Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Incredible history of Persian King Cyrus

How the incredible history of a Persian king can change your view of the Bible

The Startling Truth About One of History’s Greatest Kings Even today, more than 2,500 years after his death, Cyrus the Great of ancient Persia remains one of humanity’s most brilliant and outstanding monarchs. There is much to learn and admire about King Cyrus, and no dearth of knowledge on this subject. But the most interesting feature about this man and his towering accomplishments is also the most obscure. It is also profoundly inspiring.

Who Was Cyrus?

Cyrus 2 ruled the Persian Empire from 559 to 530 B.C. The history of his life and accomplishments is well documented by Greek and Roman historians and by archaeological evidence. Among his many feats, Cyrus conquered the invincible Babylonian - Chaldean Empire and established Persia as the world power.

Under Cyrus, the borders of the Persian Empire rapidly expanded to create the largest empire humanity had ever seen. Under his leadership, ancient Persia’s borders stretched to Central Asia (Russia’s southern border today); as far east as the Indus River (the Pakistan India border); as far north as the Danube, including Turkey, Crete and the southern parts of Greece and Bulgaria; and as far south as Libya.

But Cyrus was much more than a prodigious conqueror. He heralded a new breed of leadership and politics. Unlike the Assyrians and others before him, he did not rule exclusively by sword and spear. Subjects were not beaten, tortured and killed into acquiescence and cooperation. In fact, many consider this king the world’s first true humanitarian.

“Cyrus was an outstanding soldier and statesman,” the Encyclopedia Britannica says. “He founded an empire that stretched from the Indus and Jazartes to the Aegean and the borders of Egypt and left behind him a reputation for justice and clemency …” (emphasis added). The Mainstream of Civilization says, “Cyrus created a new type of empire. Under the close supervision of his government, he permitted the conquered peoples to retain their own customs and religions and their own forms of government.”

For a world inured to cruel, forceful governance, King Cyrus’s disposition was revolutionary and much welcomed. His subjects tended not to revolt, hence the staying power of the Persian Empire.

The World’s Greatest City

In the time of Cyrus, Babylon was extraordinarily well fortified, teemed with top-notch Babylonian soldiers, and had a well-earned aura of impenetrability. It was the greatest city in the world.
Originally constructed by Nimrod soon after the Flood, the city had experienced a massive makeover by King Nebuchadnezzar ii in the late seventh and early sixth centuries b.c. Laden with materials and manpower plundered from neighbors, Nebuchadnezzar spared nothing in expanding, fortifying and beautifying his city. Babylon’s legendary hanging gardens, built for the queen who missed her lush, mountainous homeland in Media, were an engineering marvel, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Herodotus records that Babylon covered 196 square miles and was protected by an outer wall that was 311 feet high and 87 feet thick. The walls were so thick, even at the top, that chariots could be driven on them. Controlling access through this barrier were more than 100 bronze gateways.

The Euphrates River meandered through Babylon, much like the Thames through London. Inside the outer wall, the riverbanks “were lined and walled with brick. In the wall on either side of the river were 25 gates. There was a bridge 1,080 yards long and 30 feet broad across the river. At either end of this bridge was the royal palace. The more magnificent of these palaces was surrounded by three walls. The middle wall was 300 feet high, with towers 420 feet in height. The inner wall was yet higher. The two inner walls, Cterias tells us, were of colored brick. Upon them were portrayed hunting scenes—the chase of the leopard and the lion” (A Handbook of Ancient History in Bible Light).

Cyrus sought to do the impossible: to conquer this impenetrable fortress.

His strategy was brilliantly simple. First, he dug trenches upstream and diverted water from the Euphrates into a large reservoir. Once the water level had dropped, and under the cover of darkness, Persian soldiers slipped into the knee deep water, marched up the riverbed, and snuck under Babylon’s giant gates.

Although the soldiers had infiltrated the outer gates, there were still brass and iron internal gates controlling access out of the riverbed and into the city. If they couldn’t get through the gates, the soggy riverbed would turn the Persians’ tactical advantage into a massive kill box. All the Babylonian soldiers had to do was rain spears and arrows down on them. In fact, if they could block the Persians’ retreat, the Babylonians could conceivably kill every last Persian soldier, to a man—like shooting fish in a barrel.

But strangely, on the night of the invasion, there were no soldiers, and the internal gates were wide open. King Nabonidus, his son Belshazzar, the imperial guard, the soldiers, and many of the people of Babylon were partying! Consumed with drinking and games, they had failed to close the gates and to station guards. Having quenched the Euphrates and penetrated the outer gates, the Persian soldiers were able to stroll through the internal gates, taking the city— including the shocked king—by surprise!

It was a magnificent victory, bordering on—and crossing into—the miraculous!

Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon recorded the history-changing event. King Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. was one of his most notable accomplishments. By conquering this mighty city, he toppled the world-ruling Babylonian-Chaldean Empire.

Cyrus the Humanitarian

In 1879, British archaeologists digging in Iran discovered a barrel-shaped cylinder made out of clay. Inscribed on the cylinder in ancient cuneiform was a decree by King Cyrus of Persia. In the 40-line decree, the king recalled his defeat of Babylon and clearly outlined a number of policies designed to defend the rights of the conquered.

You can find this incredible artifact, called the Cyrus Cylinder, in the British Museum. This cylinder confirms the historical records showing that King Cyrus displayed a tremendous and heretofore unprecedented respect and tolerance for the peoples he conquered. The United Nations says the Cyrus Cylinder is the “world’s first charter of human rights” and is proof that King Cyrus was one of mankind’s first great humanitarians.

Cyrus’s governance really is remarkable. For a man with so much power, he displayed incredible tolerance and even respect for the religion, customs and politics of the people he conquered.

His greatest and most famous humanitarian act was releasing the captive Jews in Babylon and allowing them to return to Judea to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. This decision by Cyrus is well known and well documented by Greek and Roman historians, as well as Josephus, the most recognized Jewish historian. Many believe the text on the Cyrus Cylinder alludes to the king’s decision to release the Jews.

King Cyrus issued his decree releasing the Jews in 538 B.C., about a year after he conquered Babylon. Zerubbabel, a leading Jewish figure in Babylon at the time, became responsible for mustering the party and leading it back to Jerusalem. There, they set about rebuilding Solomon’s temple. One of the most astonishing features about this decree is that there was no cost or price to the Jews. In fact, the king of Persia actually financed the Jews’ return to their homeland, their reconstruction of the temple, and their reconstruction of Jerusalem!

Any historian will agree: Such magnanimity and benevolence from a man with supreme power is extremely rare! Cyrus the Great was truly an anomaly among world leaders.

Biblical History

All of this history is well documented by secular historians and archaeological evidence. But there is another source that records these events in detail: the Bible. In Ezra 1:1-4, for example, we read of Cyrus’s decree releasing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. These scriptures in Ezra were recorded a few decades after the event. More records about King Cyrus can be found in Jeremiah 25 and 2 Chronicles 36, both of which were written after Cyrus was on the scene.

A passage in Isaiah 44 also discusses Cyrus the Great—and this is where the history gets exciting.

Isaiah 44:24 reads: “Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, and he that formed you from the womb, I am the Lord that makes all things; that stretches forth the heavens alone; that spreads abroad the earth by myself.” Here God is establishing His supremacy, even over the daily affairs of mankind.

Isaiah continues: “[God] says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, you shall be built; and to the temple, your foundation shall be laid” (verse 28). Isaiah is writing about how King Cyrus would be an instrument in God’s hands—“my shepherd”—and explaining how God would inspire Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

The thought continues in Isaiah 45:1: “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I hold, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” Isaiah is saying that God would empower King Cyrus, even helping him “subdue nations” and make massive territorial goals.

The narrative becomes even more specific: “I will go before you, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron” (verse 2). If you study this passage and Bible commentaries, you will easily see that these scriptures are specifically discussing King Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon. Notice, God says He will help Cyrus rupture the “gates of brass” and “bars of iron.”

Isaiah’s account is similar to the accounts in Ezra and 2  Chronicles. Except for one critical factor.

The book of Isaiah was written about 150 years before Cyrus the Great was born!

It’s true. King Cyrus, his rise to power, his defeat of Babylon, his humanitarian legacy, his name—even Babylon’s gates of iron and brass—were all prophesied by God about one and a half centuries before Cyrus’s birth!

Slow down and think about this. This is awesome proof of God’s existence and the veracity of the Holy Bible.

