Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Gospel and the Christian Israelite Destiny!
Even when the Messiah's favorite term Kingdom of YEHOVAH God does receive a mention today (and this is almost never true in connection with the Gospel), the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God is often re-conceptualized to reduce YEHOVAH's Good News to a present social activism. Sometimes it is reduced to "the rule of God in the heart." Sometimes it is stripped of all contemporary significance and applied to an unbiblical "heaven" for souls.
by HOIM Staff
Charles Taber, Professor Emeritus of World Mission, Emmanuel School of Evangelism, Johnson City, Tennessee, expressed his amazement at "evangelical dogma" on the definition of the Christian Gospel. Christianity Today (Feb. 7, 2000) had offered its readers statements from nine leading evangelicals defining the Gospel.
"I read with the greatest interest nine statements attempting to answer the question, 'What is the Good News?' I am amazed and dismayed to find not even a passing mention of the theme which was the CORE of Jesus' Gospel in three of the four accounts: the Kingdom of God. Every one of these statements reflects the individualistic reduction of the Gospel that plagues American evangelicalism. In addition to being biblical, founding one's understanding of the gospel on the Kingdom of God bypasses two false dilemmas that have needlessly troubled theologians for several centuries: the either-or between individual and systematic salvation, and the either-or between grace and works. On the one hand God intends to rescue the entire cosmos from the bondage to decay; on the other hand how can one claim to be saved who does not make every effort to do God's will?"
Churchgoers who sit regularly in a church assembly make a number of assumptions. One of these is that what their church tells them about the Gospel is really the Gospel as Yeshua preached it. But is this so?
In an extensive Introduction to Evangelism by Alvin Reid, author and co-author of many books on evangelism and professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, we read this:
"The noun euangellion is found seventy-six times in the New Testament. It can be translated 'gospel,' 'good news,' or 'evangel.' It emphasizes not just any good news but a specific message. Paul particularly used this term a great deal. Our primary message is the specific good news that Jesus died and rose again. Paul told the Corinthians: 'Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you' (I Corinthians 15:1-3)."
This statement is typical of hundreds available in Christian bookstores and sermons. Yeshua, however, when defining the CORE purpose of his mission to his Father's people Israel and that of his Israelite followers would have rejected the popular current definition of the saving Gospel as inadequate: "I came to preach the Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom of God to the other cities [of Israel]. It was for this that I was sent" (Luke 4:43). And he did not include in the Gospel until much later any word about his death and resurrection (see Matthew 16:21ff.). Matthew, in fact, every time he writes the word "Gospel" carefully adds its definition: It is the Gospel of the Kingdom (4:23; 9:35; 24:14). This is so well known that the same Message can simply be called "this Gospel" (26:13).
Today things are very different. They are in a state of severe muddle when it comes to the most basic question of all. The confusion over the content of the saving Christian message is rooted in a parallel confusion over the nature of man and the Christian Israelite destiny. Teachers with enormous influence on Christian thinking have often promoted Greek Platonism in place of Scripture.
Billy Graham and Francis Schaeffer
Billy Graham writes: "The Bible teaches that you are an immortal soul. Your soul is eternal and will live for ever. In other words, the real you -- the part of you that thinks, feels, dreams, aspires, the ego, the personality -- will never die. The Bible teaches that your soul will live forever in one of two places -- heaven or hell" (Peace with God, p. 61).
Francis Schaeffer seems to have been caught in the same philosophical trap. He cites with approval (in The Great Evangelical Disaster, pp. 106, 107) a Dr. Singer who doubts whether the "sanctity of human life" as an idea can be recovered. He says:
"We can no longer base our efforts on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation, made in the image of God, singled out from all other animals, and alone possessing an immortal soul."
Unfortunately, with his last phrase, the writer echoes Plato, not the Messiah. In the Bible it is YEHOVAH God alone who has immortality (I Timothy 6:16), and Christian Israelites will acquire it in the future resurrection (I Corinthians 15:53, 54). To say that the Israelite man already has immortality is to deal a blow to the biblical scheme of salvation. The whole point of the biblical view of the Israelite man is that he does not have immortality innately and that he must seek for it (Romans 2:7). He must acquire it through rebirth, belief in the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by Yeshua, the model evangelist (Mark 1:14, 15; 4:11, 12; Hebrews 2:3), and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:54).
