The Future And The Gospel.

Current Evangelicalism’s understanding of the gospel is shallow at best. Is it any wonder that that is the case when speaking of the gospel, we usually hear something like this, “Trust Jesus as Savior”, or, “Invite Jesus into your heart.” What is interesting about these appeals is that they are not truly biblical concepts. Certainly, we are to trust in the Lord, and certainly we are to call upon the name of the Lord. However, these formulas are not referring to that. They are often, if not always, understood and presented as a kind of mantra that is repeated in hopes that Jesus will respond in like manner and obey. Further, oftentimes we make a certain distinction between the gospel and future things. Again, this is superficial, arbitrary, and unbiblical. To distance the future of the world from the gospel itself is to have a shallow view of the gospel. In this post, I hope to demonstrate that the gospel is brought to fulfillment in the events that will take place yet to come. To separate the two, the gospel and eschatological events, is short-sighted.

To begin, turn to Galatians 3:8. Paul writes a very amazing thing here that serves as our starting point.

      8      The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”

This Scripture is interesting on many levels. First of all, the Scripture is the preacher. Second, the justification of the Gentiles was a foundational component of the Abrahamic promise/blessing. That is fascinating in light of the fact that oftentimes the Jews of the OT are seen hating the Gentiles. Did they forget/disregard God’s promise to justify them? But, for our purposes here, Paul makes a correlation between the Abrahamic promise and the gospel that I don’t hear in many evangelistic sermons. The proclamation of the gospel to Abraham is summed up by Paul (and Moses, for that matter) as, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” This reference is from Genesis 12:3. It is the foundation of the Hebrew nation in that it is from this promise and subsequent covenant that the nation is formed. The Jews were not delivered from Egypt, and consequently made their own Theocratic nation because they were wonderful people (see Deuteronomy 7:7). He chose them and delivered them because He had made a covenant with Abraham, based upon the promise of Genesis 12:3, and God cannot break His covenant, although Israel did (see Deuteronomy 7:8). This blessing that God promised to all the nations through Abraham is summed up by Paul as justification by faith. What that means is, the calling, sanctification, regeneration, glorification (all OT terms by the way), which is what we all understand as the benefits of the gospel, are bound up in Genesis 12:3.

But what else does it mean, especially in regards to future things? The promise of God is that He will restore Israel as a demonstration of His perfect ability to keep His promise, in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness and rebellion. That restoration of Israel is promised and prophesied and will come to pass. Isaiah prophesied,

         1      The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
         2      Now it will come about that
      In the last days
      The mountain of the house of the LORD
      Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
      And will be raised above the hills;
      And all the nations will stream to it.
            3      And many peoples will come and say,
      “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
      To the house of the God of Jacob;
      That He may teach us concerning His ways
      And that we may walk in His paths.”
      For the law will go forth from Zion
      And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
            4      And He will judge between the nations,
      And will render decisions for many peoples;
      And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
      Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
      And never again will they learn war.

Is 2:1–4 (cf. Micah 4:1-5).

Joel writes,

         1      “For behold, in those days and at that time,
      When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
            2      I will gather all the nations
      And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
      Then I will enter into judgment with them there
      On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
      Whom they have scattered among the nations;
      And they have divided up My land.
            3      “They have also cast lots for My people,
      Traded a boy for a harlot
      And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.

Joel 3:1–3.

 

The entire chapter of Zechariah 14 is a prophecy concerning the Lord’s judgment on the nations that attack Jerusalem and the restoration of the earth so that Israel will prosper, according to His covenant with them.

All of this (and the entire literature of the prophets lists all these things in detail and with tremendous clarity) is a result of the promise to Abraham, “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Paul writes in Romans 11:11-12, with exclamation, “

   11      I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 
   12      Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!

Israel has rejected their Messiah. That has lead to Christ being preached among the Gentiles exclusively (as per the Abrahamic promise). However, there is coming a time when they, Israel, will not reject her King but will bow down Him (Romans 11:25-27)! In that day, according to the prophets, all the world will be affected. The earth will be leveled, Jerusalem will be raised up higher, all the nations will be subjected to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and judge by Him, and worship will once again resume in the Temple (see Zechariah 14). All of this because God promised to bless Israel and the nations through Abraham (since Israel is a nation of the earth which is included in the “all nations” of Genesis 12:3).

If, then, the gospel is Genesis 12:3, as Paul says it is, then I would have to conclude that the gospel of Jesus Christ has eschatological ramifications! We cannot separate the gospel from future events. In doing so will do damage to the gospel, and thus the promise of God.