Let’s take our Bibles and open them to Matthew 28:18-20. We are already in lesson 9 on the kingdom. We’re in Lesson 9 but still in chapter 7 of the book I wrote, called The Coming Kingdom.
Really the first part of the class is to figure out what does the Bible say about the Kingdom, so that is, as I mentioned before it’s like being on a bus ride with about 17 stops. But if you can be patient through these 17 stops you’ll walk away with the big picture concerning what the Bible says about the kingdom. In fact, you’ll probably start to see that the kingdom is the theme of the Bible. I don’t think you can understand the Bible without understanding the broad theme of the kingdom. The theme of the kingdom starts in Eden where God ruled over a man, Adam and with the fall of man that structure was lost so the goal of history is how that structure is going to be reclaimed. God the Father is going to rule over a man, the last Adam, Jesus Christ, who is the God-man who’s going to govern creation for God. So the doctrine of the kingdom begins right there in Genesis 1.
The second stop is the covenant God made with Abraham where we learn that God called aside a special nation, the nation of Israel and He gave Israel three blessings, land, seed and blessing, and Israel at this point is the owner of those blessings forever. The third stop on the bus ride is the Mosaic Covenant which is/then language. So if the Abrahamic Covenant gave Israel ownership of her blessings what does the Mosaic Covenant give Israel? Terms for possession or enjoyment.
And the fourth stop on the bus is the divided kingdom where following the reign of Solomon the kingdom was divided, the two southern tribes and the ten northern tribes and the north is swept away by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. only the south remains. And so tiny Judah is the last vestige of God’s kingdom program on the earth.
So you’ll notice that God has a special protection for Judah and Judah then goes into captivity, this is stop number five on the bus ride, and this inaugurates, initiates a time period called the times of the Gentiles where the nation of Israel, or Judah, has no king reigning on David’s throne and the nation is being trampled down by various Gentile powers.
And during that time period the kingdom is not here. And Daniel’s prophecies make it very clear that that’s just the way it’s going to be until the return of Christ at the end of the tribulation period. So during the times of the Gentiles don’t expect the manifestation of the kingdom.
This takes us to number six on the bus ride, stop number six and this takes us into the ministries of the Old Testament prophets who take out their paint brushes and give a portrait of what the kingdom is going to be like when it comes one day. So they give an in depth treatment of the coming kingdom and they give us hope in a time period when the kingdom is not here. So it’s really these Old Testament prophets that help us get an explanation or a description of the coming kingdom.
And then from there we move on into the postexilic time period where the nation of Israel, Judah, comes back out of Babylonian captivity and that happened under the empire of Persia. And the nation of Israel is in the land for about four hundred years. The times of the Gentiles are continuing, Persia is followed by Greece, Greece is followed by Rome, Rome heavily taxed the Jews people, Rome took away from the Jews the power of capital punishment, and so the times of the Gentiles are continuing. And this takes us to number eight on the trip, stop number eight, which is where we got into (last week) which is the offer of the kingdom.
So finally the King shows up, the King of course is Jesus Christ. Matthew is very careful to connect the genealogy of Jesus back to the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with David. So Jesus is the guy; He is the King of God’s own choosing, and had the nation of Israel enthroned the King on the King’s terms the kingdom would have arrived.
So this takes shape in what is called the offer of the kingdom which is preached by, number 1, John the Baptist, Matthew 3:2. Number 2, Jesus Himself, Matthew 4:17. And then number 3, the twelve, Matthew 10:5-7. [Matthew 3:2, “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”; Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: And the offer of the kingdom simply is this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”]
Now what does all of that mean? We asked and answered five questions about the offer of the kingdom. Number 1, what is the kingdom? I’m not free to just pour into that word “kingdom” in the New Testament any definition I want; I have to interpret it according to everything that’s been revealed so far about the kingdom. That’s why I wanted to start this study in Genesis and systematically move through the Old Testament and into the New because that’s sort of the mistake people are making today, is they’re interpreting the word “kingdom” just how they want it to be and they’re not paying attention to what the Old Testament reveals about the kingdom. The kingdom is basically the millennial kingdom that is predicted in the pages of the Old Testament. That’s what was being offered to national Israel.
Why is it called the kingdom of heaven then? Not because of its content but because of its source. It originates from heaven, remember that “stone cut without human hands” that Daniel saw? Where was it coming from? It was coming from heaven to the earth. So the kingdom of heaven, it’s called “kingdom of heaven” because it’s the rule of God which exists unchallenged in heaven has now drawn near to the earth in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s called “at hand” because, not that it was here but that it was near. It was in a state of imminency, it was in a state of any moment expectation and had the nation of Israel enthroned Christ the kingdom, all that’s said about it in the Old Testament would have materialized over planet earth.
