The drama of God’s gospel

At the heart of history is God’s gospel — the divine decree that restores heaven’s reign over the earth in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Nothing in history is more radical and globally life-changing than the gospel. The good proclamation from heaven — God’s gospel — changes everything on earth.

Before I was born, this proclamation made Elizabeth II queen of the British Empire:

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George the Sixth of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
We … do now hereby with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth the Second …
God save the Queen!

The gospel is this kind of proclamation from God. But it wasn’t a noisy command, just a gentle breath.

God breathed life into his crucified Christ. The cleansing breath of God reversed the effects of death and decay, raising his Christ up above his assassins, giving him the authority of the name above all names. The faithful-and-true servant-king was entrusted with God’s throne.

History is full of attempts to take God’s throne. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem to take the throne that God had entrusted to David’s descendants forever, trampling them down with death (Isaiah 14:4, 13-14).

God’s response to the rebellion against his throne was to promise good news. In the broken-down places where people were crushed, God’s reign would be restored:

Isaiah 40:3–10 (NIV)
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?” …

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.

That text from Isaiah is the background for our use of the word gospel. The gospel is the good proclamation that we’re back under God’s reign:

Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!

Mark’s Gospel begins with the good news about Jesus as God’s anointed  who restores God’s reign to the earth, just as Isaiah promised (Mark 1:1-3).

Jesus proclaimed God’s gospel. What he meant was that that the time had come for the restoration of God’s reign. He called people to return to God’s leadership, to trust God’s gospel proclamation (Mark 1:14-15).

Jesus taught about God’s kingdom, but the crowds did not understand who was king (Mark 4:11-12, compare 8:29-30). Recognizing Jesus as God’s anointed leader is never convenient for those in power (Mark 14:61-64). His own people betrayed their king into the hands of their enemies to be crucified (Mark 15:1).

Mark’s final chapter opens with three women preparing to pour their own anointing on the dead body of the one they thought was God’s anointed (Mark 16:1). But even his tomb had been disturbed:

Mark 16:5-8 (my translation)
5 Entering the tomb they saw a young man seated on the right, wrapped in a long white robe. They were terrified. 6 He says to them, “Don’t be terrified. You’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the one who’d been crucified. He’s been raised up. He is not here. See, that’s the spot where they placed him. 7 But go and tell his followers including Peter, ‘He is leading you to Galilee. There you will see him,’ just like he told you.”
8 Leaving, they fled from the tomb, shaken and dumbfounded. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

What does this mean? Has heaven just made the ultimate announcement that the reign of death — the power by which God’s enemies have enforced their rule — is over? Was the heavenly messenger delivering God’s gospel proclamation, the good news that God’s anointed has been raised up to reign? Was the resurrected Messiah going ahead of his flock like a shepherd, leading them to Galilee? Would they see the Son whom God had raised up to lead them?

Or, is this the ultimate tragedy? Will no one on earth ever hear what God has done? Were the two Marys and Salome too terrified to repeat what they had heard — God’s gospel, the heavenly proclamation that God had overturned the execution of his Son and raised him up to lead them?

Mark leaves us with that question. He knows it’s frightening to declare Jesus’ kingship. If those in power crucified our Lord, what will they do to stop his messengers?

We know that Peter and the others did hear God’s gospel. They proclaimed it fearlessly in Jerusalem, much to the chagrin of the authorities.

One day, a commissioned officer of the Italian Regiment came looking for Peter. That was the day Peter realized the global extent of the authority God’s gospel proclamation had given to his Christ. Jesus was not merely king of the Jews. He is Lord of all. That’s the gospel Peter told Cornelius:

Acts 10:36 (NIV)
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

God’s gospel proclamation sets everything right, bringing the whole earth back under heaven’s management as it was always meant to be. It’s the eternal gospel. It calls everyone on earth to recognize God’s authority, to honour the sovereign who made heaven and earth. God’s gospel proclamation spells the end of the rebellion against God. God’s gospel gives the kingdom to the son of man — the leader in whom every rebellion is subdued, everything wrong is set right, everything promised is fulfilled (Revelation 14:6-14).

Conclusion

That’s just a few highlights from the gospel drama that spans Scripture, starting with promises in Isaiah, hearing them unfold in Mark’s Gospel and Peter’s preaching, concluding with the eternal gospel of Revelation.

God’s gospel spoke life to his Son. It raises us up in him.

What others are saying

David Seccombe, The Gospel of the Kingdom. Electronic edition. (Whitefield Publications, 2016):

The new thing which is happening [in Isaiah 52:7] is that God has arrived to rescue and rule his people. He became their king at Sinai, but they estranged themselves through disloyalty. He has given them over to their enemies, their exile being clear evidence of their God-forsakenness. “We have become like those over whom you never ruled,” they say [Isaiah 63:19]. But now God has redeemed them and has come to be their king. The old Jewish (Aramaic) interpretation of this passage understands this well when it has the courier cry, “The kingdom of your God has been revealed.”

Timothy G. Gombis, Mark, Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2021), 6–7:

Many contemporary Christians assume that the gospel is about Jesus and his willingness to inhabit human hearts. … For such audiences, Mark’s Gospel will land like a thud. There just isn’t any of that here. …

Jesus is central to the Gospel of Mark — of course he is! But he is central in that he is God’s authorized agent of kingdom rule and the one through whom God initiates his kingdom. And “the gospel” in the Gospel of Mark is the proclamation of the arrival of God’s kingdom and the call to enter it through the transformation of every aspect of life.

Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 1993), 288–289:

Although the theme of God’s kingdom is not explicit in Revelation 14:6–7, it is, as the dominant theme of Revelation, certainly implicit: it is God’s universal rule that all the nations are called to acknowledge in worship. Therefore it is significant that the message Psalm 96 calls on its hearers to proclaim to all the nations is summed up in the words, ‘The Lord is king!’ (96:10).

The eternal gospel is therefore the call which Psalm 96 itself contains, the call to all nations to worship the one true God who is coming to judge the world and to establish his universal rule.

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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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