In the last post we saw how Jesus revealed and demonstrated that His new kingdom had come into the earth in His ministry. However, the final battle in the war between His kingdom and the kingdom of darkness was yet to take place. It would be Jesus’ death on the cross, burial, and resurrection from the dead that would seal His victory for all eternity. Although we have looked at the depth of His salvation (sozo) already, in this post, we will dig deeper into the “gospel of the Kingdom.”
What is a Gospel
Before the New Testament writers began using the word “gospel” – “evangelion” in the Greek – to discuss Jesus’ work on the cross, this word was widely used in Greek and Roman culture to describe a message of victory being reported from the battlefield. When a military would achieve success over their enemy, a messenger would run to bring the “gospel” or “good news” of the victory back to the home country.
As the New Bible Dictionary says,
In classical literature the word designated the reward given for good tidings. It also indicated the message itself, originally the announcement of victory, but later applied to other messages bringing joy.
R. H. Mounce, “Gospel,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 426. (Emphasis mine.)
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God
Jesus takes this same, culturally understood idea, and declared the gospel of His own victory over the Kingdom of darkness. This gospel, or good news, is that Jesus went to war with the Kingdom of darkness and won the victory, and now that message is being proclaimed.
Although Jesus had already revealed His kingdom in word and deed, when He took the punishment for sin on His body and died in our place, He put the final seal on the devil’s destruction. The cross was the final blow to the devil’s kingdom, he was defeated.
Originally, it was through the sin of Adam that the devil took authority over the earth (Luke 4:5-6) and by which death entered the world (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:19). However, it was in the sinless life and atoning death of Christ that the reign of sin, death, and the devil came to an end. The means by which the devil gained His authority was reversed! The gospel of the Kingdom is that Jesus has defeated the devil, and is the undisputed victor in the invisible battle for the world!
More Than Human Salvation
I think the biggest misconception about the Gospel is that the “good news” is only about spiritual salvation in Jesus.
Yes, Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. That is foundational to the Gospel. However, that was just the first effect of a much larger plan. God’s goal was to completely undo the effects of the devil’s global power grab at the fall of man, and the cross of Christ achieved that goal. Just take a look at the military references made throughout the New Testament.
A King is Conquered
When the Roman army would go into enemy territory and defeat that kingdom’s army, they would then plunder the nation for all of its valuables, and make a spectacle of the defeated king before the people.
The Roman commanders would take the defeated king and remove all symbols of his authority from him: his crown, sword, scepter, royal robes, signate rings, etc. They would then strip the fallen king naked, bind him in chains, and lead him throughout his own defeated kingdom, in front of his people, shouting that he was no longer the king. “Caesar is king!” The people would then watch as their king, other surviving military and government leaders, and all the spoils of their land would be marched out of their cities, back to Rome.
The Apostle Paul, when writing about Jesus’ victory over the devil employs this same imagery. In Colossians 2:15 we read:
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities.” That is talking about the devil and his demons. Jesus took down their defenses, removed their weapons, and stripped them of all power and authority. He then “put them to open shame,” meaning that Jesus didn’t quietly declare his victory over the devil. It means He bound him in chains and led him about to become a spectacle for all to see. When the name of Jesus is proclaimed, the devil has no ability to withstand. He is a defeated enemy.
The verses right before make it clear that this work was accomplished, not just by Jesus’ performing miracles and living a righteous life. It was directly through His atonement for sin on the cross.
A Victory Parade
This same imagery is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14-26:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life…
The Greek word here for “triumphal procession” is the same as in Colossians for “triumphing over them.” Both of these verses are discussing the same victory parade, where the devil and his demons are put on display as being defeated enemies. Where Colossians seems to discuss the beginning of the parade, as the defeated king was removed from his own kingdom, 2 Corinthians seems to picture the end of the parade, when the victorious military commander would present the enemy and the spoils of war to the Roman people.
As Freeman and Chadwick write:
A Roman military triumphal procession was one of the grandest spectacles of ancient times. It was granted to a conqueror only when certain conditions had been fully complied with. Among these it was required that the victory be complete and decisive…and that it put an end to the war… When the day arrived the people crowded the streets and filled every place from which a good view of the procession could be obtained. The temples were all open and decorated with flowers, and incense was burned on every altar. Fragrant odors from burning spices were profusely scattered through the temples and along the streets, filling the air with perfume.
In the procession were the senate and chief citizens of the state, who by their presence honored the conqueror. The richest spoils of war—gold, silver, weapons of every description, standards, rare and costly works of art, and everything that was deemed most valuable by either conqueror or vanquished—were carried in open view in the procession. The general in whose honor the triumph was decreed rode in a chariot that was of peculiar form and drawn by four horses. His robe was embroidered with gold, and his tunic with flowers. In his right hand was a laurel bough, and in his left, a scepter. On his brow there was a wreath of Delphic laurel. Amid the shouts of the soldiers and the applause of the populace, the conqueror was carried through the streets to the temple of Jupiter, where sacrifices were offered, after which there was a public feast in the temple.
James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 541–542.
Jesus is King
In these references to a victorious military parade, Paul pictures Jesus riding at the head, clothed with royal robes and carrying the scepter of victory. Behind him are the spoils of this war; that is us — we are His reward. We are the precious things Jesus has taken for Himself.
Behind us comes the enemy, the devil, and all of his demonic generals, stripped of their authority and bound in his chains. He has lost his throne over the nations. He is no longer king of the world. Jesus is the King!
As we shout our praise of Jesus and lift our worship to God, Paul says we are the “fragrance” of death and life. Just as the Romans would celebrate with flowers and incense, our praises become the smell of life to those who are submitted to Jesus as King, but they are the fragrance of death to those who stand with the devil in sin.
The Final Declaration of Victory
Now, some will argue that the devil is yet to be defeated. Clearly, much of the world is still surrounded by darkness, and sin still has the hearts of mankind. They want to say that the devil’s defeat on the cross of Christ was incomplete and that we must wait for Jesus’ return in the future to finally finish the job.
To that I must quote from so many great theologians throughout history: “the devil is a liar!”
Jesus, after He rose from the dead and spent time instructing the disciples about the future of His Kingdom, gives the Great Commission, and He begins with these words:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Jesus did not mince words or misspeak. He declared that His victory in the battle was final and that He, now, has all the authority in creation. He has the authority in heaven, which was never lost to sin; and He has all the authority in the earth, which formerly belonged to the devil (see Luke 4:5-6).
The only problem we have now is that too much of the earth does not know their king has been defeated and that Jesus reigns. That is the rest of the final commission Jesus gave, and where we will turn our attention next week. Stay tuned…
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Anthony Scott Ingram.