There are many important questions regarding the Gospel because of its centrality to the Bible. The Bible we have today would not exist without the Gospel which threads through all of Scripture and binds it together. The introduction to the Gospel of Mark is not only important for understanding the rest of the book. It is also very important in understanding what the Gospel is.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14-15 ESV
In “The One Sermon” I explained that the entirety of Jesus’ message was the Gospel. The Gospel according to Jesus is the news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. It had been long anticipated and it had finally arrived. The second part of his message depended on the first. Jesus spoke about the correct response to this news which is to actually believe it. I have explained elsewhere the Gospel is not a piece of advice but the news of an event that is happening. In journalistic terms the Gospel is a story that is breaking or developing.
When you take a critical look at the introduction to Mark you realise it is laden with meaning. There is a lot to unpack. The authors of the Bible did not write to us so they did not address the questions we might have. In addressing the issues we have in the text we need to understand the issues that were important to them and then see how the Scriptures address them.
When Jesus said the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand he did not pause to explain what the kingdom of God was. Jesus’ audience perfectly understood what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. However, Mark and other gospel writers show us they did not quite understand the nature of it and its implications. There was a promise, an expectation, and Jesus had come to tell them it was finally happening. What they were waiting for had finally arrived.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord – Romans 1:1-4 ESV
Many separate the Gospels and the Epistles in their thinking because they think they address different issues. The Gospels are what you need to believe to be a Christian and the Epistles are what you need to do now that you are a Christian. This distinction is not accurate. Paul as a Jew contemporary to Jesus would have understood what he meant by saying the long wait had ended. As an apostle God had given him special insight into the mystery of the Gospel for the sake of the Church. Paul describes the wait Jesus alluded to as the expectation of the Messiah whom God had promised his people and is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. (I explain the meaning of Messiah in greater detail in the post of the same name.) In comparing both these passages in Mark 1 and Romans 1 we can say Paul is directly relating the Kingdom of God to God’s chosen King.
The question of whether Jesus was the Messiah was very important to the people of Israel. For there to be a kingdom there has to be a king. To say the Kingdom of God has arrived there has to be a tangible sign of which the most important is the presence of the king himself. Proclaiming the kingdom implied there was an heir apparent and Jesus behaved precisely as if he was the chosen one. They heard his preaching and observed his actions. He acted as a man with Messianic authority but he never explicitly admitted in public to being the Christ until he was arraigned before authorities.
What did Jesus mean by the ‘kingdom of God?’ In the most famous prayer in the Bible he sheds light on this.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:9-10 ESV
The coming of the Kingdom means the dominion and order of God being established on the earth. When we observe the pain, suffering, death and general evil in the world, the only hope for the creation is in God taking charge. The creation is not only what God has made. The creation is his dominion and he is absolutely sovereign over it.
Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. – Hebrews 2:5-10 ESV
The Scriptures give us crucial insight into why the world is the way it is. This passage from Hebrews quotes Psalm 8 which in turn alludes to Genesis 1. Man being made in the image God meant that God had given him authority over the earth. God had given man his own sphere of dominion within his Kingdom. The Genesis narrative shows us that the creation was good which meant it functioned according to divine order and purpose. The continued good of the creation required that man would obey God and thereby fulfilling his role in the created order of God’s kingdom. We do not yet see everything in subjection to mankind because man sinned and rebelled against God. The divine order of God’s kingdom had been disrupted bringing pain and suffering into the world.
Life in this world is punctuated by death. From Genesis it is apparent that the death is not the will of God. In the new world the author of Hebrews was speaking about, death did not have the final say. Through the death and the resurrection of Jesus God broke the power of death and initiated a new order, a new creation not subject to death.
It was the disobedience of Adam that prevented the will of God being done on earth. It is also through a man, Jesus Christ, that God is re-establishing his will on earth.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1:15-20 ESV
Paul in Colossians describes Jesus as the physical embodiment of God. The story of the Gospel is that God has become king in and through the man Christ Jesus. God is taking charge of the creation by Jesus his Son.