When doing outreach on the streets, you have to think on your toes. Last summer, I organized evangelistic book tables in places such as Kings Highway in Brooklyn and Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Picture the scene: My team has set up a great-looking book table with all sorts of literature and brochures for people to peruse. Our main focus is Isaiah 53. Throughout the day, people are constantly approaching our table to check out the literature.
About an hour in, a middle-aged man walks up and begins speaking with me as he looks at the materials. He seems relatively interested – until he realizes that several of the books on the table talk about Jesus. He begins to get upset and begins to walk away, and I ask what upset him. He angrily turns around and asks, “If Jesus is the Messiah, then where is the kingdom?”
That is a great question! The kingdom was fundamental to Messianic expectation during the time of Yeshua (Jesus) – and it still is for Jewish people.
Now those who had gathered together began to ask Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
A certain cycle of events was repeated throughout the Old Testament: God blessed Israel, Israel disobeyed, God punished, Israel cried out, God delivered them. This happened numerous times, yet God in His mercy continued to promise redemption, in a total, complete, and physical way. Examples are in Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Isaiah 9:1-7. This is why the disciples asked Jesus the question above. The Jewish people were taught that God would bring His kingdom to vindicate Israel and to judge the nations around her. During the Second Temple period, Messianic expectation was coupled with the coming of this kingdom. The people were awaiting the kingdom that the Messiah would inaugurate.
This kingdom would be beautiful, sinless, and ruled by the Lord Himself. No struggle would hinder people, and no strife would exist between nations. This was the goal – redeeming the earth and society and restoring the Eden-like existence that was lost when Adam sinned. This is the kingdom about which Yeshua preached:
Then he went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every illness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
So if Yeshua preached the gospel (good news) of the kingdom, then what was He actually saying? Today, when we think about the gospel, we often think of the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua that provided our salvation. But when Yeshua proclaimed the gospel, none of that had happened yet – so what gospel was He preaching?
For the answer, read Jesus, the Gospel, and the Kingdom – Part 2!