Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, Within a yard of hell. – Charles Thomas Studd
So what is the gospel? I have decided to explain what the gospel is by making a summary of key events from the Bible. Even so, like the Jews in Acts 17:11, feel free to test my interpretation of certain events with Scripture. However, I believe the core of what the gospel is comes through clearly. Looking forward to read your comments which you can add below.
The Old Testament
Created With Purpose
In the beginning, God – who is holy and perfect in every way – created the heavens and the earth. God also created plants, animals and the first man called Adam – a direct descendant from God Himself. All was created good.
Man, however, was created extraordinarily good as he was created in the very image of God. Then God placed man in the middle of a garden and instructed him not just to tend to it, but to also guard and keep it. Why did Adam have to guard and keep the garden? Because he could lose it, as there was an enemy called Satan walking around who was not very happy about what God was doing.
God also gave Adam his first commandment, as He instructed him not to eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The instruction came with a warning, and God told Adam he would surely die if he ate of it.
God also gave Adam a helper, his wife, which Adam later named Eve. They were blessed to be fruitful, and to multiply. The idea was that the image of God would, through Adam and Eve, be multiplied all over the earth. God had habitual fellowship with Adam and Eve, and there was nothing between them and God.
This was the purpose of their existence: to be a family in habitual fellowship with God for all eternity. The purpose of man’s existence has not changed, which is the very reason why we have been entrusted with the Ministry of Reconciliation.
From Spiritual Freedom To Slavery
Unfortunately Adam did not do a very good job at guarding and keeping the garden, as Satan deceived Eve and persuaded her to sin. Eve, in turn, persuaded Adam and caused Adam to sin as well. That’s when everything went wrong. Instead of obeying God, Adam and Eve obeyed Satan. As they placed Satan above God, sin severed the relationship there was between God and Man.
Paul understood this principle and in Romans 6:16 he said, “Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)?”
Because sin came into the world, Adam and Eve found themselves to be naked as the glory of God with which they had been clothed with left them. Naked and afraid they tried to hide themselves from God. They also found themselves with a new master, Satan, to whom they had bowed their knee.
Consequences Of Sin
God then cursed the land and drove them out of the garden, but at the same time proclaimed His plan of redemption when He said in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.”
Once we understand this was a promise regarding Christ and the inevitable victory over Satan, we see Christianity is the oldest religion in the world.
After God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden, He had compassion on them and covered their nakedness with animal skin. Genesis 3:21 says, “For Adam also and for his wife the Lord God made long coats (tunics) of skins and clothed them.” By clothing them with animal skin, God demonstrated sin could and would only be atoned for by the shedding of blood – a theme that is found right throughout the Bible.
Furthermore, as a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve – together with all their future unborn children – died an instant spiritual death when they sinned. Genesis 5:3 says Adam had a son in his own likeness. Keep in mind that Adam was now spiritually dead. The first Adam’s nature had changed because of sin. Since the rest of us are all direct descendants of Adam, we are also born into sin with the same nature which Adam was left with when he sinned.
The Lineage Of The Messiah
However, to stay true to His promise in Genesis 3:15, God kept His hand over the lineage of Adam in spite of every attempt by Satan to wipe it out. This is evident throughout the Old Testament as we read the incredible events pertaining to the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and many others.
Adam’s son was Seth; his son was Enos; his son was Cainan; his son was Mahalaleel; his son was Jared; whose son was Enoch who remarkably prophesied about the 2nd return of Jesus Christ, as explained in Jude 14-15 which says, “It was of these people, moreover, that Enoch in the seventh [generation] from Adam prophesied when he said, Behold, the Lord comes with His myriads of holy ones (ten thousands of His saints) 15To execute judgment upon all and to convict all the impious (unholy ones) of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed [in such an] ungodly [way], and of all the severe (abusive, jarring) things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
Enoch’s son was Methuselah; his son was Lamech and his son was Noah.
More Judgment On Sin
In the days of Noah, the earth was full of the wicked deeds of men. Noah found favour in the Lord’s sight, and God warned of a flood which would wipe out all except for Noah and his household. This flood was a sign of God’s wrath and hatred towards sin, as God used the flood to exact punishment on the earth.