How do we know Isaiah was written before Cyrus was born? It’s not hard to prove. Isaiah 1:1 says: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”

This verse clearly says that Isaiah was alive and writing during the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Biblical history, as well as Jewish history and established historical record, clearly show that these all reigned in the eighth century b.c. This is nowhere disputed.

Bible commentaries agree that Isaiah was on the scene for about 50 years, roughly between 760 and 710 B.C. For example, Isaiah 38:3-8 show that he prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah.

Critics of the Bible despise Isaiah 44 and 45. Over the last century or so, numerous theories have emerged to explain how this passage of scripture was written after King Cyrus. The most prominent theory says that the book of Isaiah has multiple authors, and that some parts of the book, mainly the latter chapters, were written at a different time and much later than the first part of the book. According to this theory, the book of Isaiah was compiled into a single book around 70 B.C.

But this theory has been proven false. A copy of the entire book of Isaiah was discovered as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls on which the text of Isaiah was discovered were dated to around 200 b.c., proving that the entire book of Isaiah was completed well before 70 b.c.!

Consider too: Josephus recorded that King Cyrus actually read this prophecy about himself in the book of Isaiah! If the prophecy in Isaiah 44-45 was written after Cyrus lived and by another author, how could King Cyrus have read about it himself?

Perhaps this explains why Cyrus was so benevolent and so enthusiastic about releasing the Jews. After reading Isaiah’s prophecy, he realized that he was predestined to make this wondrous decision!

But how did Cyrus gain access to Isaiah’s prophecy? We don’t know the specifics, but we do know that King Cyrus knew the Prophet Daniel well. Daniel was well versed in Isaiah’s prophecies and probably owned a copy of Isaiah’s text. Daniel lived in Babylon. After Cyrus took Babylon and toppled the Babylonian Empire, Daniel became a high-ranking official in Cyrus’s Medo-Persian Empire.

All Hail King Cyrus

Take some time to really think on this, and to study Isaiah 44 and 45. The evidence is irrefutable.

First, it is obvious that Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-4 are talking about King Cyrus. He is mentioned by name!

Next, consider Cyrus’s relationship with Jerusalem. Isaiah 44:28 records Cyrus “even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” The temple in Jerusalem hadn’t even been destroyed—and here was God prophesying that it would be rebuilt!

Verse 28 also explains the origins of Cyrus’s humanitarianism. Cyrus treated all his conquered peoples much the same way as he treated the Jews. Cyrus didn’t just allow the Jews to practice their religion: He released them from captivity, loaded them up with wealth and treasures, gave them letters of endorsement, and sent them home to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem!

Surely this is one of the greatest humanitarian acts in history.

And to think, it was prophesied to happen 150 years before it actually happened!

Isaiah 45:1 says Cyrus would “subdue nations before him.” Study the history books: Cyrus conquered more than 15 different peoples—all the way from Egypt in the south to Turkey to Central Asia to the Indus River.

Verse 1 also says God would “loose the loins of kings” before Cyrus. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states: “The loose outer robe of the [kings], when girt fast around the loins, was the emblem of strength and preparedness for action; ungirt was indication of feebleness [and weakness].” This is a perfect description of Belshazzar the night of Babylon’s fall!

In addition, verse 1 says God would “open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” The history of Babylon’s destruction shows that the king of Babylon left some of the internal gates of the city open that night! “In the revelry in Babylon on the night of its capture, the inner gates, leading from the streets to the river, were left open … which, had they been kept shut, would have hemmed the invading hosts in the bed of the river, where the Babylonians could have easily destroyed them. Also, the gates of the palace were left open, so that there was access to every part of the city” (ibid).

Look how specific God is—even prophesying the exact gates that would be left open in Babylon the night of its capture!

In verse 2, God says, “I will go before you, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” The strongest doors in Babylon were not able to withstand the army of Cyrus that night. Again, God prophesied the exact material that the gates of Babylon would be made of!

Herodotus recorded that the gates of the inner walls were made of brass and some were reinforced with iron!

This is some of the most moving and powerful history you can study. Why? Because it proves the existence of God and the veracity of His Word!

God Reigns Supreme
Why would God prophesy the life and accomplishments of a Persian king 150 years before his birth? The answer to that question is the theme of Isaiah 44-46. In Isaiah 45:3, God says, “And I will give thee [Cyrus] the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.”

God makes the purpose of this prophecy abundantly clear: The life and work of King Cyrus prove the existence of God!

Cyrus himself understood this. “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2). This great king knew God existed, and he knew that God reigns supreme in the world of man.

The history of Cyrus the Great is interesting and inspiring—but it is also much more. This history proves the authority of the Holy Bible! It shows that this Book of books is true and accurate. It shows that it is authored by an omnipotent God who can prophesy what He will do and bring it to pass!

For anyone willing to study and prove it, this history shows that the Holy Bible is the true Word of God!

The Prophet Daniel recorded the history of Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon. Remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken Daniel to Babylon as a slave at the start of the sixth century b.c. By the time Cyrus took Babylon, Daniel had been there for about 50 years. He was well known and well liked in the king’s court, thanks largely to his interactions with King Nebuchadnezzar.

A First Hand Account

Daniel was actually inside the palace in Babylon when Cyrus’s army was digging the channel and preparing to penetrate the city!

You can read the history in Daniel 5. Verse 1 says that “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.” Belshazzar was the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the son of Nabonidus, who was Babylon’s king at the time. Belshazzar was ruling as king, however, while his father was away campaigning. Belshazzar made this great feast in the banquet hall of the palace in Babylon.

Archaeologists have uncovered this banquet hall, which was an impressive size of 60 feet by 172 feet. He invited 1,000 of his top rulers to this party. The top brass of the entire Babylonian kingdom was present that night. Daniel 5 continues: “Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his [grandfather] Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them” (verses 2-3). Belshazzar wanted the temple vessels brought out so he could use them in his party.

“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another” (verses 5-6). Belshazzar and his princes couldn’t believe what they had witnessed.

Notice the phrasing. Belshazzar’s “countenance was changed … so that the joints of his loins were loosed.” Remember Isaiah 45:1, where God said He would “loose the loins of kings.”


In this chilling moment, this prophecy was literally and powerfully fulfilled!

by
brad macdonald
He Canceled It and Nailed It
A Reflective Study of Colossians 2:14




On Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:15 p.m. in the city of Kendallville, Indiana, an elderly disciple of Jesus passed from this present life at the age of 83. His name was Ellis J. Crum. Most likely you have never heard of him, although he was dearly loved by many, both in this nation and abroad. He had lived in Indiana since 1958, but prior to that he had preached the Gospel in California, Connecticut, and Canada. He also made several missionary trips to Africa, as well as directing tours to the Holy Land. Additionally, he was the editor and publisher of the beloved hymn book titled "Sacred Selections for the Church," which was very popular and almost the standard hymnal among many Churches of Christ (my own faith-heritage). He was an active member for many years of the Kendallville Church of Christ. I have called your attention to this brother in Christ in this current study because of a well-known hymn he chose to place within his hymn book, a hymn which happens to be one of my favorites. It is titled "He Paid A Debt." It is most often characterized and identified simply as an "American Folk Hymn," although there has been much speculation over the years as to who actually wrote the words and composed the melody (a few even suggesting Ellis J. Crum himself). Whomever the author and composer may have been, we can all nevertheless thank this devoted disciple for preserving it for us in his hymn book. The words from this piece that are particularly poignant are:

"He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song: 'Amazing Grace.' Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay."

What a powerful truth is conveyed in these few words!

The cost of redemption was too high for any of us to pay, either for ourselves or for anyone else. "No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him, that he should live on eternally; that he should not undergo decay, for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever" (Psalm 49:7-9). It was a debt we could not pay. But, thanks be to God, the debt has been paid. It was paid once for all by the sacrifice of Jesus God's anointed one on the cross. Another beloved hymn, "He Bore It All," expresses this truth this way: "My precious Savior suffered pain and agony. He bore it all that I might live. He broke the bonds of sin and set the captive free. He bore it all that I might live. I stood condemned to die, but Jesus took my place. He bore it all that I might in His presence live." This is a classic Stamps-Baxter hymn, written in 1926. For generations our spiritual forefathers have been singing this gospel truth: Jesus "took my place" and "bore it all." These hymns reflect what I believe to be a timeless truth: the sacrifice of God's anointed one was substitutionary in nature; He "took my place" and He paid in full the penalty for sin. I dealt with this truth in quite some depth in Reflections #152

http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx152.htm

("Paying the Debt for Our Sin: Was the Crucifixion of Christ on the Cross Total or Token Payment for Sin?"). I would urge you to carefully consider what I presented in that article, for it will have great bearing on the present study, especially with respect to the question as to whether or not our Lord's payment for sin was total or token in nature.

