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
There can be no clearer nor simpler proclamation of the Gospel: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” And what does it mean for something to be “at hand”? It means it is happening now.
Revelation 11:17 makes the Gospel claim like this: “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.” (NASB).
The Western world has long considered “the Gospel” to be something concerning where human spirits go when they die. But the Gospel is something far more present and far more now. Jesus is King, and His Kingdom is now; this is the good news.
Now that we have made a clear and simple proclamation of the Gospel, do you believe it? Look around and tell me if you think it looks like God is in charge of the world because this is our confession.
“If I cast out the demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Luke 11:20
And Jesus DID cast out demons; therefore, the Kingdom has come. If the power to cast out demons is the evidence Jesus gives for the Gospel, it is imperative that we Christians cast out demons today to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel. Jesus commanded His disciples, saying,
“As you go, preach saying, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8
But you might say, “If the Kingdom of God is here, why do we still wrestle with demons? Why do we still have cancer, war, tyrants, and taxes? Why are children still trafficked, and why do evil rituals occur at night?” Jesus spoke a series of parables, collected in Matthew’s Gospel, to address questions like these by explaining what the “Kingdom of Heaven is like.”
Matthew, being a devoted Jew, uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.” It was a regular practice of devote Jews to say “Heaven” in place of the name of Yahweh in an effort to revere the name by not using it excessively. But by “Kingdom of Heaven,” Matthew is clearly not referring to a Kingdom up in the sky somewhere or in another realm but to the Kingdom of God which comes down out of Heaven. In the following parable, it is clear that Matthew does not intend to compare the final great destination that many Westerners envision with a loaf of bread with yeast in it. Jesus said,
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33
Jesus is describing the subtle way of God’s kingdom, unseen by many, like a hidden ingredient that nobody notices until they see its effect. When they put the yeast in the bread, it is “hidden,” but nobody can disguise or deny its rising effect. So, there is a slowness and subtly to God’s kingdom, which is not what many expected.
The Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God was coming. “God’s Kingdom,” replied Jesus, “isn't the sort of thing you can watch and see coming. People won't say, ‘Look, here it is’ or ‘Look over there!’ No: God's kingdom is within your grasp.” Luke 17:20-21
In other words, God’s rule and reign is so subtle and subversive that you can look right at it and miss it if you are not looking for the correct thing.
John the Baptist, who first announced Jesus as the Messiah, began to doubt Jesus while he rotted away in Herod’s prison. John sent messengers to Jesus to ask, “Are you (really) the One? Or should we look for someone else?” Jesus told John’s messengers to report to John everything that they saw and heard: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” Matthew 11:5NTE.
By “the poor have the Gospel preached to them,” Jesus did not mean that He was teaching poor people the Sunday school lessons you and I heard in Church about Heaven, Hell, and sin. Jesus implies that the healing and deliverance among the poor IS THE POOR HEARING THE GOSPEL.
And Jesus adds this to the message He sends to John: “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Matthew 11:6. In other words, do not doubt the Gospel you have heard simply because things don't look exactly as you imagined.
The Gospel has not changed. “The Gospel” is not now a collection of doctrines we find in Paul to which we give mental assent, and thereby earn a right to eternal life (the irony of many Reformed presentations of “the Gospel” is that it practically teaches that adherence to the doctrine “by grace alone, through faith alone,” becomes the work you must do to inherit eternal life.) The Gospel is still found in “the gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and the “good news” is still the arrival of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Gospel announcement is still legitimated, and its reality is made known through healing the sick and casting out demons.
I and many others are often like John the Baptist when we experience sorrow, pain, or difficulties we don't understand. When we pray for healing but don't see it, we tend to doubt the Gospel, and we begin to think that maybe nothing much in the world changed after all. But we need to go back and remember what we have seen and heard: the blind did begin to see, the lame did walk, demons really are evicted, Jesus really did rise from the dead, and how blessed are we when we are not offended by God doing things His way. May we learn to better know God’s ways and cooperate with them rather than doubting and accusing God when things don't happen in the way we think they should. And in this humble surrender, we will agree with the Gospel prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
“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 NIV
The Gospel is only visible to those “with eyes to see.” Only those who are willing to let God be God His way, “who don't take offense at Me,” will be able to see Him in His Glory. But make no mistake, believe it or not, God’s Kingdom is here and that's a fact, it's “news” in fact, something that happened in world history whether you like it, know it, believe it, or not. The Gospel
is news, not advice.
Come and be healed and know the truth of the Gospel.