The conditions for entering God's Kingdom are simple in concept: "repent and believe in the gospel." Repentance is a complete turning or changing of the mind and way of life to follow God. And God's way of life is defined by His commandments (Matthew 19:17). We repent by quitting our former sinful way of life and keeping God's commands.
Believing the gospel encompasses both believing in Christ as well as believing what He said (John 8:30-31). Millions believe that He came as their Savior and now lives eternally as their soon-coming King, while paradoxically rejecting the very message He brought to save them!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel
Is there any doubt in our minds that we are within striking range of the return of Jesus Christ? The gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached for almost two thousand years, and prophecies made by Him and others regarding His return are being fulfilled. The crisis at the close is almost upon us. Mankind's only hope is revealed in the gospel, yet we find great ignorance regarding what His good news is.
The complete secularization of the Western, "Christian" world is almost accomplished, and doctrinal confusion abounds. It seems as though the vast number of professing Christians believe that all one must do is believe in the name of Jesus Christ to be saved. This is most certainly required, but Jesus Himself says in Mark 1:15 that one must believe in the gospel in order to be saved.
That is quite a bit different than merely believing in Jesus. While it is definitely true that Jesus died for our sins, the true gospel provides a great deal more instruction regarding Christianity and its purpose than solely Jesus' part in our salvation. It reveals that a Christian must play an active part in the spiritual creation that God is working in and through men.
One of the more effective deceptions Satan has palmed off on mankind is that all God is attempting to do is to "save" people. Most Christians somehow fail to think of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as actively involved in doing something more with those who are converted.
Consider this process, which most people believe: At some time in his life, the "saved" one had perceived the need to be forgiven of his sins. He then asked God to forgive him, and from that point on, because of Christ's blood, he was "saved." Is this true? Though this illustration has been simplified a great deal, it is nevertheless close to the prevalent belief.
We will add a biblical fact to that scenario. Almost all Bible commentators hold that the Israelite's experience of walking through the wilderness following Israel's release from bondage to Egypt is a type of a Christian's walk following his conversion. Walking is typical of laboring or working to reach an objective.
Did the Israelites arrive in the Promised Land - a type of the Kingdom of God - immediately upon release from their bondage? No! They had ahead of them a forty-year journey filled with trials. As they journeyed, God worked with them and supplied their needs, preparing them for their inheritance. Release from Egypt only began another aspect of God's work with them. To reach their objective, a great deal of labor lay ahead of them.
We all need to come to grips with the reality that our Creator is a God who works. He is not merely observing mankind, or worse still, having gone way off somewhere in the vastness of the universe, letting things run more or less on their own. Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." More plainly, the Father began working in the indefinite past and has continued working right up till now. God is not sitting around passively saving people.
In Psalm 74:12, notice the psalmist Asaph's revelation of what God is doing: "For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." The salvation of human beings requires God to work, yet some seem to think that all He does is as simple as turning a "forgiveness switch," and the person is saved. However, in various places both the Father and the Son are called "Saviors." It ought to be apparent that saving a person from circumstances he needs deliverance from requires a savior to work. If a deliverer or savior does not make a strenuous effort, the one in need of rescue will not be saved.
Jesus testified that the Father was working at that very moment. The Bible provides abundant records of Jesus, our Savior, working on behalf of mankind: teaching, counseling, praying, healing, setting the example for His disciples, and obeying His Father flawlessly in order to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Further, He says in John 14:10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." Jesus thus shows the Father to be His partner in His ministry.
In addition, when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, He was made Head of the Church, as well as its High Priest. As such, He is responsible to the Father for working with the members of His Body, interceding on our behalf. He thus bears great responsibility for the salvation of its individual members and the success of the church as a whole. These vital tasks require His careful attention, especially as events near the crisis at the close of the age.
The conclusion is obvious: The work of God abounds with works for all concerned in seeking the objective He has set before us in His purpose. That objective is the Kingdom of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)
Christ links repentance with the Kingdom of God and believing the gospel. Once one hears the true gospel and believes it, he begins to change the way he thinks. Peter ties repentance with forgiveness of past sins and God's giving of His Spirit. Once the Ethiopian eunuch heard Philip's explanation of the Bible, he changed his thinking (repented) and was baptized. Initial repentance includes recognition, acceptance, and belief of the true gospel and making changes in one's life to conform to the new way.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance
Not only does Christ come to announce the soon-coming Kingdom of God, in particular to those whom God calls, but also to prepare the elect for their spiritual responsibilities now and in the Kingdom.