The legalists have a very hard time accepting the truth that our debt is fully and finally paid by God's anointed one Jesus on the cross. It is their conviction that they must assist the Lord in making that payment. He pays part; we pay part ... and our part is paid through our obedience to some list of commands inferred (assumed) from the NT writings. Such a legalistic, patternistic perspective is deadly (as Jesus told the legalistic religionists in John 5:39-40), for it essentially declares God's gracious gift of His Son on the cross to be insufficient to fully pay the debt that we owe. It is up to you and me, therefore, according to this twisted theology, to supplement the payment that Jesus was incapable of fully providing by His sacrifice. That is about as close to an "abominable heresy" as any dogma can get! For such people, Paul's words in Colossians 2:13-14 are truly a thorn in their flesh, for this passage clearly refutes their theology. The apostle writes, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross" (English Standard Version). Notice a few other renderings of verse 14:

King James Version: "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross."
New International Version: "having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross."
New American Standard Bible: "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Holman Christian Standard Bible: "He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross."

Contemporary English Version: "God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away and nailed them to the cross."

New English Bible: "He has canceled the bond which pledged us to the decrees of the law. It stood against us, but He has set it aside, nailing it to the cross."

The Message: "Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ's cross."

Amplified Bible: "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross."

Complete Jewish Bible: "He wiped away the bill of charges against us. Because of the regulations, it stood as a testimony against us; but he removed it by nailing it to the execution-stake."

Easy-to-Read Version: "Because we broke God's laws, we owed a debt -- a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross."

J. B. Phillips' The NT in Modern English: "Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over His own head on the cross."

This is far from an exhaustive listing of translations and versions, but it illustrates part of the problem we have when seeking to understand the passage before us. There is tremendous diversity of opinion as to what Paul was seeking to convey. Dr. John Gill (1697-1771), an English writer and theologian, stated, "Various are the senses interpreters give of these words" [Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-Sword]. More recently, The Expositor's Bible Commentary echoes the same, declaring, "Paul's vivid metaphor ... has been variously explained" [vol. 11, p. 202]. All of which leaves us wondering: just what exactly was "wiped out, taken away, and nailed up"? Was it the Law of Moses? Law in general (all law)? Was it our sins? Our guilt? The list of charges against us? An "arrest warrant"? All of these, and more, have been suggested over the centuries. For those who insist Paul is speaking of the Law of Moses, one might well ask: which part of that system of law does Paul have in mind? Certainly not the morallaw (do not murder, do not commit adultery, etc., for those still apply today). Certainly not the dietary requirements, as Peter would learn from his vision prior to going to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16). The legalists tend to believe it was the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the Law of Moses that are in view here. We certainly know that under the first covenant (the Mosaic) there were various "regulations of divine worship" (Hebrews 9:1), and that such regulation of our worshipful expression was never designed to carry over to the new covenant (Hebrews 9:10). Most scholars, however, do not believe this is what Paul had in mind, and I personally concur with that view.

There is no doubt that a system of legal requirements (LAW -- whether the Law of Moses or just law in general), which men were incapable of keeping completely and perfectly, was a motivating factor in Paul's comments in this passage. Where there is law, there will also be the breaking of law; where there is law, there is sin (missing the mark; a falling short of law), and where there is transgression of law, there is punishment. "For the law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation" (Romans 4:15). "Sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Romans 5:13). Paul spoke of the inner struggle he experienced as a result of the existence of law: he acknowledged that law was good, but he also acknowledged that because he was human he often failed to live in perfect compliance with law (Romans 7:14f). "For apart from law, sin is dead" (Romans 7:8). However, when law exists, sin is exposed; we become debtors to law: it reigns as a master over us. Thus, there always exists a debt we cannot pay, for all have sinned and fallen short of God's expectations, and no man can redeem himself or others from that debt brought about by transgression. As the hymn states, "I owed a debt I could not pay." By breaking law, by being a transgressor, there is a "bill of indictment" brought against me; an "arrest warrant" has been issued. The problem is not with law itself; the problem is that no man can keep it perfectly. "For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am flesh, sold into bondage to sin" (Romans 7:14). Thus, there exists "a certificate of debt" that stands against me: a "written indictment" listing all my many transgressions. Paul was well aware of this indictment against him for his daily violation of divine law, and this elicited from him the lament, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?" (Romans 7:24). Who will take this indictment, this certificate of debt, which stands as a witness against me, and forever destroy it? The answer is: JESUS! "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in God's anointed one Jesus" (Romans 8:1). "I owed a debt I could not pay." But, praise God, "He paid a debt He did not owe!"

It is this of which Paul speaks in Colossians 2:14. I like the way J. B. Phillips rendered this passage: "God's anointed one has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross" [The NT in Modern English]. Our failure, due to fleshly weakness and inability, to perfectly abide by divine law, stood ever between us and our God: standing as a permanent witness against us, testifying to our mounting sins against Him. Yet, our gracious, merciful, loving Father canceled that debt, and nailed it to the cross of His Son. Jesus took our place, and in so doing canceled the debt. "God's anointed one exchanged places with us, and thus canceled the bill of indictment" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20, p. 114]. "The indictment was itself crucified" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 202]. We are now, by the gift of His Son whom we have embraced by faith, under "a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). We are no longer indicted by the "letter of law," but freed and made alive in Christ Jesus to live by the spirit of the law, written on our hearts, not on tablets of stone. It is a new era; a reign of grace. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). "God's anointed one redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).

"Law is against us, because it comes like a taskmaster, bidding us do, but neither putting the inclination into our hearts nor the power into our hands. And law is against us, because the revelation of unfulfilled duty is the accusation of the defaulter, and a revelation to him of his guilt. And law is against us, because it comes with threatenings and foretastes of penalty and pain" [Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3, p. 491]. The indictment of law (i.e., that we are guilty and worthy of death) is ever before us if we seek to live by keeping law. However, that indictment is now removed in God's anointed one. "He canceled the obligation for all who repent and believe. He vacated and disannulled the judgment which was against us" [Matthew Henry,Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Therefore, in his epistle to the Colossian brethren, the apostle Paul informs us all of the Good News that Jesus took our "certificate of debt," the indictment of our guilt, the document of our digressions, the transcript of our transgressions, and He bore it to the cross. As He died, so died that which was against us. "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

By Al Maxey - edited by Bruce Lyon

Investigating Imago Dei

Apart from man, no being wonders
at its own existence.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)



Investigating Imago Dei
Created in the Image of God


Imago Dei is a Latin theological term signifying a unique, though somewhat mysterious, relationship between deity and humanity. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26-27).

The Hebrew word for "image" in this passage is "tzelem," which refers to the nature or essence of a thing and not necessarily the physical form. Similarly, the word for "likeness" in this passage is "demut," which is used to indicate a simile, not an exact replication of actual form. Thus, the verse is not suggesting that man resembles God in physical appearance (head, arms, legs, feet, etc.), but that the resemblance is with regard to aspects of God's essential nature. Even then, it is only a "likeness," not total equality. For example, the passage seems to imply that part of the "likeness" and "image" is with regard to rulership over creation, and yet man's authority, though greater than the rest of creation, is lesser than God's. It is only in the image or likeness of, not equal to. "Neither of the words imply that persons are divine. They were endowed with some of the characteristics of God. There is a likeness but not a sameness" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 688).

"This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created" (Genesis 5:1-2). "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Genesis 9:6). "For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God - Yehovah" (1 Corinthians 11:7). "With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God" (James 3:9). See also Psalm 8, in which there is at least an implication of such.

Some have assumed, and actively proclaim, that these passages declare man is immortal by nature .... that he is inherently immortal (since he is created in the "image" and "likeness" of the immortal God). This is merely an assumption, however, since the Scriptures make no such claim for the terms "image" or "likeness." Indeed, 1 Timothy 6:16 clearly declares that He - Yehovah "alone possesses immortality." It is also an illogical claim, for why would this single attribute of divine nature be the only one given to man? Why not the others? Why not eternal pre-existence, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, or any other strictly divine attribute? "There is no valid reason, then, why immortality alone should be singled out as the one unique characteristic intended by the phrase 'image of God.' We must therefore conclude that creation in the divine 'image,' or 'likeness,' no more proves man's immortality than it proves his eternal pre-existence, omniscience, omnipotence, or possession of any other exclusively divine attribute" (Leroy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers: The Conflict of the Ages Over the Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1, p. 32).

