What is the Gospel? Part 4

[Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash]

If you missed parts 1-3, you can read them here, here, and here. This post follows the second movement in the Gospel story (the kingdom rebellion) with the kingdom restored.

Movement 3—The Kingdom Restored

Connecting the Dots

Earthquakes are terrible disasters affecting the lives of thousands every year around the world. Earthquakes take place because of tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface. Shifts here and there result in rumblings and eventually movement with remarkable consequences.

In many ways, the rumblings of the earth’s plates are much like the rest of the story of the Bible. Subtle shifts here and there in the story’s plot work to create significant disturbances. The analogy is not too far from how Scripture actually describes the created world. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the whole world “groans with birth pangs, waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Much like these tectonic rumblings and surface movements, the NT sounds the alarm that the Kingdom of God has broken through, despite the evil that defines the world.

Kingdom Restored

We move now to the third movement of the gospel of the kingdom—the kingdom come. The NT begins with the striking claim that—as was promised in the OT—a king has been born, the Son of David, the seed of both Eve and Abraham is here.

But, as I’ve been arguing, the thread holding this story together is the kingdom of God. If in the first two movements we saw the kingdom established, and the kingdom rebellion. Through the rest of Scripture we see God’s response to what seems a dreadful narrative. The reality is, friends, God in his kindness has set out to redeem a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that they might proclaim his excellencies—a people who have been called out of darkness of their sin, to be brought into his marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

This is the good news of God, that in spite of our rebellion, in spite of our rejection of his goodness and righteousness, turning aside to worthless idols—whether it is sex, status, power, or wealth—God in his mercy has not given up on humanity.

Unlike the countless other gods and deities who are disinterested with the creation, the God of the Bible is the God who sets his love on rebels, and offers them life.

From Seed to Seed

We left Genesis 3 with the bleak picture of Adam and Eve receiving curses. But nestled in those curses, we see the grace of God piercing the dark sky of rebellion. God promises to Eve that a mysterious ‘seed/offspring’ will bring restoration to all of creation, but this offspring must war with the Serpent until the he crushes his head. Victory will not take place without his heel being bruised. 

Well, the story continues. When we get to chapter 12 of Genesis a sharp turn is taken. God chooses an individual who becomes a family, who becomes a nation, who one day has a king, and God promises to this king that one of his sons will one day usher in a new age in which God again will rule over the world.  God promises to grow his kingdom through the covenants he makes with Abraham, Moses, and David.

In Abraham, the kingdom is revived. All of the curses placed on Adam are reversed in the promises to Abram. The hope of the seed in Genesis 3 will be the channel through which all the nations will be blessed.

As Israel’s story progresses, they are miraculously freed from Egyptian slavery, and by the power of God’s redemption they are instituted as a people in the wilderness, waiting to enter the Promised Land.

Joshua 21:45 tells us that “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” All that God had promised Abraham came to fulfillment: land; a people; a kingdom.

This is the picture by the time we get to David—Israel’s enemies have been laid to rest. Like the fresh dew on the ground, prosperity engulfs the land. Solomon, David’s son, finally builds a glorious dwelling place for God. Here is the light to the nations! Here is the kingdom of priests of Yahweh! It’s as if Eden has been rebuilt—God again with man, and the sons of God expanding his praises.

A Lineage of Failure

But something is not quite right. As the people increase, so does their idolatry. As the people grow in wealth, so does their temptation to worship other gods.

The prophets, as we looked at briefly in the first post, foreshadow a coming King, a day in which God will again reign and rule, because very quickly Israel’s kingdom crumbles and succumbs to human failure.

You see, Adam’s commission to be the king, to rule the earth and expand the temple, is passed onto his offspring. But so is his rebellious nature.

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, David, Solomon. Men who achieved great things, but we have here also a bunch of rebels who fail again and again: drunkards, thieves, deceivers, murderers, fearing man and not God; all of them, under the shadow of death. All of them buried.

