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Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,” (Luke 24:45–46, ESV)


He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, died, and was buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.- The Apostle’s Creed, lines 6-9


For many, including me, the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the bedrock of the Christian faith. That Jesus suffered and rose from the dead is the fifth essential element of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Let me outline some reasons for this belief and how it is so central to the good news of the kingdom of God. 



First, let’s look at Jesus’ suffering. Jesus’ life and teachings challenged the religious and political authorities of his time. They challenge us in our time as well. It seemed like at some place and time every religious, economic, social, and political faction wanted either to co-opt Jesus or to do away with Him.  He spoke of love, forgiveness, and a coming Kingdom of God that was open to all who would receive Him. These teachings encouraged the masses of people, but also upset the status quo. 


As Jesus’ ministry gained popularity and traction with the crowds He would periodically remove himself from them. As His popularity grew, so did his exposure. Jesus didn’t want to come out publicly too soon. He foretold his disciples that he would have to suffer and die. The first occurrence of this was when Jesus and the disciples were in the region of Caesarea Phillipi and Jesus asked who they believed He was. After the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, was when Jesus began to tell them about His suffering, death and subsequent resurrection. 



From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21, CSB)


Luke shorten’s Matthew's account. Jesus reminds them of this at least three more times (Mark 9:30-32; Matthew 20:17-19; and Matthew 26:1-2) just before the religious leaders enacted their plot to eliminate Jesus. Yet each time the disciples’ reaction was one of confusion or fear. 


When Jesus met at night with Nicodemus, as described in the Gospel of John, He told Nicodemus that “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14–16, CSB)


So it was not a surprise to Jesus that he would suffer and die. He tried to make it an “open secret” with the apostles, but they could not comprehend it, yet. Even the powers of darkness could not see this plan of God. As Pau wrote: “None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8, CSB)


Second, let’s look at Jesus' death. The Scripture says that Jesus was crucified. His death by crucifixion is well attested by both Scripture and valid non-Christian sources. I don’t want to get bogged down into an apologetic, but here are just a few of the extra-biblical authors who reference the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth outside of Jerusalem. 


  • Tacitus: A Roman historian writing around 110 AD, Tacitus mentions the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate in his work "Annals" [Tacitus Annals]. This is considered a strong confirmation of the crucifixion by a non-Christian source.

  • Josephus: A Jewish historian from the 1st century AD, Josephus mentions Jesus in two passages in his works, "Antiquities of the Jews" and "Jewish Wars" [Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Jewish Wars]. The authenticity of these passages, particularly the longer one, is debated by scholars, but they do offer some information about Jesus from a Jewish perspective.

  • Pliny the Younger: A Roman governor, Pliny the Younger, wrote letters to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD. In one, he discusses how to deal with Christians, mentioning their belief in a man named Christ who was executed [Pliny the Younger Letters].


In fact, the crucifixion is easily one of the most secure historical facts of the New Testament. As important as the question of Jesus’ death is, a question of greater importance is, “Why did Jesus need to suffer and die?” 



Third, let’s look at the meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus. The suffering of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross is seen as a sacrifice. It is actually viewed as the complete, one and only sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. The biblical teaching is that humanity is inherently flawed by sin and therefore separated from the holy creator God. Jesus, through his sinless life, willingly took on the burden of humanities sin, enduring immense physical, emotional and spiritual pain reconciling us to God.


Jesus is the only one who could do this. He is the Son, the second person of the triune God. He took on flesh and lived the life of a sinless man and therefore was able to become the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of humanity. As the Scriptures say:


He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, CSB)


This is theologically called the penal substitutionary death of Christ. God is holy, righteous and love. There are moral principles that are inherent in the framework of reality that come from God Himself. Justice is one of these. 


