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What is the true Gospel?

Introduction

The future Kingdom of God

The promises of God

The Kingdom of God in the past

The promise of the rightful King

Belief and baptism

The things concerning the Name of Jesus Christ

The source of our knowledge

What we must do to be saved

Introduction

After Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, he went throughout every city and village preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God [Mark 1:14; Luke 8:1]. The word 'Gospel' means 'good news' so Jesus told the people the good news of the Kingdom which God will establish in the earth, teaching his disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" [Matthew 6:10].

The future Kingdom of God

Like any other kingdom, the Kingdom of God will consist of a king; territory; people; rulers; laws; and a capital city.

The King

The King will be Jesus Christ [Psalm 2:6-7] who is to reign in righteousness [Acts 17:31] as the King of Israel [John 1:49] and the ruler of the whole earth [Zecheriah 14:9].

The territory of the kingdom and its empire

The territory of the Kingdom will be the land of Israel [Micah 4:8;Ezekiel 36:8], called the “Holy Land” [Zecheriah 2:12] because it is God’s land [Jeremiah 2:7]. This land was originally called “Canaan” lying between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean, and it will stretch from the Euphrates in the north to the Negev desert in the south [Genesis 15:18]. The kingdom of God will also have an empire extending over all the earth [Daniel 7:13-14;Ps.2:8].

The citizens

The citizens of the Kingdom will be the people of Israel whom Jesus will gather out of the nations to the promised land [Ezekiel 37:21-22], and all other peoples will be the subjects of his empire [Psalm 72:11].

The rulers

The rulers with Jesus will be God’s faithful people [Revelation 3:21] who will be raised from the dead [Daniel 12:2-3] when Jesus returns and, like him, be made immortal to live for ever [Philippians 3:20-21].

The laws

The laws of the Kingdom will be God’s laws [Micah 4:2] which are just and equitable [Isaiah 11:1-5].

The capital city

The capital city of the Kingdom will be Jerusalem [Psalm 48:1-2; Matthew 5:35] where Jesus will sit upon the restored throne of David [Luke 1:32-33].

The blessings of Christ’s reign

The people of Christ’s kingdom and empire will be greatly blessed when there will be "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" [Luke 2:14]. Many passages of Scripture describe these blessings, most notably Psalm 72: "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. And men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen". This glorious future and the blessing of mankind is the subject of wonderful promises that God has made.

The promises of God

There is no doubt that the Kingdom of God will be re-established in Israel [Acts 1:6-7] because it rests on two promises that the LORD has made in the past [2 Peter 1:4].

God's promises to Abraham

The first promise was made to Abraham about 2000 BC. He lived in Ur of the Chaldees [Genesis 11:31] where he received a call from God to leave his city and move to a promised land: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" [Genesis 12:1-3]. Abraham obeyed this command and travelled via Haran to the land of Canaan where God promised: "Unto thy seed will I give this land" [Genesis 12v7].

God made this promise when Abraham had no son [Acts 7:5] but Abraham had complete faith in God’s promises and this was counted to him for righteousness and we can be counted righteous by the same faith [Romans 4:19-24]. When he was a hundred and Sarah was ninety, they had a son, Isaac, through whom the promised seed would come [Genesis 21:12].

After Abraham had lived some years in the promised land, God called upon him to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, through whom God’s promises were to be fulfilled [Genesis 22:2]. Abraham knew that if Isaac died he would be raised from the dead and, because of this faith in God's promises [Hebrews 11:17-19], he obeyed the commandment but an angel prevented him actually slaying Isaac [Genesis 22:11-12]. Afterwards God said to him: "By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" [Genesis 22:16-18].

Jesus is the Seed of Abraham

So the Saviour of the world would be the "seed of Abraham" and we know this is Jesus because the apostle Paul wrote: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" [Galatians 3:16].

From the promises God made to Abraham we see that he and Jesus are to possess the land of Canaan (later called Israel) for ever; that Abraham’s children are to be a great multitude [Genesis 15:5]; that Jesus is to completely defeat all his enemies [Genesis 22:17]; and that all the families of the earth will be blessed in him [Genesis 22:18].

