What is the Gospel?

An overview of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually is. The Gospel is good news about how God wants to save us from our own destruction yet over the years humans have twisted the Gospel to the point they have threatened people with it. Good news can never be a threat. This article is written the purpose of explaining what the gospel is, why it is good news, and why it is needed.

What is the gospel? 
The word gospel comes from the old English word “godspel” which is a compound word made of the words ‘god’ meaning good and ‘spell’ meaning news, and when combined they make the phrase “good news”. In Christianity, the phrase is used in reference to the good news about Jesus Christ. Since the New Testament was preserved from the 1st Century in Greek, the phrase good news is written as the Greek word euangelion (ευαγγέλιον). This phrase isn’t only associated with Christianity but has secular usage as well. It was often used with decrees made by rulers, like the Emperor of Rome. The followers of Jesus used this phrase for their own King and savior, Jesus Christ. The title “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos (Χριστός) meaning “to anoint”, and this title was assigned to Jesus because he claimed to be the “anointed” holy one sent by God. This could have been seen as a challenge to the Roman Empire since the Emperor claimed to be the highest power in all the land, and he expected to be viewed as godlike in his authority. So, it seems likely, that the phrase euangelion or “good news” was deliberately chosen by Jesus’ followers to declare that Jesus was the highest authority that his followers served a higher kingdom than any earthly Empire, and that they bring greater news than anything Ceasar can offer. 

What is the good news about Jesus? 
Imagine you owed a debt that you couldn’t pay back and it would cost you everything if you didn’t pay it by the deadline, but then someone else offered to not only pay your debt but also provide all of your needs for the rest of your life. All they asked in return is that you be adopted into their family and let them train you to live a new lifestyle. In the process, you would receive an inheritance and would remain debt-free. Or imagine that you are proven guilty of a major crime, but the judge offers community service instead of life in prison. This is what the good news about Jesus teaches. We owe God our lives for our sinful behaviors and death is how we pay him back, yet Jesus offers a covenant where he atoned for our sins, and in exchange, there is an inheritance of eternal life.

According to 1 Corinthians ch. 15, those in covenant with Jesus are promised a future resurrection from death, just like Jesus, who was resurrected from the dead three days after being executed. Furthermore, this new eternal life comes with a new body that is free from the corruption of sinful nature, which is something we are all born with. The phrase “born-again” is used by Jesus when describing to Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader at the time, the requirements for entering his Kingdom of God in John ch. 3:3-8. In the meantime, followers of Jesus are given the power of the Holy Spirit to help them overcome the sinful desires of their human bodies until they die. Essentially everyone will still die because of the sin nature we were born with but the lives of those whose sin debt was paid by Jesus, are returned to them permanently as a rebate. Meanwhile, those who didn’t receive this covenant will face condemnation for their sins on Judgment Day which results in a permanent second death, according to the book of Revelation, chapter 20.

In the enteral kingdom of God, there will be no sin because those who received God’s spirit will be transformed with new bodies and renewed minds, so they will be freed from slavery to the sin nature they were originally born with. In John 8:31-36, Jesus said that he, the Son of God, came to set people free. When his audience asked what he offered freedom from, as they did not consider themselves slaves to anyone or anything, he said he offered freedom from slavery to sin. Humans are slaves to sin nature since birth and that is why Jesus said we must be “born again”. In John 14:15-21 & John 16:5-15, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit of God would come after he ascended to heaven and help renew the minds of his followers and empower them so that they could teach and show others the ways of his Kingdom. This is what we are to do until he returns.

What is sin? 
The word sin in the bible is translated from the Hebrew word chatah (חָטָא) which means failure or missing the mark, and we sin against God when we fail to keep his instructions. God gives us life and has the right to end it when we reject his ways, and He must execute justice against those who fail to follow his instructions. When we fail to keep God’s instructions then we are guilty of breaking his laws and deserve death. The apostle Paul summarizes this concept in Romans 6:23 by saying, “[NLT] For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” However, he can substitute our death with another life, and Jesus is the one whose life was substituted for ours. In fact, this is why ancient Israelites used animal sacrifices to cover sins, so they could stay in God’s presence. God’s presence is holy and naturally resists the corruption of sinful behaviors, so something had to die to cleanse the people who wanted to interact with his presence.