To whom was the kingdom offered? Who was this offer given to? Anybody remember? The nation of Israel. And you get that very clearly from Matthew 10:5-7 where Jesus, when He’s sending out the twelve to preach, says, “‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, for ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” So the first half, really, of Matthew’s Gospel you don’t have any information about the cross of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial death of Christ. You don’t have any information about the church age that we’re in now. It’s all a presentation of the offer of the kingdom to national Israel. And as we’ve tried to say, had Israel enthroned Christ on His terms the kingdom, hypothetically could have come to the earth.
Now this takes us to number 5 and this has to do with misinterpretations of the kingdom offer. There are an awful lot of people out there today preaching a gospel that is incorrect. They don’t preach the gospel of grace; they almost preach a gospel of works. And part of it is they try to develop their gospel presentation to the unsaved from how Matthew develops the offer of the kingdom in early Matthew.
One such individual, I sometimes hesitate to point out his name because some of the things he says I like but I also think he’s brought a lot of confusion into the body of Christ. It’s John MacArthur. And this is from one of his sermons. He says, “Listen, the Jews were looking for a political kingdom but Jesus never offered one.”
You see that there? What he’s saying there contradicts everything I’ve just presented thus far. What I believe is Jesus was honestly offering the millennial kingdom to the Jewish people. And John MacArthur is coming along and saying Jesus never offered any such thing.
He goes on and he says, “There is no politics in the Sermon on the Mount. None. There is not one reference to the social, political aspect of the kingdom made here, not one.” Now why are these things not referenced the way he wants? Because they’re already developed where? In the Old Testament. “The Jews were so concerned about the politics and the social life” that’s true, “Jesus makes no reference to that at all…”
I think Jesus does make reference to it through his repetition of the phrase “kingdom” undefined. “The stress is on being. It’s not on ruling or possessing, it is on being… So the political aspect of this message was devastating. It was absolutely everything was the opposite of what they expected a Messiah to say.”
So in his view the Jews were expecting a political kingdom but Jesus never offered that; He just offered salvation. And I think that’s incorrect. What Jesus was offering was the whole package of the kingdom which included politics but it also included an ingredient that the Jews didn’t like—the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus. But the whole package is the kingdom that was offered in its spiritual, geographical, political, physical and moral terms. So I have a disagreement with what he’s saying here. He carte blanche rejects the offer of the kingdom idea that I’m trying to present.
John MacArthur goes on and he says this: “We must not forget that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not merely to announce the earthly kingdom. When Jesus proclaimed His kingdom, He was preaching salvation.” So how does John MacArthur interpret this expression, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” He does not interpret that as an any moment appearance of the kingdom had the Jews changed their mind about Christ. He thinks that’s salvation and that’s the gospel.
Now I’m going to show you in just a second that that is not the gospel that we preach today; it’s a special message of good news only for the nation of Israel and if you can’t distinguish those things what you’ll end up with is a very conflated, confused gospel presentation.
The gospel that we preach today is very, very different from the expression “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” When Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom, and if we have time I’ll be showing you tonight exactly where that happened, it happened in Matthew 12:24, [Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.’”]
Once it becomes clear that Israel is going to turn down this offer everything in Matthew’s Gospel shifts and he begins to focus on a new body that’s going to be raised up called the what? The church, which we are part of. And the church’s gospel presentation is called the great commission which is found in Matthew 28:18-20. And you know these verses, the great commission, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of” what? “all nations,” now isn’t that very different than what He said earlier, “go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now He’s saying something completely different, He is telling His church, which consists of a remnant, who has trusted in His Messiahship even though the majority of the nation has rejected it, this smaller group that He’s going to raise up and they’re going to be the foundation of the church, He’s giving them an entirely different message, called the great commission, and now they’re told to go into all nations.
So unless you understand that there was an offer of the kingdom given to Israel and turned down and God then raised up the church with a different message you have no way to harmonize Matthew 28:19 with Matthew 10:5, 7 which says “go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Those verses contradict each other unless you understand that there’s a shift that’s gone on that’s very dramatic after Matthew chapter 12. So obviously the message we have is very different than the one that Jesus gave to the twelve when He sent them out to preach the offer of the kingdom.
