For Us—and Creation
The gospel is about far more than heaven.
The gospel as a message of promise and hope defines God's only way to salvation (1 Peter 1:3-12 ; Acts 4:12). It is the good news of God's powerful deliverance from sin and oppression for the Creation, coming through Christ's liberating work (2 Timothy 2:8-10 ; Romans 1:16-17 ; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ; Luke 4:16-18).
This power entails forgiveness and eternal life (also called reconciliation or peace with God), sonship, and enablement (Acts 10:36 ; Romans 6-8 ; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Its power will extend into complete, unending redemption for us and the Creation (Romans 8:18-25).
The gospel communicates how God permanently fixes his relationship to us, to one another, and to the Creation through the cross and Jesus' resurrection-ascension (Acts 3:17-26 ; Ephesians 2:11-22 ; 3:6). The gospel becomes effective by our turning (Acts 14:15), repentance (Mark 1:15 ; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38), faith (Acts 15:7 ; Romans 3:22 ; Hebrews 4:2-6), or reception (John 1:12), which leads to sonship. Any of these responses summarizes saving faith. One day our response to the gospel will be the basis of judgment (Romans 2:16 ; 10:16 ; 11:28 ; Galatians 1:8-9 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 ; 1 Peter 4:17). Those who fail to respond face everlasting judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
John the Baptist, associating the gospel with the kingdom, said it arrives when the Christ baptizes with the Spirit and fire (Luke 3:15-18 ; cf. Acts 2:30-36). Jesus preached it as release and tied it to the kingdom, focusing it on the world and the poor (Luke 4:16-18 ; Mark 1:15 ; Matthew 11:5 , 24:14). Paul defined it as the power of God, and not merely as salvation (Romans 1:16). This is because to save, God exercises his power through Christ to overtake the power of sin in humans and the Creation, giving us the Spirit (Romans 1-8 ; Ephesians 1:3-14). Two images in John's gospel express God's powerful enablement through the Spirit as part of the gospel: being born anew and receiving water that leaves one never thirsting again, what Jesus later called "the Paraclete" (John 3:3 ; 4:10 ; 7:37-39 ; chaps. 14-16). Luke calls the same Spirit-enablement "power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
So the gospel is about the Father's gift of his ongoing, powerful redeeming work mediated through the Son by the Spirit. It is about far more than heaven; it is about God's grace restoring us into a permanently healthy relationship with him and others (Titus 2:11-14).
Darrell Bock is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.
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