Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Neglect of YEHOVAH God's Message
The Messiah announced the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God as the heart of the Gospel long before he said a word about his death and resurrection. Luke reports that the disciples went out proclaiming the Gospel even before they had any knowledge of the death and resurrection of the Messiah (Luke 18:31-34). It follows, therefore, that there is more to the Gospel than the death and resurrection of the Messiah, essential as these things are!
by HOIM Staff
If there is one element of biblical faith which churches often seem to avoid and theologians have obscured, it is the matter of the meaning to be attached to the Messiah's favorite term, "the Kingdom of God," which is a thoroughly Hebrew Messianic concept. To interpret any document intelligently one must enter the thought world of those whom one is attempting to understand. If one blunders in the interpretation of key terms and expressions, a disastrous misunderstanding will result.
That such a breakdown in the transmission of the original faith, due to a failure to reckon with the Israelite background of the Messiah and his message about the Kingdom, has occurred was noted by an astute scholar of the Church of England. Critical of trends which developed in the Church from the second to the fourth century, he wrote: "The Church as a whole failed to understand the Old Testament, and the Greek and Roman mind in turn came to dominate the Church's outlook. From that disaster the Church has never recovered either in doctrine or in practice." 
The root of the problem was similarly diagnosed by a Jewish historian, a translator of the New Testament and sympathetic to Christianity:
"Christians would gravely delude themselves if they were to imagine that Jews on any major scale could subscribe to the tenets of the Christian religion, which owe so much to the legacy of polytheism. Because Christians have not become Israelites, but have remained essentially Gentiles, their spiritual inclinations are towards doctrines for which they have been prepared by inheritance from the pagan past." 
This tragic departure of the Church from the biblical Message was noted also by an Archbishop of the Anglican Church. He expressed his astonishment that the central, fundamental concept of the Messiah's Gospel Message -- the Kingdom -- had been neglected for most of church history:
"Every generation finds something in the Gospel which is of special importance to itself and seems to have been overlooked in the previous age or (sometimes) in all previous ages of the Church. The great discovery of the age in which we live is the immense prominence given in the Gospel to the Kingdom of God. To us it is quite extraordinary that it figures so little in the theology and religious writings of almost the entire period of Christian history. Certainly in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark and Luke] it has a prominence that could hardly be increased." 
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the significance of this observation of the Archbishop. A glance at the Gospel accounts of the Messiah's ministry will reveal to every reader the simple fact that Yeshua, the original herald of the Christian Gospel, was a preacher of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. There can be absolutely no doubt about this; Can anyone question F. C. Grant's assessment of the Messiah's purpose?
"It may be said that the teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God represents His whole teaching. It is the main determinative subject of all His discourse. His ethics were ethics of the Kingdom; His theology was theology of the Kingdom; His teaching regarding Himself cannot be understood apart from His interpretation of the Kingdom of God." 
It is equally clear that the Messiah intended his own Kingdom Message, the Gospel or Good News, to be the chief concern of those of Israel who claimed to represent him for the whole period of history until his promised appearance at the end of the age. Giving his marching orders to the Church, the Messiah commanded his Israelite followers to teach everything he had taught to those of Israel whom they made disciples and initiated into the faith by baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). The task of the faithful of Israel, as the Messiah saw it, would be to preach "this Gospel about the Kingdom in all the world" of Israel (Matthew 24:14).
A sure sign of the continuing presence of the living Messiah in his Church must be a clarion-call proclamation of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, just as the Messiah preached it. To say, as Archbishop Temple does, that the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God "has figured so little in the theology and religious writings of almost the entire period of Christian history" is to admit only that the Church has not done what the Messiah told it to do. The Church has been sailing under false colors. While it claims the name of the Messiah, it has not been busy faithfully relaying his saving Gospel Message about the Kingdom to the Israelite world. How can it, when it admits to uncertainty about what the Kingdom means?  A reappraisal of the Church's task, including the frank admission that its Gospel has lacked an essential Messianic element, seems to be in order.