The land promised to Christ is precisely defined as the land of Canaan [Genesis 12:5-7], stretching from the river Euphrates in the north to the river of Egypt which is between Israel and the desert in the south, and between the Mediterranean and the Dead Seas then occupied by seven nations [Genesis 15:18-21]. This is described as: "From sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" [Psalm72:8]. Abraham will inherit this land with Jesus when the kingdom of God is established [Luke 13:28], the borders of which will corresponding precisely to the land promised to them both [Ezekiel 47:13-21].

These promises were repeated to Isaac [Genesis 26:1-5] and Jacob [Genesis 28:13-14], Abraham's son and grandson, and wonderfully, if we become related to Christ we also shall inherit these same promises: "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" [Galatians 3:27-29] - "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" [Romans 8:17]. Abraham is counted the "father of the faithful" [Romans 4:16] and God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, meaning "the father of a multitude" [Genesis 17:5], because innumerable people, "as the stars of heaven for multitude" would be counted as his seed [Genesis 15:5] through Jesus.

God's promises to David

The second promise was made to David. When he was ruling on the throne of the LORD over Israel and had peace from all his enemies, he desired to build a house for God. His request, however, was refused but God made him a promise: "When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son" [2 Samuel 7:12-14].

Although the fulfilment of this promise was illustrated in the reign of Solomon, David’s son, the New Testament teaches that the promise will be fulfilled in Jesus [Hebrews 1:5]. He is the Son of God [Matthew 3:17]; he will build a house for God’s name [Haggai 2:7-9; Hebrews 3:6]; and he will reign on David’s throne over the Kingdom of God for ever [Luke 1:32-33].

The Kingdom of God in the past

The kingdom of God existed in the past. About 1500BC, the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt but God saved them through Moses. They journeyed through the wilderness to Sinai, where God declared the Israelites would constitute his kingdom, and they then entered Canaan, and the Kingdom of God was established in the land of promise.

God himself was the King [1Samuel 12:12].

Israel were the citizens of the Kingdom [Exodus 19:5-6].

The territory was the land of Israel, called "the LORD’s land" [Deuteronomy 11:12; Hosea 9:3] and corresponded with the land promised to Abraham, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea; and from the river Euphrates to the desert [Exodus 23:31].

The rulers of the Kingdom in the land were Judges appointed by God [Acts 13:20], the first of whom was Joshua [Deuteronomy 31:23].

The laws were God’s laws given to Israel through Moses [Deuteronomy 4:8] called "the Law of Moses" [Joshua 23:6].

Jerusalem eventually became the capital city of the Kingdom [2 Samuel 5:5].

This kingdom was a theocracy in which the people were blessed and living in safety and prosperity if they obeyed the commandments of God and lived righteous lives.

The Kingdom of God under the Judges

For about 400 years God placed judges over the Kingdom until Samuel, the last judge, when Israel desired a king whom they could see, like the other nations [1 Samuel 8:4-5]. Their request greatly distressed Samuel but he took it to the LORD who replied: "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me that I should not reign over them. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them" [1 Samuel 8:7-9].

Kings upon the throne of the LORD

God chose Saul to be their king [1 Samuel 15:1], but the LORD still remained the true King [Isaiah 44:6] with Saul as his representative in his kingdom. Sadly, Saul was disobedient to God and the Kingdom [1 Samuel 15:22-23] was taken from his family and given to David, "a man after God's own heart" [Acts 13:22]. During his forty year reign [2 Samuel 5:4], David defeated all Israel’s enemies and brought peace to the Kingdom [2 Samuel 7:1].

