Ask a committed, evangelical Christian what the gospel is and most will respond that it’s the good news of “the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus” (Michael Horton, “The Good God Who Came Down,” Christianity Today, December 2011, 28). He or she might also add that if you believe this gospel and in Him, then when you die you will go to heaven and not hell. Thus, the gospel is all about “our redemption in Jesus Christ” (Ibid., 29).
This was not the gospel Jesus came proclaiming. Jesus did not come into Galilee preaching Jesus or that He was going to die so that when you die you could go to heaven. Nor was Jesus asking people the question Evangelism Explosion has made so popular for several decades—“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would go—heaven or hell?” Fact is, the gospel Jesus preached had absolutely nothing to do with redemption and his dying and going to heaven so that when we die we can go to heaven—until approximately the three-year point in his 3 ½-year ministry.
What Scripture Says
For the first three years Jesus’ gospel was all about the kingdom of God on earth, in this life, and as a there-and-then present reality (Mark 1:14-15). And as we have seen, this gospel of the kingdom was also his central teaching, at the heart of his ministry, his worldview, and the very essence of New Testament Christianity. This gospel dealt with the ethical question ‘How then should we live?’ Today, this gospel of the kingdom is no longer the central teaching of most of his Church, at the heart of its ministry, its worldview, or its very essence. Red flag! What has happened? What has changed? Yes, we do have a problem here, Houston!
It was only at the approximate three-year point in his earthly ministry that Jesus began teaching about his upcoming death and what that would mean—“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matt. 16:21).
- Gospel reductionism.
- Steadfast resistance.
- Dysfunctional Christianity ripe for reform.
- Redefining the gospel.
- Hell Yes / Hell No by John Noe
- A Once-Mighty Faith (future book – est. 2014-15) by John Noe
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- The Great Omission by Dallas Willard