After the flood, the wickedness of men continued and at the Tower of Babel God dispersed the people by giving them different languages.
Even so, the lineage of the Messiah continued through Noah. Noah’s son was Shem; his son was Arphaxad; his son was Cainan; his son was Shelah; his son was Eber; his son was Peleg; his son was Reu; his son was Serug; his son was Nahor; his son was Terah; and his son was Abraham.
God Reveals More Of His Plan For Redemption
In Genesis 12:3, God revealed more of His plan for redemption when He said to Abraham, “And I will bless those who bless you [who confer prosperity or happiness upon you] and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed [and by you they will bless themselves].”
In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham and in Genesis 17 He confirmed the covenant when He said to Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting, solemn pledge, to be a God to you and to your posterity after you.”
It was also here that God instituted circumcision as a sign of His covenant with Abraham. This circumcision was a sign after Abraham believed and not before, since justification comes by faith and faith alone, and not by circumcision (see Romans 4).
After all these things, God instructed Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering on top of a mountain which God would show to him. This was the greatest test of Abraham’s faith, and in Hebrews 11:17-19 we read, “By faith Abraham, when he was put to the test [while the testing of his faith was still in progress], had already brought Isaac for an offering; he who had gladly received and welcomed [God’s] promises was ready to sacrifice his only son, 18Of whom it was said, Through Isaac shall your descendants be reckoned. 19For he reasoned that God was able to raise [him] up even from among the dead. Indeed in the sense that Isaac was figuratively dead [potentially sacrificed], he did [actually] receive him back from the dead.”
This event in Abraham’s and Isaac’s lives were far more significant than we could imagine. The more you study this the more you find evidence supporting that Isaac was not a small boy but probably a young adult (maybe about the same age Jesus was when He was offered as a sacrifice for our sins). In other words, Isaac willingly submitted himself to his father and gave himself as an offering. It would also seem the place where this took place was very close to where Golgotha was (where Jesus was crucified), if not in fact the actual place. It would seem Abraham and Isaac were acting out prophecy concerning our own redemption.
Isaac’s son was Jacob; Jacob’s son was Judah. In Genesis 49:10 God revealed more of His plan to fulfil His promise made in Genesis 3:15 when Jacob prophesied, “The sceptre or leadership shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah, the Peaceful One] comes to Whom it belongs, and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
From Physical Freedom To Slavery
After Jacob died, the people of Israel became slaves in Egypt. For 400 years the Israelites were severely oppressed. God heard their cry and sent His servant Moses to deliver them. Through Moses God performed mighty miracles and Israel was able to move out of Egypt and into the wilderness.
From Physical Slavery To Freedom
Just before the great exodus from Egypt, God instructed the Israelites to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of their homes. When the angel of the Lord came to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians, those who had the blood of the lamb on their doorposts were spared from the judgement
It should be noted that anyone who was covered by the blood was safe, regardless of nationality. Also, anyone who wasn’t covered by the blood was not spared from the judgement, whether Jew or Gentile.
After this judgement which was exacted upon Egypt through the death of each firstborn, the Israelites were able to move out of Egypt and into the wilderness.
The Levitical Law, Priesthood And First Temple
While in the wilderness, God came down and on Mount Sinai gave the Israelites their Law. “What then was the purpose of the Law? It was added [later on, after the promise, to disclose and expose to men their guilt] because of transgressions and [to make men more conscious of the sinfulness] of sin; and it was intended to be in effect until the Seed (the Descendant, the Heir) should come, to and concerning Whom the promise had been made. And it [the Law] was arranged and ordained and appointed through the instrumentality of angels [and was given] by the hand (in the person) of a go-between [Moses, an intermediary person between God and man].” – Galatians 3:19
When the Law was given, God came down in smoke and fire. I believe this was representative of the seriousness in which it was given. It also demonstrated God’s holiness and wrath, as anybody who would touch the mountain (apart from Moses) would have died. Exodus 19:18 says, “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, for the Lord descended upon it in fire; its smoke ascended like that of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.”