Things that represent death or corruption cannot be in God’s presence, this is why the Israelites had prohibitions on what they touched or ate before going to the Tabernacle or Temple. They had to follow certain ritual purity customs given in the law of Moses just to have God’s presence among them. The sacrifices of specific animals representing sinlessness could be made as a temporary atonement for sin, but there were limitations on this because humans were made in the image of God and distinct from animals, so no animal could ever truly replace a human. Therefore, only a human can fully substitute for a human, but, since no human was sinless no human could qualify to function as a substitute for humanity. 

This means the solution is that there needs to be a sinless human, and it was prophesied by Israelite prophets in the Tanak (or Old Testament) that there would be a man who would fulfill that role, who would rule as a king over a recreated world and function as a new priest who mediates a new covenant between God and man. It was humans that broke the initial covenant, so it had to be another human that corrected that failure.

When did sinfulness start?
In Matt 22:34-40, Jesus said the greatest two commandments were to love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength (Deut 6:4-5) and love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18). Humans fail to keep these commands all the time. Humans often lie, cheat, steal, kill, and indulge in sexual lust, violence, and greed, at the expense of others. This pattern of failing to trust God and following our own desires has continued in humanity ever since the failure of the first humans, and this is the explanation for why we die according to God’s word.  

According to Genesis ch. 3, the first humans, named Adam and Eve, failed at keeping God’s instructions. They followed the advice of a rebellious spiritual being and deceiver (known as Satan) and stole fruit from God which cost them their lives. God warned them beforehand that the consequences would be death. Instead of trusting God they trusted Satan and followed their own desires. The ancient patriarchs the bible references later on in Genesis like Noah, Abraham, and Abraham’s descendants were called righteous but often failed to keep God’s instruction themselves because no natural-born human is perfect. They were classified as righteous not because of their ability to be perfect followers of God, but rather their faith in God’s promises and their desire to please God and receive from him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “[NLT] And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” 

Paul says in Romans 3:23, “[NLT] 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” 

Sin is a failure to love God and our neighbors the way God intended, and this failure was initiated by the first humans and instigated by spiritual rebels like Satan and those who followed him. In Genesis 3:15 there is a promise that one of the humans would come to defeat Satan and rescue humanity from slavery to sin nature. God wanted humans to be free from slavery to sin so he made Jesus the way of escape, but each individual must accept the covenant Jesus offers in order to get the promise of freedom from sin and death. Otherwise, they will stay trapped by sinful impulses and will be condemned for their sinful behavior on Judgment Day.

What if I don’t believe the gospel, don’t want eternal life, or don’t want to worship the God of Abraham? 
While the gospel is indeed good, there are consequences to rejecting it. Imagine you came across a starving, thirsty traveler in the desert, and you wanted to help them, so you told them of a nearby oasis with food and water. However, they rejected your info because of pride or mistrust and died. Christ calls himself the “Bread of Life” and the source of “Living Water”, so if the good news about him is like bread and water to those in need and they receive it, they will be refreshed but if they don’t they will starve and die. 

The offer is freedom from sin and eternal life but it is only available to those who WANT it. This covenant of eternal life is available to everyone, but not everyone will receive it. Sin is the reason for death, so God won’t give eternal life to people who want to stay sinful. Freedom from sin is the requirement for eternal life and only Jesus promises this kind of freedom. Remember we are all guilty of sin and owe God our lives, so none of us can earn this, nor was God obligated to save us, yet he made a promise to do so anyway because he wanted to. However, he will not force anyone to accept this covenant of deliverance and redemption, people must be willing partakers in this eternal inheritance.