It is a very simple matter to document the absence of the Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God from the Church's preaching. Listen, for example, to the call of evangelists today to potential converts. Is the phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom" the main subject of the appeal for men and women to become Christians? Do pulpits the length and breadth of the land resound with clear expositions of what the Messiah meant by the Kingdom?
Apparently this is not the case. In his book Church Growth and the Whole Gospel the noted American church planter, Peter Wagner, agrees with G. E, Ladd that "modern scholarship is quite unanimous in the opinion that the Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus." Wagner then reflects:
"If this is true, and I know of no reason to dispute it, I cannot help wondering out loud why I haven't heard more about the Kingdom of God in the thirty years I have been a Christian. I certainly have read about it enough in the Bible. Matthew mentions the Kingdom 52 times, Mark 19 times, Luke 44 times and John 4. But I honestly cannot remember any pastor whose ministry I have been under actually preaching a sermon on the Kingdom of God. As I rummage through my own sermon barrel, I now realize that I myself have never preached a sermon on it. Where has the Kingdom been?" 
In an article entitled "Preaching the Kingdom of God" the British expositor, Dr. I. Howard Marshall of the University of Aberdeen, says:
"During the past sixteen years I can recollect only two occasions on which I have heard sermons specifically devoted to the theme of the Kingdom of God...I find this silence rather surprising because it is universally agreed by New Testament scholars that the central theme of the teaching of Jesus was the Kingdom of God... Clearly, then, one would expect the modern preacher who is trying to bring the message of Jesus to his congregation would have much to say about this subject.' In fact my experience has been the opposite, and I have rarely heard about it." 
From a Roman Catholic writer comes the extraordinary admission that what he had learned in seminary did not include an explanation of the Messiah's message about the Kingdom:
"As a teacher of New Testament literature... it early became obvious to me that the central theme of the preaching of the historical Jesus of Nazareth was the near approach of the Kingdom of God. Yet, to my amazement, this theme played hardly any role in the systematic theology I had been taught in the seminary. Upon further investigation I realized that this theme had in many ways been largely ignored in the theology and spirituality and liturgy of the Church in the past two thousand years, and when not ignored, often distorted beyond recognition. How could this be?" 
A further striking example reinforces our contention that for modern preachers the Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God does not have anything like the comprehensive significance it had for the Messiah and the whole New Testament Church. While the Messiah concentrated singlemindedly on the propagation of a Gospel about the Kingdom, modern preachers seem to steer clear of the phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom." In an editorial in the journal Missiology Arthur F. Glasser writes:
"Let me ask: When is the last time you heard a sermon on the Kingdom of God? Frankly, I'd be hard put to recall ever having heard a solid exposition of this theme. How do we square this silence with the widely accepted fact that the Kingdom of God dominated our Lord's thought and ministry? My experience is not uncommon. I've checked this out with my colleagues. Of course, they readily agree they've often heard sermons on bits and pieces of Jesus' parables. But as for a solid sermon on the nature of the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it -- upon reflection, they too began to express surprise that it is the rare pastor who tackles the subject." 
One needs no special theological training to conclude that something is drastically askew, when leading exponents of the faith in our day confess that the Messiah's message is unfamiliar to them. At the level of popular evangelism it is evident that the critical Kingdom element is missing from presentations of the saving Message. Billy Graham defines the Gospel by dividing it into two main components. The first element is the death of the Messiah, which is half the Gospel. The other half, he says, is the resurrection of the Messiah. 
But this definition omits the basis of the Gospel Message. The Messiah announced the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God as the heart of the Gospel long before he said a word about his death and resurrection. Luke reports that the disciples went out proclaiming the Gospel even before they had any knowledge of the death and resurrection of the Messiah (Luke 18:31-34). It follows, therefore, that there is more to the Gospel than the death and resurrection of the Messiah, essential as these things are.