During this time in the wilderness, God lived in a tent which Moses built according to the Lord’s instructions. This was the first temple of God.
God also established the Levitical priesthood together with the instructions for the slaughtering of animals for the interim covering of sin.
The Israelites understood that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness for sin. The priest stood between the people and God as a mediator, presenting the sacrifice of the animals as an offering for the atonement of sin.
The Lineage Of The Messiah Preserved
From Israel’s time in the wilderness up to the time David was ordained as King of Israel, was quite a journey. It is good to know a full record of the genealogy of all the names was kept and is still available to us today (see Matthew 1 and Luke 3 for examples).
Don’t be confused by the apparent contradiction in names between Matthew and Luke. Matthew records the genealogy all the way to Jesus’ legal father, Joseph. Luke records the genealogy all the way to Mary, Jesus’ mother. Both lines were descended from David.
To further His promise made in Genesis 3:15, God said to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, “… I will set up after you your offspring who shall be born to you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for My Name [and My Presence], and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the stripes of the sons of men. 15But My mercy and loving-kindness shall not depart from him, as I took [them] from Saul, whom I took away from before you. 16And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you; your throne shall be established forever.”
The Second Temple
During his reign, King David developed a desire to build a real temple for the Lord to live in, which was to replace the tent erected during Moses’ time. David laid down all the plans for the temple before he died. His son, King Solomon, then took the plans and was able to execute the task and complete the work.
A Continual Struggle With Sin
The remainder of the Old Testament shows us how Israel would be in a continual cycle where they fall into sin, come under judgement because of their sin, and eventually repent. As Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, the Old Testament has a definite purpose as it is “profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin… …[and] for training in righteousness…”
Jesus In The Old Testament Concealed
Apart from all the wonderful things we learn about Israel, ourselves and about God, the ultimate significance of the Old Testament is to point us to Jesus. In John 5:39 Jesus said, “You search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently, because you suppose and trust that you have eternal life through them. And these [very Scriptures] testify about Me!”
Luke 24:27 says of Jesus, “Then beginning with Moses and [throughout] all the Prophets, He went on explaining and interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself.”
When you study the Old Testament history, events and persons like Moses who was a prophet, Joseph who was rejected then exalted, Melchizedek who was a priest and a king (just to name a few), it is startling to see how many parallels we can draw between certain events and the life of Jesus.
The New Testament
The Virgin Birth
From Adam to David the lineage was preserved. From David to Joseph (the natural father of Jesus) as well as from David to Mary (the birth-mother of Jesus) the lineage was preserved as well, in spite of severe attempts by Satan to destroy it and prevent God’s plan of redemption.
However, man’s blood is contaminated by sin. God predicted how He would overcome this problem when He said through the prophet in Isaiah 7:13-14, “… Hear then, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary and try the patience of men, but will you weary and try the patience of my God also? 14Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, the young woman who is unmarried and a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us].”
In Luke 1:35 the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a cloud]; for that reason the holy (pure, sinless) Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Jesus was not conceived by natural man but by God.
The Second Adam
This is why Jesus is referred to as the Second Adam. Like Adam came from the Father into the world without sin, so Jesus came from the Father and into the world without sin. Matthew 1:18-20 says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: When His mother Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit. 19And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly. 20But as he was thinking this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit.”
The Life Of Jesus – The Messiah Revealed
During His ministry Jesus preached incredible sermons, performed mighty miracles and gave mind-blowing teachings, while living a morally perfect life.
In short, Jesus lived the perfect life you and I were supposed to live. He was tempted in every way, yet He did not sin.
Then, because of His love for us, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for our sins and died the death you and I were supposed to die. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. He became the Passover Lamb who was slain for our sins.
This was a legal transaction taking place. The Second Adam undoing the work of the first Adam in His own life’s blood.
You and I broke God’s Moral Law for which the penalty is death, but Jesus came and paid the price on our behalf so we can be free instead. “Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. 8But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.” – Romans 5:7-8.
Then Jesus rose from the dead and the fine was paid.
