Nehemiah’s reforms and attempts to urge the Jews to repent were an application of gospel truth in his time, as the grace revealed in the gospel trains people to renounce all ungodliness (Titus 2:11–14). Resting on His promise through faith alone and refusing to be content in sin has always been God’s will for His people, and although the gospel is seen most clearly under the new covenant, it was not unknown before Christ. A look at how this gospel is developed in Scripture this week is a fitting end to our yearlong study of the ways in which the new covenant fulfills the old.
There is confusion today about the gospel, and attempts to summarize it do not always do justice to what the Bible says about the good news of salvation. Fundamentally, the gospel announces the kingdom of God. Jesus Himself proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom,” and He calls His church to preach this news to the world (Matt. 24:14). Since the kingdom of God is that realm where His will is done enthusiastically, spontaneously, and freely (6:10), the gospel is about the presence and benefits of this kingdom, and it describes how sinners can become its citizens.
Understanding the gospel requires us to go back to creation. Initially, the entire universe was identical to the kingdom of God as described above. Everything was good, and there was no rebellion in the created order (Gen. 1:1–2:3). All creation found its delight in doing the will of its Creator, experiencing the blessing of life in a world not cursed with sin and death. This kingdom was tied to the wise, godly stewardship of men and women made in God’s image. If they obeyed the Lord, the kingdom would be present clearly in the created order, for all the universe to enjoy (2:4–25).
As we all know, we disobeyed God in Adam, and there were ramifications for the kingdom of God. Of course, our Creator was not knocked off His heavenly throne, but men and women were made unable to see or experience the kingdom of God as they did before the fall. Death entered, Satan gained a measure of power over humanity, and darkness, thorns, and pain began to rule the day (3:16–19; 2 Cor. 4:4).
Yet even at humanity’s lowest point, the Lord did not say that His kingdom was gone forever. Instead, He preached the first gospel to our first parents, declaring that Satan would be crushed, ushering in His kingdom for His people (Gen. 3:15).