The Gospel of the Kingdom, as proclaimed by Rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef, the Maggid of Netzeret1, just as by his cousin Yochanan bar Zechariah haKohen before him, was “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.2 Yeshua instructed his apostles, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.’”
When the reality of this gospel dawned on a disciple, he might blurt out, as did Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,”3 or as Nathaniel said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are King of Israel,”4 or Martha, Lazarus’ sister, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the One coming into the world.2 The terms Messiah, Son of God, the Coming One, and King of Israel converge on Yeshua as synonyms. King Messiah, the Son of God, the prophet like Moses6 was present on the Earth. This was the only bit of Good News that people were required to believe.
We are informed by Moses and Paul that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.7 To believe someone means that we believe what he says, that his word is true. What Yehovah promised Abraham and Abraham believed was,
"Get out of your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation. and I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse the one who curses you, and all of the clans of the earth will be blessed in you.”8
That is, God gave Abraham a Good News, a gospel, and Abraham believed it. He did not merely sit still, “believing” internally what Yehovah had promised. He set out to walk the length and breadth of the promised land, as instructed. God had also promised a redeemer as soon as redemption became necessary.9 Yehovah further promised that the Redeemer would come from Abraham’s progeny. It was not necessary to know who the Redeemer would be since he was not here yet.
John wrote what he wrote, “. . . so that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that by believing you will have life in his name.”10 Only after the identity of the Redeemer is revealed we are responsible to know who he is.11
There was no other point of doctrine mentioned in the Gospels which was a mandatory article of faith. No one is responsible for knowing that which has not been revealed.12 The nature of the Godhead never came up, though Yeshua did cite Moses saying that Yehovah our God is one (and by implication not three).13 The manner of Messiah’s conception was no part of any public proclamation. Many people, when they hear the word “gospel,” think of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was not part of Yeshua’s or the apostles’ preaching, because it hadn’t happened yet. While all genuine doctrine is important, we are not saved by believing “correct” doctrine. All that was necessary to believe for salvation is that Yeshua is the anointed King, and the Kingdom is at hand.
Mere internal belief, however, is insufficient. “Even the demons believe this—and tremble in fear.”14 The Gospel proclamation was “Repent, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Devils believe, but they do not repent.
Once we believe the good news that the Kingdom is at hand, what does it mean to repent? Simply, if Messiah is our King, then we need to turn from our own will to obey the King’s commands. Obedience is our grateful response to salvation, not the cause of it. Fortunately, “his commandments are not burdensome.”15
Many denominations have lists of fundamental doctrines which they insist one must believe to be saved. We are not saved by believing “correct doctrine” as promulgated by rigged councils of bishops who were more loyal to the emperor than to the King of Kings. On the contrary, Paul tells us that, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him out from among the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 REV) We need to believe that God raised him “out from among the dead,” because a dead lord is no longer sitting on his throne.
This is the only required belief. With apologies to Rabbi Hillel, the rest is commentary. Now, go and study.
1 Zaslow, Jesus.
2 Mt 3:2, 4:17; Mk 1:15l; Lk 21:31.
3 Mt 16:16.
4 Jn 1:49.
5 Jn 11:27.
6 Dt 18:15; Act 3:22, 7:37.
7 Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:23. Unless stated otherwise, all quotations of Scripture are from the Revised English Version, published by Spirit & Truth Fellowship, International.
8 Gen 12:1–3.
9 Gen 3:15.
10 John 20:31; Locke 18.
11 I suspect, and solicit comments, that when Jesus said that John the Baptist was below the least in the Kingdom (Mt 5:19; 11:11; Lk 7:28), it was because he was as yet unsure of the identity of the Redeemer. See Jn 7:17, And John having called near a certain two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the Coming One, or should we expect someone else?”
12 Locke, 131.
13 Dt 5:4, Mk 12:29–30.
14 Jas 2:19; Locke, 102.
15 1 Jn 5:3.