean to believe in Jesus? The word “belief” is a bit tricky in English, but a few very similar words would include: to trust, to rely, or to depend. To “believe” in Jesus does not simply mean that we think he’s real. (That must be true as well, of course.) But to truly believe in Jesus, in a redemptive way, means that we start depending on his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. Since we have no business being citizens of God’s Kingdom on our own, we place our trust in Jesus to make us citizens of his Kingdom. Because if it weren’t for his death, resurrection, and ascension, we would have no hope of entering the Kingdom.
As an illustration, picture a firefighter running into your house to save you while you’re trapped inside. As he runs up to the front door, you yell out the window, “I believe in you!” What exactly would you mean by that? It’s probably not that you think this firefighter is a real person. (That’s a given.) Instead, what we mean is that we are depending on that firefighter to save us when we cannot save ourselves ─ and more than that, we’re also saying that we think he can save us! That is the sense in which we must believe in the gospel to be truly redeemed by it. We must depend on King Jesus, as if he is our only hope of being reconciled with God. Because he is.
Where is this “Kingdom” now?
Even today, people often struggle with the same question many struggled with during Jesus’s earthly life and ministry. “What kind of Kingdom is this … and where is it?” In one sense, Jesus does call us to pray that God’s Kingdom would come “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). And yet, in another sense, he tells us that his Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). In one sense, we know, he has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). But in another sense, it doesn’t always feel that way in our everyday lives. Our world is still filled with sinful people, like us, and raging nations, like the ones described in the Bible.
Ultimately, the Kingdom of God will never be fully established until Christ returns. When he returns, we will all be resurrected with him (Acts 24:15). Those who believe in the gospel and submit to him as their King will live with him forever (1 John 5:13). Those who continue to reject him as King will spend all of eternity in hell, separated from God and his people ─ as a just punishment for their rebellion (Matthew 10:33, 13:41-43).
Ultimately, this is when we will experience the Kingdom of God in its fullness. When sin and death have finally been defeated, once and for all, and King Jesus dwells with us on earth forever. And yet, we do get glimpses of God’s Kingdom here and now ─ any time people submit to Jesus as their King together, and live as true representatives of his heavenly authority in the world today.
This is what our church is all about. Our aim is to live together as “ambassadors of Christ” and “citizens of heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:20, Philippians 3:20). We want to proclaim the good news of King Jesus, so that all kinds of different people can be reconciled with God and one another. At times, this will make us feel like “sojourners and aliens” in the world today ─ as if we’re not quite at home here. Jesus told us this would be the case. And it shouldn’t surprise us (John 15:18). We do follow a crucified King, after all! But even when following Jesus is hard, it’s an incredible privilege to know and worship him together.
In every season of life, we take comfort in Paul’s words from his letter to the Philippian church:
Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Jesus is the King we all desperately need. Will you repent, believe, and follow him with us?