The Plan Of Redemption Completed
When Jesus died and rose again, the promise made in Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled. Because this promise was fulfilled, salvation is now available to all who would repent from their sins and trust in the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
God can legally forgive us our sins because someone else – Jesus Christ – paid our fine on our behalf. The moment you repent of your sins, trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, asking God to forgive you because of the price Jesus paid on your behalf, you become born-again. This forgiveness can only be because of what Jesus did, and not because of any good deeds performed on our part.
In John 8:44 Jesus said, “… you are of your father the devil…” When we become born-again, we are adopted into God’s family and are no longer children of wrath. As Ephesians 1:5 says, “In love 5He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will”
This is a supernatural event that happens in the spirit.
From Spiritual Slavery To Freedom
Once you become born-again you are no longer a slave to sin. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favour and mercy].”
Unfortunately most people stop reading there instead of going on to the next verse which states, “What then [are we to conclude]? Shall we sin because we live not under Law but under God’s favour and mercy? Certainly not!”
Think about it this way: if a parent is unable to look after his own child because the parent has no financial means to do so, we can have sympathy for both the parent and the child. However, the laws of the country still hold the parent responsible for the child. If the parent remains unable to support the child, the state will be obligated to take the child from the parent and put him or her in foster care until the parent is able to resume his or her parental duties.
The state is, however, at liberty to provide the parent with financial support, in the hope that the family structure will not be disrupted and that the child will receive proper care from his biological parent. The state will now be of the opinion that the yoke of extreme poverty has been alleviated, and that poverty should no longer have dominion over that family.
What will our attitude be towards the parent if a few months later we find the child still neglected with no account of what the financial support has been used for? Having received grace from the state in the form of money did not take any responsibility away from the parent, when in fact it added to it.
In the same way, when we received freedom from the slavery of sin, how much bigger did the responsibility become not to sin? With freedom comes an even greater responsibility.
The Holy Spirit Received
After His resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise of returning soon. With His ascension He gave us the Great Commission: Go and preach the message of the Good News to all nations. To fulfil this task we have the assurance that we are not alone. John 14:26 says, “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.”
The Holy Spirit was poured out over the first believers and subsequently they spoke in tongues. All the people who gathered heard the gospel in their own language.
At the Tower of Babel division came when God confounded the language of the people. However, on the Day of Pentecost the people heard of the mighty works of God in their own languages, as God now wants to reconcile people to Him (Acts 2:11).
The same Holy Spirit encourages and equips us today.
All these things happened so man could be legally reconciled back to God. God gave us the Ministry of Reconciliation and has since been working with and through His people as they take this vision into all the earth.
The Third Temple
Before Jesus paid our fine it was not possible for God to dwell in the hearts of men, because sin had not been fully dealt with. That is why God inhabited the tent of meeting during Moses’ time, and then later the temple which King Solomon built.
However, it was God’s desire for man to be reconciled to Him, for man to be able to walk with Him again like in the days of Adam before he sinned. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]?”
God doesn’t dwell in a tent or a building anymore. When we evangelise effectively to someone who repents from their sins and accepts the price Jesus paid for them on the cross, God – through His Holy Spirit – enters that person’s heart and dwells within him or her. For every person who becomes born-again, God has another ‘dwelling place’ on the earth.
Ephesians 3:17-18 says, “May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, 18That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”
God has set a day aside in which He will return again. The next time, however, it will not be to save the world, but to judge the world in righteousness.
The goal of the Great Commission is to reconcile man to God, so man can be restored to the position he had before sin entered the world. When man is restored to this position, he is restored to a place where he walks in habitual fellowship with the Lord again, realising the purpose for his very existence (see Understand Your Purpose).
It also saves man from the coming wrath, as all those who are not born-again will burn in the lake of fire (see God Is A Judge).
Therefore, our Ministry of Reconciliation has a two-fold purpose:
- those who accept the biblical message of salvation are adopted as sons into God’s family as they are restored back to God, and
- those who are sons of God will escape the judgement and coming wrath of God.
Jesus is coming soon, and this is why Charles Thomas Studd said, ‘Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, Within a yard of hell.’