What is “the gospel of the kingdom”?

9Marks: It’s very popular these days to talk about “the gospel of the kingdom.” Many people claim that when Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) he was preaching a message about the overthrow of evil government powers, the transformation of society, and the lifting up of the poor. All kinds of revolutionaries can get behind these ideas. But is that what the Bible means when it speaks about the gospel of the kingdom? Not exactly. When Philip the evangelist preached “the good news about the kingdom of God,” men and women believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). This “gospel of the kingdom” called them to turn from their sin, trust in Jesus Christ and begin a new life, symbolized by baptism. On the other hand, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God coming near (Mk. 1:15), he is referring to something truly revolutionary. He means that with his own coming to earth, God’s saving rule and

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The Binding of Satan

Douglas F. Kelly: Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible that speaks of “the millennium”—the thousand-year reign of the triumphant Christ on earth. Nowhere else does Holy Scripture mention this word, so it is necessary to look at related teachings elsewhere in Scripture to understand what it means in Revelation. A sound principle of biblical interpretation (used from ancient times by Augustine, Tychonius, and other early Christian writers) is that one interprets the few mentions of a word or concept in light of the many, and the symbolic in light of the plain. It would be contrary to a clear understanding of the Scriptures to make the many fit into the one, or the plain into the symbolic. Therefore, we should understand what Revelation 20, a highly symbolic book, says about the millennium in light of the very large number of other biblical passages that tell us more plainly (and less symbolically) what occurs between Christ’s resurrection and

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The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  — Hebrews 13:8 Jared Wilson: Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. When we put our minds long to the idea of Jesus being 100 percent God and simultaneously 100 percent man, they naturally feel overwhelmed. The orthodox doctrine of the incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and salvifically necessary, but it is nevertheless utterly inscrutable. And that’s okay. In

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What Did Jesus Believe About the Bible?

Paul Carter: Recently I wrote about the 3 different ways that Post Evangelicals are relating to the Bible. The more conservative group will tend to appeal to the Protestant Reformers while the more progressive folks will cite Origen or Gregory of Nyssa. While it is interesting and helpful to be guided by history, the past can be used to support just about anything. As the wise man of the Old Testament said: What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV) Today’s novel interpretation is likely a repackaged version of yesterday’s discarded heresy. A footnote is not a foundation. Rather than grasping for a quote from the sixth or sixteenth century, Christians ought to be primarily concerned to study the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word of God. He is the Spirit of Prophecy. He is God in the flesh, so if

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Glory of the Newborn King

Caleb Cangelosi: Of all the hymns written about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the words of Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” are among the most theologically dense and substantive–because all five stanzas are filled with Scriptural truths about Jesus. Before considering the Christology of this beautiful carol, though, it will help us to recall a little of the fascinating and ironic history behind it. Charles Wesley first penned the words of this poem in 1739, a year after his conversion. He originally wrote ten shorter stanzas, without a refrain, and his first two lines were “Hark! How all the welkin rings // Glory to the King of Kings.” Nearly all of us today would ask, “What on earth is a welkin?” A welkin is actually not “on earth” at all. Rather, it is the archaic English word referring to the sky or the celestial sphere where the angels dwell with God. Fifteen years after Wesley first wrote his poem,

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The Word Became Flesh! A Meditation on the Paradoxes of the Incarnation

Sam Storms: I’ve often said that the single most amazing, mind-boggling verse in the Bible is John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh!” As we approach Christmas, I thought it would be good to post again some observations I made in my book, Pleasures Evermore. I pray you are blessed by this meditation on the paradoxes of the Incarnation. Take a deep breath and ponder what this means. Don’t dismiss it as theological speculation. This is a truth on which your eternal destiny hangs suspended. This is a truth the beauty and majesty of which will captivate your attention and cause sin to sink in your estimation. Wherein lies the power to turn from iniquity and say No to sin? It lies in the power and irresistible appeal of an uncreated God who would dare to become a man! The Word became flesh! God became human! the invisible became visible! the untouchable became touchable! eternal life experienced temporal death! the transcendent one descended

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How Does Jesus’ Temptation Link Him to Israel?