Repentance is a prerequisite for belief. What is repentance? Its basic meaning is to change the mind. Once a person hears the gospel and is convicted that his way of life is wrong, he must alter his present behavior and "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Matthew 3:8).
The fruits of repentance are visible actions—often called "works"—that show that a person has indeed changed. When John the Baptist preached repentance to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry, his audience asked him what they should do to repent. He answered: Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, do not steal, do not use one's authority to oppress, do not lie or accuse falsely, and be content with one's wages (Luke 3:10-14). In general, these actions are either showing love for one's neighbor or obeying God's laws.
Jesus says, "If you want to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). Later, when asked what are the greatest commandments, Jesus answered, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart. . . .' And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:36-40). When we put all these things together, bearing fruits worthy of repentance is simply living as God does!
Believing the gospel is closely related to having faith. When one believes something, he has faith, trust, confidence, that it is true. This confidence leads him to begin to act in accordance with what he believes, and the result is obedience to it or following it. Notice how the apostle Paul shows this in Romans 10:8-10:
But what does [Scripture] say? "The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.
Verse 10 provides the balance to verse 9. It is not enough just to confess Jesus verbally and believe in the resurrection as an intellectual exercise. Paul explains that heartfelt belief leads to righteousness, which is simply right doing or godly behavior. Faith, then—living faith (II Corinthians 5:7)—is trusting God's Word and doing it, even in the face of hardship, sacrifice, the contrary opinions of friends and family, or even death. The author of Hebrews, likely Paul, commends the "Heroes of Faith" to us for just these reasons (Hebrews 11).
Thus, Jesus' urgent command for us to repent and believe the gospel provides us with the negative and positive sides of a single, godly action. He tells us to rid ourselves of the evil we have been doing ("repent") and to begin doing what God expects of those to whom He has revealed His way of life ("believe"). This will lead to righteousness and salvation and—God promises—entrance into His Kingdom (II Peter 1:2-11)!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel (Part 5)
Jesus taught the good news of the coming Kingdom of God to anyone who could hear Him, and the world rejected it. He knew that most would not pay heed to His words, as this was part of God's plan from the beginning: Only those whom the Father called would follow Christ (John 6:44) because He opens their minds to the truth.
Since the Garden of Eden, God has allowed Satan to deceive humanity. During this time, He has allowed people the freedom to choose to live from the work of good or suffer from the toil of sin. The first Adam failed to depose Satan, and every human has failed similarly ever since. God allows people to choose because it is necessary to accomplish His purpose.
Then, in keeping with the principle of “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17), in the seventh millennium, humanity will rest from sin, and those who have been converted will enter into God's spiritual rest. At Christ's return in all His power and glory, Satan will be chained, unable to deceive the world any longer. Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, will rule through His now-immortal saints, forming the world-ruling Kingdom of God. God's benevolent government will replace every government on earth and its evil religions, economies, and society. Then, His future “political” policies will be established forever.
Martin G. Collins
Would Jesus Christ Vote? (Part Two)
Though many today conclude that the essence of Christianity is the forgiveness of sins or the wonder of God's love, a considered reading of the gospels reveals that Christ's message centered on the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven). His ministry began with preaching repentance and the good news of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:17, 23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; 9:11; Acts 1:3).
His forerunner, John the Baptist, preached the same basic message (Matthew 3:1-2), as did the apostles (Matthew 10:7; Luke 9:2, 60; Acts 8:12). The Kingdom theme accompanied Paul on his travels (Acts 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31) and lights up his epistles (Romans 14:17; I Corinthians 4:20; 6:9-10; 15:50; Colossians 4:11; I Thessalonians 2:12). Though Christianity comprises many principles, the essence of Christ's message is the Kingdom of God. Grasping God's purpose for humanity begins with comprehending the Kingdom.
The same Greek word for “kingdom,” basileia, is used in all these references, and its basic meaning is “dominion.” However, the Bible's writers do not always speak of the divine Kingdom in the same way, so understanding the Kingdom of God depends on recognizing its different applications.