Now take a look at Acts 16, verses 30-31. Now this is Paul in Philippi, it says, “and after he brought them out, he said,” this the Philippian jailor, ‘“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  “They said,” that’s Paul and Silas, ‘“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
So you’ll notice what Paul did not say to the Philippian jailor, “what must I do to be saved?” He didn’t say “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” did He? So obviously what’s happened is the offer of the kingdom, which is extended to Israel early on in the gospels is now off the table. God is now raising up the church and giving it a different message, the message of salvation.
Does it ever say in here “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? It doesn’t say that at all and yet that was very clearly presented, wasn’t it, in Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:5-7. So obviously what’s happened is a dramatic shift.
And unless you can appreciate how the offer of the kingdom was unique only to first century Israel and how we’re preaching a different message today you can’t harmonize these verses. And if you don’t want to harmonize these verses you’re going to end up preaching a distorted gospel. You’re going to end up saying something to the lost that God never intended for the lost to hear in terms of the gospel.
Now where did Paul preach this? Where was he? Anybody remember? He was in Philippi. That’s a good ways away from the city of Jerusalem, isn’t it.
So obviously Paul is no longer adhering to the instruction, “rather go only to the lost sheep of the house of” what? “Israel.” So you see how different Paul’s gospel is than what the original disciples preached to Israel. Number 1, there’s no kingdom language. Number 2, Paul is outside of the land of Israel whereas the offer of the kingdom was to only be given to the Jews within the land of Israel.
So what I am getting at is simply this: there is a big, BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG difference between the gospel of the kingdom and the personal gospel that we preach today.
In fact this difference is so big I created a chart that goes two slides to help you see the difference between the two. What exactly is the difference between the offer of the kingdom gospel versus the personal gospel that we preach today? Well, we have for one thing different Biblical examples. If you want to study the Kingdom Gospel you study Matthew 3, 4 and 10. If you want to study the gospel that we preach today you would study Acts 16:30-31 and other passages. The target audience of the two is completely different. The kingdom gospel is only given to who? First century Israel. That’s why Jesus says “go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” [Matthew 10:6].
That’s why I made reference last time to the Syrophoenician woman who was a Gentile and wanted a miracle from Christ and Christ basically tells her look, I wasn’t sent to you, I was sent “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And then she wants a miracle anyway and says well even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table, I know all of us are supposed to be blessed through Israel one day, and Jesus says I haven’t seen faith like this even in the land of Israel amongst the Jews. And that moment, was it her son or daughter I think it was, was healed.
So the target audience of the kingdom gospel is only first century Israel. The target audience for the personal gospel is who? Every nation. So if you’re having a missions conference you wouldn’t use Matthew 10 as your theme, you’d use Matthew 28 as your theme, Christ for the nations. And by the way, with the nation of Israel their missionary strategy was always a come and see strategy, so they built this majestic Solomonic temple and it was so beautiful that even the Queen of Sheba traveled 1200 miles to sit at Solomon’s feet and learn of his wisdom, and it was a place where pagans could come in, into the temple area to some degree and see the glory and majesty of God. So it was “if we build it they will come” strategy. The nation of Israel didn’t send out missionaries. In fact, the only missionary the nation of Israel sent out was a guy that went reluctantly was a guy named who? Jonah, and he didn’t want to go anyway and he got mad when the Ninevites repented.
So Israel is a come and see strategy, the church is a totally different strategy; we’re not to build these edifices to get the world to come and see, we’re supposed to go out. And this is a problem with the mega church mentality because they think if they build this giant cathedral it’s going to attract everyone. They’re still following the Israel strategy. The strategy of the church is to win, build and send. So the target audience for the personal gospel is all nations. For the kingdom gospel the type of salvation that was offered was national; it’s God liberating a nation from the diabolical rule of Rome and establishing His kingdom through them. For the personal gospel it’s personal and individual salvation. You have to believe it to stay out of hell; it has nothing to do with overthrowing the Romans, or anything of that nature. With the kingdom gospel how is Jesus portrayed? He’s portrayed as national Savior and King. He’s held up as the One who is going to reign on David’s throne and restore the nation and overthrow the oppressive rule of Rome.
With the personal gospel what kind of portrait of Christ do we have? We don’t preach Him necessarily as national Savior, He’s not the Savior of America. We don’t necessarily present Him as King. Now He will be reigning King one day but your belief in the personal gospel doesn’t usher in the immediate kingdom of God so we portray Him more as a personal Savior, believe in Jesus Christ to be personally saved. Saved from what? Saved from hell. The kingdom gospel, what was the kingdom expectation? The kingdom can come in a nanosecond if you enthrone the king of God’s own choosing. But with the personal gospel we never attach it to kingdom language; we never say repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand other than to tell people that if you believe in the gospel you’ll be a citizen one day of the coming kingdom but we don’t present it as if you believe it now the kingdom is supposed to come.