"Early theologians were greatly influenced by Greek philosophy in their interpretation of the 'image of God.' They saw an individual as a spirit being living in a physical body. This Greek dualism was the background out of which the early Christian theologians drew their understanding" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 688).

Many feel the ultimate testimony as to the "image of God" is seen in Jesus, "who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4). "And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15). Thus, it is suggested by some that the best way to determine the true "image of God" is to discern the nature of Jesus himself. What were the qualities of his life which made him God-like, so that when one saw him one saw the Father? It is also suggested that we today may truly realize this special quality within ourselves by being "conformed to the image of His son" (Romans 8:29).

As one can imagine, there are many theories as to the significance of being created in the "image" and "likeness" of God.Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) regarded this as the human ability to think and reason, to use language and art, far surpassing the abilities of any animal. Thus, being in the image of God, for some, refers to intellectual and relational abilities not found in lesser lifeforms; the ability to think and reason, specifically to make moral decisions.

Others feel it refers to the powers of self-transcendence and self-awareness. Thus, we are creatures capable of being introspective, retrospective or prospective. We may reflect upon the past and anticipate the future, and even discern the workings of God in nature, history and our own lives. It is awareness far superior to that of the rest of creation. Still others regard "image of God" as a reference to man being gifted with mind and intelligence, or the power of choice, or the capacity to love and express emotion, the existence of will, conscience, imagination and moral responsibility. Some see it as the capacity for worship.

The noted rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) suggested that by using one's intellect, one is able to perceive things without the use of the physical senses, an ability that makes man "like" God. The PBS television show Faith and Reason stated "Humans differ from all other creatures because of their rational structure -- their capacity for deliberation and free decision-making."

Brother Ron Rose, in Heartlight Magazine, wrote, "Mankind was designed to reason independent of instinct, to dream and sing and express emotion, to create and build and invent, to feel love and compassion and hope, to ask why and why not." The Holman Bible Dictionary declares, "More accurate is the suggestion that the image consists in humankind's lordship over and stewardship of creation, for this is the theme of the following verses -- Genesis 1:28-31" (p. 675).

In my view, perhaps the best explanation is the one given by Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi in his excellent book Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny (p. 44). He writes:

"The image of God is associated not with man as male and female, or with an immortal soul given to our species, but rather with humankind's capacity to be and to do on a finite level what God is and does on an infinite level. The creation account seems to be saying that while the sun rules the day, the moon the night, and the fishes the sea, mankind images God by having dominion over all these realms (Genesis 1:28-30).

"In the New Testament, the image of God in humanity is never associated with male-female fellowship, or physical resemblance, or a nonmaterial, spiritual soul, but rather with moral and rational capacities: 'Put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator' (Colossians 3:10; cf. Ephesians 4:24). Similarly, conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49) is generally understood in terms of righteousness and holiness. None of these qualities is possessed by animals. What distinguishes people from animals is the fact that human nature inherently has godlike possibilities. By virtue of being created in the image of God, human beings are capable of reflecting His character in their own life.

"Being created in the image of God means that we must view ourselves as intrinsically valuable and richly invested with meaning, potential, and responsibilities. It means that we have been created to reflect God in our thinking and actions. We are to be and to do on a finite scale what God is and does on an infinite scale."

Written by Al Maxey:
http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx51.htm

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Neglect of YEHOVAH God's Message

The Messiah announced the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God as the heart of the Gospel long before he said a word about his death and resurrection. Luke reports that the disciples went out proclaiming the Gospel even before they had any knowledge of the death and resurrection of the Messiah (Luke 18:31-34). It follows, therefore, that there is more to the Gospel than the death and resurrection of the Messiah, essential as these things are!

If there is one element of biblical faith which churches often seem to avoid and theologians have obscured, it is the matter of the meaning to be attached to the Messiah's favorite term, "the Kingdom of God," which is a thoroughly Hebrew Messianic concept. To interpret any document intelligently one must enter the thought world of those whom one is attempting to understand. If one blunders in the interpretation of key terms and expressions, a disastrous misunderstanding will result. That such a breakdown in the transmission of the original faith, due to a failure to reckon with the Jewishness of the Messiah and his message about the Kingdom, has occurred was noted by an astute scholar of the Church of England. Critical of trends which developed in the Church from the second to the fourth century, he wrote: "The Church as a whole failed to understand the Old Testament, and the Greek and Roman mind in turn came to dominate the Church's outlook. From that disaster the Church has never recovered either in doctrine or in practice." [1]

The root of the problem was similarly diagnosed by a Jewish historian, a translator of the New Testament and sympathetic to Christianity:

"Christians would gravely delude themselves if they were to imagine that Jews on any major scale could subscribe to the tenets of the Christian religion, which owe so much to the legacy of polytheism. Because Christians have not become Israelites, but have remained essentially Gentiles, their spiritual inclinations are towards doctrines for which they have been prepared by inheritance from the pagan past." [2]

This tragic departure of the Church from the biblical Message was noted also by an Archbishop of the Anglican Church. He expressed his astonishment that the central, fundamental concept of the Messiah's Gospel Message -- the Kingdom -- had been neglected for most of church history:

"Every generation finds something in the Gospel which is of special importance to itself and seems to have been overlooked in the previous age or (sometimes) in all previous ages of the Church. The great discovery of the age in which we live is the immense prominence given in the Gospel to the Kingdom of God. To us it is quite extraordinary that it figures so little in the theology and religious writings of almost the entire period of Christian history. Certainly in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark and Luke] it has a prominence that could hardly be increased." [3]

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the significance of this observation of the Archbishop. A glance at the Gospel accounts of the Messiah's ministry will reveal to every reader the simple fact that Yeshua, the original herald of the Christian Gospel, was a preacher of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. There can be absolutely no doubt about this; Can anyone question F. C. Grant's assessment of the Messiah's purpose?

"It may be said that the teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God represents His whole teaching. It is the main determinative subject of all His discourse. His ethics were ethics of the Kingdom; His theology was theology of the Kingdom; His teaching regarding Himself cannot be understood apart from His interpretation of the Kingdom of God." [4]

It is equally clear that the Messiah intended his own Kingdom Message, the Gospel or Good News, to be the chief concern of those who claimed to represent him for the whole period of history until his promised appearance at the end of the age. Giving his marching orders to the Church, the Messiah commanded his followers to teach everything he had taught to those whom they made disciples and initiated into the faith by baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). The task of the faithful, as Yeshua saw it, would be to preach "this Gospel about the Kingdom in all the world" (Matthew 24:14).

A sure sign of the continuing presence of the living Messiah in his Church must be a clarion-call proclamation of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, just as the Messiah preached it. To say, as Archbishop Temple does, that the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God "has figured so little in the theology and religious writings of almost the entire period of Christian history" is to admit only that the Church has not done what the Messiah told it to do. The Church has been sailing under false colors. While it claims the name of the Messiah, it has not been busy faithfully relaying his saving Gospel Message about the Kingdom to the world. How can it, when it admits to uncertainty about what the Kingdom means? [5] A reappraisal of the Church's task, including the frank admission that its Gospel has lacked an essential Messianic element, seems to be in order.

It is a very simple matter to document the absence of the Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God from the Church's preaching. Listen, for example, to the call of evangelists today to potential converts. Is the phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom" the main subject of the appeal for men and women to become Christians? Do pulpits the length and breadth of the land resound with clear expositions of what the Messiah meant by the Kingdom?