And yet, in spite of them acting as kings for God and failing, God makes certain promises to David, promises of an eternal kingdom:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’

(2 Sam. 7:12-16)

Ironically, in wanting to build a house for God, God responds by saying, “no, I will build you a house with a coming son who will have an everlasting kingdom”. God pledges a special relationship with this ‘son’, but we also see the strange warning of discipline, of one receiving stripes.

The Story of Israel

So where does this leave us? Well, the Hebrew Bible leaves us with the nation of Israel in exile, because they and their king have the same problem as Adam: idolatry and a failure to worship the true living God. The prophets record the awful spiral of Israel and their turning to blind and worthless idols, even though the living, powerful and worthy God redeemed them out of Egypt and defeated their enemies.

But—and the ‘but’ is very important here—there is the promise of one of Abraham’s children, from the line of Judah, from the seed of David who will grow up out of a fallen, cut down stump and will lead God’s people into the reign of God—he is the shepherd of Psalm 23 who will bring his people to still waters. He will feed them with bread from heaven. He will grant them living waters. He will instruct them as Moses instructed the people. He will be the victor, the mighty one who destroys the enemy. God’s plan is to once again dwell with man, through a future King.[1] Sound familiar? I hope so.

Jesus as King and Saviour

I hope that in forming a this outline of the Bible story we see how the person and work of Jesus begins to take shape. The Gospel of Mark opens with Jesus declaring these powerfully packed words,

Jesus came into Galilee—Mark tells us—proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”


Do we see the context? Do we understand what Jesus is claiming here? The throne of David is now ready to be occupied. The promise from of old, the solution to our rebellion and the host of sins that proceed from such warped hearts, is the reign of a king who can actually change his people.

We’ve see the kingdom established and the kingdom rebellion. But now, in Jesus we see the climax of the kingdom restored. All of the Scriptures have pointed forward to this rule of a coming seed, a child of Abraham, a son of David—the true Israelite.  

As one scholar says,

To announce God’s kingdom is to announce that God is at last overthrowing the dark powers that enslave his people. To announce God’s kingdom is to say that this is the time for God to reconstitute his people, rescuing them and gathering them for new life and new tasks. To announce God’s kingdom is to say that, as in Isaiah 52:7–12, God himself is coming back to display his Glory in person and in power.[2]

Cross and Kingdom—the Heart of the Gospel

And Jesus’ ministry testifies to this power: demons are cast out, the sick are healed, terrifying waves and storms are calmed with just a word from his mouth. All that characterized God in the OT is embodied in Jesus.

We need only think of the Psalms again that speak of the activity of God—the things only he can do,

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,

(Ps. 103:1-3)

Forgiving sins and healing diseases. It’s a picture of Jesus going about Galilee—proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and healing the ailments people brought to him.

The kingdom power is here—it’s obvious!—even his teaching exhibits an authority unlike the Scribes and Pharisees.

The Ascent to Jerusalem

But friends, probably the most shocking part of Jesus’ ministry is the journey he took to Jerusalem. Many expected him to walk into the city to be crowned as king. Finally, the deliverer was here! Finally the son of David would ascend his glorious throne and exercise his power over the abuses of Rome.

But, this did not happen. Jesus did walk to Jerusalem, but he received not a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. Instead of Roman soldiers bowing to Jesus in fear and respect, they bowed before him, but mockingly. Jesus will ascend and be lifted up above the people, except it wasn’t a throne of splendor, but a bloodied cross of wood. The powerful becomes the powerless. The king comes to serve and to give his life as a ransom.

But why? What a turn of events, what a shocking end to what seemed to be such good news! The reality, friends, is that the kingdom of God is fundamentally realized through the cross of Jesus. It is through the cross of Jesus that the kingdom is again established, that the kingdom is restored.[3]

If we remember our story thus far, we will remember that the kingdom rebellion severed us from the triune God (see Isa. 59:2); it is because of our sins that there is a very terrible sentence on our heads: death and the wrath of God, since God is holy and cannot clear the guilty.