And these differences continue. The kingdom gospel, how does it contribute to God’s program? Well, if it’s acknowledged by the nation of Israel in the first century it would have contributed the immediate appearing of the millennial kingdom of God on planet earth. The personal gospel, what does that contribute to God’s program. It’s the mechanism that God uses to build His church. So God, through the personal gospel is not building His kingdom; the kingdom is not in a state of cancellation but in a state of what? Postponement. And so as the kingdom is in abeyance it doesn’t mean God is not doing anything, He’s building His church, the body of Christ, around the world which is not the kingdom. And Romans 11:25 tells us that that process is going to continue until the full number of Gentiles comes in. [Romans 11:25, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery– so that you will not be wise in your own estimation– that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;”]
One of these days the church will be made complete; the right number will be reached. Don’t ask me what the number is because only God knows what it is but one of these days a certain number will have come in and the body of Christ will be complete. The church at that time will be raptured to heaven, the earthly ministry of the church will be over and God will turn right back to Israel in the tribulation period and re-extend to them the offer of the kingdom at which time they will accept it.
Scriptural foundation—what foundation is there for the kingdom gospel? It’s the Mosaic Covenant going all the way back to Exodus 19:5-6 which condition the coming of the kingdom on the obedience of the Jewish people to the Mosaic Covenant. [Exodus 19:5-6, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;  and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”]
By the way, the Mosaic Covenant points towards who? Jesus Christ. So the whole foundation of it is rooted in the if/then conditional language of the Mosaic Covenant. Well then what’s the Scriptural foundation of the personal gospel? Not the Mosaic Covenant. The personal gospel we preach goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15 which is a prophecy that there’s coming one from the seed of the woman; the woman being Eve, who’s going to crush the serpent’s head, although the serpent is going to be allowed to bruise this coming one. [Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”]
You start to see in that prophecy a picture of the personal gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the very gospel that Abraham personally believed. Genesis 15:6 says Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for what? For righteousness. [Genesis 15:6, “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”]
And Paul, in Galatians 3:16 says what did Abraham actually believe? He didn’t believe simply in the generic promises of seed, plural, he believed in a seed, singular. [Galatians 3:16, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.”]
And what seed could he have possibly believed in, going all the way back to Genesis 15:6? The presentation of the gospel that’s unleashed as early as Genesis chapter 3 and verse 15; “a seed” is what you call a collective singular and that’s a noun that can be used as a singular or a plural. It’s like the word sheep; are we talking about a cute little singular fuzzy sheep over here or a flock of sheep. Or hair, am I talking about a strand of hair or am I talking about a head of hair. When someone says did you get your hair cut I don’t say well which hair are you talking about because we all understand that hair can be used singular, it can be used plural. That’s how seed is used. And Abraham believed in the promise of coming seed, plural, despite his old age, him and Sarah. But he also believed that through his generic seed would come Galatians 3:16, “a seed.” And through that individual seed personal salvation would be accomplished, that individual seed being Jesus Christ.
So that is the foundation of the personal gospel that we preached and John, when he gives us his book, called the Gospel of John, unlike Matthew, he’s not going to track all this data about the offer of the kingdom. That’s not his point. His point is to trace the personal gospel of individual salvation and individual faith all the way through. So it started in the Old Testament, it goes right on through the ministry of Jesus Christ, you see it in passages like John 3:16. [John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”] It goes right on through the teachings of the apostles into the ministry of Paul the apostle and it’s the same personal gospel that we preach today.
So although Matthew is developing the offer of the kingdom, that’s one angle of things, John is tracing this consistent personal gospel of individual salvation and individual faith from beginning to end. So as the personal individual salvation is extended to the human race God is also working in terms of extending His kingdom to Israel. So God is so creative He can create multiple sub plots and have those multiple sub plots come together in one coherent package. So Matthew is looking at one issue, the author of the kingdom to first century Israel. John is not dealing with that issue; John in his gospel is tracking personal salvation to all individuals.
So should you teach John or should you teach Matthew? It depends on what part of God’s program you want to emphasize. When are these gospels preached? The kingdom gospel is preached only in early Matthew or the early Synoptics. Do you know synoptic is? S-y-n means same, and you recognize the word “optic,” as in optometrist, so “optic” means look. Synoptic means same look. There are three Gospels that we have, now I’m talking about the written Gospels that we call the Synoptics, they are Matthew, Mark and Luke. They have the same basic plot structure. And all three of those Gospels are capitalizing on the kingdom offer to Israel. Their focus is not so much on the personal gospel
And then we have John’s Gospel that comes along and it’s a mold breaker, so it’s written in a totally different form and style, so it’s not one of the Synoptics. John, in his Gospel is not focusing on the kingdom offer to Israel the way the Synoptics are; he’s focusing on personal salvation.