Apparently this is not the case. In his book Church Growth and the Whole Gospel the noted American church planter, Peter Wagner, agrees with G. E, Ladd that "modern scholarship is quite unanimous in the opinion that the Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus." Wagner then reflects:

"If this is true, and I know of no reason to dispute it, I cannot help wondering out loud why I haven't heard more about the Kingdom of God in the thirty years I have been a Christian. I certainly have read about it enough in the Bible. Matthew mentions the Kingdom 52 times, Mark 19 times, Luke 44 times and John 4. But I honestly cannot remember any pastor whose ministry I have been under actually preaching a sermon on the Kingdom of God. As I rummage through my own sermon barrel, I now realize that I myself have never preached a sermon on it. Where has the Kingdom been?" [6]

In an article entitled "Preaching the Kingdom of God" the British expositor, Dr. I. Howard Marshall of the University of Aberdeen, says:

"During the past sixteen years I can recollect only two occasions on which I have heard sermons specifically devoted to the theme of the Kingdom of God...I find this silence rather surprising because it is universally agreed by New Testament scholars that the central theme of the teaching of Jesus was the Kingdom of God... Clearly, then, one would expect the modern preacher who is trying to bring the message of Jesus to his congregation would have much to say about this subject.' In fact my experience has been the opposite, and I have rarely heard about it." [7]

From a Roman Catholic writer comes the extraordinary admission that what he had learned in seminary did not include an explanation of the Messiah's message about the Kingdom:

"As a teacher of New Testament literature... it early became obvious to me that the central theme of the preaching of the historical Jesus of Nazareth was the near approach of the Kingdom of God. Yet, to my amazement, this theme played hardly any role in the systematic theology I had been taught in the seminary. Upon further investigation I realized that this theme had in many ways been largely ignored in the theology and spirituality and liturgy of the Church in the past two thousand years, and when not ignored, often distorted beyond recognition. How could this be?" [8]

A further striking example reinforces our contention that for modern preachers the Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God does not have anything like the comprehensive significance it had for the Messiah and the whole New Testament Church. While the Messiah concentrated single­mindedly on the propagation of a Gospel about the Kingdom, modern preachers seem to steer clear of the phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom." In an editorial in the journal Missiology Arthur F. Glasser writes:

"Let me ask: When is the last time you heard a sermon on the Kingdom of God? Frankly, I'd be hard put to recall ever having heard a solid exposition of this theme. How do we square this silence with the widely accepted fact that the Kingdom of God dominated our Lord's thought and ministry? My experience is not uncommon. I've checked this out with my colleagues. Of course, they readily agree they've often heard sermons on bits and pieces of Jesus' parables. But as for a solid sermon on the nature of the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it -- upon reflection, they too began to express surprise that it is the rare pastor who tackles the subject." [9]

One needs no special theological training to conclude that something is drastically askew, when leading exponents of the faith in our day confess that the Messiah's message is unfamiliar to them. At the level of popular evangelism it is evident that the critical Kingdom element is missing from presentations of the saving Message. Billy Graham defines the Gospel by dividing it into two main components. The first element is the death of the Messiah, which is half the Gospel. The other half, he says, is the resurrection of the Messiah. [10] But this definition omits the basis of the Gospel Message. The Messiah announced the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God as the heart of the Gospel long before he said a word about his death and resurrection. Luke reports that the disciples went out proclaiming the Gospel even before they had any knowledge of the death and resurrection of the Messiah (Luke 18:31-34). It follows, therefore, that there is more to the Gospel than the death and resurrection of the Messiah, essential as these things are.

Michael Green, an expert on evangelism, poses the question raised by the obvious difference between what we call evangelism and how Yeshua defined it. At the Lausanne International Conference on World Evangelism in 1974, he asked: "How much have you heard here about the Kingdom of God? Not much. It is not our language. But it was Jesus' prime concern." [11] How can it be that our language as Christians is not the language of the Messiah himself? The situation demands an explanation. It should alert us to the fact that all is not well with our version of the Christian faith. We are not preaching the Gospel as Yeshua and his apostles preached it, as long as we omit mention of the substance of his entire message, the Good News of the Kingdom.

Other scholars warn us that the all-embracing expression Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, which is the axis around which everything the Messiah taught revolves, is strange to churchgoers. Noting that the Messiah opened his ministry by alerting the public to the approaching advent of the Kingdom without an explanatory comment about the meaning of the Kingdom, Hugh Anderson observes:

"For Jesus' first hearers, as presumably for Mark's readers, [Kingdom of God] was not the empty or nebulous term it often is today. The concept had a long history and an extensive background in the Old Testament, extra-canonical works of the intertestamental period, and in the rabbinical literature." [12]

Yeshua's audience knew what he meant by the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God for the simple reason that they knew the Hebrew Bible, which was replete with glorious promises of peace and prosperity on earth to be enjoyed by those counted worthy to find a place in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH. To the Messiah's contemporaries the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God was about as well known as the Statue of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence or the Tower of London. One can imagine how confusing things would be if Americans and Englishmen today were unable to define clearly what is meant by these terms. What if World War II was a nebulous idea in the minds of historians or Buckingham Palace a strange term to Londoners? When an idea is deeply rooted in the national identity of a people, it does not have to be defined every time it is mentioned. Such was the case with the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. YEHOVAH's Kingdom meant a new era of world government on earth destined to appear with the arrival in power of YEHOVAH God the Father Himself and the promised King of the line of David, the Messiah, or anointed agent of the One God.

A perceptive theologian, conscious of the need to define basic Christian ideas within the framework provided by their original environment, has this to say about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God in the Messiah's teaching:

"The Kingdom of God was basically a political idea -- but political in the ancient religious sense, according to which 'politics' was part of religion and expressed practically the doctrine of God's rule in the world...It meant the world empire of God...It was this idea which Jesus made his own, the vehicle of all his teaching...which he identified with the purpose of God in his own time, and adopted as the clue to his own prophetic or messianic mission: He was -- or was to be -- God's agent in the final establishment (or reestablishment) of the divine Reign in this world...The Kingdom of God, in the New Testament period, was still the old prophetic dream of the complete and perfect realization, here upon earth, of the sole sovereignty of the one and only God." [13]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] H. L. Goudge, "The Calling of the Jews," Essays on Judaism and Christianity, cited by H. J. Schonfield, The Politics of God, Hutchinson, 1970, p. 98.

[2] H. J. Schonfield, The Politics of God, p. 98.

[3] William Temple, Personal Religion and the Life of Fellowship, Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., 1926, p. 69, emphasis added.

[4] "The Gospel of the Kingdom," Biblical World 50 (1917), pp. 121-191.

[5] For example, Robert Morgan wrote, "It is time someone called the bluff of those who think they know what exactly Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God" (Theology, Nov. 1979, p. 458).

[6] Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981, p. 2.

[7] The Expository Times (89), Oct. 1977, p. 13.

[8] B. T. Viviano, The Kingdom of God in History, Michael Glazier, 1988, p. 9.

[9] April 1980, p. 13.

[10] Roy Gustafson, "What is the Gospel?" Billy Graham Association.

[11] Cited by Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Waco: Word Books, 1981, pp. 102, 103.

[12] The New Century Bible Commentary, Gospel of Mark, Eerdmans, 1984, p. 84. Anderson notes that "the Kingdom of God was without doubt at the heart of Jesus' historic message" (Ibid., p. 83).

[13] F. C. Grant, Ancient Judaism and the New Testament, New York: Macmillan, 1959, pp. 114-119.

Which Gospel? Which Messiah?


There are forces at work trying to prevent us from understanding the Good News of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. Is it a gospel of grace? A gospel about the PERSON of Yeshua the Messiah? What does "SALVATION" really mean? Make sure you are not fooled and led astray by modern ministers and "the other gospel" that they preach!

The word "gospel" bombards the American churchgoing public from every quarter. Yet there appears to be very little analysis of what the Bible means by the Gospel. There is no more important and urgent matter demanding our attention than this: to discover what the Messiah and the apostles taught as the Gospel. Believing the Gospel is everywhere in the New Testament directly connected to salvation. The Messiah makes our destiny rest on the acceptance of WHAT HE TAUGHT. Salvation means gaining immortality in the future resurrection and helping to supervise a NEW WORLD ORDER, with YEHOVAH God and His Messiah as the rulers.

There is no way of gaining immortality apart from the resurrection of the dead which YEHOVAH God will accomplish when He returns (John 5:28-29).

There are cosmic forces at work attempting to prevent us from understanding the vital message of salvation. In Luke 8:12 the Messiah brilliantly describes what happens when some hear the biblical Gospel about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. The Messiah's intelligence report in Luke 8:12 lifts the lid on Satan's counter-Gospel activity: When anyone hears the Gospel message, "then the Devil comes and snatches away the message [the Gospel of the Kingdom, Matthew 13:19] which was sown in their hearts, so that they may not believe it [the Gospel] and be saved."

This is a devastatingly important scriptural truth.

