What is the Gospel?
Editor's Note: We proudly introduce with this issue Jacob Michael with a succinct Catholic Apologetic based on the Holy Scriptures. He has chosen to call his column Quid Dicit Scriptura? - What Saith the Scriptures? He utilizes the approved and superior Douay-Rheims Roman Catholic version in his apologia and holds to the Council of Trent's decree to "accept Sacred Scripture according to the meaning which has been held by Holy Mother Church and which She now holds. It is Her prerogative to pass judgment on the true meaning and interpretation of Sacrd Scripture and will not accept or interpret it in a manner different from the unanimous agreement of the Fathers." Jacob begins with the first installment of a multi-part treatise on the meaning of the Gospel as the title indicates - "The Gospel is the Kingdom."
This may seem like such a basic question, but think about it for a minute: what is the essence of the gospel, really? Many will say, "that Jesus died for my sins." Others would say, "having a personal relationship with Jesus." Still others would define it as, "Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension." And while all of these things are part of the gospel, are they really at the heart of the "good news?"
This is precisely the question I intend to explore here. Although these
ideas are not necessarily new with me, I am aware that I am speaking to an
issue that - to my knowledge - has never been defined by the Magisterium of
the Church. Certainly, I am not aware that anything of what I have to say
here has been condemned by the Magisterium, but, neither has it been
declared de fide. In other words, take what I have to say with a grain of
salt or two, these are only my personal reflections and opinions.
Why did Jesus come to earth? What was His purpose in becoming Man? What was it that the prophets foretold about the Messiah, and why did the Jews completely miss Him?
My thesis statement, which I believe answers the above questions, as well as the question, "what is the gospel," is simply this: the gospel is the kingdom. Why did Jesus come to earth as Man? To restore the kingdom. What did the prophets foretell? That the Messiah would restore the kingdom. Why did the Jews miss the Messiah? Because they were looking for an earthly kingdom, a restoration of the earthly Jerusalem.
In the Beginning
Our story begins right at the beginning, in the book of Genesis, where we see the concept of "kingdom" and "monarchy" being woven into the very fabric of Creation itself:
And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser
light to rule the night: and The stars. And he set them in the firmament of
heaven to shine upon the earth. And to rule the day and the night, and to
divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good... And he
said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion
over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and
the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth....
And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and
subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air,
and all living creatures that move upon the earth.(Gen. 1:16-18, 26, 28)
The Hebrew word translated "to rule," memshalah, carries with it the idea of dominion and government. The word is elsewhere translated "authority" or "government" in Isaias 22:21. This seems like odd language to be using with regard to the Sun and the Moon, but this is the way of Creation. God created a firmament, and filled it with lights, but it had no rulers, so He created two "great lights" - one "greater" and one "lesser" - and set them "to rule" - memshalah - the skies. The Sun is a sort of "king," and the Moon is a sort of "queen," and thus the Church has sometimes applied these two symbols to Jesus and Mary, respectively.
The same is said of the Man and the Woman. God says, "let them have dominion." Here, the word is radah, and can also mean "reign," "dominate," and "subjugate." It is translated "reign," or "rule," in Lev. 26:17, and it is often used in the Old Testament in the context of kings and kingdoms. Thus, we have Adam and Eve being set up, right from the very beginning, as King and Queen of Creation, to rule over their domain. The Garden was their kingdom, but when they sinned, they were cast out of it. There is, then, a sense in which the Fall is the first occurence of the broken kingdom, a ruins that God promises, in Gen. 3:15ff., to restore. Indeed, this Garden, this Paradise is restored in the New Kingdom, and Apocalypse makes mention of this no less than four times (Apoc. 2:7, 22:2, 22:14, 22:19).
As we move on into the book of Genesis, however, the promise of an everlasting kingdom becomes a little more precise, with a few more details. The scene is the patriarch Jacob's deathbed, and he has called his sons together to give them each a final blessing. Yet, as he speaks, he prophesies, and when he reaches his third son, he says:
Juda is a lion's whelp: to the prey, my son, thou art gone up: resting thou
hast couched as a lion, and as a lioness, who shall rouse him? The sceptre
shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come
that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations. (Gen. 49:9-10)
With the words, "The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda," the tribe
of Judah was forever marked as a royal tribe. When he says the scepter will
remain with Judah "till he come that is to be sent," he speaks of Jesus
Christ, who is later called "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah." (Apoc. 5:5) By
these words, Jacob signifies that the last king out of Judah will be the
Christ. He will be the last ruler, because His reign will be unending.
This, of course, is why David was chosen to succeed Saul as King. Saul was
from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Kings 10:21), and thus, according to Jacob's
prophecy, his reign could not last forever. So it was, that when Saul was
cast down from his throne by God (see 1 Kings 15:26-29), God chose his
successor from a town called Bethlehem (1 Kings 16:1), in the city of Judah
(1 Kings 17:12).
