If you were to ask almost any preacher or believer in any congregation today what the gospel is, you will most likely receive the answer: “the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua.” Where does this basic understanding come from?
As the apostle Paul is wrapping up his first epistle to the Corinthians, he includes this passage.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.
So this isolated passage is the source of the death, burial and resurrection gospel of the Messiah. It’s not completely without reason, because Paul is obviously trying to “make clear” the gospel that was saving them and on which they have “taken their stand.” Messiah died for their sins, was buried, and raised, all in fulfillment of Scripture. What could be clearer than that?
Well, when we look at an isolated passage, even if it is in the context of the book it is in, we can sometimes draw incomplete conclusions. So if we want to really know what the gospel is, the simplest way is to see what Yeshua taught on the subject, since Paul’s teaching would obviously have to line up with Messiah’s. Did Yeshua go around preaching about his own death, burial, and resurrection?
In fact, he did prophetically reveal to his disciples what would happen to him, even if they didn’t fully understand.
Matthew 17:22-23 – And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Yeshua said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
Mark 9:9-10 – As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.
He also did declare that his death, burial, and resurrection would be the “sign” to the non-believing Jews that he was indeed the Messiah:
Matthew 12:39-40 – But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Luke 11:29 – As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.
But this was all very cryptic to both his disciples and his detractors, especially since he had not yet died and been risen. However, we do find a gospel, or good news message, that Yeshua clearly preached throughout his public ministry.
Matthew 4:23 – Yeshua was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
Matthew 9:35 – Yeshua was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Matthew 24:14 – “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Luke 4:43 – But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.”
Luke 8:1 – Afterward he was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,
Luke 16:16- “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urgently invited to enter it.
The good news or gospel message that Yeshua taught was the message of the kingdom, the kingdom of God that would establish the Messiah upon the throne of his ancestor David. This good news of the kingdom arriving was the message of Yeshua’s gospel.
So was Paul’s gospel about Yeshua’s death and resurrection different than Yeshua’s gospel about the kingdom? Only if we think that the message of Yeshua’s death and resurrection is the WHOLE gospel. In reality, we find that this is only HALF of the gospel. Yeshua dying for sin and being resurrected only makes sense in the overall context of the good news about the kingdom of God. Messiah’s resurrection allowed him to assume the throne of his ancestor David in an eternal kingdom, just as had been covenanted with David and was prophesied in Scripture.
Psalm 132:11 – Yahweh swore an oath to David, a promise he will not abandon: “I will set one of your offspring on your throne.”
When we look at the larger perspective of what the apostles were actually preaching throughout the world as the gospel, it contained both the death and resurrection of Messiah AND the kingdom of God.
Acts 2:29-32 – “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay. God has raised this Yeshua; we are all witnesses of this.
Peter here in his famous sermon spoke both about the throne of David and the resurrection of Messiah, which made attainment of that throne possible.
Acts 8:12 – But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua Messiah, both men and women were baptized.
Acts 28:23 – After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Yeshua from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.
Acts 28:30-31 – Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua Messiah with all boldness and without hindrance.
Notice Philip and Paul were both teaching about the kingdom of God AND about Yeshua as the Messiah, the Lord of that kingdom. The two narratives tie together in perfect harmony: God establishing his eternal kingdom, and the resurrected Yeshua as the Lord of that kingdom.
Even in the epistle to the Corinthians where the death/burial/resurrection gospel idea comes from, time after time Paul speaks about the kingdom:
1 Corinthians 4:20 – For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 15:24, 50 – then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. … Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
While Paul clarifies good news in the gospel passage of 1 Corinthians 15, he says, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received…” The most significant aspect of the good news, or that which is of primary importance, is the death of Messiah for sin and his resurrection to eternal life, witnessed by hundreds of people. If this is not true, then the kingdom of God cannot be established, since the covenant with David requires an immortal descendant of his to sit on that eternal throne.
However, if we look only at the death/burial/resurrection as the totality of the gospel message, we are missing half of the story. The real reason that his death and resurrection is important is because now the kingdom of God is established with its rightful Lord, the immortal Messiah Yeshua. He rules until all of his enemies are made his footstool; i.e., until all come to recognize his lordship.
Psalm 110:1-2: “Yahweh said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. Yahweh shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion: rule in the midst of your enemies.”
Messiah has been firmly established upon the throne of his ancestor David and is ruling from Zion, the New Jerusalem, until his enemies are no more. This is the motivation we have to continue to spread this good news, the gospel of the kingdom AND its Lord, the Messiah Yeshua, who died for sin and rose to live as the Lord of the eternal kingdom of God.
Let’s be sure that when we are sharing the gospel or good news, that it is the WHOLE gospel of the kingdom of God and its Lord, Yeshua the eternal Messiah.
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