It is always in the CONTEXT!
If Bible students would honestly and thoroughly consider the context of any passage without personal or denominational prejudice, most of the confusion and disagreement over Biblical text would evaporate. Unfortunately, we are all prejudiced by our training and assumptions and thus read in or out truth that is or isn’t there. Although Bible students claim they follow the context, few honestly pay much attention to it, relying on their perceived understanding instead. A well-known preacher recently said in his YouTube video that the Church age began when Christ was born. Obviously, that isn’t true but many who heard him will take that as gospel truth and won’t be able to be convinced otherwise. Others say it began at the cross – also not true. Most seminarians teach, and pastors preach, that the Church age began in Acts 2 and 3 with the preaching of Peter and the other eleven apostles on Pentecost. But is that correct?
The Kingdom Gospel is to the dispensation of LAW as the Gospel of Christ is to the dispensation of Grace. Where and why did the first end and the second begin? Paul, as he is nearing the end of his days, said in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Is that what Peter and the other apostles were testifying to?
The gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) that Paul taught is quite different from what the twelve apostles were teaching. Simply, the gospel of grace is – Christ is the divine Son of God, He went to the cross and died as full payment for our sins and was resurrected on the third day. Paul states it well in 1 Corinthians 15:1-9. We believe this and thus are saved by God’s grace through faith, without works (Eph. 2:8,9). This is NOT the gospel preached by our Lord when He was on the earth. While He was here, He preached “the gospel of the kingdom” Mt. 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.”
Remember, Jesus came in fulfillment of Old Testament promises given by God. He came to establish the kingdom God promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and to David. This is the same gospel the angel Gabriel confirmed to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the first chapter of Luke, (“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” Luke 1:32–33, NKJV. This “gospel of the kingdom” did NOT include the message of grace of God and of Christ dying for our sins. If one cares to consider CONTEXT, this is easy enough to prove:
In Luke 9:6, the Lord sent the 12 apostles out to preach “the gospel,” and this “good news” was the Kingdom gospel – Luke 9:2 – “He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Healing and restoration were the signs that their…Israel…messiah had come: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me (Christ), Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives (Israel), And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God (upon their enemies); To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1–3, NKJV). And “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” Isaiah 35:5, NKJV. Christ came to bring in the kingdom, but He was rejected and Israel was lost.
We know the kingdom gospel didn’t include the message of Grace, that “Christ will die for your sins, because nine chapters and two years later the Lord told the 12 apostles that He would have to die, and they didn’t know what He was talking about (Matthew 16:21-23). They never realize that Jesus would have to die, let alone that He would die for their sins! So then, we have to ask (Context), “What gospel had they been preaching for nine chapters of Matthew and for the two years?” They couldn’t have been preaching, “Christ will die for your sins,” for they themselves didn’t even know that as yet. They had been preaching the gospel of the PROMISED kingdom. And that kingdom gospel said nothing about Christ dying for their sins.
The kingdom gospel was simply the “good news” that the Lord intended to reestablish the “kingdom” for the people of Israel. Speaking of King David in Acts 2:30, Peter says, “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne.”
In Acts 2:36 Peter assures Israel that they are God’s chosen people, and that Jesus is both their Lord and Messiah: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” Acts 2:36, NKJV.
And in Acts 3:18-20 Peter explains to the Jews that Christ had to suffer, according to scripture, and if they repent their sins will be forgiven when Jesus returns to reestablish the kingdom: “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,” Acts 3:18–20, NKJV. The “times of refreshing” is the salvation of Israel and establishment of the Davidic Kingdom – the Millennial reign of Christ.
A point of clarification: Note carefully that the gospel of the kingdom said nothing about Christ’s death for anyone’s sins. That wasn’t part of the terms of their restoration. They just had to believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, Israel’s king. Their Repentance and being converted for the forgiveness of their sins has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel of the grace of God which is bestowed upon Church age believers. Note carefully verse 19, that Israel’s sins are forgiven when the times of refreshing comes – that is, their resurrection and the Kingdom age at the beginning of the Millennium. Job and David would have well understood this. Sorry, seminarians and those that follow them, the Church Age didn’t begin at Pentecost. It began when there was no longer any hope that Israel turn to Christ. At that point, God called and commissioned Paul to preach a new gospel, that of the Church age, the gospel of the grace of God, of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately for the nation of Israel, their leaders and most of their people rejected Jesus as their Lord and Messiah. For his testimony, Stephen was angrily and brutally stoned to death by the Sanhedrin…Israel’s religious and governing authority, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.” Acts 7:54, NKJV.
That’s when God interrupted the prophetic program and ushered in the dispensation of grace for both believing Jews and Gentiles, the gospel of the grace of God – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16, NKJV.
The word “believe” appears 75 times in the four gospels. Each and every time we are told what the Jews were to “believe,” it is never that “Christ died for our sins.” It is always “Jesus is the Christ” (John 6:68,69; 8:24; 9:35-38; 11:27; 16:27,30,31; 17:8; 20:31 (scroll the link)). Nor did this change at Pentecost. All that they were expected to believe was that Jesus is their king. That was the gospel of the kingdom.
Those who believed the gospel of the kingdom taught by our Lord while here on earth, and as taught by the apostles at Pentecost, were saved BY the Cross – they just weren’t saved by believing IN the Cross. Those who believed the gospel of the kingdom, that Jesus was the king, God applied the blood of Christ to them, just like He does for us when we believe “Christ died for our sins.”
The Jews were taught that Christ is their King and Messiah. Those who believed are saved.
We are taught that Christ died for our sins and is resurrected. Those who believe are saved.