The sting of death will be defeated—that was the promise—but it would not come without the bruising of the heal. The story of the Bible develops this idea in a couple places:

  1. The exile of Adam and Eve and Israel is symbolic of the devastation of sin.
  2. Isaiah predicts that the exile must be completed—that his people must be cut down to a mere stump—before God can again dwell with his people.
  3. Daniel tells us that the Son of Man will be given an everlasting kingdom, but first he must suffer as his people.
  4. Samuel told us that the Davidic king will receive stripes when sin abounds.

A very important text that deals with suffering for sins is that of Isaiah 52 and 53. It’s a glorious passage that we need to turn our attention to if we are to understand the connection between the cross and the kingdom. What we are about to read comes right after the promise of the good news, the gospel: your God reigns! (52:7).

And then Isaiah moves to describe this certain figure, this servant, which, in some cases appears as Israel, but in other cases acts for Israel and delivers them. I think it is best if we see this servant of the Lord as the representative of Israel—like the king himself—who goes before his people. But listen carefully to these words:

Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
    he shall be high and lifted up,
    and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
    his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
    Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
    and that which they have not heard they understand.

1Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

At the heart of the Gospel is the cross of Christ, friends. In a strange turn of events, the cross—a very cruel means of death—places one under the wrath of God on behalf of the many. The guilty cannot go free, but in Christ, the king himself takes on his people’s plight, he takes upon himself their rebellion and sin against a righteous God.

Jesus is baptised with the waters of God’s judgment—passing through to rescue a people from their sentence of death.

Jesus drinks the dreadful cup of God’s wrath so that sinners can be passed over by the decree of punishment that lies on their heads.

You see, friends, King Jesus came not only to bring the kingdom of God, but also to bring sinners into the kingdom of God. Previously, we are by nature—as sons of Adam—in the kingdom of darkness, in the kingdom of Satan.

But by dying in our place and for our sins, taking our punishment on himself and securing forgiveness for us, Jesus’ offering of his own life make us righteous in God’s sight, and qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the kingdom of God (Col. 1:12).[4]

The Apostle Paul says this much in Colossians 1:12–14, we give…

thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, and yet by no means clear the guilty? How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly? The answer to all these questions is found in the cross of Calvary, in Jesus’ substitutionary death for his people.[5] There, Jesus died for sins “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).

In order for the kingdom of God to be restored, the death of a sinless sacrifice on behalf of the many had to take place. Jesus scolds his disciples for not seeing this truth in Luke 24,

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

(Vv. 25-26)

Again Patrick Schreiner puts it so well,

On the cross, Christ rescued us from death and delivered us from slavery. At the cross, the people of God were saved from death, delivered from their sins, and set on the path to return home to their place. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb was the means of preserving his people from death and covering their sins, so the blood of Jesus on the wooden post rolled out the kingdom plan.[6] 

The Resurrection

The resurrection then points to the justification of the Son’s sacrifice; it’s his vindication, it’s the proof that the offer of his own life fulfills the plan of God to redeem a sinful people to himself.

Death itself is put to death. Christ is victorious through his sacrificial death in which he becomes the substitute and representative of his people.

The cross is not contrary to this King and kingdom, but the very center of it. This King has power, but it is a paradoxical power, one of suffering and weakness.[7] 

The cross is not contrary to this King and kingdom, but the very center of it.

I wonder, have you gazed at the cross of Christ—have you considered him who has borne the wrath and judgment of God for you? That the innocent Son of God, God clothed in humanity, was pierced for your transgressions, all so that you could have peace with God? I pray that we’d all look at Christ with fresh eyes again, that we would see him who has delivered us from sin, from death, from the judgment of God.

This is the kingdom of God restored, in and through the cross. Sinners can now come freely to the king and find forgiveness, find new life. Which brings us to our fourth and final movement: the kingdom response.

[1] Patrick Schreiner, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross (Crossway, 2018), 81–82.

[2] N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion (HarperCollins, 2016), 179.

[3] Schreiner, 99.

[4] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Crossway, 2010), 64

[5] Ibid., 69.

[6] Schreiner, 134.

[7] Ibid., 134.


Comment here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s