A common usage of basileia is future-oriented: The great hope of true Christians is Christ's return to bear rule over the earth (Revelation 11:15; Daniel 2:44).
The Kingdom of God is also a present spiritual reality, such that those God calls in this age are figuratively translated into that Kingdom (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 1:13), even as they live out their lives in, but not of, the world. God has dominion over the church, making it a component—though not the fullness—of the Kingdom of God now.
A third usage of basileia refers to Christ Himself as the King of His Kingdom, such as when He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was in their midst (see Luke 17:21).
Basileia is used in yet another, often-overlooked way that is necessary to understand a large measure of Christ's ministry. This disregarded usage appears most clearly in the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-44). At the end of the parable, Jesus says, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (verse 43; emphasis ours). This refers not to the future establishment of Christ's Kingdom on earth, but to a dominion then in existence.
Jesus considered the chief priests, the elders, and the Pharisees part of God's Kingdom, and also certified that they would have the Kingdom taken from them. They, like tenant-farmers, had a measure of responsibility over that national Kingdom because of their leadership positions within it. They wielded religious power that Jesus acknowledged (Matthew 23:2-3), which had its source in God (Romans 13:1).
In the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers, the vineyard is the Kingdom of God, and the vinedressers are those tasked with attending to it. Jesus prophesied that stewardship would be transferred because the original caretakers had proven themselves unfaithful. Psalm 80:8-19 also represents the Kingdom of Israel as a vineyard (as does Isaiah 5:1-7), and the shared symbol confirms that the Kingdom of Israel was the Kingdom of God at that time, though not in its fullness. This fourth usage of basileia is found in a number of Christ's least understood parables, particularly those in Matthew 13.
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part One)
When Jesus Christ was on earth, He preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14-15). However, something foundational happened before He began preaching the gospel and performing the various miracles that showed He was from God. Something essential happened before He could preach and perform works as a man. We can find what this was in John 10:36-38:
. . . do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.
The key element appears in verse 36. Jesus says that He was sanctified before He was sent into the world. He was set apart in order to do all that He did, and that certainly includes the preaching of the gospel. His three-and-a-half-year ministry was the result of the sanctifying done by the Father.
The gospel accounts are overflowing with statements by Christ that show that all of His words and actions had their source in the Father. His preaching of the gospel is no exception. The content of His message and the power to proclaim it both came from the Father.
Jesus testifies in Luke 4:18 that He was "anointed" to preach the gospel to the poor, another way of saying that He was set apart. He says that He could do nothing of Himself, but only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19, 30). He declares that the works He did bore witness that the Father had sent Him, meaning He was being directed by the Father (John 5:36-37; 8:18). He asserts that He could do nothing of Himself, but He could speak only as the Father taught Him and of what He had seen while He was with the Father (John 8:28, 38). He states that He did not speak on His own authority, but that the Father commanded Him in what He should speak (John 12:49).
John the Baptist demonstrates this same principle when saying, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven" (John 3:27).
All of these statements set the stage for understanding Christ's preaching. When Jesus went about preaching the gospel, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15), the only reason it had any effect is because He had been sanctified—set apart—by the Father to do this.
When Jesus said that it was the Father who was actually doing the works, the preaching of the gospel was one of them (John 10:32; 14:10). This means that, regardless of what human instrument God uses or what method He employs, the reality is that it is God who preaches the gospel! If He is not the Source of everything, as He was for Jesus, then it is a work of man and not of God, and "the weary workers toil in vain" (Psalm 127:1, paraphrase).
It actually does not take anything miraculous to know what the true gospel is or to speak the words. In fact, when Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the gospel, they did not even have the Holy Spirit! They were not even really converted yet, though they had been called. Even so, if something is going to be accomplished, it will be as a result of God's sanctification, which the disciples had. That is the consistent biblical pattern.
The bottom line, then, is that the gospel is not preached through human effort or human will. It is proclaimed through submission to God's leadership. If submission to God is absent, the works that God desires will not be produced. If men go outside God's will—however well-intentioned they may be—their words, to borrow from Shakespeare, may as well be the proverbial "tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
David C. Grabbe
'This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached'
What is the gospel—the "good news"? "Just believe on the name of Jesus and you will be saved" is a common message of many preachers. Others proclaim that the gospel is that Jesus came to die for our sins. Still others preach a rather insipid and saccharine "Jesus loves you" message. All of those catchy phrases have relevance to Jesus' message—we certainly must believe in Jesus, He did die for our sins, and He surely loves us—but nowhere does Jesus directly state that the gospel is about Him!