God could not just forgive sins, there had to be a payment. The scales of justice needed to be balanced. If humanity were to pay, if each of us were to pay for our own sins before a holy, just and yes, loving God, we would be banished to hell. Hell is what we would deserve. Friends, hell is what we deserve. But God, rich in mercy and love, sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might live and die for us in our place. That is the substitutionary part. John the Baptist called Him “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, CSB). Jesus took the punishment for sin in our place. That is the penal part. Jesus’ suffering and death acts as a bridge, allowing for reconciliation and a restored relationship with God. 


But, how do we know that the suffering and death of Jesus actually satisfied the justice of God? How do we know we truly can be forgiven? Well, we wouldn’t if Jesus had stayed dead in the grave. The Apostle Paul stated that himself when he wrote “If Christ is dead, you are still in your sins.” But Paul went on to say, “But as it is, Christ is raised from the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20). 



Last, let’s look at what the resurrection of Jesus means to us as believers. The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that death is not the end. It offers the hope that through faith in Jesus Christ, believers can experience eternal life with God. We can have a new beginning, to live free from the failures and regrets of the past and to look forward into the future. No longer are you estranged from God. Through Christ you are adopted into his family and made a child of God. Nothing can ever take that away. 


This passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is so helpful and hopeful. Please take a moment to read and to really let it get into your heart.


But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4–10, CSB)


This is what God has done with you when you believe and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. You are saved by grace as a gift from God. You are to then live your life as a gift back to Him. Your life has meaning and purpose both now and for eternity. 



So when you think of the tremendous sacrifice of Christ, think of what it has done for you. This will cause your heart to swell with gratitude and love. For God loves you yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. The resurrection is proof positive that He will keep his word. 

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Jesus is the Messiah

Messiah: The promised savior and deliverer, foretold in the Old Testament scriptures, who is believed to be the anointed one of God, sent to redeem and save humanity from sin and bring about God's kingdom on earth.


Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”” (Matthew 16:16, CSB)


When we think about the good news of the kingdom of God we must, even early on, consider the Messiah. Every kingdom has a king. This king, this Messiah, according to the Scriptures is the one who will bring the manifestation of the kingdom of God on this earth. 


Jesus is the Messiah is the fourth of the nine essentials of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. 

The big question to consider is Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah and how would we know?


There are actually a lot of reasons for believing that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Messiah. In fact, I can’t think of another person in history who would match up to the qualifications that Jesus brings to the table. 


You may ask, “Well, what are some good reasons for believing that anyone, let alone, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah?” It’s a good question. I’ll list eight reasons, then I’ll look more in depth at three of them. Here are the eight.


  1. Fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures.

  2. Miracles performed by Him.

  3. His life and teachings. 

  4. His claim and demonstration of authority.

  5. His death and resurrection.

  6. The transformation of His followers.

  7. The birth and growth of the early church.

  8. The continuing impact of  personal meaning, purpose and transformation of individuals throughout history to today. 


There could be more listed, but I believe that I’ve covered the big ones. Now let’s move from the eight to what I call the big three. 


Scriptures in a manger

The first of the big three is also number one in the above list: Fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) for over one thousand years specifically promised a coming Messiah. These Scriptures spoke of the Messiah’s lineage, his substitutionary suffering, and the occasion and place of his birth. 


While we could look back even further, it was at the time of King David that God specifically linked a future descendant of David to establishing an everlasting kingdom. 


Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.’ ”” (2 Samuel 7:16, CSB)


“The LORD said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah” (Psalm 89:3–4, CSB)


Besides the Messiah coming out of the lineage of David, this Messiah would also be born in the city of David, Bethlehem according to the Scriptures.


Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2, CSB)


The fulfillment. 


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,” (Matthew 2:1, ESV)


Besides the Scriptures citing the Messiah as coming from the line of David and his place of birth, I want to touch on just a few others. I’ll just make reference to them. 


  • Isaiah 53. This passage speaks of a suffering servant bearing the punishment of the sin of others. Christians believe that Jesus did this on the cross. 

  • Messianic Psalms. In speaking of the cross. Psalm 22 is a description of the scene of the crucifixion from the standpoint of the crucified Jesus. What is amazing in this as in all these Scriptures is that they were written hundreds and even over one thousand years before. 