The "liberal" scholar is often in advance of the evangelical in his grasp of Scripture on this issue of who man is. John Robinson says:
"In our Western tradition there has been a vastly exaggerated focus on death and the moment of death. It began when the pages of the New Testament were hardly dry, and it is one of the most remarkable silent revolutions in the history of Christian thought." Bishop Robinson then went on to remind Englishmen (only about 5% of whom ever attend church except to be "hatched, matched and dispatched") about what they had been taught to think about death:
"1) The whole of our teaching and hymnology has assumed that you go to heaven -- or of course, hell -- when you die.
2) In consequence, death is the decisive moment. Though you go on after that, on one road or the other, it is your life up till then which determines your destiny.
3) We do not, of course, these days believe in anything so crude as the resurrection of the body; but if there is to be any other form of existence, it is at death that we enter it.
"Now I believe [Bishop and Professor Robinson continued] that each of these propositions is in clear contradiction with what the Bible says ...First the Bible nowhere says that we go to heaven when we die, nor does it ever describe death in terms of going to heaven ...The notion that a man's destiny is decided at death [rather than at a future resurrection] is one for which there is no real support in the biblical imagery. It is in Greek mythology that the fates operate at death with their scissors and scales... Observe once more the influence of the classical mythology in the Charon myth: the baptizing of it in Wesley's [founder of Methodism] words: `Bid Jordan's narrow stream divide and bring us safe to heaven' has no biblical basis. Indeed it would be interesting to know at what stage the Styx first became the Jordan."
Do Methodists realize the extent of the paganism offered them in their tradition?
"The second point is that the Christian hope is not so much a hope for heaven as a hope from heaven: `from heaven we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.' According to the dominant Christian tradition, the world is regarded as a vast transit camp, in which the Church's job is to issue tickets for heaven and pack people off to Paradise... But according to the Christian Gospel God has prepared some better thing for the work of his hands. The Gospel of the reign [Kingdom] of God is not the salvaging of souls..." (On Being the Church in the World, pp. 129-134).
Bishop Robinson ends by speaking of "the pagan notion, endorsed by so much Christian spirituality." He means the unbiblical teaching current in churches that souls go to heaven or hell the moment they die.
Back to the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. One error leads to another. The loss of concentration on the future resurrection of the whole man, and the substitution of "heaven when you die," has wreaked havoc on the principal theme of the Gospel -- the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
It is quite clear that leading Christian spokesmen have abandoned the Gospel as preached by Yeshua and Paul (Luke 4:43, etc.; Acts 20:25; 28:23, 31; 19:8).
"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 based 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" (A. F. Glasser, Missiology, April, 1980).
Glasser described the coming Kingdom well with this observation: "It is only through a final and universal crisis that the Kingdom, as a visible and all-conquering reign of Peace and salvation, will bring to fruition the new heaven and new earth."
After Pentecost the term "Kingdom of God" in Acts is equated with "the Gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24, 25: the Gospel of the Kingdom is identical to the Gospel of Grace) and embraces the whole redemptive purpose of YEHOVAH God (20:27). It is frequently supplemented with references to the Messiah (8:12; 28:23, 31). It is a common but very serious misunderstanding to suppose that the Gospel as Paul preached it became something other than the Gospel as Yeshua had preached it. The Kingdom in Paul's preaching was the basis of the Gospel as it had been for Yeshua.
Even when the Messiah's favorite term Kingdom of YEHOVAH God does receive a mention today (and this is almost never true in connection with the Gospel), the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God is often re-conceptualized to reduce YEHOVAH's Good News to a present social activism. Sometimes it is reduced to "the rule of God in the heart." Sometimes it is stripped of all contemporary significance and applied to an unbiblical "heaven" for souls. Quite simply the problem is this: Christians have dropped the main word from Yeshua's favorite phrase. They speak of "heaven" instead of the Kingdom which will come from heaven to the earth. They speak of the death and resurrection of the Messiah as though this is the whole of the Gospel (cp. Billy Graham: "Jesus came to do three days work").
