What Is the Gospel? Part One: What the Gospel Is Not

“As you go into the entire world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” (Mark 16:15 ISV)
The gospel, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, can be translated good news. But it is not just any good news. A friend getting married, a job promotion, a medical checkup free of disease, and many other types of good news are not the gospel Jesus commands us to proclaim.
This is the beginning of the gospel [good news] of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 ISV)

Mark wrote to Romans who knew little or nothing of God and the history of God working in mankind. But the Romans were busy with the activities of this material world and spent little time examining the religion of foreigners. So Mark had to educate his Roman audience about the gospel.

Then [Jesus] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every illness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Matthew wrote to Jews who knew the Old Testament, but were blinded by additional traditions. So Jesus performed signs to proclaim the gospel to the Jews. When the signs had their attention, Jesus taught them that all of God’s revelation testified of Him. Was the gospel of kingdom which Jesus taught in the synagogues of the Jews different from the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God that Mark wrote about to the Romans?

I am astonished that your are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of the Messiah and, instead, are following a different gospel, not that another one really exists. To be sure, there are certain people who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel about the Messiah. Galatians 1:6,7 ISV

But those who are deceived do not realize that they are deceived. Millions of people throughout the world claim to be Christians but display none of the characteristics of Christ. Paul’s concerns were well-founded. Certainly there are babes in Christ who need to grow in Christ. But there are millions who are self-deceived, who believe that they are Christians, but have nothing of Christ in their lives.

This need to define what is and what is not Christianity, at least to the extent that sinful humans can evaluate other sinful humans, resulted in Fundamentalism in America, Canada and to a lesser extent, England. Fundamentalism made creeds of what was minimal for what was and what was not necessary to believe for saving faith.

The ecumenical councils of the early church also examined the Scriptures to determine what beliefs were orthodox and what were heretical. Unlike Fundamentalism, which determined the minimal belief necessary for salvation, the ecumenical councils defined individual orthodox doctrines when individual heretical doctrines became popular.

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no simple answer. Only God knows the heart of the individual. But many who claim the name of Jesus are not part of the body of Christ.
Jesus is not a commodity. That it, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean that we are eternal life insurance salesmen. Accepting Jesus as the Messiah does not mean that we can live the way we used to, just adding Jesus to an already crowded life.

Image Credit: An illuminated manuscript painting by Sargis Ptisak, who was a 14th century Armenian artist. First Page of the Gospel of Mark, Cod. 2627, fol. 436 r. (Matenadaran). Work of Sargis Pitsak scanned from B. Choukaszian, Sargis Pitsak, printed in Finland, 1986. from Wikimedia Commons

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The Historical Context of Jonah


Nimrod built Nineveh very soon after the flood. It was part of his kingdom to rebel against God.

[Nimrod’s] kingdom began in the region of Shinar with the cities of Babylon, Eriech, Akkad, and Calneh. From there he went north to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, and Calah, along with Resen, which was located between Nineven and the great city of Calah. Genesis 10:10-12

2,000 years later, every Jew listening to Jesus understood Nineveh.

An evil and adulterous generation craves a sign. Yet no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah, because just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea creature for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment and condemn the people living today, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. But look-something greater than Jonah is here! Matthew 12:39-41

Jeroboam II led the northern kingdom of Israel to its greatest glory since Solomon. Jonah prophesied that Jeroboam (II, of the line of Jehu) would take impoverished, defeated Israel and restore its borders to the Euphrates River. This was the same border Israel had under Solomon.

“God used Jeroboam to … restore the former borders [Numbers 13:21] from the entrance into Hamath to the sea of the plain. This fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord which was spoken by Jonah the prophet, the son of Amittai. 2 Kings 14:25,27,28.”
825 BC Ussher The Annals of the World

[Jeroboam] rebuilt Israel’s coastline from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the message from the Lord God of Israel that he spoke through his servant Jonah the prophet, Amittai’s son, who was from Gath-hepher. 2 Kings 14:29
“Jonah was later sent to Nineveh …”
808 BC Ussher The Annals of the World