Jesus said in John 3:16-21: [NLT] 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. 

Jesus says in Matt 13:24-42, that there will be a judgment day when the wheat (those who are born again as righteous) are separated from weeds (those who chose to stay in darkness). He says the wheat is stored in the barn, but the weeds are burned. The parable functions as an analogy for the final conclusion of God’s finished plan to save humanity. He is only interested in saving those who want to be saved from their fleshly desires. This means that those who take pride in their indulgences and refuse to let them go have no place in a perfect sin-free world because they don’t want to be freed from sin. If God lets people who refuse to change into a new eternal world that is sin-free, then it can’t be “sin-free” now can it?

Is God justified in condemning wicked people?
According to Ezekiel 18:23-32, God doesn’t enjoy punishing the wicked but has to for the sake of justice for their victims, however, God will show mercy to those who repent. Similar ideas can be found in Isaiah 57:15-21, Jeremiah 18:1-10, Ezekiel 33:10-12, 33:17-20, Psalms 7:1-17, and Psalms 32:1-11.

In Genesis chapters 6-9, God flooded the world to stop mass violence. In chapters 6:5-8, it says, that God observed that everything humans thought or imagined was constantly evil, so he grieved that he even made humans and decided to do something about it.

Long before the flood, in Genesis ch. 4 Cain the firstborn of Adam and Eve, murdered his brother Abel. God showed him mercy by marking him with a mark that came with a curse on anyone that harmed him. Cain’s descendant, Lamech, murdered a man and claimed that God would give him 70 times the mercy and protection Cain was given. God never promised that, but Lamech just made it up and created a culture of murder, where people competed for a false reward of protection gained by murder and violence. I call this the “Murder Olympics”. This is why the earth is filled with violence according to Gen 6:11 and why God needed to use the flood to reset humanity. After the flood, when Noah got off the ark in Genesis 9:5-6, God had to institute the death penalty for murder. This was necessary to stop humans from repeating this culture of chaos and voilence.

The Bible frames God as one who must balance both Justice and Mercy. Therefore, when we read about stories of God’s wrath and judgment, we have to put ourselves in his position. If there are murderers like Cain, then there must be murder victims like Abel. Think about this, if there were men who weren’t strong enough to kill other men, then they would likely go after women and children. Furthermore, it is easy to imagine that men and women would simply just kill their babies to get this “special mark”, so it is possible the concept of child sacrifice was likely invented in this era.

Moreover, when we look at Rev 6:9-11, it says the martyrs who were killed for following Jesus are crying out for justice, and God reassures them they only have to wait a little longer for it. This is similar to Gen 4:10-11 when God cursed Cain, and says that Abel’s blood “cries out” from the ground. God is an avenger of martyrs and will punish those who persecute his people. We are all guilty of sins, but Jesus took the punishment for us so we wouldn’t have to endure condemnation. This way God can show mercy without it contradicting justice for those whom we have wronged which includes both God and other humans. Again this only applies to those who receive this covenant and they must be willing to stay committed to it even in the face of persecution or martyrdom. The Apostle Pau who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, was a persecutor of Christians, but then he received the New Covenant of Jesus himself became a Christian, and was forgiven of his sins. If Paul did not receive this covenant then Jesus’ death would not apply to him and he would be condemned on Judgment Day along with everyone else that went around persecuting people by murdering and imprisoning them.

In addition, believers receive the Holy Spirit who helps them overcome the sinful desires produced by their bodies. According to Galatians 5:16 when people follow the ways of the Holy Spirit, they will not be held back by the lustful desires of their flesh. The body naturally rebels against God but Holy Spirit is interested in keeping God’s instructions. Later in that chapter in verses 22-23, Paul teaches on the fruits of the spirit which are Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Patience, Meekness, and Self-control. According to Romans chapter 8, having the Holy Spirit is what distinguishes believers from the world. There are Christians who go through the motions but don’t really accept all of what Jesus taught because they love sinful ideologies too much to let them go and there are major consequences to this. Believers must accept and live by the teachings of God’s word. 

