There are well-meaning Christians, even preachers, who in an attempt to reach the lost with what they believe is ‘the gospel’ are actually preaching the wrong gospel or mixing them together. For example, they will quote Mark 1:15, which is Jesus declaring….
(Mar 1:15 NASB) …. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
They believe they’re sharing ‘the gospel’, when in fact, Mark 1:15 is referring to the ‘gospel of the kingdom’, which was directed exclusively to Jews for a limited time.
It’s important that we first understand what gospel was being preached at the time of the events of the synoptic gospels and what gospel came later, after Jesus’ crucifixion death and resurrection.
During the time of Abraham, there was the gospel that all nations would be blessed by having salvation made available by faith.
(Gal 3:8) The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”
(Gal 3:9) So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
Of course, this gospel has lasted throughout the centuries and is still relevant today, since we are saved [from the kingdom of darkness] by the grace of God, through faith.
During the rest of the Old Testament time, the gospel shared to the saints was also shared to the Jews in the apostolic era, that rest was available in a future Messiah.
(Heb 4:2) For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
During the time of Jesus, there was the gospel of the kingdom, proclaiming the arrival of God’s heavenly rule on earth in the person of the Messiah, Jesus and later, all who believe on Him (Rev 1:6). This gospel was preached exclusively to Jews by Jesus, the disciples He sent out (the twelve and the seventy-two), and by the apostles for a limited time.
(Mat 4:23 NASB) Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
During the apostolic era, there was both the gospel of the kingdom (preached exclusively to Jews for a limited time), and the gospel of grace, preached by Paul to both Jews and non-Jews.
(Act 20:24) “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
(Also, Acts 9:15, 13:46, 28:17-28)
So far, we see there are at least four different gospels recorded in the bible. To determine which gospel should be preached today, we will turn to the last two now.
The Gospel Of The Kingdom
John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles all preached the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ to the Jews. The gospel of the kingdom was that God’s kingdom rule was beginning on earth, personified in the person of the Messiah and later, in and through all believers (Rev 1:6).
The purpose of the gospel of the kingdom:
John the Baptist taught that his ministry was for the benefit of Jesus’ revealing the gospel of the kingdom to Israel, not non-Jews.
John the Baptist says…. (Jn.1:31 ESV) “I myself did not recognize him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel”
The author of the gospel of Matthew says… (Mt.3:1-2 KJV).”In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”
Jesus also preached….” (Mar 1:15) and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
This is referring to the heavenly rule, the Messiah being ‘at hand’, among God’s chosen people, the Jews.
What was the gospel of the kingdom?
(Luk 4:15-21 NASB) And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
When John the Baptist, in prison, inquired about the identity of Jesus, Jesus replied….
(Luk 7:22 NASB) …. “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.
What was the “gospel to the poor”? The fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1-2 in Jesus Christ. This is what He preached when He went “…in the synagogue….as was His custom.”
Scriptural evidence showing that Jesus was preaching about His identity supports the above.
(Joh 10:24 NASB) The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
(Joh 10:25 NASB) Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.
Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom, identifying Him as the long-awaited Messiah and that the kingdom of God was in Him was a saving gospel for Jews who repented and believed it. Jesus said…
(Joh 8:24 NASB) “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
After Jesus’ resurrection, the gospel of the kingdom (identifying Jesus as the promised Messiah) was still being preached by the apostles and others, including Peter….
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36)
(Act 8:37 NASB) [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
(Act 17:2 NASB) And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
(Act 17:3 NASB) explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
(Acts18:28 NASB) “For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus is Christ”
This was obviously a very different gospel than what Paul preached, by which genuine believers today are being saved.
Later in Acts, Paul describes what the good news was.