Instead, the good news is about a momentous purpose that God is accomplishing. Jesus spoke the words that the Father gave Him to preach, most emphatically confirmed in John 12:49-50:
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.
What is Jesus' own testimony about the subject of His preaching? Notice these verses:
» Matthew 4:23: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people."
» Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
» Luke 4:43: "[Jesus] said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.'"
» Luke 16:16: "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time, the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it."
Jesus' announcement of the good news is that the Father will establish His Kingdom and His capital city on earth. He Himself will be here, no longer separated from His children—no longer unseen and ruling indirectly through agents from His present location in heaven but ruling directly on earth. It is to this awesome, mind-boggling future that we, as a part of His Family, are being summoned to prepare for and to participate directly in.
Jesus is certainly mankind's Savior, having died for our sins, but to be properly understood, that event must be seen within the context of preparation for and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. A kingdom has four basic elements: a king, a territory it occupies, subjects within that territory, and laws through which the will of the ruler is exercised. Each of these elements is part of the gospel.
Has the founder of any other religion offered a message and program that can even begin to match what Jesus taught? This is truly the most wonderful message mankind could possibly receive, and it came only through Jesus.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?
The gospel Jesus proclaimed is focused on the Kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus' own words bear this out: Only once does He modify the word "gospel," and He does so with the phrase "of the kingdom." In accordance with their Savior's usage of the term, Matthew, Mark, and Luke call it nothing other than this. In several other places, Jesus speaks of "preaching the kingdom of God" to the people.
The Kingdom of God is a huge subject in itself, but its basic meaning whittles down to God's dominion, rule, governance, or realm. In many places in the Gospels, such as His parables (Matthew 13) and the Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24-25), Jesus points to a future establishment of God's Kingdom on the earth. Notice Matthew 16:27: "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."
On the other hand, the Kingdom of God is now ruling over those whom God has called (Colossians 1:13), though they have not yet inherited or entered it fully because they are still flesh (I Corinthians 15:50). The called and chosen await the return of Christ at the last trumpet when He will change their mortal, corrupt, physical bodies into immortal, incorruptible spirit bodies like His (I Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:20-21; I Thessalonians 4:14-17; I John 3:2).
Thus, the Kingdom of God has both present and future implications. It is a present reality in a spiritual sense for those who believe the gospel in that God rules over them already. As such, they are subject to all the laws and responsibilities being part of God's Kingdom entails. When Christ returns and sets up His government on earth, the gospel will have prepared them for rulership with Him (Revelation 19:7-8). They are presently watching for, praying for, and expecting its fullness at any time (Matthew 24:32-44).
As a future event, the Kingdom of God implies that the gospel concerns itself with prophecy as well. Though many biblical prophecies predicted the coming of Jesus Christ as a Man to die as our Savior, many more prophecies concern His second coming as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Christian hope revolves around the belief that He will come again, put down all rebellion against Him, grant eternal life to His saints, and establish a Millennium of peace, prosperity, and spiritual growth for surviving humanity. The gospel includes this message of a future utopia.
What we see, then, is that "the gospel of the Kingdom of God" is a general term that covers more than just an announcement of God's Kingdom. It contains the teaching about the soon-coming establishment of God's government on the earth, as well as its present rule over those God has called. It includes instruction for preparing the elect for their responsibilities in His Kingdom, particularly regarding character development in God's image. In a way, "the gospel of the Kingdom of God" is an umbrella term that encompasses the entire revelation of God to man in the Bible. Paul calls this "the whole counsel of God" in Acts 20:27.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel (Part 4)
From these three verses (Acts 2:38; Mark 1:15; Acts 8:12), we understand the two prerequisites for baptism: repentance and belief of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The people of Acts 2 showed by their reaction that they believed what Peter had preached (verse 37), and thus they needed only to repent of their sins and their human nature before they were baptized (verse 41). One need not be a Bible scholar or be living perfectly to be baptized; these things are part of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ after baptism (II Peter 3:18).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Water Baptism
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Mark 1:15:
1 Corinthians 2:2
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10