Jesus said to preach the gospel to everyone (Matt 18:18-20). The word Gospel comes from the Greek Euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον) or Evangelium in Latin, which in Old English becomes “gōdspel” (gōd “good” + spel “news”), all of which means good news. Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ) which means “anointed one” and the good news is about him saving us. However, the Bible says there will be an Antichrist or false Messiah and this false Messiah will have his own false gospel.
I noticed somewhat of a pattern that distinguishes the false gospel from the true gospel within the Bible itself. In Revelation 13:13-14 the Antichrist with the help of the False Prophet deceives the world with false miracles, declares himself God, and together they make an idol of the Antichrist for everyone to worship. Then, in verse 15, he threatens to kill anyone who doesn’t worship his image idol and then rewards those who do with the mark of the beast which gives them protection, favor, and economic opportunities.
Revelation 13:13 (NLT) He did astounding miracles, even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching. 14 And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. 15 He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. 16 He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17 And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name.
Notice how he starts with the bad news but then he gives the good news afterward? Meanwhile, the actual gospel is presented in the opposite way. John 3:16-17 says that those who believe in Jesus will receive eternal life. Then in verses 18-19, he says those who reject the gospel will be condemned. Verses 20 through 21 explain that those who reject Jesus do so because they love their sins more than God and didn’t want to come near the light for fear of exposure, but those who come to the light are redeemed from their sins and will be saved.
John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
Notice here the good news comes first and the bad news comes afterward. The same pattern is in Deuteronomy 28. In Deuteronomy chapter 28 God tells the Israelites about the promised blessings of their covenant from Mt. Sinai which include good health, wealth, victory against their enemies, and multiplication of their livestock and children. All of this is theirs if they keep the commands. However, in verse 15, God says if they break the commands the opposite will happen and it will be a curse. The rest of the chapter list promises of poverty, sickness, death, destruction, and exile.
Deut 28:1“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. 2 You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God… (v3-14)
Deut 28:15 But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you… (v16-68)
We can even this same pattern when contrasting Satan’s message and God’s message in the Genesis garden story. God’s message starts with the good news and then the bad news, but Satan always does the opposite.
Gen 2:16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
In Genesis 2:16 God says they are free to eat whatever fruit they want in the garden. However, in verse 17 he introduced an exception, which was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and he says if they eat that fruit they will die. Notice he starts with the good news that they have access to everything available and then the bad news of the one that’s off-limits.
Satan reverses the system in Gen 3:1-5:
Gen 3:1The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
He starts off with a question that has a negative frame on the promise. He asks if it is true that God won’t let them eat any of the fruit. The woman corrects him saying that they can eat from all the trees in the garden except for the one forbidden to them. Satan responds with his anti-gospel. In verse 4 he gives them bad news, saying God lied to them and that they won’t die, and then gives them the “good news” in verse 5, saying that their eyes will be open and they will be like God.
The true gospel from God always starts with the good news. Anyone calling himself a Christian has to preach how good God is first and how we’re all saved by Jesus, then tell people why they need him, and what will happen without him. Everyone in the world is experiencing the consequences of sin and death, so we already know the bad news. The good news is supposed to be the light in the darkness that draws people to the truth. Any Christian that doesn’t teach people how and why they should be saved but instead focuses only on their sin and punishment is preaching a false gospel because they’re starting with the bad news. These are the type of people that tell certain groups of people that they can’t be saved because God hates them or that God will give them specific diseases because of who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. This is in stark contrast to the gospel which is that salvation is for everyone that believes in Jesus. People must first be told about who Jesus is what he has done and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which transforms a person by renewing their mind and freeing them from sin. Their sin will be dealt with after they get saved as they walk in the spirit (Gal 5:16). Christians who talk down to people as if they don’t want them to be saved and tell people to go to hell are actually doing Satan’s job for him. If a believer tells someone they’re too filthy to come to God because of the specific kind of sins they’re doing, then that is a false gospel because no one can save themselves from slavery to sin without the holy spirit’s power. The Holy Spirit is only available to those who have received Jesus (John 14:15-17, Rom 8:5-11). The person needs Jesus to be made clean, free, and righteous.
The false gospel starts with bad news usually to promote fear and deception, but the true gospel starts with the good news of God’s love and mercy in contrast to the corrupt world we live in. Christians should speak the true gospel by starting with the good news. Believers don’t need to use fear to share the gospel, after all, we have not been given the spirit of fear but rather the spirit of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). 1 John 4:17-18 says that believers don’t fear judgment day because we are counting on God’s love through the covenant we have with him. We have freedom from fear because there is no fear in receiving his perfect love. 1 John 4:19 says we have the option of salvation because he first loved us. John 3:16 is when Jesus reveals that God first loved us (the world), and that is why salvation is an option. If they reject the gospel then they will inherit condemnation (John 3:18-21) but that doesn’t have to be their end because Jesus took that punishment for them. This is the true gospel (good news).