What is the unifying principle of the diverse emphases in the theology of the New Testament? The diversity must be clearly recognized and not glossed over. According to the Synoptic Gospels, the central message of Jesus was the coming of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes he asserted that the Kingdom of God had come in the midst of history in his own person and mission (Matt. 12:28; Luke 17:20, 21); sometimes he looked forward to its coming at the end of the age and taught his disciples to pray for its coming (Matt. 6:10; 8:11; 13:43). When this eschatological Kingdom comes, the redeemed will enter into the eternal life of the Age to Come (Mark 10:23–30). In the Synoptic Gospels eternal life is never referred to as a present possession; it will be the inheritance of God’s people in the eschatological Kingdom of God (Matt. 25:34, 46).

The Gospel of John has a very different emphasis. Jesus’ references to the Kingdom occur infrequently there (John 3:3, 5, and 18:36). The central message of Jesus, according to John, is eternal life (3:15; 4:14; 6:40; see 20:31); and this gift of eternal life is a present possession (5:24; 6:47; 10:10) that men may now receive through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Book of Acts records a number of brief reports of the early apostolic preaching. These sermons say little about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 14:22; 20:25; 28:23); and eternal life is mentioned in only one place (Acts 13:46, 48; “life” is spoken of in 3:15; 5:20; 11:18). The apostolic message in Acts is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Because God has raised the crucified Jesus from the dead and exalted him to his own right hand, men are called upon to repent, be saved, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). ...

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