I am drawing out passages, now from the New Testament which particularly came to my attention during the writing of “The Fellowship of the Secret”. In fact, its title was going to be along the lines of “A Guide to the Gospel of the Kingdom” for that concept was humanly speaking what triggered my thinking especially in the context of the “Olivet Discourse” v14: “And THIS gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations and then the end shall come”. Typical of how my mind works I was intrigued by Jesus’ reference to THIS gospel [Greek: TOUTO to euaggelion] being preached as a witness to the world.
Could Jesus have been referring to the gospel age? – I think not. For a start the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus and certainly his apostles will have been preaching will have borne little resemblance to what the Church has focused on for the last 2000 years. Christ’s death and resurrection, let alone the soteriological implications of it, will not have been mentioned – His own disciples had no idea their Master was going to die and be resurrected, let alone for what purpose (cf. Lk9:44-46: Lk18:33-34: Mt10:1-20). The Church has rightly placed a heavy focus on the death and resurrection of Christ, but that cannot have been “this gospel of the Kingdom” that Jesus and the apostles were preaching. I am clear that Jesus was referring to a one-off evangelistic global mission, not an entire dispensation when He spoke of “this gospel” being preached followed by “the end”.
This may be too radical for some readers but it is in line with what I subsequently understood Paul to be saying in Eph3:9-12 and Heb11:11-15 concerning the fellowship pertaining to the secret plan hidden in the Father from earlier ages (and earlier prophets): God’s plan to incorporate elect Gentiles into the royal priesthood and holy ‘nation’, the Messianic community that had been anticipated by the OT prophets to be restricted to the physical seed of Isaac. So what were the disciples preaching and doing when Jesus sent them out as recorded in Mt10? They were announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, which has nothing to do with going to heaven when you die but what was expected to occur on earth! They were to be calling people to repentance (as does the Church but for many of us that’s where the comparison ends), for they were also to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out devils (10:8).
The Kingdom of Heaven (literally reign of the heavens) referred to by other apostles as the “Kingdom of God” was to bring the joyful news that sickness, death and the reign of evil was about to be abolished on earth; the power of Satan was about to be usurped by what the Saviour was shortly to undergo on mankind’s behalf at Calvary. However, the reality is that substantial elements of what the Son of Man’ Passion accomplished for humanity will not be realized until His coming again in glory. That is because of what I refer to as “the fellowship of the secret”, i.e. what Paul is alluding to in Ephesians3:9-12 and reaffirming in Heb11:11-15, being a substantial realignment of God’s redemptive strategy for the World and its people as it had been set out and prophesied in the Old Testament. And that had been as a result of the Jews’ rejection of the Apostles’ message about the risen ascended Messiah (cf. Acts13:46) .
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