Nicholas Batzig: As a young man, I would sometimes spend time talking with a family friend who was a watch expert. I was fascinated by the way in which he could quickly distinguish a true Rolex from a fake. On one occasion, my friend pointed out the seemingly microscopic initials that a watchmaker had engraved into the underside of a timepiece. It was this small detail that enabled my friend to authenticate this particular watch. I would never have thought to look for such a small and seemingly insignificant detail if he had not pointed it out to me. Similarly, the Scriptures identify the Lord Jesus as the true Israel of God by means of the smallest and seemingly most insignificant details in the records of His temptation in the wilderness. No sooner had God brought His son (Ex. 4:22), Israel, out of Egypt and through the waters that He brought him into the wilderness for forty years—to be tested

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Binding the Strong Man

Jesus ‘Bound the Strong Man’ and What That Means for You by Brandon D. Crowe: All Christians acknowledge that the Gospels are vital for discipleship today. But interpreting and applying the Gospels can be difficult since they’re about things that happened a long time ago—“back then.” What difference do these ancient events make for our daily lives? The Gospels are relevant because they showcase the victory that Jesus Christ, through his lifelong obedience, won on our behalf. The victory he won back then has cosmic and personal consequences that affect us right now. To demonstrate such relevance, let’s turn to a difficult parable of Jesus: the binding of the strong man, as found in Mark 3:22–30. Although this passage can be a head-scratcher, it’s best understood as a parable explaining Jesus’s mission. In Mark 3 Jesus’s mission is under attack. After announcing the coming of God’s kingdom (Mark 1:14–15), he begins to heal the sick, cast out demons, teach with authority, call disciples, and even forgive

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The Eternal Shore

Five Things We Forget About Heaven, by Gavin Ortlund: In 1952, Florence Chadwick tried to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. For fifteen hours, she endured choppy waters, possible shark attacks, and extreme fatigue. Then a thick fog set in. She gave up. Two months later, she tried again. This time, though it was foggy again, she made it. When asked what made the difference, she said, “The first time all I could see was the fog. The second time I kept a mental image of that shoreline in my mind while I swam.” For me, Chadwick’s comment gives a great image of how heaven should function in our lives as we follow Jesus. In order to persevere through the fog and fatigue of life, we need a mental image of the eternal shoreline toward which we swim. But if you’re like me, you tend to think about heaven far less than you should. Many days it’s completely

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How Can I Forgive Myself?

H.B. Charles: The most faithful response to this question is to reject it as an illegitimate question. The biblical teaching about forgiveness can be summarized in two main ideas: God forgives sinners freely, completely, and sacrificially. Ultimately, divine forgiveness is paid for by the cross of Christ. Christians must forgive those who wrong us, as God has forgiven us for the sake of Christ. That’s it. Sermon over. There is not third point. God has forgiven us and we must forgive others. Period. There are more than 125 direct references to forgiveness in the Bible. But the Bible does not teach that we should forgive ourselves. It does not explain how to forgive ourselves. It does not say anything about forgiving ourselves whatsoever. God is just, holy, and righteous. We are not. We are sinners who cannot do anything to win the approval of God. We cannot reach up to God. But God has reach down to us through the

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The Inaugurated Kingdom Empowers Missional Living

Jon Nagle: I’ll always remember two of the most incredible moments of my life. The days that my wife and I discovered she was pregnant with our two boys were breath-taking experiences. With our firstborn, I was sitting in the bedroom of our first apartment; and with our second-born, I was sitting in the master bedroom of our current house. In both instances, my wife decided to sneak away into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test without telling me. And in both instances she exited the bathroom to surprise me with that infamous blue plus-sign. Tears of joy flowed, and the same life-altering thought that struck me the first time—”Wow, I’m a father!”—also struck me the second time, “Wow, I’m a father … again!” Indeed, in those very moments, though there were still many months of pregnancy and growth ahead of us, I was already a father. And although my newborn sons were yet to be seen in their

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Why We Dare Not Seek God without Christ

Mark Jones: Too Much for Us We believe that thou art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. —Anselm, Proslogion Whoever has seen God and has understood what he saw, has seen nothing. —Maximus the Confessor, In Epistula Dionysii The majesty of God is too high to be scaled up to by mortals, who creep like worms on the earth. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion The true and living God is too much for us to bear, to handle, to conceive, to adore, to know, to trust, to understand, and to worship. The Incomprehensible One is simply too much for us in every conceivable way. Christ the Mediator However, that the Son became flesh makes our human nature appear lovely to God. But he also makes God appear lovely to us.1 Take away Christ, the God-man, and we are reprehensible to God and he to us. But in Christ, God is well pleased with us and

