Is the gospel about personal salvation?

One of my teenage sons was accosted on the street by a group of Christians who surrounded him and wanted to know if he was saved and did he believe in Jesus as his saviour? They certainly gave him the impression that personal salvation was at the heart of the gospel.

But is it? Because in Mark 1:14-15 Mark writes: “After John (the Baptist) was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.'” Jesus did not say, “The time has come. Personal salvation is near.” Nor did he ask people if they were saved. And when he said, “Repent,” it wasn’t about repenting of personal sin to be saved, it was attached to believing the good news of the kingdom of God being near.

The heart of the gospel Jesus preached, therefore, wasn’t about personal salvation, it was about the kingdom of God. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” Matthew 24:14. What that group of Christians should have asked my son, therefore, was: “Do you believe in the gospel of the kingdom?” Or, better put, “Have you heard the incredible news yet, that Jesus is our king and it’s God’s kingdom that now rules this planet?”

My son would have every right to ask for proof of it, of course. Well, Jesus himself gave the proof. When Pilate said to Jesus, “You are a king, then!” in John 18:37, Jesus replied, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world.” I AM a king, not I will be. He’s not king some time in the future, he’s king now. To become king of our world in his lifetime was the reason he was born as a human being.

In the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10, the first thing on Jesus’ mind wasn’t, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your salvation come.” Nor was it your forgiveness come, or atonement, or justification by faith, or being whisked off this earth and going to heaven. It was quite simply, “your kingdom come.” The first thing on Jesus’ mind was God’s kingdom coming to this planet, so that it could rule “on earth as it is in heaven” (same verse).

And the reason Jesus came as a human being was to make that happen. That’s the heart of the gospel, not personal salvation.


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