So the kingdom gospel is preached in the early gospels and it’s not being preached today but after the rapture of the church it will be re-preached in which time period? The tribulation period, where God once again is dealing with Israel. The personal gospel, when is it preached? It’s preached in the church age and I believe it’s the same gospel that’s preached all the way through the Old Testament, they just didn’t know the name “Jesus.” They knew of a Messiah that was coming; they didn’t know His name, and they received the blessings of that coming Messiah on credit. “Abraham believed God and it was” what? “credited to him for righteousness.”
What is credit? Credit means you get a goodie without payment, like a credit card. But it’s the exact same gospel, it’s by faith alone, and it’s the same gospel by which we are saved today, it’s just, unlike the Old Testament characters which looked forward to a coming Messiah we are looking what? Backward. The Old Testament characters didn’t know His name; as we look backward do we know the name Jesus? Yes we do. Old Testament characters received the benefits of that personal gospel on credit. Do we receive it on credit? No we don’t because it’s been paid for at the cross of Christ two thousand years ago. But the package is always the same; it’s always received by faith alone. Do you see that?
And this is so important to understand because the viewpoint that I’m giving here, which is called dispensationalism, people attack us for preaching different gospels. They say oh, you’ve got one gospel for the Old Testament and another gospel for the New Testament, another gospel for today. And if you’re talking about the gospel of personal salvation that is completely inaccurate, that charge. We preach for personal salvation the exact same gospel from cover to cover, which is different than God’s dealings with a nation, the nation of Israel who was given the Mosaic Covenant and given the opportunity for the any moment appearance of the kingdom.
So when is the kingdom gospel preached? Early in Matthew and in the tribulation period and that’s it. We don’t preach it today. When is the personal gospel preached? Always and it’s the gospel that we preach today. Is the kingdom gospel being preached today? No. Is the personal gospel being preached today? Yes. Is the kingdom gospel always available? No, it was only available for first century Israel and it will only be available for that generation of Jews in the tribulation period. Is the personal gospel always available? Yes it is. So anyway that’s the best I can do with kind of a complicated idea. I just took out a piece of paper and divided it into two and started looking at the differences between personal gospel and kingdom gospel because I know there’s a lot of confusion out there about this.
This chart here simply shows you that the personal gospel has always been the same. Abraham was saved by faith, Genesis 15:6. It’s the gospel that Jesus preached as recorded in John’s Gospel, John 3:16. It’s the gospel that the Apostle Paul and Silas preached to the Philippian jailor, Acts 16:30-31.
Just so you don’t think I’m inventing things up here let me give you a few quotes if I could. One is from Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Seminary and he is reacting here in this quote against people that preach the gospel today the same way they did in early Matthew. They got up in front of audiences and say “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And he is explaining here in this quote why that’s an error.
He says, “Such insistence is too often based on Scripture which is addressed to the covenant people, Israel.” One of the big things to understand about the Bible is this: all Scripture is for us but not all Scripture is about us. You have to start learning to distinguish between God’s program with Israel and God’s program with the church to interpret the Bible correctly.
If you’re grabbing passages from the kingdom gospel and presenting it to the lost today you’re acting as if the whole Scripture is for today. There’s even a song that we sing, something like every word of the Book is mine, every line or something like that, I can’t even remember it let alone sing it. But that’s just not true, that song. All Scripture is for us, no doubt about it, but not all Scripture is about us. What is about “us” is the age of the church that really begins in Acts 2. And Chafer is saying that people aren’t making this distinction.
“Such insistence is too often based on Scripture which is addressed to the covenant people, Israel. They . . . being covenant people, are privileged to return to God on the grounds of their covenant by repentance. There is much Scripture both in the Old Testament and in the New that calls this one nation to its long-predicted repentance. . . . The preaching of John the Baptist, of Jesus and the early message of the disciples, was, ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’; but it was addressed only to Israel [Matt. 10:5, 6].’ The gospel of the kingdom was for the nation of Israel and should in no wise be confused with the gospel of saving grace.”
And that’s why coming out of the John MacArthur camp you get a very garbled gospel and the reason you get a garbled gospel, as I showed you the quotes earlier, he doesn’t distinguish between the kingdom gospel and the gospel of personal salvation.
