Question #1: Hi Dr. Luginbill: What exactly is "The Good News"? Salvation, as I understood, involved asking Jesus into your heart and somehow "trusting" Him to get you to heaven. But the more I read scripture the more I wonder about these precise mechanics. If that approach isn't exactly right, what was Jesus doing on earth? Was His message significantly different than the general message of the prophets (repent, believe in God, do what is right, and so on)? Why was Jesus' message Good News? Any help you might give on this would be appreciated.
Response #1: The word gospel is the Greek euangelion which means "good news" or,
better, "blessed proclamation". To distill what scripture says about this, the
"good news" is in its essence salvation, that is, our deliverance from eternal
death and into eternal life (Matt.4:23; Rom.1:16-17; 2:16; 1Cor.15:1-11;
Eph.1:13-14; 3:6; Col.1:4-5; 1:21-23; 2Thes.2:13-14; 2Tim.1:8-11). Facing death
and the judgment common to all mankind after death (Heb.9:27), we sinful human
beings have nothing to expect from God but a swift and sure condemnation and an
eternity in hell – except for what God did for us completely apart from any
merit of ours. He sent His only Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to the
cross for us, to be forsaken for us, to be judged in our place for our sins, and
to die for us so that we might have eternal life, even resurrection from the
dead. That is the essence of the gospel, the good news – eternal life instead
of eternal death, reconciliation to God instead of separation from Him forever,
redemption from sin instead of continued slavery to it whose end is destruction.
That is wonderfully good news indeed! In fact it is such good news that no other
news in the history of the world can possibly come close, since even the best
news we receive on this earth only applies to our brief time here and cannot
postpone for any meaningful length of time our inevitable appointment with death
and judgment. And apart from Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf and our acceptance
of this gift of gifts from God through faith, we would have no way to avoid sure
and certain consignment to the lake of fire forever.
The Old Testament is also filled with the theme of salvation and deliverance (e.g., Is.49:6; 52-53; 55:1ff. et passim). It is true that it focuses upon the tangible fruits of eternity, the regathering of believers in Jerusalem to be with the Lord, and that it conflates the Second Advent with the Eternal State (for much of prophecy was only revealed in full in the Person of Christ: 1Pet.1:10-12; see the link: in CT 1, “Hermeneutic Issues”). Even so, Old Testament prophecy in many places and in many ways, as it says in Hebrews 1:1, proclaimed that God would be the One to accomplish this deliverance, and that this deliverance would be accomplished by the Messiah through His sacrifice (cf. Ps.22; Is.52-53). In short, there is not a sliver of daylight separating the Old Testament picture of the gospel and the New Testament one – except that we now see the face of salvation so clearly in the Person and the work of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. 2Cor.4:4-6).
And the Word became flesh and tented among us. And we beheld His glory, glory as that of the One and only [Son] from out of the presence of the Father, filled with grace and truth.
How are we saved? By believing this gospel, this good news about deliverance
from death through faith in Christ. The word in scripture for "believe" is the
Greek pisteuo, and it means more than intellectual perception as it is
used in the New Testament (cf. Jas.2:19). Faith or belief is "alive" – we are
faithful to the One in whom we have put our faith if we have faith. We believe
in the Person of Jesus (who He is, God and man in One unique Person forever),
and what He has done (dying on the cross for our sins so that we have been
forgiven our sins through faith in Him), and we glory in this knowledge, holding
it fast in our heart as our hope that reaches beyond the grave, beyond the
canopy of this world, into the very throne room of God (Heb.6:19-20). We say
what we believe and believe what we say so that we need not trouble ourselves
about misguided interpretations of Romans 10:9-10. Paul is saying the obvious
there: if we do believe in truth, then in truth it is obvious, just as it is
very clear who does not really believe, who is not really faithful in their
hearts to the Lord, who has genuine faith in Christ, and who does not. For God
knows who belongs to Him (2Tim.2:19), and even if we are feeling convicted in
our hearts about our imperfections, He is greater than our hearts (1Jn.3:20).
