The Good News
The gospel of Jesus Christ goes something like this:
Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross to take away the sin of the world, he was buried, and was raised from the dead to establish a new humanity; all this was in fulfillment of the ancient Scriptures. And this Jesus, who is king of creation, will return to earth one day to make all things right.
All who receive and believe these truths in their heart are reborn into the new humanity. Their lives are transformed by turning their allegiances from the things of the world and the deceitfulness of sin to the kingdom of God and Jesus as Lord. And upon Jesus’ return they will live with him and like him forever.
That! Is! Good! News!
There is a lot to unpack there. …so let’s get right to it!
The word gospel means “good news.” It’s easy for Christians to turn the good news into a thing, a concept or formula; a thing we call the gospel. Instead, we should realize that what we have is news. And, as is far too common the case, what typically passes for good news often sounds a lot more like bad news. We’ll come back to this point shortly.
Jesus was raised in Nazareth, but born in Bethlehem by a virgin named Mary. God, by his Spirit, fathered Jesus by birthing him in her womb. As a result, Jesus was both fully man, born from Mary, and fully the Son of God, who has eternally co-existed in the God who is a corporate God.
Jesus lived a sinless life, began his public ministry at about age 30. He performed many miracles, displaying that the kingdom of God had arrived, and he provided much teaching about the kingdom of God.
At about age 33, Jesus suffered death on the cross. This is a very important aspect of the gospel. (But not the most important aspect of the gospel. Stay tuned.)
JESUS DIED ON A CROSS
Volumes upon volumes have been written about what Jesus’ death on the cross meant. We will definitely not touch on every detail, but provide a survey overview. And it may surprise you!
The typical gospel message in Western Christianity emphasizes that Jesus died for people’s sins. This is true, Jesus did die for the sins of people (see 1 Pet. 2:24 & Heb. 9:28). But that’s only part of the truth; Jesus died for a lot more than that.
Jesus died on the cross to defeat sin! Not just the individual sins of believers, but sin as an entity; the entity of sin that corrupted not just humanity but all of creation! Jesus made a payment for sin that was far surpassing (but inclusive of) the sins of humans. Sin is not only a human problem; it became a creation problem. And Jesus will reconcile to God the created world, along with a redeemed portion of humanity (the new humanity). Observe what John the baptizer spoke:
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 ESV)
Jesus took away the sin of the world! Jesus took away the sin that marred all of creation. Same with the following passage:
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:2 NKJV)
Some translations insert an assumed repetition of the word sins (i.e., “but also for the sins of the whole world”). But the word for “sins” only appears once in the Greek (as represented in the above quote). Jesus died not only for the sins of believers, but also the entirety of creation! This verse does not refer to Jesus dying for the sins of all humans, but bigger than that! He died for the kosmos (the world, creation as a whole).
The point is, Jesus’ death on the cross did more than pay the penalty for humans. Jesus paid the penalty to redeem the entire created order.
The problem is that we often hear a gospel message that is very man-centered: “You are a sinner!” “You need to repent of your sins!” And this is what makes the good news sound more like bad news.
Is it true that we are all born into sin? Yes! Is it true that repentance is a necessary component of a person coming to know the Lord? Yes! But instead of preaching a message of bad news, the gospel is a message of good news. And in order to preach good news our message must not be man-centered, but Christ-centered.
To preach good news we must exalt Jesus! It requires exalting Jesus as God’s king and “savior of the world” (1 John 4:14; here we are, back to recognizing Jesus as savior of creation: “the world”).
There’s more that could be said here. But let’s move on.
JESUS WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD
This is actually the most important aspect of the good news.
Surely, it’s counter-productive to pit the crucifixion against the resurrection as rival events. They are actually two components of the same event: the Christ event. The crucifixion and resurrection are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.
As much as the work of Jesus dying on the cross accomplished good for the kingdom of God, the resurrection accomplished even more! For “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). We say that Jesus died for our sins, yet if Jesus stayed dead we would still be in our sins.(!) The resurrection is what gave the crucifixion its full effect!