It is easy to document the "Kingdomless" gospel of modern evangelism:
Tom Sine points out that "the victory of the future of God was the central theme of the ministry of Jesus." Then he adds: "Michael Green asked during the Lausanne International Conference on World Evangelization in 1974, `How much have you heard here about the Kingdom of God? Not much. It is not our language. But it was Jesus' prime concern"' (The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, pp. 102-3).
Peter Wagner, celebrated church planter, writes that he "has never preached a sermon on the Kingdom." A Roman Catholic writer admits that "although there is a great divergence among Scripture scholars and theologians today about the meaning of the Kingdom of God, there is also a basic agreement that it is the central theme of the Gospels and that Christian living must be in response to that Kingdom [whatever it is!]."
A German Bible scholar says that "the notion of a purely transcendent kingship of Yahweh limited to the heavenly realm, was quite foreign to Israel. Thus the Israelites could pray, `O God, my King from of old, you doer of saving deeds on earth' (Psalm 74:12)" (Schnakenberg, Gods Rule and Kingdom, p. 19).
There is a general consensus about what drove the whole career and mission of the Messiah. The central theme in the preaching and life of the Messiah was the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God to come, with the present taste of Kingdom life in the spirit, contains plain information about the future of the earth. There is to be a millennial Kingdom, as the first stage of the Kingdom to be inaugurated worldwide at the coming of the Messiah (Revelation 11:15-18; 5:9, 10; 20:1-6).
Some of the most amazing evasions in the history of commentary have arisen when Bible readers do not care to embrace the promise of a coming Messianic worldwide society supervised by the returning Messiah and the (then) immortalized Israelite believers. Revelation 20:1-6 describes a vision of the resurrection of previously beheaded believers, who "come to life" and "begin to reign with the Messiah for a thousand years." What John saw was the return to life from death of people who had been martyred, as well as other saints. They are to be resurrected from the grave to take their place in Messiah's Kingdom. The language is utterly clear: "those who had been beheaded came back to life and began to reign with the Messiah."
The passionate protest of Henry Alford, celebrated commentator on the Greek New Testament, deserves the widest hearing.
"I have again and again raised my earnest protest against evading the plain sense of words, the spiritualizing in the midst of plain declarations of fact. That the Lord will come in person to this our earth: that his resurrected elect will reign here with him and judge, that during that blessed [millennial] reign the power of evil will be bound, and the glorious prophecies of peace and truth on earth will find their accomplishment -- this is my firm persuasion and not mine alone, but that of multitudes of Christ's waiting people, as it was of his primitive apostolic Church, before controversy blinded the eyes of the Fathers to the light of prophecy.
"On one point I have ventured to speak strongly, because my conviction on it is strong, founded on the rules of fair and consistent interpretation. I mean, the necessity of accepting literally the first resurrection and the millennial reign. It seems to me that if in a sentence where two resurrections are spoken of with no mark of distinction between them (it is otherwise in John 5:28 which is commonly alleged for the view which I am combating) -- if in a sentence where, one resurrection having been related, the `rest of the dead' are afterwards mentioned -- we are at liberty to understand the former resurrection figuratively and spiritually, and the latter resurrection literally and materially, then there is an end of all definite meaning in plain words and the Book of Revelation, or any other book, may mean anything we please. It is a curious fact that [amillennialists and so-called `gospel millennialists'], studious as they generally are to uphold the primitive interpretation, are obliged, not only to wrest the plain sense of words, but to desert the unanimous consensus of the primitive Fathers, some of whom lived early enough to have retained apostolic tradition on this point" (Greek Testament, Vol. IV, p. 252, 259).
Henry Alford's vision of the brilliant era of peace and harmony destined for our distracted earth remained strong. It is otherwise when those precious words of Yeshua in Revelation are dissolved into a description of conversion (as in amillennialism), rather than resurrection. That Kingdom to come was the principal subject of the Gospel as the Messiah preached it. Paul was no less a tireless protagonist of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Acts 20:25). Had he preached a gospel other than the Gospel as Yeshua had preached it, he would have put himself under his own curse (Galatians 1:8, 9).
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Courage for the Sake of Truth is Far Better Than Silence for the Sake of Unity!
Hope of Israel Ministries
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