Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and got raised from death on the third day, all according to ancient Hebrew Scripture, then was seen by hundreds of credible eyewitnesses over the next forty days (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) before ascending to Heaven. He both died and was raised from the dead for our benefit (2 Corinthians 5:15) in order to give us his Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit to take away our sins. For he came to make a cleansing of sins (Hebrews 1:3), which he accomplished by sending the Spirit in extraordinary abundance. The Gospel is the story of how the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, achieved this in full cooperation with his Father.
Salvation comes through the Jews. Jehovah, the only true and living God, the God of ancient Israel, had promised to send the Messiah (Christ—one specially “christened” by God’s Spirit) as their rescuer from sins (violations of Israel’s ancient national Covenant with God) that repeatedly dragged them down in defeat, destruction, and finally even mass exile to distant Babylon for 70 long years. Lack of learning from their mistakes had brought them to the brink of national extinction.
Yet during this grim period God graciously spoke through prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah to announce a fresh New Covenant that would remedy this fatal weakness of human makeup by supplying an unprecedented fresh influx of God’s own Spirit of wholesomeness to counteract that degenerative condition and bring people to authentic maturity despite its disturbing presence.
At the perfect historic moment, God sent His Own Son, whom He had begotten after His kind (deity!) before all ages—the very reason by whom and for whom He created the universe and ages of time. He was named Jesus (in Hebrew, Joshua: “Jehovah [is] salvation”), because he would save people from their sins. He was miraculously born to a virgin girl from the royal house of David, by then reduced to comparative poverty. He grew to manhood in obscurity, responding to discipline and adversity without moral failure of any kind, and so grew continuously in wisdom and graciousness.
At around thirty years of age, Jesus got baptized in the Jordan River by the last prophet of Israel, John the Baptist, and was endorsed by God with a visible sign and audible voice from the skies, declaring him to be His Own Son, with whom He was well pleased, and who therefore deserved to be listened to as a legitimate prophet and teacher—in fact, the long-awaited Messiah. Thus commenced his brief but intense career of teaching and miracle-working that demonstrated his pre-eminent qualifications as Messiah, the anointed King and hence Savior of Israel.
However, teaching the Truth he received from his Father and performing extraordinary deeds of healing and provision only earned him the envy and murderous hatred of the corrupt religious and political officials of his nation, under the diabolical inspiration of Satan. At length, God strategically permitted them to carry out their plot to execute him at Roman hands, in the days of Tiberius Caesar and the Judean Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of the last, Herodian, kings of Israel.
Jesus was betrayed to his enemies by one of his own disciples, illegally tried, physically abused, and publicly crucified until certifiably dead. He was entombed in the borrowed tomb of a rich man. Finally, on the third day by Jewish time reckoning he rose up from the dead, all as foretold in minute detail long before. He then appeared to hundreds of his profoundly puzzled followers over the next forty days to explain why these events had to occur in order to advance God’s Kingdom further.
The rationale was elegantly simple. In order to fulfill a host of prophetic Scriptures the Savior had to live a perfectly sinless life, yet suffer a wrongful condemnation and death. This crime provided God the rightful opportunity to intervene so as to unveil His rewarding justice in an utterly unprecedented degree. This is the justice due to one who was completely faithful and obedient to Israel’s ancient covenant at Sinai regardless of severe temptations to sin. Until Jesus appeared, no human being proved eligible for all those promised blessings. The stupendous super-compensation he actually did receive for his cruelly undeserved abuses was a measure of God’s own Covenant justice in response to that most extreme sin ever committed: He more than reversed the official public execution of Jesus instead of immediately condemning the perpetrators. In this astounding manner, God made known His own heart toward erring human beings in a way otherwise impossible. This demonstration was designed to make peace even with many a bitter foe of God and thereby conciliate them to Himself in love, joy, gratitude, and lifelong loyal obedience to the teaching and example of His Son Jesus, decisively appointing him Lord by raising him from the dead. Such graciousness from God endorsing the lifelong graciousness of His Son, even toward enemies, induces similar graciousness in the recipients by the influence of the Holy Spirit as they start believing. This of course was the whole point. God wanted offspring who would develop His own gracious character through thick and thin, yes, even vicious opposition and violent death if necessary, as exhibited by Jesus Christ, the Lord.
However, the bad news is that those who never respond favorably to this message of such astounding historic graciousness on God’s part, but instead harden themselves in opposition or crime, following a just trial according to their actions at the coming Judgment by the Lord Jesus Christ, must sadly face a second death by burning and final extermination under God’s indignation. On the other hand, those who endure in faith to the very end, whatever that may be for them, will happily enjoy an inheritance in the future New Earth that God promises to all who love Him.
That’s the Gospel pure and simple. To keep trusting God, as Jesus revealed Him to be, will result in eventual resurrection to endless life, even as it did for him. But to distrust him will lead to total loss and termination. This proclamation about God’s graciousness to Jesus overflowing to all mankind without distinction, when they believe him to be the Lord of all nations and the Savior of the world, has a power all its own to actually generate faith within mortal human beings. God’s Holy Spirit further validates this Message, sometimes with awesome deeds of miraculous power, in order to give credit to God the Father and Jesus, His Son. Christ’s judicial award from God, His gift of Holy Spirit, is the only means for actually taking away sin from the core of human personality. Without this essential factor of Holy Spirit, we tend to treasure up God’s rising indignation against our corrupting and destructive sins, which injure others and ravage our created environment. God could scarcely uphold His reputation for righteousness and justice if He did not periodically avenge stubbornly selfish violators of His rightful law of love toward people and care for His creation all around us. It’s all a matter of timing. God is patient, tolerant, kind, and merciful. But it’s not smart to test the limits.
In any case, like Jesus, we ought not to avenge ourselves on our enemies, nor revile them, much less doubt God’s own rightful avenging of any harms in due time. We should submit to the God who judges justly and then keep on doing good regardless of consequences. That’s the challenge; believing these facts nurtures hope. God takes no delight in the destruction of the vicious, but their deeds simply are not sustainable in a creation that demands love and forgiveness in order to function optimally and pre-empt hurtful evils. In this kind of world, not everything goes…at least not for long.
In summary, the Gospel is the true story of how one man, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only-born Son, singlehandedly won the amazing grace of his Father on behalf of all humanity by flawless obedience to His will through every test and trial of Satan, so that by faith we also can experience God’s rightful graciousness in the forgiveness of all our sins and can start living right, in obedience to God’s desire, the directives of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit of graciousness that makes us God’s precious children as well—heirs of the impending New Earth where right doing, peace, and joy shall reign untouched by sin or crime. Oh, and did I mention…that’s when the awards get handed out!
© 2010, Ronald Lee Roper. Oct. 31, 2010. Revised July 10, Sept. 2, 2011, Oct. 2, 7-8, 2016.