Sir Isaac Newton believed that Jonah actually lived and prophesied earlier, before the reign of Jeroboam II. “Homer mentions Bacchus and Memnon Kings of Egypt and Persia, but knew nothing of an Assyrian Empire. Jonah prophesied when Israel was in affliction from Syria, and this was in the latter part of the Reign of Jehoahaz, and the first part of the Reign of Joash, Kings of Israel, and I think in the Reign of Moeris the successor of Ramesses King of Egypt, and about sixty years before the Reign of Pul; and Nineveh was then a city of large extent, but full of pastures for cattle, so that it contained but about 120000 persons. It was not yet grown so great and potent as not to be terrified at the preaching of Jonah, and to fear being invaded by its neighbours and ruined within forty days: it had some time before got free from the dominion of Egypt, and got a King of its own; but its King was not yet called the King of Assyria, but only King of Nineveh, Jonah iii. 6,7 and his proclamation for a fast was not published in several nations, nor in all Assyria, but only in Nineveh, and perhaps in the villages thereof; but soon after, when the dominion of Nineveh was established at home, and exalted over all Assyria properly so called, and this Kingdom began to make was upon the neighbouring nations, its Kings were no longer called Kings of Nineveh but began to be called Kings of Assyria.”
Sir Isaac Newton The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms p. 99

II Kings 14:25 means that either Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II or Jonah lived and prophesied earlier and Jeroboam II fulfilled an earlier prophecy. According to Sir Isaac Newton, Jonah went to Nineveh around 850 BC, more than 40 years before Ussher’s date for the book of Jonah.

With either position, Nineveh was at that time a minor city-state. The original Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon lead the northern kingdom in rebellion against Rehoboam. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was allied with Egypt. So the northern kingdom of Israel was either an ally or a vassal state to Egypt. This relationship is rarely mentioned in the Bible. Later, Ahab also had a strong alliance with Egypt. It is impossible to know if Egypt viewed the northern kingdom of Israel as an ally or a vassal state.

It is very likely that Assyria was a small local power before Tiglath-pileser developed a professional military and marched on Israel. (747 BC, Ussher).

The people of Nineveh would have no problem adding Jehovah to their pantheon. Their problem was the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” So what did Nineveh know about Israel when Jonah arrived?

  1. Abraham and his family left Mesopotamia traveled to Egypt, and left Egypt wealthy.
  2. Abraham headed a coalition from Canaan headed by 318 special forces from his own family which defeated a five nation alliance headed by the nation of Elam.
  3. Jacob and his children destroyed every person in Shechem.
  4. Joseph by skill becomes Vizier of all Egypt.
  5. As slaves, the Israelites, already skilled in the ways of Mesopotamia, learn all of the skills of Egypt.
  6. The God of Israel destroyed Egypt. This might be the most important point when they listened to Jonah’s message.
  7. Led by Joshua, Israel captured Canaan, destroying the most powerful city-states of that time.
  8. Led by Gideon, Israel destroyed the Midianites who were as numerous as the sand of the sea.
  9. Led by Saul, Israel destroyed Amalek, first among the nations.
  10. Led by David, Israel destroyed the Syrians. At one time, the Syrians had controlled Nineveh.
  11. Led by Solomon, every nation on earth paid tribute to Israel.
  12. Led by King Asa, Judah had defeated an army of one million Ethiopians.

Jonah did not arrive in Nineveh in a vacuum. God had prepared the people of Nineveh for Jonah’s message.

All Scripture quotes are from the ISV.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Nineveh. Adad Gate. One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh. A reconstruction was begun in the 1960s by Iraqis, but was not completed. The result is an uneasy mixture of concrete and eroding mudbrick, which nonetheless does give one some idea of the original structure. The lower portions of the stone retaining wall are original. Fortunately, the excavator left some features unexcavated, allowing a view of the original Assyrian construction. The original brickwork of the outer vaulted passageway is well exposed. The actions of Nineveh’s last defenders can be seen in the hastily built mudbrick construction which narrows the passageway from 4 m. to 2 m. Height of vault is about 5 m. Photo by Fredarch.
Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Nineveh_Adad_gate_exterior_entrance_far2.JPG Author Fredarch

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How Jesus Dealt with People — post by Michael J. Findley


Throughout His ministry, occasionally Jesus dealt with those who openly rejected Him, such as Herod and the Romans who were like the atheists/secular humanists of today. So [Herod] continued to question [Jesus] for a long time, but Jesus gave him no answer at all. (Luke 23:9, ISV)

Several times Jesus dealt with those who pretended to accept Him, such as the Sadducees. They are like modern liberals who choose to accept some Scriptures, but use their own opinions to reject other Scriptures. When they brought up a spurious question about a woman with seven husbands to Jesus, He revealed their true intentions. Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29 HCSB)

At His trial, Jesus gave the High Priest, a Sadducee, very brief answers to direct questions. But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him,I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63,64 NKJV)

Frequently Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. These were the conservatives of the first century. Unlike the Herodians and the Sadducees, Jesus spent much of His ministry attempting to instruct the Pharisees. As Jesus said, “They sit in Moses’ seat.” As exemplified in the confrontation in John 5, the Pharisees talked to Jesus for years. Both Nicodemus and Paul were Pharisees who believed in Jesus.