  • Book of Daniel. Especially note chapter 9:24-27 which is interpreted by Christians as a prophecy outlining the Messiah’s arrival and his sacrificial death. 


For more on this prophetic subject, I direct you to the Gospel According to Matthew. This gospel was written with a Jewish audience in mind and includes multiple references to the Old Testament Scriptures demonstrating that Jesus fits the bill to be the promised Messiah. 


Jesus preparing to wash feet

The second of the big three would be Jesus’ ministry. This would include his life, his teaching and his miracles. His life was marked by acts of selfless love and service. He associated himself with those rejected by greater society. He washed his disciples’ feet. He and others claimed that He lived a sinless life, which was to be characteristic of the Messiah. 


When looking at Jesus’ teaching, He championed love, forgiveness and compassion. This resonated with the people. His “Sermon on the Mount” is considered by many to be the greatest sermon ever preached and it was completely counter-cultural. This can be found in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5-7. 


Jesus giving a hand to help

In addition to these teachings, Jesus challenged the status quo. In the later part of His earthly ministry He came into more and more conflict with religious and civil authorities. He advocated for the marginalized and criticized hypocrisy wherever he encountered it. 


The last of the big three is Jesus’ death and resurrection. This death and resurrection are considered a fulfillment of prophecy as well. Peter, in his sermon preserved for us in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2 explains as much. But aside from that, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is considered the ultimate sign of His divinity and power over death. Only God can conquer death and Jesus rising from the grave validates His claims as being the Son of God and the Messiah. With Jesus’ resurrection, it also gives all who will believe in Him the hope of eternal life. 


Jesus after resurrection with sun showing through pierced hands

For those who don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, I ask the question, “Then who else could be?” Who would better fit the job description than Jesus? Dallas Willard challenged a person on one occasion by stating:  “If you can find someone better than Jesus, then follow him. Who do you have?” That person was speechless. I think this is an appropriate challenge. Many may refuse to believe Jesus is the Messiah, but who do they have that is better? 


One last observation I want to make is about expectations and the Messiah. The rejection of Jesus as the Messiah for many in that day was due to their preconceived notions about what the Kingdom of God was going to be like and how the Messiah would come and introduce it. It appears that most wanted a political savior. Some scholars have thought that Judas' betrayal was a way for him to force Jesus’ hand and to overthrow the corrupt Jewish religious class and the oppressive Roman government. Yet, even the disciples were as blind to what God was doing. Jesus had to open their eyes and it wasn’t until the coming and filling of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when the church was born, that they truly understood the mystery of God. 


Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus in order to persecute Christians when he met the resurrected Christ. This meeting changed his life. It took a revelation of God for Saul to believe. Perhaps that is what it will take for many that they may believe. But still we are commanded by our king to share the good news of the Kingdom with all peoples. Read the words of encouragement by Saul, who became known as the Apostle Paul. 


But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 

But, as it is written, 

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:7–10, ESV)


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Kingdom of God is Available

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, ESV)


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)


The gospel (good news) about the kingdom of God is that we can live right now in it. I frequently refer to this “gospel of the kingdom” instead of just saying, “the gospel” because I want to differentiate between the popular gospel of the atonement and this good news that you can live in the kingdom of God right now. This is the heart of why I am using terminology about the “gospel of the kingdom” instead of just saying the “gospel”. 


Quote on ticket to heaven

It’s not just semantics. Neither are there two gospels. There is only one, but it is my position that we have focused so much on the gospel of atonement that we have missed the larger and all encompassing gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. The gospel of atonement which has been preached is that Jesus died for your sins and if you confess, repent and believe in Jesus and what He did for you at the cross, you will be saved and go to heaven when you die. Romans 10:9-10 certainly confirm this. But from this kind of preaching and teaching, one could come to believe that Jesus saves us for heaven but the rest of life is up to us. You may have your ticket to heaven but what does that do for you today? 