Long Live the King
When David finally ascended to the throne, one of the first things he did
was attack and conquer Jerusalem, and set up his throne there, along with
the Ark of the Covenant (see 2 Kings 5 and 6). During the time when the
Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness with Moses, God's presence,
which hovered over the Ark, had enjoyed no permanent shrine or resting
place. The Ark moved about from place to place in a tent, and when David
finally planted roots in Jerusalem, he desired to build a permanent House
for God's Ark. We read, in 2 Kings 7, that David approached Nathan the
prophet with his plans, and Nathan initially gave him the go-ahead, saying,
"Go, do all that is in they heart: because the Lord is with thee." (vs. 3)
However, that very night, God spoke to Nathan and gave him a different
message for David:
And now thus shalt thou speak to my servant David: Thus saith the Lord of
hosts: I took thee out of the pastures from following the sheep to be ruler
over my people Israel: And I have been with thee wheresoever thou hast
walked, and have slain all thy enemies from before thy face: and I have made
thee a great man, like unto the name of the great ones that are on the
earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant
them, and they shall dwell therein, and shall be disturbed no more: neither
shall the children of iniquity afflict them any more as they did before,
From the day that I appointed judges over my people Israel: and I will give
thee rest from all thy enemies. And the Lord foretelleth to thee, that the
Lord will make thee a house. And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou
shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will raise up thy seed after thee, which
shall proceed out of the bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall
build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom
forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son: and if he
commit any iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men, and with the
stripes of the children of men. But my mercy I will not take away from him,
as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before my face. And thy house
shall be faithful, and thy kingdom forever before thy face, and thy throne
shall be firm forever. According to all these words and according to all
this vision so did Nathan speak to David. (2 Kings 7:8-17)
God did not allow David to build the temple in Jerusalem, desiring instead
that David's son should build it, but in return for David's gesture, God
said, "I am going to build you a house!" In Hebrew, the word bayith is a
double-entendre, meaning both "house" and "family" or "descendants." Couple
this with the promise that "thy throne shall be firm forever," and in
effect, God is saying, "You wanted to build Me a house [temple], but I am
going to build you a house [family dynasty]."
The importance of this covenant cannot be over-looked, for it cements the prophecy that Jacob made in Gen. 49:9-10:
I have made a covenant with My elect: I have sworn to David My servant: Thy
seed will I settle for ever. And I will build up thy throne unto generation
and generation. (Ps. 88:4-5)
God's solemn oath to David is that David's throne, his kingdom, his dynasty, will be everlasting. A Davidic King will always be on the throne. Keep that in mind, because this factors heavily in the gospel message later on.
David responds to this news with a rather curious statement:
But yet this hath seemed little in thy sight, O Lord God, unless thou didst
also speak of the house of thy servant for a long time to come: for this is
the law of Adam, O Lord God. (2 Kings 7:19)
What is meant by this statement, a "law for Adam," becomes somewhat clearer
as we follow the life of David's son and successor, King Solomon (shalomoh,
from shalowm, or "peace" - in other words, Solomon was a fore-runner to the
"Prince of Peace"). When Solomon ascended to the Davidic throne, there was
great prosperity and peace, but more than that, Solomon had dominion over
many Gentile nations:
Juda and Israel were innumerable, as the sand of the sea in multitude;
eating and drinking, and rejoicing. And Solomon had under him all the
kingdoms, from the river to the land of the Philistines, even to the border
of Egypt: and they brought him presents, and served him all the days of his
life. And the provision of Solomon, for each day, was thirty measures of
fine flour, and threescore measures of meal; Ten fat oxen, and twenty out of
the pastures, and a hundred rams; besides venison of harts, roes, and
buffles, and fatted fowls. For he had all the country which was beyond the
river, from Thaphsa to Gazan, and all the kings of those countries: and he
had peace on every side round about. (3 Kings 4:20-24)
Notice how Solomon seems to have had dominion over Adam (that is, "Man" or
"mankind")? David's statement in 2 Kings 7:19 becomes clearer in this light.
Further, we read that these Gentile nations revered Solomon for his wisdom:
And the queen of Saba having heard of the fame of Solomon in the name of the
Lord, came to try him with hard questions.... she came to king Solomon, and
spoke to him all that she had in her heart. And Solomon informed her of all
the things she proposed to him: there was not any word the king was ignorant
of, and which he could not answer her. And when the queen of Saba saw all
the wisdom of Solomon... she had no longer any spirit in her; And she said
to the king: The report is true, which I heard in my own country... and [I]
have found that the half hath not been told me: thy wisdom and thy works
exceed the fame which I heard... And she gave the king a hundred and twenty
talents of gold, and of spices a very great store, and precious stones:
there was brought no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen
of Saba gave to king Solomon... And she returned, and went to her own
country, with her servants. And all the earth desired to see Solomon's face,
to hear his wisdom, which God had given in his heart. And every one brought
him presents, vessels of silver and of gold, garments, and armour, and
spices, and horses, and mules, every year. (3 Kings 10:1-13, 24-25)
Incredible! "And all the earth desired to see Solomon's face, to hear his
wisdom." This is, I believe, what David meant by "a law for Adam." What
Moses produced as a Law for Israel, Solomon extended to a Law for Adam, all
nations. At the dedication of the new temple, Solomon seems to anticipate
this very thing, the influence of Jerusalem and its temple over the nations,
in his dedication prayer:
Moreover also the stranger, who is not of thy people Israel, when he shall
come out of a far country for thy name's sake, (for they shall hear
everywhere of thy great name, and thy mighty hand, And thy stretched out
arm) so when he shall come, and shall pray in this place, Then hear thou in
heaven, in the firmament of thy dwelling place, and do all those things, for
which that stranger shall call upon thee: that all the people of the earth
may learn to fear thy name, as do thy people Israel, and may prove that thy
name is called upon on this house, which I have built. (3 Kings 8:41-43)
Solomon built the temple with a Court for the Gentiles, making enough space
so that not only the Jews, but all nations could worship God in the temple.