(Act 26:22 NASB) “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;
(Act 26:23 NASB) that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Paul also reminds the Corinthians of what the gospel is…
(1Co 15:1-4 NASB) Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
It can be readily seen from the scriptures that the gospel Paul preached was entirely different from the gospel that Jesus preached. Both affirmed the Old Testament as a source of prophecy, looking forward to Jesus as the Messiah. Both utilized the power of God in salvation and was authenticated by supernatural miracles. Only one was exclusively directed to Jews. The gospel of the kingdom. The other was directed to primarily Gentiles (non-Jews) but included Jews. The gospel of grace.
Where was the gospel of the kingdom preached and to whom?
Jesus, the disciples and others preached the gospel of the kingdom to Jews, in Jewish cities and in Jewish synagogues.
(Luk 4:43 NASB) But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”
(Luk 4:44 NASB) So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
As Jesus sent the twelve disciples off to evangelize ahead of Him, He gave them explicit instructions to avoid non-Jewish cities. Jesus’ ministry was directed to Jews, and so was the disciple’s ministry.
(Mat 10:5 NASB) These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;
(Mat 10:6 NASB) but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Speaking to Jewish believers, Acts 1:3 teaches that Jesus expounded on the kingdom of God even after His resurrection.
(Act 1:3) To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom to Jews only. The disciples, including the twelve and the seventy-two preached the gospel to Jews only. Long after Jesus’ resurrection, and even after Paul’s conversion, the gospel of the kingdom was still being preached to Jews only.
(Acts 11:19) “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
The power of salvation was present in the gospel of the kingdom, just as it would be in Paul’s gospel of grace. Jesus told His disciples, before sending them out ahead of Him….
(Mat 10:7 NASB) “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
(Mat 10:8 NASB) “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
This of course was the model for the ministry of the apostles, as they also did miracles that authenticated the gospel to the Jews. The power of God for salvation was authenticated publicly through a ministry of healing and miracles. But after 70AD, when the gospel of the kingdom stopped being preached, these signs and miracles ceased.
This explains why during the ministry of Jesus, the twelve who were sent out, the seventy-two that were sent out and the ministry of the post-resurrection disciples, healing and other miracles were a prominent part of the presentation of the gospel to Jews (Acts 2:4, 43, 3:6, 5:12-16, 6:8, 8:6-7, 9:40,10:46, 14:3). However, nearing 70AD, even Jewish apostles and faithful believers remained sick at times, having to take medicine for frequent ailments (2 Cor 12:5-10, Col 4:14, 1 Tim 5:23, 2 Tim 4:20).
Even the gift of tongues was a sign gift to “unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:21-22), which were in that context, Jews. Paul affirms this when he quotes from Isaiah 28:11 “this people”, which is referring to Jews who were soon to be under judgment from God. The same was about to happen to the Jewish nation, when in 70AD, the Jewish temple was levelled, completely destroyed, bringing to a close the end of the Jewish age and its religion with man-made temples. The gospel of the kingdom gradually diminished with the passing of the apostles and what remained was the gospel of grace, which eventually was extended to Jews.
How long was the gospel of the kingdom preached?
(Mar 1:14) Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
Mark 1:14 is immediately after Jesus’ baptism by John and the forty days of temptation in the wilderness. Jesus returned to Galilee and began preaching the gospel of the kingdom to Jews from the beginning of His earthly ministry to its end, even beginning His ministry with the declaration of…
(Mar 1:15 NASB) …. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
In Matthew 24:1-28, Jesus is describing what the disciples can expect to see and experience just prior to and immediately after the destruction of the Jewish temple and the end of the Jewish nation. It is in this context that Jesus says…
(Mat 24:14 NASB) “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
(Mar 13:10 NASB) “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.
This was accomplished by the disciples who were commissioned to preach the gospel of the kingdom to Jews in all of the known world, the nations known to the apostles outside of Jerusalem.
(Mat 28:19 NASB) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
(Mat 28:20 NASB) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In fulfilment of Jesus’ command, the gospel of the kingdom, supplemented with news of Jesus’ crucifixion death and resurrection was preached to Jews all over the known world, beginning in Jerusalem with Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. Mark established the church in Alexandria, Egypt. Peter preached the gospel in Syria, Israel and Italy, and possibly Egypt. Andrew went to what is today western Russia, preaching the gospel in Greece and also Syria. Matthew (and also Simon the Zealot) went to Persia (today’s Iran) and also Ethiopia, where he was martyred.
