The Gospel in the Old Testament

in Essential Articles,God's Commandments

When we speak of “the Gospel,” what do we mean? To most Christians it refers to the life of Christ-the various aspects of His ministry and His good works. When one minister was asked to define the Gospel, his reply was, “Well, you know, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.” But the Gospel is not about the life of Christ, and it is not the four gospels.

What was the Gospel? The Bible states: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). So the Bible defines the Gospel as the “gospel of the kingdom.” It was not a message about the Person of Christ. When Jesus preached the Gospel, He did not go about reciting what He had done here or what He had done there. He talked about the coming Kingdom of God-the coming world government.

This same message was also given to the Israelites during the Old Testament period, but they failed to understand it. Paul tells us: “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2). The religious leaders and people failed to grasp that at His first coming. Christ did not appear as the conquering King of kings, but as the sacrificial offering for the sins of the world. They failed to distinguish between His first and second comings and could not grasp the significance of His humiliation. When He came as the atonement for sin, they had no faith in His sacrifice and went about to establish their own righteousness by works (Heb. 9:11-12, Rom 10:3-4).

Jesus spoke of a literal kingdom. Many Old Testament Scriptures refer to the Gospel message-the message of the coming Kingdom of God. What do we mean by the word “kingdom”? To meet the definition of a kingdom, four conditions must be met: (1) A kingdom must have a king. (2) It must possess a territory. (3) It must have subjects. (4) And it must have laws. Are these requirements spoken of in the Old Testament? Are they requirements the Israelites could not put together and understand? The answer is: Yes! The Gospel of the Kingdom emphasizes Christ’s second coming, but many texts prelude this event. They prophesied that Christ’s first coming would enable Him to qualify as the Lord of lords and King of kings. The Apostle Paul wrote of Christ: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:7-9).

The Kingdom Has a King

Though Christ came as God in the flesh, His inevitable destiny was to be a king. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9). This prophecy was fulfilled in Jerusalem.

Jesus instructed His disciples:

. . . Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. (Matt. 21:2-5)

The Apostle Paul described Christ’s first coming and His ultimate responsibility. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Phil. 2:8-10).

When Christ returns, His people will finally recognize Him for who He was and for what He has done:

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem . . . . ” (Zech. 12:10-11)

Christ’s birthplace and kingship are described by the prophet Micah: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Yet, He was to be rejected by His generation. “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Ps. 118:22). When Christ returns He will come in power. “Yet have I [the Father] set my king upon my holy hill of Zion . . . . Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel . . . . Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps. 2:6, 9,12).

The prophet Daniel wrote about the time near the end of this age: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44). Other Scriptures tell us: “For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many” (Isa. 66:15-16). “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess.1:7-8). “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily . . . . ” (Luke 18:7-8).

The Kingdom Has Territory

Old Testament prophecies foretell the extent of Christ’s rule. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south . . . . And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one” (Zech. 14:4, 9).

Consider the following texts:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (Isa. 2:2)
The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed. (1 Sam. l2:10)
For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. (Ps. 47:2)
O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. (Ps. 67:4)
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. (Ps. 72:8)

No longer will the nations maintain their own religious beliefs and traditions. No longer will they follow their own laws and customs. The whole earth will be under the rule and authority of God, under His inexorable spiritual and physical laws. No longer will antagonisms and hostility toward other countries exist. The world will be at peace. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). The one world government sought for by the statesmen and leaders of society will come about, but not by their hand or in their way. It will come about by the return of Christ who will manifest His power and glory. The many Old Testament texts that foretell these great events comprise the Gospel message.

The Kingdom has Subjects

We see from above that when Christ is King over the entire earth, all peoples will be His subjects. No longer will dictatorships, or parliamentary, democratic, or republican forms of government exist. The endless bickering, arguing, political wrangling, and oppressing of peoples under present forms of government will come to an end. The constant round of criticism hurled at the decisions and conduct of opposing political parties will cease. Christ, along with the resurrected saints, will make just and final decisions (Rev. 20:6). Taxation as we know it today will no longer oppress. What a relief ! No one will argue with Christ or spout his or her own opinions contrary to the will of God.

Here is what will prevail:

“The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful” (Isa. 32:5). “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa. 5:20-21). “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Mal. 3:18).

The instruction to the people is to heed and listen to the commands of God:

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. (Isa. 51:4)
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isa. 11:4)
The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. (Ps. 110:2)
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations. (Ps. 22:27-28)
All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. (Ps. 86:9)

For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. (Isa. 54:5)
For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. (Isa. 60:12)

The book of Revelation describes the authority and rule of Christ:

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (Rev. 19:15)

While the unbelieving and rebellious may find the government of God distasteful, what they have failed to realize is that everything God commands is for man’s good. All of God’s laws, statutes, and judgments are designed to bring man health, happiness, joy, and eternal life. This happiness cannot be achieved as long as men rule this earth. As a whole, men hate God’s Way. Those who think they do not hate God’s Way usually have no understanding of what God really requires.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom. 8:5-8)

Here is why there is no peace on the earth.

None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. (Isa. 59:4-8)

“There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:21)

The Kingdom Has Laws

An ancient prophecy given by Jacob foretold the coming Lawgiver. Of the descendents of Judah, Jacob said: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). The word “Shiloh is believed to mean “the peacemaker,” the tranquilizer,” or “that which belongs to him.” This prophecy clearly refers to Christ as the coming King of kings. The basis of His rule will be God’s Law.

What does the Bible say about God’s Law?

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)
The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. (Ps. 111:7-8)
My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness. (Ps. 119:172)
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Rom. 7:12)
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all [should be being fulfilled]” (Matt. 5:17-18)
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Rev. 22:15)

Here is what the Old Testament states about God’s Law during the Millennium-the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ:

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. (Isa. 51:4)
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:3, Micah 4:2)
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. (Isa. 59:19)

When Paul told the Hebrews that the Gospel preached in the Old Testament period did not profit them, it was because it was not united with faith. They failed to grasp the significance of the many prophecies that described the first coming of Christ and His sacrifice for the sins of the world. When He came, they rejected Him. Their desire was to have a physical king to deliver them from Roman rule. None could understand what Jesus meant when He told Pilate: ” . . . My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). The religious leaders and people had no realization that the many Old Testament prophecies that spoke of His rule and kingdom applied to His second coming, that after His crucifixion and resurrection He would return to heaven and await the time appointed by the Father. “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6-7).

More than 2,000 years after His resurrection, we can understand the significance of those things they could not. Today we can understand the plan of salvation, that we can be with Christ in His kingdom when He returns with the resurrected saints.

Though the prophets of the Old Testament period desired to know what we know, it was not their time to be given understanding:

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy [Spirit] sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Pet. 1:10-12)

If we do not appreciate the understanding we have been given, or take it for granted, we cannot expect to receive the great reward God has for those who love and obey Him. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

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