A destructive system, known as ultradispensationalism, boldly proclaims that the Gospel of the Kingdom is not for us today at all! It claims, contrary to the plainest biblical evidence, that Paul introduced another and different Gospel for us now: the Gospel of grace. Paul, however, makes the Gospel of the Kingdom identical with the Gospel of grace. For this fact, simply read Acts 20:24-25. Paul here summarizes with crystal clarity his whole Gospel-preaching career. It was to proclaim the Gospel of the grace of YEHOVAH God which in the next breath he says is the preaching of the Kingdom! Paul was following the great commission of the Messiah who had commanded that his Gospel of the Kingdom be taken to all the nations.

Salvation, we learn, is gained by believing and obeying the Gospel message. The linkage of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 13:19) and salvation is obvious. Satan aims to obstruct belief in that Gospel. One strategy open to him is to remove the Gospel from the heart of the potential believer (Luke 8:12). Another clever way of achieving his goal is by distorting the message. Paul warned his Corinthian converts that it is all too easy to believe in a pseudo-Messiah, a counterfeit spirit, and a fake Gospel: "If he who comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receiveanother spirit, which you have not received, or a different gospel, which you did not receive, you put up with this beautifully!" (2 Corinthians 11:4).

The Corinthians were gullible, easily deceived. Christians are to be alert and instructed. If they are not, they will fall for "other gospels" and "other Jesuses." There are lots around and they can be very appealing.

"Another Jesus." "Another spirit." "A different gospel." Paul here "blows the whistle" on the Satanic methods. He unmasks the Devil's subtle tactics. Satan's seductive plan is to "preach Jesus, Spirit and Gospel," using these New Testament terms as a camouflage for his own twisted message. Satan's Gospel will sound biblical enough. The name "Jesus" will be prominent in the message. Yet in a subtle way this pseudo-gospel will divert its well-meaning recipients from the real message of the real Messiah.

According to another translation of 2 Corinthians 11:4, Satan offers "another way to be saved." Observe that Satan's business is "salvation." But it is "salvation" on his terms. The reason why the yet inexperienced Corinthians were, as Paul said, "putting up with the pseudo-gospel beautifully" was that they could not see the difference between the true and the false versions of the Gospel.

In these immensely instructive verses Paul exposed Satan's deceptive techniques. Paul was giving his own commentary on the warning words of the Messiah in Luke 8:12. Satan's business is to get rid of the saving Gospel as Yeshua preached it. Satan knows that if the true Gospel as Yeshua preached it takes root in our minds, then we are on the way to the salvation which Satan does not want us to have.

Paul went on to say that Satan "dresses himself up" as an angel of light (implying that he is actually an angel of darkness), and that he works through his ministers, who also appear to be ministers of light, to mislead the unwary: "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness"
(2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Nothing alarmed or angered Paul more than the preaching of a distorted Gospel -- and with good reason. For a message of salvation which is untrue to the teaching of the Messiah and the apostles inevitably lulls its recipients into a false sense of security. They will think they have "received Jesus,"but the Jesus presented to them will be a cunningly devised misrepresentation of the real Messiah who alone can save. When Paul found Satan at work among young believers whom he had reached with the true message, he rushed to their rescue:

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven [suggestive of the 'angel of light' of 2 Cor. 11:14] should preach to you a gospel other than the one which we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6-8).

Beware of a Distorted Gospel

The reason for Paul's strong words is clear. Acceptance of "another gospel" and "another Jesus" (the pseudo-Messiah would of course be offered as Savior and Lord) could not possibly lead to the desired salvation. But the victims of such preaching would be convinced that they had come to believe YEHOVAH God's message. They would think that they were being saved, when in fact the genuine message of salvation had been hidden from them. They would have fallen prey to Satan's policy of opposition by imitation.

A shrewd observer of the history of religion has observed that the fact "that any religion works does not mean that it is right. It is in the nature of all religions that they should work for those who are persuaded that they represent the determined vehicle of communication between the Seen and the Unseen" (Hugh J. Schonfield, Those Incredible Christians, Bernard Geis Assoc. 1968, p, 217-218). A faith which seems to work, and a Jesus who seems to produce results, do not necessarily correspond with the Messiah proclaimed by the Messiah, Paul and his colleague apostles. It is essential to understand the subtlety of Satan's strategy of deception, and to realize that he conceals himself under religious, biblical terminology.

By a subtle shift in the meaning of words, we suggest, the biblical Gospel has been, in many quarters, deprived of its principal and fundamental ingredient: the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. This has come about in two ways. Firstly, the content of the popular Gospel has been derived almost exclusively from isolated verses in Paul's epistles (usually Romans, cp. "The Roman Road") and the gospel of John. In these writings, because writer and audience already understood the meaning of "Gospel," the precise terminology of the Gospel appears less often, or appears under different terms, and there is thus more room for us to misunderstand. Paul was not writing (in Romans) to people who had never heard the Gospel. He was not writing to make converts out of non-Christians. Paul could assume that his audience knew what the Gospel was. This allowed him to concentrate on certain elements of the Gospel and treat other parts of it with less detail and clarity.

The loss of a clear perception of the Gospel message has come about because the Messiah's original words describing and defining the Gospel, recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke, have been ignored or rejected. Yeshua the Messiah has been presented to the public as one who died and rose, but not as the original and definitive preacher and teacher of the saving Gospel -- the Gospel about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God.

Almost all "Gospel-talk" has centered around the person of the Messiah, to the exclusion of the saving message he taught. Churches speak of the messenger, the Messiah, but usually fail to tell us about the Gospel message which he proclaimed. This practice is devastating. The abundance of talk about "Jesus" gives the impression that the Messiah of the New Testament is being presented. What many do not notice is that the Messiah's saving message about the Kingdom is quietly omitted!

"Test the spirits," John urged as the New Testament period was ending (1 John 4:1). Listen to the words being announced as "gospel." Do you hear the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God as central in the Gospel presentation? If not, beware: the voice of the Messiah and his Kingdom Gospel are absent. Yeshua had remarked, "My sheep know my voice" (John 10:27). If the message is not about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, it does not sound like the Messiah!

Matthew, Mark and Luke unanimously record that the Messiah and the disciples always proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 16:16). Mark calls this Gospel the "Gospel of God" (Mark 1:14). It is the saving message sent by YEHOVAH God Himself through His spokesman Yeshua, the promised Messiah. Once this critically important definition of the Gospel -- the Gospel of the Kingdom -- has been established, Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to it by a kind of "shorthand" as "the Word" or "the Message." Luke makes this crucial equation in his first volume: "He said to them, 'I must preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.' And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. Now it came about that while the multitude were pressing around and listening to the Word of God..." (Luke 4:43-44; 5:1).

Matthew and Mark also use the terms "Word (message) of the Kingdom" and "the Word" respectively when they record the parable of the sower. This parable, of course, is the prototype of all good evangelism, though it is seldom referred to by contemporary evangelists. The Gospel of the Kingdom in the three versions of the same parable appears as follows: "Whenever anyone hears the word of the Kingdom..." (Matt 13:19). "And they hear the word" (Mark 4:16). "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11).

The Gospel Fully Defined

The "word" in question is fully defined in Luke 4:43 and Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 as the Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. (Note that the KJV expression "preaching the Kingdom" means in the original "preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom," as modern translations and commentators make clear.)

After the resurrection of the Messiah, the apostles, in obedience to the Messiah, went out to proclaim exactly the same message of the Kingdom. They added to the message, under the guidance of the spirit of the Messiah, the new facts about Yeshua's death and resurrection, of which the Messiah had said very little (and when he did he was not understood -- Luke 18:31-34) when he preached the Gospel. In Acts 8:12, therefore, we have a perfect formula which covers the whole ground of the Gospel message. There are two components in the Gospel -- the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and "the name of Jesus": "When they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news [=Gospel] about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, they were being baptized" (Acts 8:12).

This comprehensive definition of the Gospel is the one which should be constantly instilled in the minds of those who go out to preach. The fact is, however, that this model text in Acts (repeated in Acts 19:8; 20:24, 25; 28:23, 31) is seldom, if ever, quoted. What is often quoted is another verse from Acts: "Philip ...preached Christ to them" (Acts 8:5).

This is another of Luke's "shorthand" summaries of the Gospel. He intends to remind us of the Messiah's own preaching of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and the apostles' preaching about the Kingdom and the name of the Messiah (Acts 8:12). By itself, however, the expression "preaching Christ" is unclear. Explained by Acts 8:12 -- "the Gospel about the Kingdom and the name of Jesus" -- it is easily understood. By forgetting Acts 8:12 evangelists almost always omit the principal subject matter of the Messiah's own preaching -- the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God! Thus they subtract from the message one of its two major components.