Philip preached the gospel in northern Africa and much of what is known today as Turkey (Asia Minor). Bartholomew also went to Armenia and Asia Minor. Thomas is said to have preached the gospel in Syria and as far as eastern India. John the Revelator was banished to the Isle of Patmos, from which the Revelation was penned. And then the end came, the end of the Jewish temple and religion.
Since Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin, the destruction of the temple meant that God’s acceptance of animal sacrifices would also end. Thus, the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom ended with the end of the temple made by hands, because a new temple was being built, the temple built by and consisting of individual believers and the corporate body of Christ (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:22, 1 Pet 2:5).
Gospel Of Grace
While Peter continued preaching the gospel of the kingdom to Jews supplemented by the recent event of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Paul preached the gospel of the kingdom to Jews (Acts 2:25) and the ‘gospel of the grace of God’ to non-Jews (Acts 20:24).
(Act 20:24 NASB) “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
(Act 20:25 NASB) “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
Notice that he once had went about preaching the kingdom, but in context, was now preaching the gospel of grace.
The gospel of the kingdom was expected in fulfilment of Old Testament but Paul’s gospel came from direct revelation from God.
Speaking to Jews, John the Baptist said….
(Mat 3:3 NASB) For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”
Speaking to Jews, Jesus said….
(Joh 5:39 NASB) “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
(Luk 24:44 NASB) Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
In contrast, Paul’s gospel was received directly from God. Speaking to non-Jews, Paul said.…
(Gal 1:11 NASB) For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
(Gal 1:12 NASB) For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul also calls this the ‘grace of Christ’ (Gal 1:6) and alternatively, “my gospel” (Rom 2:16, 16:25 2 Tim 2:8), the ‘gospel of God’ (Rom 1:1, 15:16), the ‘gospel of His Son (Rom 1:9), the ‘gospel of Christ’ (Rom 1:16, 15:29).
The gospel of grace included the death (for sins), burial and resurrection of Jesus. Unlike the gospel of the kingdom, which had no crucifixion and resurrection components, Paul declares that he preaches
(1Co 1:23 NASB) but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,
(1Co 2:2 NASB) For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
And Paul specifies a resurrection component in his gospel in 2 Timothy 2:8.
(2Ti 2:8 NASB) Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,
Obviously, this is not the gospel Jesus was preaching. Thus far, we can see from the scriptures that there was a gospel of the kingdom directed exclusively to Jews, and there is the gospel of grace, based on Jesus’ crucifixion death for sins and subsequent resurrection directed to the entire world.
Notice that Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gospel he preached to them should be held fast to in order to bring about salvation.
(1Co 15:1 NASB) Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
(1Co 15:2 NASB) by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
There is no kingdom gospel being preached in 1 Cor 15:1-4. There is no mention of Jesus as Messiah inaugurating the kingdom of God in Himself and in those who follow Him. Paul is speaking to Corinthians who were non-Jews. This gospel had everything to do with Jesus’ crucifixion for sins and resurrection.
The good news of the kingdom was preached to Jews first by John the Baptist, Jesus and later, the apostles up to their deaths, all (with the exception of John on Patmos) dying in martyrdom before 70AD. The good news was preached to non-Jews by Paul, the gospel of Jesus’ death for sins, burial and resurrection. Both are the ‘gospel’ (good news) to each respective group of people.
Those who deny a dual-gospel understanding in the New Testament will often quote Romans 1:16 as evidence of there being only one gospel. Let’s take a closer look at it.
(Rom 1:16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The word ‘gospel’ literally means ‘good news’, so the ‘good news’ to Jews prior to 70AD was the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel to both Jews and non-Jews after 70AD was the gospel of grace, that Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead, evidence of being the living hope of forgiveness for all who repent and believe on Him.
