When Jesus began His ministry, He proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). As Christians, our goal is to follow Christ completely. To obey Him, we must understand what He meant by the “gospel” and how it relates to the kingdom of God.
The Gospel Is Good News
The English word “gospel” comes from an Old English word godspel (god meaning “good” and spel meaning “story” or “message”). This was an English translation of the Latin bona annuntiatio, which in turn was a translation of the Greek word euangelion (“good tidings”). In ancient times, an euangelion was a royal proclamation of military victory or ascension to a throne. If a kingdom had military victory over their enemies in battle, a messenger would run back to the capital and proclaim the euangelion to the people waiting inside in the city’s walls. Essentially, the word “gospel” means “good news” and has historical connotations of a royal, victorious proclamation of one kingdom overtaking another.
The Gospel Announces God’s Kingdom
Having learned what euangelion meant in Jesus’ historical context, we must now consider the biblical, or literary, context of “good news.” In Isaiah 52:7 and 10 (emphasis mine), we read:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
…The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
This prophetic passage foretold that the good news—or the gospel—would be a proclamation of happiness announcing the reign of Zion’s God and an international salvation that would reach “all the ends of the earth.” As Jesus later explained, His kingdom, the kingdom of God, “is not of this world” (John 18:36). By calling Himself the “Son of Man,” He connected His Kingdom to Daniel’s prophecy about the Son of Man’s kingdom, which would neither pass away nor be destroyed (Dan. 7:14). This new kingdom would be unlike any kingdom people have seen before. Not only would it be multiethnic, multi-national, multilingual, and everlasting (Isa. 56:8, Dan. 7:13, Rev. 7:9); it would transform the whole world under a King who would reign for eternity (Rev. 11:15).
Every kingdom needs a king. The Bible declares that the king whom God has appointed over His kingdom is Jesus. Because of Jesus’ sinless life and atoning death, God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…And he put all things under his feet…” (Eph. 1:20-22). When Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” He was heralding the incoming of God’s long-awaited kingdom as its King!
The Gospel Invites Us to Join God’s Kingdom
The proclamation of God’s kingdom and its king, Jesus, is good news for everyone because all are invited to partake in its glory. Just as every kingdom has a king, every kingdom has citizens. Citizens of God’s kingdom need to receive eternal life because God’s kingdom is everlasting (Ps. 145:13, Dan. 7:14). God has given us everything we need to become part of His kingdom. In fact, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son [Jesus]” (1 John 5:11). When we believe in Jesus, we receive eternal life and our citizenship is in heaven (John 3:36, Phil. 3:20). Jesus proclaimed, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) to tell us that, by these actions, we can become citizens of the kingdom of God!
So, what does the Bible mean by “repent”? The original Greek word translated as “repent” is metanoeo, meaning “to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent.” The immediate context of Mark’s gospel reveals that repentance is changing one’s mind about something in order to act in faith (Mark 1:4, 15; 6:12). Hence, it is a new mindset that results in new action. The rest of Scripture affirms this understanding of repentance. Thus, in Jesus’s call to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), “to repent” means more than just changing one’s mind; it means accepting the gospel message, turning away from sin, and turning toward King Jesus for a new way of life.
Shortly after Jesus was resurrected and returned to heaven, the apostle Peter addressed a crowd in Jerusalem, proclaiming the euangelion and the need to repent:
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when [the crowd] heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:36-42).
The Gospel Freely Justifies Us
The gospel is not only good news about the victorious kingdom of God but also the personal good news that sinful men and women can become members of God’s kingdom and be reconciled to a holy God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ! Each of us is personally invited to become citizens of God’s kingdom. We can become part of God’s kingdom when we accept Jesus as the king that He already is and trust in Him for a right standing before God. Jesus purifies anyone who believes in Him so they can have a right standing before God and be part of God’s people (1 John 3:3, Titus 2:14).
Justification (i.e., right standing before God) is given to us by God through Jesus Christ for free. As the apostle Paul explains in Romans 3:21-26, justification from God is a gift:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested…through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
As sinners, we did not have a hope in the world. But then God sent Jesus, who willingly died on the cross, for our sins, in our place. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). This is amazing news! When there was no way, God made a way. When our sin prevented us from having a right relationship with Him, God sent Jesus. Because of God’s graciousness toward us, we are invited to “repent and believe in the gospel” and become part of God’s eternal kingdom, His people, and His family.
The Gospel Gives Us an Urgent Choice
The biblical gospel gives us an ultimatum. We can continue in our sinful state, trying (and failing) to get into heaven by our own merit, or we can accept the good news. If we repent of our old ways and place our faith in Jesus Christ as our new Savior and King, we are saved from God’s wrath against sin and saved into God’s eternal kingdom!
By sending Jesus to us, God showed that He loved us. Jesus, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10), can be our friend, savior, and king. What will you decide? As 2 Corinthians 6:2 reminds us, do not waste another day, for “now is the favorable time” and “behold, now is the day of salvation”!
- How Can I Be Saved?
- I Am a Christian, Now What?
- What Is the Christian Life?
- Why Should I Go to Church?
Jaelyn Morgan interned for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.