Charles Ryrie puts it this way: “Even the New Testament uses the word gospel to mean various types of good news,” what does the word “gospel” mean? It just means good news. Well what good news are we talking about? If it’s the offer of the kingdom to Israel it’s good news that Rome is going to be overthrown and the kingdom is going to be established. If you’re talking about the gospel of personal salvation that’s a different kind of good news. You believe that gospel and it will keep you out of hell. So Ryrie says, “Even the New Testament uses the word gospel to mean various types of good news,” so when you see the word “gospel” in the Bible you don’t assume that word means the same thing everywhere it’s used. If a word means the same thing everywhere it’s used we call that a technical word. The word “gospel” is not a technical word. The gospel can mean different things. And how do you determine which meaning to pour into the term? What’s the dead giveaway? Context.
So even the New Testament uses the word “gospel” to mean various types of good news so one has to describe what good news is in view. In the Gospel of Matthew, all but one time, the word “gospel” is used concerning the good news of the gospel of the kingdom. This is the message of John the Baptist, Matthew 3:1-2; our Lord, Matthew 4:17, and the twelve disciples that were first sent out by the Lord, Matthew 10:5-7. [Matthew 3:1-2, “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  ‘And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”]
What was the good news about the kingdom? The correct answer lies in the concept and hope of the kingdom that the Jewish people had at that time, of the first coming of Christ. In fact, their hope was the establishment of the promised rule of the Messiah in His kingdom on this earth and in the kingdom that would exalt the Jewish people and free them from the rule of Rome under which they lived. But the rule of heaven did not arrive during Jesus’ lifetime because the people, the Jewish people that is, refused to repent and meet the spiritual conditions of the kingdom. Most, and I’ll be explaining this more later, either tonight or next week, most only wanted a political deliverance without having to meet the personal requirements for a change of life.”
so one has to describe what good news is in view. . . . In the Gospel of Matthew, all but one time the word gospel is used concerning the good news of the gospel of the kingdom. This is the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1–2), of our Lord (Matthew 4:17), and of the twelve disciples when they were first sent out by the Lord (Matthew 10:5–7).
[Matthew 3:1-3, ““For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’” Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”]
What was the good news about the kingdom? The correct answer lies in the concept and hope of the kingdom that the Jewish people had at the time of the first coming of Christ. In fact, their hope was for the establishment of the promised rule of the Messiah in His kingdom on this earth, and in the kingdom that would exalt the Jewish people and free them from the rule of Rome under which they lived. But the rule of heaven did not arrive during Jesus’ lifetime because the people refused to repent and meet the spiritual conditions for the kingdom. Most only wanted a political deliverance without having to meet any personal requirements for change of life. So the kingdom did not arrive because the people would not prepare properly for it. They wanted, the Jewish people in the first century, a part of God’s kingdom. They loved the political part of it but all of the Old Testament teachings about morality, ethics, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, they turned a blind eye to that. And because they wouldn’t receive the King on the King’s terms the offer of the kingdom was faithfully extended to them but it got so bad in their rejection when they attributed Matthew 12:24, Christ miracles, to the devil that the offer was taken off the table. [Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”’]
And that offer will not be re-extended to the nation again until the distant future, in the tribulation period. And if you talk to a Jew today, an unsaved Jew, I’ve talked to many of them, one of the questions I like to ask them is well why don’t you believe Yeshua Jesus is the Messiah? I like to show them Isaiah 53 where it’s very clear that Isaiah 53 is pointing towards this man, Jesus Christ, and their answer basically is there’s no shalom in the world. Shalom means peace. Now when they use the word “peace” they don’t use it the way we as evangelical Christians use it. When we use the word “peace” we talk about peace in the heart, peace with God. That’s not what the unsaved Jewish mind thinks at all. They think all in terms of politics; look at how the United Nations is treating our people, look at the holocaust that happened. I mean, if Jesus was really the Messiah all of that would be brought to an end.
So their interest, even to this day, and God is going to have to send them to tribulation of great dimensions to shake them of this but their interest even today is just for a political kingdom, exactly how it was in the first century. So even today they want a part of the kingdom but they don’t want everything that the Old Testament reveals. So in the meantime the personal plan of salvation continues, God continues to build His church and yet we have these promises that one day this offer of the kingdom is going to be re-extended to Israel and they will accept it in the midst of great tribulation.