Michael Green, an expert on evangelism, poses the question raised by the obvious difference between what we call evangelism and how Yeshua defined it. At the Lausanne International Conference on World Evangelism in 1974, he asked: "How much have you heard here about the Kingdom of God? Not much. It is not our language. But it was Jesus' prime concern."  How can it be that our language as Christians is not the language of the Messiah himself? The situation demands an explanation. It should alert us to the fact that all is not well with our version of the Christian faith. We are not preaching the Gospel as the Messiah and his apostles preached it, as long as we omit mention of the substance of his entire message, the Good News of the Kingdom.
Other scholars warn us that the all-embracing expression Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, which is the axis around which everything the Messiah taught revolves, is strange to churchgoers. Noting that the Messiah opened his ministry by alerting the Israelite public to the approaching advent of the Kingdom without an explanatory comment about the meaning of the Kingdom, Hugh Anderson observes:
"For Jesus' first hearers, as presumably for Mark's readers, [Kingdom of God] was not the empty or nebulous term it often is today. The concept had a long history and an extensive background in the Old Testament, extra-canonical works of the intertestamental period, and in the rabbinical literature." 
The Messiah's audience knew what he meant by the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God for the simple reason that they knew the Hebrew Bible, which was replete with glorious promises of peace and prosperity on earth to be enjoyed by those of Israel counted worthy to find a place in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH. To the Messiah's contemporaries the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God was about as well known as the Statue of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence or the Tower of London. One can imagine how confusing things would be if Americans and Englishmen today were unable to define clearly what is meant by these terms.
What if World War II was a nebulous idea in the minds of historians or Buckingham Palace a strange term to Londoners? When an idea is deeply rooted in the national identity of a people, it does not have to be defined every time it is mentioned. Such was the case with the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. YEHOVAH's Kingdom meant a new era of world government on earth destined to appear with the arrival in power of YEHOVAH God the Father Himself and the promised King of the line of David, the Messiah, or anointed agent of the One God.
A perceptive theologian, conscious of the need to define basic Christian Israelite ideas within the framework provided by their original environment, has this to say about the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God in the Messiah's teaching:
"The Kingdom of God was basically a political idea -- but political in the ancient religious sense, according to which 'politics' was part of religion and expressed practically the doctrine of God's rule in the world...It meant the world empire of God...It was this idea which Jesus made his own, the vehicle of all his teaching...which he identified with the purpose of God in his own time, and adopted as the clue to his own prophetic or messianic mission: He was -- or was to be -- God's agent in the final establishment (or reestablishment) of the divine Reign in this world...The Kingdom of God, in the New Testament period, was still the old prophetic dream of the complete and perfect realization, here upon earth, of the sole sovereignty of the one and only God." 
 H. L. Goudge, "The Calling of the Jews," Essays on Judaism and Christianity, cited by H. J. Schonfield, The Politics of God, Hutchinson, 1970, p. 98.
 H. J. Schonfield, The Politics of God, p. 98.
 William Temple, Personal Religion and the Life of Fellowship, Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., 1926, p. 69, emphasis added.
 "The Gospel of the Kingdom," Biblical World 50 (1917), pp. 121-191.
 For example, Robert Morgan wrote, "It is time someone called the bluff of those who think they know what exactly Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God" (Theology, Nov. 1979, p. 458).
 Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981, p. 2.
 The Expository Times (89), Oct. 1977, p. 13.
 B. T. Viviano, The Kingdom of God in History, Michael Glazier, 1988, p. 9.
 April 1980, p. 13.
 Roy Gustafson, "What is the Gospel?" Billy Graham Association.
 Cited by Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Waco: Word Books, 1981, pp. 102, 103.
 The New Century Bible Commentary, Gospel of Mark, Eerdmans, 1984, p. 84. Anderson notes that "the Kingdom of God was without doubt at the heart of Jesus' historic message" (Ibid., p. 83).
 F. C. Grant, Ancient Judaism and the New Testament, New York: Macmillan, 1959, pp. 114-119.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Proclaiming the Good News of the Soon-Coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God Here On This Earth!
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