David’s son, Solomon, succeeded him on the throne of the LORD [1Chronicles 29:23] and peace continued throughout his reign [1 Kings 4:24-25] of forty years [1 Kings 11:42]. Solomon was given wisdom to rule God’s people of Israel [1 Kings 4:29-34], but foolishly he took three hundred wives [1 Kings 11:3], foreign princesses, who turned him away from the worship of the true God [1 Kings 11:4]. The LORD therefore told him that when he died the kingdom would be divided [1 Kings 11:11]. Solomon also built great palaces, and taxed the people of Israel severely, as Samuel had forewarned them [1 Samuel 8:11-18].

Israel divided into two kingdoms

After Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam became king [1 Kings 11:43] and the people requested that he reduce the taxes which were such a great burden to them [1 Kings 12:4]. But Rehoboam listened to the counsel of his young friends and threatened to tax them even more heavily [1 Kings 12:14]. Ten of the twelve tribes, led by Jeroboam [v12], rebelled [v16] so that Israel was then divided into two kingdoms [v20]: the ten tribes in the north, called the kingdom of Israel, and the two tribes in the south called the kingdom of Judah. These two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) remained loyal to Rehoboam, the rightful heir, who sat on David’s throne over the Kingdom of of the LORD [2 Chronicles 13:8].

Israel taken into captivity

The ten tribes became increasingly wicked and idolatrous, despite God sending his prophets to turn them to righteousness [Jeremiah 7:25-26]. They never had a righteous king and after about three hundred years, God punished them for their wickedness. He brought the Assyrians against them who carried them into captivity from which they never returned [2 Kings 18:11-12].

The two tribe kingdom of God, known as Judah, had some righteous and some wicked kings but eventually, after about four hundred years from Solomon, despite repeated warnings from God through his prophets, they became so wicked that God removed them out of his land by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon [2 Kings 25:1,21].

The scattering of the Jews worldwide and their return

After seventy years the Persians, who had defeated the Babylonians, allowed the Jews to return to their own land [2 Chronicles 36:22-23]. This was in accordance with the promise God made through Jeremiah [Jeremiah 29:10] but only about forty thousand returned [Ezra 2:64] and these were the ancestors of the people in the land when Jesus lived there.
After the return from Babylon, Judah was ruled in turn by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans who, in AD70, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, killed multitudes of Jews and sold the rest into captivity all over the world. The Jews remained among the nations for many centuries thereafter but, in accord with God’s purpose, many have returned to the land since 1917 and the state of Israel was established in 1948. God’s promise is that the Jews will not remain scattered for ever but will all return to the promised land and the restored Kingdom of God [Ezekiel 37:21-22].

The promise of the rightful King

When the Kingdom of God was overturned by Nebuchadnezzar, the king on the throne of the LORD was Zedekiah to whom God said: "Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it [God’s throne and kingdom]: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him" [Ezekiel 21:26-27]. So the Kingdom of God was overturned and it has never existed since. But it will be re-established [Amos 9:11] when “he comes who right it is”.

Jesus, the future King of the Kingdom of God

We can have no doubt that Jesus is this promised king for the angel Gabriel told Mary: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob [another name for Israel] for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" [Luke 1:31-33].

The return of Jesus from Heaven

Jesus is to be the future King in the Kingdom of God. He must therefore return to the earth to take possession of the throne of the LORD in Jerusalem. When Jesus left his disciples to go into heaven, two angels appeared and said: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" [Acts 1:11].

When Jesus returns from heaven he will be both king of Israel [John 12:13] and ruler of the whole world [Zecheriah 14:9]. All the Jews will be brought back to their land, which will become a paradise like the garden of Eden [Ezekiel 36:35-36], and they will be greatly blessed [Malachi 3:9-11]. He will also bring blessings upon all the people of the earth [Psalms 72:17] who will enjoy peace and prosperity [v7], living in a world full of righteousness [v2], godliness, love, joy and rejoicing [Psalm 67:4].

The everlasting Gospel

When Jesus reveals himself to the nations, the gospel will be preached again throughout the world informing all people about the Kingdom of God and the reign of Christ [Revelation 10:11; 14:6; 11:15]. They will be called upon to accept Jesus as the ruler of the world [Philippians 2:9-11]. Unfortunately, many nations will prefer to fight, but they will be defeated [Revelation 17:14]. Jesus will then abolish war and destroy all weapons [Micah 4:3] to establish righteousness and peace [Isaiah 31:1,17] for a thousand years [Revelation 20:6].