George Zeller makes a comment about John MacArthur and how he conflates the kingdom gospel with the gospel of personal salvation and ends up teaching a confused gospel. George Zeller says, “MacArthur also runs counter to traditional Dispensationalism in his understanding of ‘the gospel of the kingdom’. . . . He sees this phrase as simply meaning that Jesus was ‘preaching salvation’…” and I showed you the quote where John MacArthur does this. “Dispensationalists understand this as a reference to that preaching which takes place when the Messianic kingdom is ‘at hand’ which was true in the days of John the Baptist and Christ, and will also be true during the closing years of this age (Matthew 24:14). Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that the gospel of the kingdom is being preached during this church age.” One of the things to understand about theology is it’s like dominoes in a row; if you knock over one domino what’s going to happen to the rest of the dominoes? They’re going to start to crumble or fall over. And if you can’t make a basic dispensational distinction, if your eschatology, let’s put it this way, is incorrect then that’s going to affect your doctrine of salvation which is your what? Soteriology.
People say why are you all amped up about dispensationalism? Why does it matter what we believe about dispensationalism? Dispensationalism distinguishes kingdom gospel from personal gospel. If you’re not concerned about the issues of dispensationalism then you knock over that domino, it’s going to affect other dominos of a soteriological nature. And ultimately it’s going to lead to preaching and teaching a confused gospel today and holding out to the lost the wrong instructions that they need to get to heaven. That’s why all this stuff is important; it’s not just pie in the sky stuff that theologians debate. It gets right down to how you share the gospel.
Now have you ever been the victim of bad directions from somebody? This happens to me a lot, my maps go or Google maps isn’t working, this happened to me just this weekend. I was in the State of Washington, I pulled over and some guy that I trusted gave me directions and his directions got me more lost. And I’m afraid that’s what we’re doing with unsaved people. We’re telling them all this stuff that God never told us to tell them and we’re holding out all of these conditions that God never places in front of them. Why? Because we’re not paying attention to basic dispensational distinctives. Theology matters folks! Theology matters!!! Theology is so basic that if you don’t interpret things correctly it gets right down to the message you give to lost individuals.
So here are some quotes from John MacArthur where he is rejecting dispensational distinctives. He says this: “There is a tendency, however, for dispensationalists to get carried away with compartmentalizing truth to the point that they make unbiblical differentiations.” They have, MacArthur says, “An almost obsessive desire to categorize and contrast related truths has carried various dispensationalist interpreters” like all the guys that I like for example, “(Chafer, Ryrie,” to some extent Zane “Hodges, etc.) it carries these interpreters” says John MacArthur, “far beyond the legitimate distinctions between Israel and the Church. Many would also draw hard lines between salvation and discipleship (justification and sanctification), the church and the kingdom, Christ’s preaching and the apostolic message, faith and repentance, and the age of law and the age of grace.”
So what he is saying here is if you are drawing these distinctions then you’re getting carried away. What distinctions? The distinction between salvation and fellowship, justification and sanctification. Now those of you that attend this church and attend my soteriology class on Sunday mornings know that I make that distinction all the time. There is a world of difference between justification, what someone needs to be made right with God, through faith alone, versus how you grow in Christ. There is one condition necessary for an unsaved person to fulfill to be saved and that’s to fulfill the command to do what? Believer, period! If you add anything else to it you’re teaching something and you’re laying on unsaved people something that God never put on them.
But how do I grow in Christ? Multiple conditions; study and show yourself approved, do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but have your mind renewed. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Put on the full armor of God. These aren’t things I tell unsaved people; these are things I tell believers so that they can grow. So what have I just done here? I’ve distinguished between the message I’m giving to the unsaved versus the message I’m giving to the saved. Now John MacArthur comes along here and he says I’m getting carried away with distinctions.
Beyond that other unbiblical distinctions in his mind is the distinction between the church and the kingdom. I mean, is there a difference between the church and the kingdom? That’s what this whole class is about. That’s what this whole 400 page book that I wrote is about. There’s a world of difference between the church and the kingdom. I think that’s a very legitimate distinction. John MacArthur comes along and says it’s an unbiblical distinction that people are getting carried away with. How about this—and this goes right to the heart of what we’re dealing with, “Christ’s preaching and the apostolic message,” Christ’s preaching being what? Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matthew 10:5-7 versus “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” versus “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
I mean why is are the apostles preaching one message when they are sent out after the ascension, which is completely different from the message that they were preaching to lost Israel before the crucifixion? Because there’s a basic logical obvious distinction in the Bible between the preaching of Christ and His message and the apostolic message. That whole chart I showed you earlier about the difference between the kingdom gospel and the personal gospel, what does that arise from? It arises from a legitimate distinction between Christ’s preaching and the apostolic message. Yet John MacArthur comes along and he basically says that’s an unbiblical differentiation and people that amp up on this unbiblical differentiation are getting carried away.