Repent of the pointless pre-salvation life, believe in Jesus and His work, and be true to that faith by faithfully following Jesus – all these are part of truly being a believer in Jesus Christ and believing the gospel, the good news that we are now not of the world but one with Christ, that we have eternal life through faith in Him, and that we are now no longer living for ourselves but for Him, waiting patiently for His return or our great day of individual reunion with Him, whichever may come first, knowing that because we do believe in Him, we will not perish but we already do have and will then experience eternal life forevermore with the Lord who bought us.
Here is a link where this subject is treated in more detail:
Peter #24: "Faith Dynamics"
In Him in whom we have been born again to a living hope of eternal life, liberated from death through our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about Him and His sacrifice for us.
What did Jesus mean by the coming of the kingdom of God? In Luke 17: 20-21, He
spoke of the coming of the Kingdom of God as if it was a separate issue from the
return of the Son of Man:
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."
Does scripture indicate that it would change anything about our current "reality" if the Kingdom was already here? Perhaps the kingdom is *in* us.
I strongly believe that scripture teaches that the kingdom in almost every sense is future. We who believe are all "sons of the kingdom" (e.g., Matt.13:38), and we work for the King, even though He is not presently here in person and His tangible kingdom has yet to be established (Ps.110:1). Therefore the kingdom of God might possibly be capable of being described as "within" or "among" us in that sense, though certainly not in the role this passage is often drafted to play (and, indeed, I don't believe that is what Jesus is saying here at all).
The situation in Luke chapter 17 helps to clarify the issue: when these words were spoken, Jesus, the King, was there in their midst, and those who believed, His subjects, were there as well (and of course we continue to be here in this world as an enemy presence on a hostile battlefield). It is only in this sense that the Kingdom is here right now (and I suppose that could be called a spiritual sense), but what I really have trouble with is the attempt by so many to take this truth to mean that 1) what we see is what we get as far as the kingdom is concerned (i.e., it is not really "coming" in any meaningful sense = there is no glorious Millennium, only a present “spiritual” kingdom of sorts), or that 2) we can or should be doing something to "bring in the kingdom", "create it here on earth ourselves", or "hasten its coming" (all of which approaches only play into the devil's hands).
Let me quote from what I have already written about this in Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series:
The Kingdom: The Kingdom of God under the rule of Christ our King replaces the devil's kingdom of this world (kosmos) commencing with the 2nd Advent (Rev.11:15). At that time, the Kingdom will be openly and gloriously established (Dan.2:44), but until that time it will remain an alien yet imminent presence in the devil's kingdom (Matt.3:2; 4:17). At the present time, the Kingdom is represented in the persons of its future citizens just as it had been in the Person of its future King (Matt.10:7; 12:28; Lk.17:21; Jn.18:36). As He was opposed, so we are being opposed:
“Since the days of John the baptist until this present time, the Kingdom of God has been under violent attack, and violent men are laying hands upon it.”
But on that marvelous day, He will be revealed in glory (Matt.25:31; 1Thes.3:13; 2Thes.1:7; 1Tim.6:14; 2Tim.4:1; Rev.1:1), and we will share in His glorious rule (Dan.7:27; Rom.8:18-19; 1Pet.4:13). It is on this event that we fix our hope (Matt.6:10; 1Thes.4:16; 2Tim.4:8; Tit.2:13).
Thus there is a literal, coming Kingdom of Heaven which is definitively
future and objectively not currently present.
There has been for many years and in many groups and places a strong desire to mutate what the Bible says about eschatology into a social agenda instead, rationalizing or "spiritualizing" (an unfortunate choice of words) the very clear statements not only about the celebratory inaugural feast (i.e., the "Wedding Supper of the Lamb"; Matt.8:11-13; Lk.13:28-29; Rev.19:7-9; cf. Is.25:6-9; Matt.22:2-14; Lk.14:16-24) but every other aspect of eschatology as well, e.g., the Second Advent, the Millennium, the New Jerusalem, the Tribulation - even the Resurrection! This is a very slippery slope with the capability of undermining every truth of scripture.