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The Beatitudes

Matt Boga: This is the famous introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7.  In these 10 verses Jesus quickly flips everything that we think to be correct on its head, and beautifully offends and astonishes all readers/hearers. The Beatitudes – much like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – describe the entire Christian.  No one of them sufficiently describes a Christian, but all of them together paint a well-rounded picture of Christianity.  Jesus speaks about the narrow gate of entrance that leads to life later in the Sermon on the Mount, but in this opening passage he wonderfully describes what that gate looks like. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit are those that understand, by the work of the Holy Spirit, that they are spiritually bankrupt.  The poor in spirit understand that no man has anything to bring to

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The law of God is not a burden

Joe Thorn: The commands of God can be a heavy reality. The Lord calls us to love him above all things, to love others as ourselves, and to even love our enemies. We are commanded to be content in all circumstances without coveting, and to not only tell the truth but defend those who are maligned. As sinners who break all of these commands the law can be crushing. They show us the way to go, and then reveal that we are prone to go our own way (Rom 7). For the unbeliever the law of God, if taken seriously, is a burden too great to bear. For the unbeliever the law not only commands and convicts, it also confounds and condemns. The Law stands true and bears witness against one’s sins leaving him or her without excuse before the face of God. But, for the believer the law of God is not burdensome. For this is the love of

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Having Jesus As Our Greatest Treasure – A Prayer

. Scotty Smith: Philippians 3:7 – I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. Lord Jesus, as I meditate on the Apostle Paul’s words, I smell the aroma of a free man, a joyful man, and a grace-man–a man I want to become more like. Things he once treasured became Paul’s “garbage.” Old stuff that used to consume him, no longer even amused him. Enjoying an intimate and robust relationship with you mean more to Paul that any other competing currency and treasure. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with

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What We Need Most

Kevin DeYoung: The biggest need in your life, and in mine, is to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that more evangelism, more prayer, more fruitfulness, more holiness will flow from the fountain of our lives only when we start drinking more deeply of Christ. If you want to be more merciful, look upon Jesus who cried out at the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If you want to be more loving, look upon Jesus who ate with sinners and welcomed repentant prostitutes and tax collectors into the kingdom. If you want to be purer, look upon Jesus whose eyes are like flames of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. If you want more courage in the face of lies and injustice, look upon Jesus who drove out the money changers from the temple with a whip. If you want to be stronger in the

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Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ.

Joe Thorn: Human beings are emotional creatures. We love or hate, feel happy or sad, angry or joyful. And yet christians sometimes struggle with integrating emotion into their spiritual lives and end up falling victim to dangerous tendencies when it comes to their emotions. These tendencies occupy two ends of a spectrum, and they have led many into a superficial kind of Christianity. We see these tendencies at both the personal level and at the corporate level. One danger is emotionalism, in which we allow our feelings to interpret our circumstances and form our thoughts about God. This is putting feelings before faith. The other danger is a kind of stoicism, where faith is rooted in theology but void of affection. This tendency removes feelings from faith altogether. While it is true that our emotions should not lead our theology, it is vital to our faith that theology lead to a deep experience of our triune God. Good doctrine is critically important

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What’s so ‘good’ about Good Friday?

Bruce Ashford: On a dark Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Powerful members of the religious, political, and military communities colluded to strip him naked, mock him publicly, and crucify him. Yet two millennia later, Christians—who believe that Jesus is the Son of God—celebrate that dark day by calling it Good Friday. Why on earth would Christians refer to this day as “good” Friday? It’s called Good Friday because even while powerful men were conspiring to kill the Son of God, God himself was acting to save the world from itself, once and for all. Even while the world’s authorities were conspiring to perpetrate history’s greatest evil, God was working to bring about history’s greatest good. It didn’t have to be this way. After all, God created the world as his good kingdom in which humans could flourish, and in which they would never have to experience evil. Yet, the very first couple, Adam and Eve,

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Our Whole Salvation Comprehended in Christ

John Calvin at his God-glorifying best: We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.” If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we see redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness

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The Key to Spiritual Breakthrough

Jon Bloom: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). How much enjoyment of God’s presence and experience of his power for mission are we missing out on because we do not ask God for them? Jesus also says we do not have because we ask with such little faith (Matthew 17:19–20). How much enjoyment of God’s presence and experience of his power for mission are we missing out on because our expectation is so small that prayer will result in anything? Jesus also says we do not have, because we do not ask long enough (Luke 11:5–13). All over the Bible we see, not in great detail but in sufficient detail, that we are involved in a great cosmic battle and that the prayers of the saints are crucial to the advancement of the kingdom of God (see Daniel 10:12–14 and Ephesians 6:18). We don’t need to know how it all works; we just need to know it

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