Another issue is faith and repentance, the age of law and the age of grace, and you know, it’s frustrating for me to hear people point to John MacArthur as our dispensational standard bearer. I don’t reject everything John MacArthur says; there are many things that he says that are very good but on this issue of dispensationalism the man is no standard bearer at all. In fact, if anything he’s tearing down legitimate walls that God has erected.
He, in one of his sermons begins to explain how he moved in this direction. He says, “I was raised in a dispensational environment; there’s no question… But, as I got into seminary, I began to test some of those things. I have been perhaps aptly designated as a leaky dispensationalist….” I would say he’s not a “leaky dispensationalist,” he’s a very leaky dispensationalist, in fact he’s leaking so much I don’t even know if the name dispensationalism applies to him anymore.
“Here’s my dispensationalism – I’ll give it to you in one sentence: there’s a difference between the church and Israel – period!… “ Now to that I applaud, there is a difference between Israel and the church but he says that’s the only distinction you can legitimately draw. You can’t draw any distinctions between justification and sanctification; you can’t draw any distinctions between church and kingdom. I would say take the legitimate difference between Israel and the church and use that same method of interpretation to see other legitimate distinctions in the Bible.
Now here’s the problem. “At the same time in seminary,” watch this very carefully because this is what happens to a lot of people, “I began to be exposed to reading among more Reformed theologians… “ Oh-oh, what happened… stopped reading the Bible and started reading the Puritans, Cotton Mather, Martin Lloyd Jones, Owens, some of the great Puritan writers. And if you get into that business and you take your eyes off the text do you know what’s going to start happening? What’s going to start influencing your mind over time is not the pages of God’s Word but the ideas of man. And this quote is so interesting to me because this is exactly what happened to John MacArthur, why he moved in this direction. He used to think exactly the way we think about all of these issues but at some point his mind got off the biblical text.
And he goes on and he says, I began to be exposed to reading among more Reformed theologians…” and that’s called scholarship today, and this is sort of the great pull amongst many younger people that have training in theology. They want to be accepted by the scholars, they want to be accepted by the theologians. It sounds much more scholarly to quote some Puritan masterpiece than it does God’s simple Word.
And what happens over time is your mind becomes absorbed in a theological system and you start reading the Bible through your theological system rather than letting the Bible correct your theological system. And I point this out not to disparage John MacArthur, it’s a warning, if it can happen to him it can happen to me, it can happen to you, it can happen to anybody. Don’t take your eyes off the biblical text! This is your authority. This is what God has given, these sixty-six books.
“ And over the years of exegeting the scripture, it has again yielded to me a Reformed theology…. “ See what’s going on? He read the Reformed theologians and eventually their ideas he started seeing in the Bible because he was taking his primary ques, not from the Bible but from these Reformed theologians that he holds in such high regard. “I was convinced of it (Reformed theology) when I started and I’m more convinced of it now as I’ve gone through the text. I was convinced of it when I started because I read so many noble men who have held that view (Reformed Theology). It was more at that point hero worship,” see that? “and now it’s become my own.”
And people are like this. Alister Begg says this, John MacArther says this. I have my heroes: Ryrie says this, Hodges says this, Chafer says this, but you know what? At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who says what does it? It doesn’t even matter what I say. What matters is what the Bible says! And if I’m reading a theologian and that theologian departs from the Bible, guess what? At that point I’m departing from that theologian because the theologian is not my authority. The biblical text is my authority.
So the offer of the kingdom, what is the kingdom? It’s the geopolitical physical and spiritual millennial rule of Christ. Why was it called the kingdom of heaven? Because it draws the authority of God from heaven to the earth. Why is it called “at hand”? Not because it was here but it was near; had Israel enthroned Christ the kingdom would have come. To whom was it offered? What’s the answer to that? Only to national Israel. What was offered to national Israel is not the message of personal salvation that we preach today. And are there misinterpretations of the kingdom offer? Yes there are; if you conflate kingdom gospel with personal gospel you’ll end up preaching no gospel because it becomes a garbled gospel.
Now next week you can read chapter 8, we’re going to get into the subject of why did Israel turn down the kingdom offer and what does that mean. AND I know many of you have been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for this, some of you have based on the questions I’ve got, when Israel turned down the kingdom offer in the gospels did the apostles keep extending the offer of the kingdom in The Book of Acts? Is Peter preaching one gospel and Paul preaching a different gospel? So we’re going to be getting into that subject next week as well. So read chapter 8 and at this time I’ll stop talking.