If you know any Christians, or if you happen to be one, you’ve probably heard the word gospel as a kind of summary of Christian belief, connected to phrases like, “God loves you” or “Jesus died for your sins.”
But over time, religious words like gospel can lose their power and meaning by becoming too familiar. So let’s take a moment to rediscover what this important word gospel meant to the people who wrote the Bible.
“Gospel” translates the Old Testament Hebrew verb bisser and the noun besorah. The Greek New Testament equivalent is euangelion, which is a compound word. Eu means good, and angelion means announcement. All of these words mean “good news,” but what kind of news?
Gospel in the Old Testament [00:42-01:28]
Well in Hebrew, bisser is what we might call national news or a royal announcement. Like when King David hears a messenger bisser that his army was victorious in battle1, that means he still rules on his throne over the people of Israel. And after David dies, his throne is passed onto Solomon, his son. And when he was inaugurated as king in Jerusalem, a herald spreads the besorah that a new ruler is in charge2. But after Solomon’s death came a bunch of “bad news” kings, whose corruption led their nation into self-destruction3.
This is why the prophet Isaiah announced the good news that one day the God of Israel would come as the cosmic King to confront all corrupt and violent kingdoms and restore his rule over all nations4.
Jesus’ Gospel [01:28-02:51]
And so when Jesus of Nazareth hit the public stage, he continued Isaiah’s gospel when he went around announcing the euangelion of God’s Kingdom5. Jesus claimed that God was restoring his reign over his people Israel and over all nations and he was the one bringing it all about.
Now, the euangelion about a new king in charge means a new way of life. Jesus said that living in God’s Kingdom meant following him by putting down the sword and seeking peace through radical forgiveness and generosity, even towards your enemies6.
His good news required people to make a decision7. This is why Jesus took his euangelion to Jerusalem to confront the corrupt and violent kingdoms of his day8. But he challenged them in a surprising way—with the power of God’s generous love9.
As Jesus was being executed by his enemies, he received his crown and was mocked as a fake king10, but he displayed true royal authority by forgiving his tormentors11. Jesus was the one in charge that day, giving his life for the sins of others12. And then a few days later, everything changed13.
Jesus rose from the dead as the true King, whose love is stronger than death. He appeared to hundreds of his followers14 and told them to spread the euangelion that all authority in heaven on earth now belongs to him15.
Jesus’ Followers Respond to the Gospel [02:52-04:30]
And they did share this good news all over the ancient world. They did it by writing the four accounts of Jesus’ life that are the Gospel. That is, they tell the story of how Jesus brought God’s Kingdom, how he lived for others and died for their sins, and then was raised from the dead (Matthew, Mark, Luke/Acts, John).
Jesus’ followers also shared the good news by simply talking about it. This is why Peter and Paul16, or Priscilla and Aquila17, traveled all around sharing the royal announcement. While it might look like the rulers of our world are in charge and can do whatever they want, the good news is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the true Lord of the world, the real King of all creation18.
And in Jesus’ Kingdom, things are different. It’s where the real leaders are the servants because the last are first and the first go to the back of the line19. It’s where the hungry are fed and the homeless are welcomed because love is the most powerful reality of God’s Kingdom20.
And this good news is not easy to believe. It actually sounds kind of crazy when you first hear it. But something happens when people tell the story of Jesus and start living like he really is the King of the world. That’s when this Gospel becomes the best news that you’ve ever heard.