The Gospel of the Kingdom
What is the primary theme of the New Testament? Why, it is none other than the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
! This Gospel (or good news
) was first preached by John the Baptist, who cried out in the wilderness of Judaea in order to prepare the way of the Lord: "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
Soon afterwards, Jesus Christ the Messiah came on the scene: "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel'"
(Mark 1:14-15). Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). Then, following His resurrection, Jesus spoke to His disciples for forty days of things pertaining to the Kingdom (Acts 1:3). Finally, Jesus commissioned His followers to take the Gospel
of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth, saying, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be
preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come"
The book of Acts records how the followers of Jesus began to carry out that mission. Empowered by the Holy Spirit
, they preached the Kingdom of God with boldness and spread the good news wherever they went. "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women"
(Acts 8:12). Later, the apostle Paul wrote about the Kingdom of God in his letters to the early churches, and also "expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening"
Without a doubt, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
is the central, underlying theme of the New Testament. The Bible says, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it"
(Luke 16:16). John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the other apostles truly were pioneers in preaching the Kingdom of God. These men lived and died for the Kingdom; they were fully committed to its advance and passionate about its reality.
After the apostles were martyred, the torch of the Great Commission
(Matthew 28:19) passed on to the next generation of Jesus' disciples. Many centuries later, the Gospel of the Kingdom still compels true followers of Jesus in our generation to cry out for repentance
and preach Jesus Christ, thus preparing the way for the Lord's second coming.
The "Other" Gospel
Tragically, many of today's "Bible-believing" churches have strayed into preaching a different gospel
than that of the Bible. Their sermons have nothing in common with "repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
(Matthew 4:17), but instead resemble worldly, motivational speeches which appeal to complacent churchgoers.
Don't be deceived: "Christian" preaching is not necessarily the same as the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!
Remember what Jesus said to the religious teachers
of His day: "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in"
(Matthew 23:13). According to Jesus, those "esteemed" self-righteous religious leaders faced the judgment of God. Why? Because they were blocking the entrance to the strait gate
The fact is, there are people even now in churches who call themselves Christian ministers but are actually apostles of Satan
, "deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works"
(II Corinthians 11:13-15). It is no secret that Satan
is familiar with the words of God (Genesis 3:1) and knows the Scriptures (Matthew 4:5-6). However, because the devil is a liar and the father of lies
(John 8:44), he twists God's truth and counterfeits what is righteous. Satan's sinister strategy is and has always been to
steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) through deception
, so it is no surprise when his ministers do the very same thing.
Paul warned the early church: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with [endure] him"
(II Corinthians 11:3-4).
Let's examine Paul's warning a little closer. He said that the enemy will attempt to corrupt believers' minds from the simplicity which is in Christ by offering the following:
Quite simply, "another Jesus
" is an imposter of the true Jesus. The apostle John calls such a person antichrist
. The prefix "anti" means against
or in opposition to
; thus, an antichrist is anyone who comes in place of
Jesus Christ and is therefore in opposition to
the exclusive Lordship of Jesus Christ. "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time"
(I John 2:18).
Although there are "many antichrists" in these last times, they may not be so easy to recognize as one might suppose. Remember that the devil aims to deceive — and he usually accomplishes this not
by blatantly contrasting the true Christ but by subtly counterfeiting
Him! Therefore, "another Jesus" will most likely appear so close
to the true Jesus that one who is not grounded in the Word of God will not know the difference. Jesus warned His followers: "Then if any man shall say unto you, 'Lo, here is Christ,' or 'there;' believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect"
Those who preach a "Jesus who brings you money, wealth, and prosperity" or a "Jesus who accepts your lifestyle" are preaching another Jesus
. Such sermons can certainly sound convincing, especially when some Bible verses are thrown in! However, the "Christs" in those messages are exposed as fraudulent when examined in light of the Bible's revelation of the true Jesus Christ. Indeed, diligent study of God's Word (see Acts 17:11) and knowing the true Jesus is the only
sure way to recognize counterfeit Christs
and identify false ministers who pervert the Word of God for personal gain.
The Bible teaches that the true Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit
, Who indwells within the hearts of God's children. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God"
(I Corinthians 2:12). However, Paul said that there is "another spirit
" which may be received instead of the Holy Spirit, and that is the spirit of antichrist
, or the spirit of this world, which is of the devil.
The antichrist spirit
aims to deceitfully draw people away from the true Spirit of God. "Now the [Holy] Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils"
(I Timothy 4:1). That deception is so strong, in fact, that even the deceivers themselves don't realize they're deceived. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived"
(II Timothy 3:13).
You see, not every one who does good works or claims to come in the name of Christ has the Holy Spirit within him. Many, in fact, have "another spirit." A fitting example of this is the Catholic pope
, who calls himself "vicar" (which means substitute
) and claims to represent God on earth. But this is the villainous spirit of antichrist
, for no man may substitute the place of Jesus! I John 4:1 says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
What is "another gospel
"? Well, it is any alleged way of salvation which differs from the Gospel
Jesus preached. The Pharisees, for example, believed and taught that a person could be justified in the sight of God by keeping the Law. But Jesus set the matter straight when He said that "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven"
(Matthew 5:20). Indeed, the only way to be sufficiently righteous in God's sight is to receive the gift of Christ's righteousness by faith
. This is the simple yet powerful message of the true Gospel!
Jesus also said, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves"
(Matthew 7:15). Paul described such wolves as ones who would seek to destroy the flock of God (Acts 20:29) by preaching another gospel
. "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed"
(Galatians 1:6-8). Paul confirmed here that there is no "other Gospel" because there is no "other way" of salvation. But he warned that there are perversions
of the one and only Gospel.
Oh, that God's people would exercise spiritual discernment and recognize when the spirit of antichrist
preaches "another gospel" or "another Jesus" from their own pulpits. Colossians 2:8 says, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
There are many worldly-wise philosophers out there who teach out of their vain imaginations and "new revelations." They do not really know the God of the Bible, nor do they desire to understand His ways. Instead, they promote their own agendas and preach whatever their listeners want to hear (see II Timothy 4:3), many times in the name of Christ
! Truly, a harsh judgment awaits these blind guides
(see Matthew 23; James 3:1), for they obstruct the straight and narrow path to the Kingdom of God.
This may be a difficult word for some to receive, but here is the plain truth: mainstream Christianity is not the Kingdom of God. Catholicism is not the Kingdom of God. Denominations, churches, cults, and religions are not the Kingdom of God.
If we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), shouldn't we first recognize what we are seeking? Yes, indeed: knowing the truth about the Kingdom of God will set us free from the bondage of dead religious traditions
. Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"