I am certainly not saying that this is what you have in mind! No, your questions(s) are legitimate and important to ask. Usually those who “spiritualize” what the scriptures say about the future ask not "has the kingdom come?" but "is the kingdom merely a spiritual idea and are we not therefore to try and make it a material reality as well?" That is to say, as this approach is actually applied it inevitably takes the form of "bringing in the Millennium" (see part 4 of the Satanic Rebellion: section IV. Satan's World-System: Tactical Doctrine). One account of just such an attack on the faith is recorded in 2nd Thessalonians where the apostle Paul has to counter the false notion that the resurrection has already occurred in some undefined sense (thus implying that all of the other eschatological facts must be merely “spiritual” instead of concrete realities as well):
So we ask you, brothers, in regard to the coming our Lord Jesus Christ [discussed in chapter one, verses 3-12], and our assembling together to Him [in resurrection at His return (cf. 1Cor.15:51-54)], that you not be so easily moved from your correct understanding [of these matters], nor disturbed [by doubts about what you should know to be true] – not even if [this "new information" purports to come] through a spirit, or an [inspired] word or a letter supposedly from me, declaring that the Day of the Lord is already upon us. Do not let anyone deceive you in any way. For [the 2nd Advent cannot come] unless the Apostasy [the great falling away of the faithful in the first half of the Tribulation] has already occurred, and the man of lawlessness [antichrist] has been revealed [an event also occurring in the Tribulation], that "son of destruction" (i.e., characterized by, author of, and doomed to destruction), the one who will oppose and exalt himself against every so-called god and object of worship to such a degree that he will take his seat in the temple of God and represent himself as being God. Don't you remember that while I was still with you I was explaining these things to you?
2nd Thessalonians 2:1-5
Indeed, it is just this sort of attempt to put Christians off of their hope
that was often at the core of false teachings which the writers of the New
Testament had to keep on correcting (e.g., 1Cor.4:8; 15:12ff.).
To get to the specifics of the passage you ask about, in Luke 17: 20-21, the critical phrase is, as you indicate, "in you". The Greek here is the "improper preposition" entos plus the plural of the second person plural pronoun (i.e., "y'all" as they say in these parts). The word entos often does mean within, but the question is within what? It is also possible to translate here "among" in the sense of "within you all (as a group)" or "in your midst" rather than "within all of you (individually)". Contextually, there is little to choose between the two translations and interpretations. Clearly, I hold with the former because to me it squares with everything else Jesus says about the kingdom. He is the coming King, and He is offering the kingdom to His countrymen (which explains why it is "near" but not consummately come: e.g., Matt.3:2), but they are refusing it by their unbelief (which is why we did not have the millennial kingdom at that time, but it still waits in abeyance until such time as all the believers of this Church Age have been called out).
This is also why in verse 22 Jesus tells his interlocutors that in a very short time they will "long for" the days when He was with them, ruing their missed opportunity to accept Him and His kingship. For He is indeed The King (Jn.18:37; cf. Rev.19:16), and longed to gather all His subjects to Himself (Matt.23:37), but they would not have Him as their King (Jn.19:15). It is also important to observe in regard to Luke 17 that in verses 24-37 Jesus makes quite a point of demonstrating that the coming of the kingdom will be visible, and very much so (for the Second Advent will be unmistakable). But for the hardened hearts of unbelief that refuse to recognize the King now, they will not recognize that the kingdom is imminent then until it is too late and they are either swept away in judgment or left behind as we who do believe rise to be with our Lord when He returns to rule the world.
The bottom line here is that I do not believe that the kingdom of the Son (i.e., the actual Millennial Kingdom: Matt.13:41 vs. 13:43), nor the kingdom of God the Father (i.e., the Eternal State: Matt.25:34; Rev.21-22) are meant by scripture to be understood as presently here in the devil's world in any tangible, material sense (beyond that of our presence as interlopers in Satan's kingdom), nor do I believe that this is what Luke 17:20-21 is saying. We who are "sons of the kingdom" are here, but we are invaders in an enemy's domain (one of the central points that the Satanic Rebellion series is designed to make). And I believe the scriptures which bear out this point of view to be both numerous and persuasive (e.g., Ps.110:1; Jn.3:3; 3:5; 1Cor.15:23-25; etc.):
Jesus answered (Pilate), "My kingdom is not of this world (kosmos). If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting on my behalf so that I might not be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here (i.e., does not derive from this world in origin, nature, or power)".