Why does God allow us the choice of rebellion if he doesn’t like it?
The covenant God offers is like a marriage proposal to us. Ideally, a man wants to marry a woman who chooses him because she wants him, rather than a forced marriage with someone who hates him. There is more value in something when there is a risk of losing it, so love that has a risk of going unreciprocated is more valuable than preprogrammed automated love. Similarly, God wants the more valuable, risky, yet genuine love. An automated voice assistant can be programmed to say “I love you”, but that is not the same as a living being choosing to love you. If God wanted robots, then he would have made robots. However, he didn’t because there is more value in something when there is a risk of not having it.

In Genesis 3:22-24, God put Adam and Eve out of the garden to prevent them from getting eternal life from the Tree of Life. This implies that while God can bring everyone into his eternal kingdom as we are, corrupted by sinful nature, he won’t because that would be a bad idea. Human wickedness and evil would go on forever and there would be no permanent consequences for heinous and malicious behavior since there would be no death. 

Death is necessary to stop human wickedness from going on forever. Gen 6:11 says that God flooded the world as a soft reset because the earth was filled with violence. If God did nothing, then humans would kill each other off and destroy the world. On the other hand, if he killed us all, including Noah, then there would be no one left. Either way, he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise to save humanity (Gen 3:15). God uses death to execute judgment and bring justice to the victims of human evil, but he also knows that all humans are corrupt and wants to rescue us from that wickedness. 

Not everyone will accept God’s proposal, but that is the risk that God is willing to take in order to get a more valuable love response. Those that do accept will be extended an undeserved mercy, afforded them by Christ’s sacrifice and those that don’t will have to face justice for whatever they’ve done. Mercy is available to everyone but not everyone will receive it so that only leaves Justice. God would not be a just God if there was only mercy and no justice, and there be no humans left if there was only justice and no mercy. The choice he gives us is how he balances the equation.

How is any of this good news?
The good news is that despite our wickedness, pride, and selfishness, our creator who wants us to embody his holiness, created a special unique sinless human, who is qualified to take the consequences of God’s justice for us. He did this so that we can be returned to a holy state with new bodies free from the rebellious sinful nature that plagues us, and receive eternal life. In addition, God’s Holy Spirit bonds with us to help us take on his nature and his love, and become more like God by teaching and empowering us to live holy lifestyles. 

The eternal Kingdom of Heaven itself is ruled by Jesus, the one who descended from Heaven to Earth for us (Ep 4:1-10). This is a kingdom, not a democracy, so the rules that define sin in the bible are the same rules that govern God’s kingdom, so those who don’t agree with God’s rules in scripture don’t agree with the kingdom of Heaven and therefore would naturally reject the kingdom. 

The choice is yours; God is setting before your life and death and according to John 5:25-29, Jesus said on Judgment Day there will be two resurrections, one for those who have received the covenant of eternal life that will never die again, and one for the rest of humanity who are condemned to destruction. A clearer description of Judgement Day is written in Revelation ch. 20:4-6 & 11-14.

God doesn’t want sinful people to have eternal life because their sinful behavior, like the violence of Noah’s day, would last forever and there would be nothing but destruction. At the same time, God loves humanity and doesn’t want death to end us all. If death is the necessary outcome of sin, then God must eliminate sin so that people can be free from death. However, in order to maintain free will, choosing his offer must be optional. 

Christ, the sinless one, died in our place so that we wouldn’t have to be condemned for our sins, and we were made righteous so that we could receive God’s spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us to live God’s way in preparation for new sin-free bodies that have eternal life. This is good news and we don’t deserve it, yet it has been made available to us, so I urge you to choose life because it is worth it.

The Good News Royal Announcement
The Bible Project on “The Gospel”

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