“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—” (Rom 8:34). Emphasis on “more than that.” Paul regards the resurrection as a greater accomplishment than the Crucifixion.
Modern gospel preaching often focuses more on Jesus dying for our sins than Jesus raising from the dead. That’s what can regularly turn the good news into a man-centered message, often bearing bad news (making it all about your sins), instead of glad tidings of good news that God raised Jesus from the dead.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 CSB)
Paul didn’t write here that you would be saved if you believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins. He wrote that you would be saved “if you…believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.” Yes, it is imperative that one believe that Jesus paid the penalty for sin in our stead, but Paul’s priority in this passage was to focus on the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Paul wrote a lot about Jesus’ atoning work on the cross and being united with Christ in suffering. But he wrote that sharing in Christ’s sufferings was a means that resulted in resurrection (Phil. 3:10-11).
Jesus was “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Because Jesus was raised, so too are all those who are in him also raised! God “raised us up with him” (Eph. 2:6), we were “raised with him” (Col. 2:12), we “have been raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1). I could go on.
Believers have been raised with him already. And those who have fallen asleep will be raised on the last day. (I’m getting ahead of myself.) Both our being raised in the past (spiritual conversion, coming to Jesus, being made a new creation) and our being raised in the future (physically, when Jesus returns, in glorified bodies) are each a direct result of Jesus’ resurrection.
Peter wrote that God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through…” …Jesus dying for our sins? Nope: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).
I am not intending to diminish the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. The cross does need to be preached. My point is to that much more exalt the resurrection as the core element of the good news.
IN FULFILLMENT OF THE ANCIENT SCRIPTURES
The Crucifixion and Resurrection were fulfillment of all that was written in the ancient scriptures!
The entirety of the Old Testament is a series of types, shadows, and patterns that all point to God’s eternal purpose for creation, which is summed up in Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is fulfillment of what the predictive Scriptures (a.k.a., “the Old Testament”) was pointing forward to.
The covenants, the law, the prophets, the events pertaining to Israel; they all find their fulfillment in the death & resurrection of Jesus and his work of global restoration.
There is a lot more that could be said on this. Perhaps there’s a book that covers this topic. (Hey, look: here’s one!)
JESUS WILL RETURN
Jesus was raised from the dead as the firstfruits of the new creation, and he will return one day to complete God’s work of new creation, which includes a newly created earth. When Jesus returns he will claim the earth and everything in it as rightfully his.
Jesus’ first and second comings are the bookends of God’s work of restoration. Before Jesus’ death & resurrection, God was going to do a work of restoration (see especially the prophets). After Jesus returns, God will have completed his work of restoration (ushering in eternity on the restored earth). In between, God is doing an ongoing work of restoration by newly creating redeemed humans in Christ.
When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised. Those in Christ will be raised into glory and eternal life. Those who died outside of Christ will be raised to suffer the irreversible punishment of eternal death.
THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO THE GOOD NEWS
The appropriate human response to the good news is repentance and faith. Repentance means “to turn”; literally “to change the mind.” It’s a total reset of how one views the world and their role in it.
Faith refers to trust and utter devotion (think “faithfulness”). Put repentance and faith together and it means to turn from your trust in, and allegiance to, the things of this world to a trust in, and allegiance to, Jesus.
This happens by being made new, a changed life, as part of God’s restorative work in his creation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
God’s work of new creation is performed by his Holy Spirit. One who is newly created is born spiritually. All people are physically born into creation; those who are united with Christ are spiritually born into the new creation. “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11 ESV)
The Spirit gives life to humans just like the Spirit gave life to Jesus’ dead body. God’s work of new creation in redeemed humanity is a continuation of the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus cannot be overstated in the message of good news; it is vital to the good news. Unfortunately, it is far too often understated in a common gospel presentation, or not even stated at all.
The resurrection of Jesus is the event that changed world history. Everything is different because of it. When Jesus was raised, God’s work of restoration was underway, and it is still ongoing. It will be completed one day when Jesus returns to make right all of creation that has been corrupted by sin.