That the gospel is defined as the ‘power of God for salvation for everyone who believes’ is not defining a single gospel message being the power of God, but rather, the good news of the kingdom as well as the good news of the grace of God.
Other verses commonly used to defend a ‘one gospel’ view are….
(Gal 1:6-8) I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
Those who appeal to Galatians 1:6-8 to support a ‘one gospel’ view simply haven’t exegeted the surrounded text to see what is being talked about. Those who were troubling the Galatians were Judaizers attempting to infiltrate the church and bring Christians under the heavy legalistic yoke of Judaism. Pertaining to this, Paul says…
(Gal 2:4 NASB) But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.
The threat of Judaist infiltration was so great that in response to the early church being plagued with forged epistles authored by Judaizers, Paul reminds some of the churches he writes to that his epistle bears the mark of his own hand.
(2Th 3:17 NASB) I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.
(Gal 6:11 NASB) See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Even the emphasis of the ‘first day of every week’ (which today we call ‘Sunday’) may have been used to cement his identity to the text, thereby differentiating between the Judaizer’s texts and authentic, Pauline texts. Forged or otherwise fraudulent Judiast texts would likely have not made references to a resurrection.
(1Co 16:2 NASB) On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
In Galatians 1:6-8, Paul is warning the Galatians about the ‘different gospel’ that he equates with actually not being a gospel at all when he says “….to a different gospel– not that there is another one…”
Paul is not making a blanket statement that there has never been and is no other gospel, but is referring to a specific problem the Galatians were facing with Judaist infiltrators. Paul knew there were multiple gospels being preached in the first century. We know this because he himself distinguished between preaching the kingdom to Jews (Acts 20:25) and the gospel of grace to non-Jews (Acts 20:24). We see another differentiation between the two gospels in….
(Gal 2:7 KJV) But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
Two gospels. One of the uncircumcision (non-Jews) and one gospel ‘of the circumcision’ (Jews).
Paul says in Galatians 2:2….
(Gal 2:2 NASB) It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.
If there was only one gospel for both Jews and non-Jews, why would Paul need to specify the gospel he preaches ‘among the Gentiles’ ?
As we have seen from multiple scriptures within their proper context, there was a gospel to the Jews before and for a limited time, after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and there is today a gospel to both Jews and non-Jews that has endured past 70AD. Today, it is this gospel, Paul’s gospel that should be preached far and wide.
Notable differences between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of grace.
The gospel of the kingdom did not include the crucifixion death (for sins) and resurrection of Jesus when Jesus and the disciples preached it since Jesus had not been crucified and resurrected yet. Peter includes it though in his preaching on the day of Pentecost, the first time during this transitional period that it would be preached to Jews as way to verify Jesus’ identity as Messiah.
The earliest Jewish Christian converts were saved by repentance of unbelief in Jesus as Messiah and baptism (like John the Baptist’s ministry). The later, Gentile (non-Jewish) converts were saved by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus based on His crucifixion death and resurrection.
The gospel of the kingdom was the identification of the Messiah (Jesus) with the kingdom of God in Him.
The gospel of grace is defined primarily by the crucifixion death (for sins) and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is what Paul preached to non-Jews.
The gospel of the kingdom was proclaimed by John the Baptist, Jesus, the Twelve and the Seventy-Two.
The gospel of grace was proclaimed by Paul.
The gospel of the kingdom was preached only to Jews.
The gospel of grace was preached primarily to non-Jews though Jews were included later.
Early Jewish believers who believed the gospel of the kingdom retained zealous torah keeping (Acts 21:20).
Early Gentile believers who believed the gospel of grace had a limited set of torah requirements (Acts 15:20,29).
The gospel of the kingdom brought forgiveness through repentance, faith, baptism and good works (John the Baptist’s ministry).
The gospel of grace brings forgiveness through repentance from sin (including unbelief) and faith with obedience being evidence thereof.