The book of Genesis is foundational for understanding the Gospel. The Gospel is the climax of the story of Israel and Genesis is the foundation of that story. According to Genesis, the human race was created to provide good government for God’s good earth.
Then God said, “Let us make Man in our own image, according to Our likeness; let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26
It has been my experience that most evangelicals I know subtly assume that this original intention of God was more or less abandoned after Genesis 3 when sin entered into the world. “The Gospel” is understood in this context to be a rescue from and an abandonment of a botched creation project. While many western evangelical Christians will affirm that the world has many positive qualities, most will also assume that the presence of evil is so strong that we must now say that, “this world is not my home, I’m only passing through.” Torture chambers, prison camps, child molestation, full-term abortions, and the like have convinced us that the world is irredeemably evil and any vocation to bring God’s wise order and justice into it is certainly no longer applicable. The world appears to be going to Hell in a handbasket.
What most evangelicals believe to be our calling is to be rescuers of people who are going to Hell. And with this, I fully agree. However, the “rescue” in this case is not from one handbasket going in the direction of a post-Mortem world called “Hell”, in order to be placed in another handbasket going to another post-Mortem world called “Heaven”. Rather, it is a rescue that pulls humans out of the path of destruction and back into the vocation of bringing God’s renewing, recreating, good order to God’s good world. The author of Genesis 1 and 2 knows perfectly well that Genesis 3 is coming. I don’t believe that the author would labor to tell us about the human vocation only to say, “Well, we missed that boat. Too bad.” The reason the book of Genesis exists at all is because the nation of Israel had hope for the rescue of God’s creation project. Indeed, not only did Israel have hope, they embodied the hope that God offered to the world. Israel was and is God’s loud “no!” to the idea of abandonment of God’s creation project. The Gospel is good news for the planet earth. It is not simply or even primarily good news about the hope of a better after-life. It is the good news of God’s commitment to rescuing and renewing His creation project. Remember, the Gospel, according to Mark 1:15, is something that could be preached before Jesus died and before anybody had worked out theories of the cross as atonement for individual sin. The Gospel that Jesus preached was, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” In other words, God is becoming king on earth - as He already is in Heaven.” Or as the New Testament seer declared,
“The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever.” Revelation 11:15.