An illustration will make the matter clearer. In Acts 15:21 James stated that "Moses has in every city those who preach him." We have no difficulty in seeing that "preaching Moses" means that the law of Moses and his teaching were being proclaimed. In the same way "preaching Christ" involves not only telling the facts about the person of Yeshua the Messiah, but also giving an accurate account of his message -- what he taught as Gospel.

Now it would be very strange to say that "Moses is the law," unless we explained that we were using language in a special way. Yet this sort of "Jesus is the Gospel" or "Jesus is the Kingdom" language has been introduced, and with disastrous consequences. It may sound good to say that "Jesus is the Gospel," but the objective reality of the Kingdom as the future reign of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah on earth (with strong implications for the present period of preparation for the Kingdom) has been lost from the Gospel message. The Messiah's version of the Gospel is thus eclipsed.

Some translations contribute to this loss. Note carefully: the NIV (read by millions) misleadingly tells you that the Messiah preached the "Good News of the Kingdom," while Paul preached the Gospel. The key "gospel of the Kingdom" (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14) texts describing the Messiah's Gospel are thus made less than clear. There is of course no difference in the Greek between "good news" and "gospel."

It is commonly said that Paul did not preach the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, though the Messiah did. Imagine the chaos into which New Testament Christianity would be thrown if this assertion were true. If Paul did not relay the same Gospel of the Kingdom as the Messiah had preached he would be in violation of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, 20), which is obviously binding on all who preach. The Messiah's final words were these: "Go and make disciples and baptize them into the name of the Father, Son and holy spirit, and teach them everything I taught you." It could not be clearer. Apostolic Christianity is based on the preaching of the historical Messiah. If Yeshua preached the Kingdom as the foundation of the Gospel (and no one could argue with this fact), then the apostles also taught that same Kingdom Gospel, with the addition of the new facts about the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

To suggest that Paul did not concentrate on the Gospel of 
the Kingdom is to say that he was in direct disobedience to the Great Commission. Paul was intent on the Messiah living in him, and the Messiah who lived in him was the risen historical Messiah who continued to preach the same Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere. Paul says this quite expressly: "I went about preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom" (Acts 20:25). He makes no difference at all between the Gospel of grace and the Gospel of the Kingdom (Acts 20:24, 25). It would be completely false to assert therefore that the Gospel of the Messiah did not continue in Acts. Luke intended that we never forget this. Acts 28:23, 31 describes the evangelistic ministry of Paul as the preaching of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, both to Jews and to Gentiles. There is no preaching of the Messiah without the preaching of the Message of the Messiah -- the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God.

The Blurring of the Message

It was Origen, a philosophically-minded "church father" of the third century, who began to say that "the good things the apostles announce in the Gospel are simply Jesus. Jesus Himself preaches good tidings of' good things which are none other than Himself" (Commentaries on Matthew and John, emphasis added). With this kind of poetic, allegorizing language the Kingdom was turned into "good things" and the message about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God was swallowed up in the term "Jesus." The Kingdom disappeared behind the word "Jesus." This trend has continued to the present day.

Origen set a fashion of speaking of the "Gospel" yet saying nothing about the Messianic Kingdom of the future which was the heart of the Messiah's saving message. The Messiah's use of the term "Kingdom" in its Hebrew, Old Testament sense as a "concrete" reality of the future was frittered away, dissolved into thin air. The spell which was thus cast over the churches resulted in what one contemporary writer has called "the hopeless confusion of evangelicals over eschatology" (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970, p. 244).

Another theologian warned of the catastrophe which occurred when the Greek incomprehension of the Messianic Kingdom caused it to be dropped from the Gospel message. The loss was not a legitimate transformation of the message, as some would have us believe; it was a suppression of the apostolicGospel of the Kingdom: "When the Greek mind and the Roman mind, instead of the Hebrew mind, came to dominate the Church, there occurred a disaster from which the Church has never recovered, either in doctrine or practice" (H. L. Goudge, "The Calling of the Jews" in the collected essays onJudaism and Christianity, Shears & Sons, 1939).

Propositions about the Messiah being the Kingdom or the Gospel sound plausible or "spiritual," but they are misleading. Yeshua did not come into Galilee saying, "Repent and believe the Gospel aboutme." He commanded belief first and foremost in the Gospel of the Kingdom, YEHOVAH God's Gospel(Mark 1:14, 15). The Messiah did not say that the sower went forth to sow himself! He went out to sow "the Message of the Kingdom" (Matt. 13:19). The Messiah spoke also of giving up everything for himand the Gospel (Mark 8:35; 10:29). Origen -- and the evangelical world has often followed him -- confused the biblical message by practically equating the Messiah with the Gospel Message, the messenger with the message. The result was the loss of the Message about the Kingdom, of which Yeshua will become the ruler over Israel as Messiah, and into which the Messiah invites his followers as co-rulers (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 2:26; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4-6).

Our point is well made by a commentator who challenges the traditional idea that the Messiah proclaimed himself rather than the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God:

"Attempting to read the gospels unshackled by the conventional wisdom or dogma of the past leads to some startling conclusions. Nowhere is this more obvious than when we ask the central question, What was Jesus' message? The various churches still operate on the axiom that His message concerned Himself. Here, they say, is God-in-the-flesh, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, walking about the Holy Land with a group of former fishermen, proclaiming Himself as the only way of salvation. He is the content of the message; or rather, he is the message itself...

"As I realized, however, the moment I could read the New Testament with any seriousness...this is not what the Gospels say at all. If you begin with the Gospel of St. Mark...you will find that Jesus came preaching the 'good news of God' and saying: 'The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent [have a change of heart] and put your trust in this good news' (1:14-15)...If you take the combined witness of Mark, Matthew and Luke, it is obvious that Jesus came to proclaim what is translated as the Kingdom of God or Heaven -- the two are synonymous" (Tom Harpur, For Christ's Sake, McClelland and Stewart, 1994, p. 21).

Misleading Terminology

"Preaching Christ," "proclaiming Jesus," "receiving the Lord" and "giving your heart to the Lord" may have a religious ring about them. But they may also be a "front" for a message which tells you nothing about the Messiah's Gospel about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. Remember that throughout the book of Acts where the indispensable information about the apostolic presentation of the Gospel is given, the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God was still the first item on the agenda (Acts 8:12; 28:23, 31). This is true of preaching from the beginning of Acts to the end. It is true also of the message which was given to Jew and Gentile alike:

"So they [the Jews] fixed a day and came to him [Paul] at his quarters in large numbers. From morning to evening he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God and persuaded them concerning Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets...He stayed two whole years in his own rented home and welcomed all who came to see him [Jews and Gentiles], preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all boldness, none forbidding him" (Acts 28:23, 30, 31).

A Word from the Scholars

A New Testament professor from Harvard has subjected the writings of Luke in Acts to a minute analysis. He reports that what Luke says about the future Kingdom is "natural and spontaneous" and therefore most revealing as a guide to the apostolic Gospel. Professor Cadbury notes that Acts includes "many of the familiar elements" in New Testament preaching. "The preachers preach the Kingdom of God or the things about it" (Acts 1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31 -- these texts should be examined carefully). The term "Kingdom of God appears from almost the first verse to the last verse in the book." "Kingdom of God" "constitutes a formula apparently parallel to the writer's more characteristic single verb 'evangelize."' "Nothing obviously distinguishes the term Kingdom of God in Acts from such apocalyptic use as it has in the synoptic gospels. For example one enters into it [in the future] through much tribulation (Acts 14:22)" (H. J. Cadbury, "Acts and Eschatology," in The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology, ed. Davies and Daube, Cambridge University Press, 1956, p. 311, emphasis added).

We find this scholar in complete agreement that the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God is everywhere in Acts the heart and center of the Gospel. And by Kingdom of YEHOVAH God the apostles do not mean a present reign of the Messiah "in the heart" but the worldwide Kingdom of YEHOVAH God to be inaugurated by the return of YEHOVAH Himself and Yeshua the Messiah at the end of the age and introducing a new society on earth -- "the inhabited earth of the future about which we speak" (Hebrews 2:5). This point is most essential for anyone who sets out to make converts through the Gospel message. The Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, as the future Kingdom, is the core of the message. It was when potential converts expressed an understanding of and a belief in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and the things concerning the name of the Messiah that they were ready to be baptized (Acts 8:12). Clearly any preaching which does not have the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God as a major component of its content has little relation to the New Testament Gospel.