Not everyone has been taught this narrow gospel of the atonement. I had. In revivals we were admonished to “get right with God and be saved.” Then we were told to live the life that God wants us to live, basically on our own power. Heaven was taken care of, but everyday life was up to us. Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, inviting someone to church, giving and service were the barometric measurements of our Christianity.  


Us into heaven or heaven into us here and now.

To me, it just seems Jesus had a different view of what the good news of the kingdom was about. His was more the “inside out” focus rather than the “outside in” focus. In my experience with churchianity, the measurements of our faith were about what we did, not about who we were, or who we had now become. The gospel of atonement focuses on getting us into heaven, but the gospel of the kingdom focuses on getting heaven into us. 


When Jesus said in Mark 1:15 that “The time is fulfilled”, he didn’t mean that it was about to be fulfilled or that it would be fulfilled sometime in the future. Jesus said the opportunity was here now. At this moment the waiting is over. Time had reached the culminating point. It has reached its peak. 


You may wonder how I’ve arrived at that conclusion. It is because the verb in the original Greek for “fulfilled” is in the perfect, passive and indicative, third person singular. To put it simply, one might say the egg timer set by God has dinged, and those in the spiritual realm have heard it go off. 


Time is up

Jesus then goes on to say what the results of this “ding” brings. He says, “God’s kingdom is at hand.” In other words, it has come near, near enough for us to have access to it. When we look at the whole phrase, Jesus is telling us that over time the opportunity for us to have access to be a part of God’s kingdom and to enjoy its blessings has been moving toward us, but today, at this moment, right now this is the peak. Access to God and his blessings for your life will never be greater nor more accessible. 


This brings up three important questions. First, why would God do this? It was because of his great love for us (John 3:16). It was also because of His promise. God took on flesh and came to earth as the man, Jesus the Messiah. He is the promised one from long ago. In the Garden of Eden God made the promise of one who would come and destroy the works of the enemy (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8) and create a people for God and His kingdom “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:5–7, ESV)

 

Second, how would He make His kingdom open to us who are so far away? This is best answered by Scripture. I like the way the New Century Version reads: 

Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant. And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross. So God raised him to the highest place. God made his name greater than every other name so that every knee will bow to the name of Jesus— everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and bring glory to God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11, NCV)


A view of the cross from the tomb

Third, why would He do this at this particular moment in history? The Scriptures say, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,” (Galatians 4:4, ESV) We can only speculate why the incarnation of the second person of the triune God came when He did. Perhaps it was the right time due to the Roman Empire’s enforcement of peace, the road system and ability to travel throughout the known world at that time. The Greek civilization had provided a language for Scripture that is most expressive, as well as a common language across the empire for communication. In addition to these things, there are the Jewish synagogues that were scattered around the world, making what we call the Old Testament known in its concepts of God and man. These synagogues became the first preaching points for Paul’s missionary work. 


As a result of this great news, this gospel of the Kingdom, Jesus tells us how to enter into it in the last part of Mark 1:15. There are two things. First, repent. I’ve written on this before, and I will write on it more in the future, because it is one of the essential elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. In a nutshell, “repent” is to change one’s mind. For us, it is to change our mind about who we think God is, what he has done for us, who we are, and what we are to do. So in short, repent means a lot of changing!


Repentance is a change of mind.

Second, Jesus tells us to “believe in the gospel.” This is to actually place your faith in what Jesus is saying about the Kingdom of God. In short, he is calling us to place our trust for life here and now and the hereafter in Jesus. To place our faith in Him means that we adjust our lives to this new reality. When we do, God meets us. 


Jesus even tells us to pray that the reality of God’s kingdom will be felt more and more in this earth. I’m beginning to understand when I pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means that I am praying for God’s kingdom rule and reign to be in me first. 



Perhaps you have entered into God’s Kingdom through the new birth (John 3:3), but you still find yourself by the kingdom of this world. Praying that part of the Lord’s prayer could be a very effective way to make living in the Kingdom of God now a reality. 

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