I hope this rather brief response on this complicated and much debated
subject will be helpful to you. Please feel free to write me back if you would
like to discuss it further.
In the Name of our coming King Jesus Christ,
When Jesus was eating Passover with his disciples the night before He died,
He said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day when He would
drink it new with them in the Kingdom of Heaven (The actual wording varies in
the different gospels.). Some teachers claim that the Kingdom arrived when Jesus
accepted the so-called sour wine while on the cross.
Is the Kingdom already here, in some spiritual, unseen way?
It is true that oxos, the "vinegar" given to Christ on the cross, is
wine vinegar (i.e., "red vinegar" as opposed to the apple vinegar very common in
this country). And if one does come down on the side of assuming that Jesus'
drinking of the vinegar the next day constituted the end of this self-imposed
prohibition, then one would almost certainly have to conclude that, at least in
some sense, the kingdom had already arrived (spiritually, as you say).
However, even on the face of it, it would seem a little odd if this pronouncement and the subsequent drinking of the vinegar were to be the proclamation of an event so important and dramatic as the arrival of the kingdom of God – even in some “spiritual” sense. For that reason alone, I would be skeptical about basing any teaching of an already arrived kingdom on this set of synoptic passages alone (i.e., Matt.26:29; Mk.14:25; Lk.22:18). After all, Jesus knew full well that He would be offered vinegar on the cross since this was part of the prophecy about His death on behalf of the world (i.e., "they put gall in my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink": Psalm 69:21). And, for all the world, Jesus' declaration about not drinking wine until the arrival of the kingdom, naturally read, certainly sounds as if the length of time that our Lord would refrain from wine would be longer than the less than 24 hours until He drank the vinegar.
I believe that the true explanation is to be found, as is often the case, in a careful reading of the original Greek. Jesus does not actually say that He will refrain from all grape products. He says, "I will certainly not drink from this product of the vine until that day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of God" (Matt.26:29; and see the link: “On this Rock”).
By His use of the critical and somewhat unusual phrase "this product", Jesus is deliberately distinguishing the present wine from the future vinegar. Only Matthew 26:29 has the word "this", but the parallel passages in both Mark and Luke do have the definite article (i.e., the word "the"), and in Greek the definite article has a more pronounced demonstrative flavor than our English article (i.e., it often means "THE" rather than "the"), allowing us to expand the translation in both of those passages as follows: "the product of the vine we have right here (as opposed to other products, like vinegar)". So Jesus' words are very carefully chosen here precisely for our benefit in understanding both of these events. Remember that when first He was nailed to the cross He refused the wine mixed with gall (Matt.27:34; Mk.15:23), but He later drank the vinegar (after the darkness of judgment had passed).
Whether we look at the issue from the mind-set of the ancient world or even in our own day, despite their common origin, wine and vinegar could hardly be any more different. The latter is sour and devoid of alcohol, the former is sweet and its alcoholic content is a critical part of what makes it “wine”. And it is the alcohol which is the issue. The Son of Man came "eating and drinking" (Matt.11:19), because as the Bridegroom He was heralding the coming kingdom (cf. Lk.5:34-35), and wine is appropriate for gladdening the heart in celebration (Jn.2:1-11; cf. Eccl.9:7; 10:19). Hanging on the cross and about to breathe out His spirit was truly a victorious moment (for He had redeemed us all with His victory over sin and death; cf. Ps.110:7), but it was not the moment to celebrate. That moment, the coming victory banquet in the kingdom, is yet future (Is.25:6-8; Matt.8:11; 25:1-10; Lk.13:29; 14:15; 22:28-30; Rev.19:9). This explains the further qualification that Jesus adds here, often overlooked in discussions of this sort. Our Lord tells us that He will drink this celebratory wine only when He is able to drink it with us, the Bride for whom He gave His life.
The partaking of the vinegar on the cross thus lacks the appropriate element of celebration, the gladdening effect of the alcohol, and the fellowship of the Bride with her Bridegroom, all of which will indeed be present when the Church celebrates in resurrection our Lord's great victory on His return to earth at the Second Advent.
Through whatever sadness and sorrow we know now, in sober anticipation of that blessed day when we celebrate with our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!