No Kingdom, No Gospel

When in the book of Acts Luke refers to "preaching Jesus" or "evangelizing," both phrases must be amplified and illuminated by the fuller description of what the apostles were saying. They were proclaiming the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and the name of the Messiah (Acts 8:12; 28:23, 31). The loss of the facts about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God would amount to a loss of a major part of the Gospel itself. A gospel without the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God would appear to be even "another gospel." Even though the name "Jesus" might still be heard, his message about the Kingdom would have disappeared. A gospel deprived of essential information will not have the powerful converting energy necessary to make healthy, well-instructed Christians.

When Paul preached in Ephesus he "reasoned and persuaded them about the Kingdom of God" for three months (Acts 19:8). He later described his whole ministry at Ephesus as a "solemn testimony about repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). What then is Paul's definition (not ours!) of "faith in the Lord Jesus"? Paul immediately gives us two further clarifying descriptions of the Gospel. He equates "faith in Jesus" with "the Gospel of the grace of God" (v. 24) or a "declaration of the whole purpose of God" (v. 27). But none of these phrases must be divorced from verse 25. There Paul sums up his ministry as the "preaching of the Kingdom." Could contemporary evangelists so describe their own ministries when they speak of "heaven"? Where did any New Testament preacher promise his audience that they would "go to heaven"?

Paul's preaching in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch followed the same pattern. After preaching the Gospel, he exhorted the converts to endure trial patiently before they "enter the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), i.e., at the Second Coming. Our final glimpse of Paul is in Rome where once again we find him "solemnly testifying about the Kingdom of God and trying to persuade them about Jesus" from dawn till dusk (Acts 28:23). Luke ends where he began in Acts with the Messiah discussing the affairs of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God for six weeks with the disciples (Acts 1:3). Indeed Luke concludes his second volume where he began his first, the gospel of Luke: Yeshua the Messiah is destined to receive the Kingdom of his father David (Luke 1:32, 33) and rule in it forever. Luke's last word is that Paul was "preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31).

The message is clear beyond any doubt. It is the Good News about the Kingdom and about Yeshua the Messiah which must be proclaimed (Acts 8:12). These are distinct but closely related topics. The great mistake is to merge them so that the Kingdom is lost!

When Paul wrote to his converts he most often simply referred to the "Gospel" without further definition. Both writer and reader knew what was meant. We must be careful to go back to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts to find out exactly what that Gospel is. It is interesting to note that Paul avoids in his epistles the full phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom." Talk of the "Kingdom" in opposition to Caesar could very well create unnecessary trouble in the Roman empire. In Thessalonica Paul was mobbed for having dared to say that "there is another king, Jesus" (Acts 17:5-7). When Paul wrote from prison he used terms to describe the Kingdom which were less provocative: "glory," "age to come," "light," "life," "inheritance." But he still mentions the Kingdom in contexts where he has just mentioned the Gospel: "We proclaimed to you the Gospel of God...God calls you into His own Kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:9, 12; cp. Mark 1:14-15: Gospel of YEHOVAH God = Gospel of the Kingdom). "...you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God...Those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thessalonians 1:5, 8). "I became your father through the Gospel...The Kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:15, 20). "The word of truth, the Gospel...He transferred us into the Kingdom" (Colossians 1:5, 13). Note that we have not yet inherited the Kingdom (Colossians 3:24; 1 Corinthians15:50).

A Bible Dictionary Documents the Loss of the Kingdom from the Message

Despite the very clear evidence that the New Testament Christians always proclaimed the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, both before and after the resurrection of the Messiah, Unger's Bible Dictionary attempts to divide the Gospel into two different messages. It speaks of "forms of the Gospel to be differentiated" (Unger's Bible Dictionary, Chicago: Moody Press, 1969, p. 420). Contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture, the article maintains that the Gospel of the Kingdom ceased to be preached when the Jews rejected their Messiah and that a different form of the Gospel -- the Gospel of grace -- then came into force. The proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom, we are told, will be resumed during the tribulation just prior to the return of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah.

However, this is to create a distinction which is not in the New Testament. The Gospel of the Kingdom definitely did not cease to be preached when the Messiah was rejected. The Kingdom of YEHOVAH God remained the central theme of apostolic teaching after the resurrection (Acts 1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). What's more, the Gospel of grace is exactly the same Gospel as the Gospel of the Kingdom (Acts 20:24-25).

That many do try to create a distinction between "two forms" (a marvelous smokescreen phrase!) of the Gospel is not disputed. The distinction, however, is based on a man-made "dispensationalist" theory, which denies that the Gospel of the Kingdom has always been and always will be the Christian message.

The Indispensable Word of the Kingdom

Throughout the New Testament, the "shorthand" expression "word" (message) stands for the "Gospel of the Kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12). Sometimes the message is simply "the truth" (Col. 1:6). All these abbreviated descriptions of the Gospel must be referred back to the Messiah's proclamation of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43; Matt. 4:23).

If these simple principles are kept in mind, Christians will not run the risk of losing or distorting the Gospel, which is the greatest tragedy that could befall them (Galatians 1:7-8). They must insist that the Messiah's own message about the Kingdom is always at the heart of evangelism. This can be done best by maintaining a "sound pattern of words" (2 Timothy 1:13). This does not mean that preaching should be wooden or unimaginative, controlled by a mere formula. It will mean, however, that we will not be misled into thinking that the Messiah has been preached when nothing has been said about his Good News of the Kingdom, the Messiah's own Gospel, the Gospel of salvation.

The Good News of the Kingdom has to do with YEHOVAH God's purpose to bring peace and international harmony to our war-torn earth by returning Himself to rule the world with the Messiah by His side. The earth is going to be filled with the knowledge of YEHOVAH God and the nations are going to beat their awful weapons of mass destruction into farm implements (Is. 2:1-4). In preparation for that great day, believers are to repent and believe the message (Mark 1:14, 15), be baptized and receive the spirit of YEHOVAH God (Acts 2:38). Some will say: "What good is that knowledge of the future for me now?" The answer is that YEHOVAH God is intensely interested in the future of the world and the great reversal in world politics which is going to come when He returns with His Kingdom. If the spirit of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah is in us, that spirit will convey the same intense interest in the Kingdom as motivated the entire ministries of the Messiah and the apostles. YEHOVAH God speaks to the present from the future. Hope is a powerful energy. But hope is no hope unless it is given content. That content is the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God coming on earth and our inheritance of the new land/earth (Matthew 5:5).

We conclude by reflecting on the strange phenomenon that a leading writer of Bible notes quotes Matthew 24:14 and twice on the same page (his only references) omits the words "of the Kingdom" from Matthew's (and the Messiah's) prediction that the Gospel of the Kingdom is going to be preached worldwide. Readers are permitted to see only that "this gospel...will be preached" (Selwyn Hughes,Every Day with Jesus). The Kingdom, which describes the content of the Gospel, has been dropped from the text!

Another evangelical writer refers to "preaching Christ" and "preaching the word," but omits altogether Luke's illuminating explanation of these phrases as "the Gospel of the Kingdom and the name of Jesus" (Acts 8:12). Recently a leading spokesman for evangelicalism delivered a lecture on the topic "What is the Gospel?" During the course of an hour he managed not to mention the word "kingdom" once! Discussing Acts 20:24-27 he referred to the "gospel of the grace of God" (v. 24) and equated it correctly with "declaring the whole purpose of God" (v. 27). Can anyone explain why he skipped verse 25 which tells us that it was the Gospel of the Kingdom which Paul called the Gospel of Grace and the whole purpose of YEHOVAH God? Clearly no one is going to understand the Gospel fully until he is instructed in the meaning of the term Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and invited to believe the Good News connected with that Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15).

To cap it all, at an international meeting of evangelists in Lausanne in 1974 a spokesman asked: "How much have you heard here about the Kingdom of God? Not much. It is not our language. But it was Jesus' prime concern" (Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Controversy, Waco, TX: Word Books, 1981, pp. 102-103, emphasis added). Next time you hear an evangelist, in spoken word or tract, summon the public to belief in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and the things concerning the name of the Messiah (Acts 8:12), take careful note. You will be hearing the language of the Messiah and the apostles. If offers of salvation contain no word about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, remain suspicious -- and reread 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Luke 8:12! And Mark 4:11, 12, where the intelligent reception of the Kingdom Gospel is a condition for repentance and being forgiven.