In this prayer, he clearly assumes that the Gentiles will come ("they shall
hear everywhere of thy great name"), and will pray in the temple ("when he
shall come, and shall pray in this place"). One could even go so far as to
say that the Wisdom Literature penned by Solomon (see Proverbs 1:1,
Ecclesiastes 1:1, and Canticle of Canticles 1:1) was a more expansive
version of the Jewish Law, for in it are instructions on Wisdom and
Righteousness intended for all men without any apparent distinction.
We read confirmation of these things in the Psalms as well, as the King
speaks of the nations under him who rebel against him, though they do not
realize that God rules the nations through His Messiah:
Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things? The kings
of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord, and
against his Christ. [mashiyach, lit., "Messiah"] Let us break their bonds
asunder: and let us cast away their yoke from us. He that dwelleth in heaven
shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them. Then shall he speak to
them in his anger, and trouble them in his rage. But I am appointed king by
him over Sion, his holy mountain, preaching his commandment.
The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the
utmost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a
rod of iron, and shalt break them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
And now, O ye kings, understand: receive instruction, you that judge the
earth. Serve ye the Lord with fear: and rejoice unto him with trembling.
Embrace discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from
the just way. (Psalm 2)
You'll indulge me a short digression on the word "Messiah" used in this passage. We have, over 2,000 years of the influence of Christendom, been conditioned to immediately associate the word "Messiah" with Jesus. The same goes for the word "Christ."
In reality, however, the word mashiyach in Hebrew, and christos in Greek, mean exactly the same thing: anointed. Further, in the history books of the Old Testament, the term mashiyach is used repeatedly to refer to the King. David uses the term three times in reference to King Saul:
Lo, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in
the cave; and some bade me kill you, but I spared you. I said, 'I will not
put forth my hand against my lord; for he is the LORD'S messiah.' (1 Kings
Behold this day thy eyes have seen, that the Lord hath delivered thee into
my hand, in the cave, and I had a thought to kill thee, but my eye hath
spared thee. For I said: I will not put out my hand against my lord, because
he is the Lord's anointed ["messiah"]. (1 Kings 24:11)
The Lord be merciful unto me, and keep me that I never put forth my hand
against the Lord's anointed ["messiah"]. But now take the spear which is at
his head, and the cup of water, and let us go... And the Lord will reward
every one according to his justice, and his faithfulness: for the Lord hath
delivered thee this day into my hand, and I would not put forth my hand
against the Lord's anointed ["messiah"]. (1 Kings 26:11, 23)
Why do I emphasize this relationship? Because it shows just how intimately
related is the Davidic Kingdom to the Gospel. The Messiah, the Christ, is
first and foremost the official title of the Davidic King. So when we read
of the Messianic prophecies, the promises of a coming Messiah, we must
understand that the Jews would have understood that term as referring to an
Ok, that's the end of the digression. We turn again to see the Psalmist
writing of the role of the Kingdom in Jerusalem amongst the Gentile nations:
Give to the king thy judgment, O God, and to the king's son thy justice: To
judge thy people with justice, and thy poor with judgment...And He shall
continue with the sun and before the moon, throughout all generations... And
He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the
earth. Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down: and his enemies shall lick
the ground. The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the
kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: And all kings of the
earth shall adore Him: all nations shall serve Him... Let His name be
blessed for evermore: His name continueth before the sun. And in Him shall
all the tribes of the earth be blessed: all nations shall magnify Him. (Ps.
71:1-2, 5, 8-11, 17)
Note that not only is the King's role one of dominion ("may he have dominion from sea to sea"), but it also one of mediation ("may men bless themselves by him, all nations call him blessed"). This is the case, I believe, precisely because the Davidic King mediates the Law for Man, he instructs them in the way of Wisdom and Righteousness, and he teaches the nations the fear of the Lord.
At least, that was the original plan, and it worked for a short time, a golden 40 years or so, but then Solomon died, and his son Rehoboam took the throne.
David's Kingdom Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down...
If you want to ask Jacob a question, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and we encourage you to visit his site A Lumen Gentleman - Lumen Gentleman Apologetics.