But Jesus spent the majority of His ministry instructing His disciples. Yet after three years of intense instruction in the true meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures, they still did not understand. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” Jesus asked him. (John 14:9 ISV)

After His resurrection, He met two of His disciples and walked with them on the road to Emmaus. “Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

After rising from the dead, Jesus spent all of His time on earth providing evidence of His resurrection and explaining the Old Testament.

Image Credit: from Waiting For The Word “Jesus Washes the Feet of His Disciples” Artist: Nelson Flikr Commons

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What Did Jesus Look Like? — post by Michael J. Findley


Caravaggio The Arrest of Christ National Gallery of Ireland “The Judas Kiss” Source/Photographer Web Gallery of Art Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would have “no form and he had no majesty that we should look at him, and there is no attractiveness that we should desire him.” (53:2 ISV)
While this might refer to Jesus after He was beaten by the Romans, the words indicate that Jesus was an ordinary Jew. On the night of His arrest, Judas had to identify Him to the soldiers making the arrest.

The Law required a Jewish male to wear a beard. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah “gave my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.” (50:6 ISV)

Other than these words, the Bible gives no hint as to what Jesus looked like. Jesus walked everywhere, spending considerable time outdoors. He would be fit, if not muscular. He would also be tanned, almost certainly a dark brown.

Through the preservation of many skeletons from the time, we know that the average height for a Jewish male was about 5’ 1.” There are many coins, bas reliefs, and of course the images the Romans made of the sacking of the temple. Since the Jews wore helmets, their hair was short, though longer than a Roman’s. When the early pictures are in color, a Jew’s hair is always very dark and either wavy or curled.

Forensic anthropologists have examined several first century male Jewish skulls and have made a composite image which is likely similar to Jesus. https://3dprint.com/111718/3d-modeling-image-of-jesus/

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Is Ancient History Important? — post by Michael J. Findley


Pool of Bethesda ruins_2272 Author James Emery from Douglasville, United States Wikimedia Commons

What existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we observed and touched with our own hands-this is the Word of life! This life was revealed to us, and we have seen it and testify about it. (1 John 1:1,2a, ISV)

This defines the scientific method, which John applies to history.

Later on, there was another festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, and under these a large number of sick people were lying-blind, lame, or paralyzed… (John 5:1-3 ISV)

Out of this crowd of sick people, Jesus picked one man.

One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him “Do you want to get well?”  (John 5:5, 6 ISV)

Jesus healed only one man out of the “large number of sick.” Each miracle had a purpose.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” The man immediately became well, and he picked up his mat and started walking. Now that day was a Sabbath. So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well told me ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” (John 5:8-11 ISV)

The historical record of Jesus healing the man takes two verses. The issue of breaking the Sabbath takes up the rest of the chapter. Jesus healed this man with the intended purpose of using this healing to confront the Jews. When Jesus has the attention of the Jews because of the healing on the Sabbath, He makes a clear claim to be the Messiah.

“Just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted the Son to have life in himself, and he has given him authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be amazed at this, because the time is approaching when everyone in their graves will hear the Son of Man’s voice…” (John 5:26-28)

This is the entire point of this confrontation. The God who judges “everyone in their graves” is described in the Old Testament. Jesus is judging them for claiming to be the teachers of Israel and not understanding the Old Testament. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You’re a teacher of Israel, and you can’t understand this?” (John 3:10 ISV) Jesus confronted the Jews over the keeping of the Sabbath because it demonstrated their failure to understand the Old Testament.

“You examine the Scriptures carefully because you suppose that in them you have eternal life. Yet they testify about me.” John 5:39 (ISV)

The Greek translated here “You examine” can be translated as a command. “Examine the Scriptures carefully!” The Greek words are exactly the same. It makes sense that Jesus intended the double meaning “You examine the Scriptures carefully,” pointing out that the Jews spent the time in study to examine the Scriptures carefully. But they missed the main point, so they needed to go back and “Examine the Scriptures carefully!” Jesus was pointing out that their Sabbath rules were yet another example of the Jews “straining out gnats and swallowing camels.”

The important point for this blog is that the modern world is committing the same sin these Jews did. The Jews studied the Old Testament without understanding. Modern scholars are ignoring the Old Testament in the mistaken belief that we can get along with one another by ignoring God’s Word.


Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees J.J. Tissot Source/Photographer Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum Wikimedia Commons

How can you believe when you accept each other’s praise and do not look for the praise that comes from the only God? Do not suppose that I will be the one to accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope, because if you believed Moses, you would believe me, since he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:44-47 ISV)

Moses wrote that the Exodus, the Flood, and Creation were historical events. Moses provided us with information to date these events. We can take this information and correlate these events with other cultures to make a matrix to understand some of the important dates for all ancient civilizations.

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