The Millennium

Jesus and his faithful disciples, called “saints” in the Bible [Psalm 50:5], will reign for a thousand years during which the nations will be blessed and "the knowledge of the glory of the LORD will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea" [Habakkuk 2:14]. Righteousness will be the characteristic of the age and the unrighteous will have no political power during this time [Revelation 20:2-3] but individuals will still be able to sin and disobey God [Isaiah 65:20].

People of all nations will be required to go up to to Jerusalem and the Kingdom of God once a year to worship the LORD in the feast of tabernacles [Zecheriah 14:16]. Any nations refusing to go up to worship will be brought into line by the withdrawal of rain [Zecheriah 14:17], which indicates how readily the nations will be controlled during the Millennium.

The end of the Millennium

At the end of the thousand years, there will be a rebellion of the nations against Christ [Revelation 20:7-10]. When this is overcome there will be a another resurrection followed by the judgment of those people who have lived during the Millennium [Revelation 20:12].

Those rejected among these will be subject to the second death [Revelation 20:14] and those accepted will be given eternal life with Jesus and the saints who have ruled with him for a thousand years. Then everyone living on the earth will be immortal, and death will have been completely eradicated [1 Corinthians 15:25].

Jesus will then hand all authority to his Father, and God will be all in all [1 Corinthians 15:24,28].

Belief and baptism

Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God throughout the world with the promise: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" [Mark 16:15-16].

By baptism, which is total immersion in water [Acts 8:38], disciples are symbolically buried with Christ and arise from the water, as Jesus did from the grave, to newness of life [Romans 6:3-4]. They are born again [1 Peter 1:23] to a new life of obedience to the commandments of God [1 John 3:9], in the hope of being accepted by Jesus [Hebrews 2:11-12] at his return [Mathew 16:27; 2 Timothy 4:8], to live and reign with him in the Kingdom of God [Revelation 3:21; 20:6].

The things concerning the Name of Jesus Christ

After Jesus went to heaven the apostles preached the gospel of the kingdom of God and the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ [Acts 8:12]. They taught the people the truth, both about God’s coming kingdom [Acts 19:8] and about salvation through his Son Jesus Christ [Acts 4:10-12].

God

There is only one true and living God [1 Thessalonians 1:9] as Jesus said: "Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God is one LORD and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” [Mark 12:29-30]. God’s name is "Yahweh", sometimes translated "Jehovah"[Psalm 83:18] but usually "the LORD" [Psalm 110:1] or "GOD" [Psalm 141:8] (in capital letters).

God is the creator and sustainer of the Universe who dwells in heaven in light unapproachable by mortal man [1 Timothy 6:16]. He is almighty [Genesis 35:11], all wise [Jude 1:25], and everywhere present [Jeremiah 23:24; Acts 17:28]. He is love [1 John 4:8], He is kind [Psalm 117:2], compassionate [Psalm 78:38], merciful [Psalm 103:8], longsuffering [Numbers 14:18], holy [1 Peter 1:15-16], jealous [Exodus 34:14], and righteous in his judgment [Psalm 19:9], rendering to every man according to his deeds [Romans 2:5-11]: "The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands [of generations], forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation" [Exodus 34:6-7]; "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God" [Romans 11:22].

The Holy Spirit

The Spirit is God’s power [Luke 1:35; 24:49; Acts 1:8], out of which everything is made [Psalm 104:30] and by which all things are kept in existence [Job 34:14,15]. It is by his Spirit that God is ever where present [Psalm 139:7-12].

The word 'holy' means 'separate' so that the Holy Spirit is power which is separated for a particular purpose such as healing the sick or raising the dead. For example, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary for Jesus to be born [Luke 1:35].

Holy Spirit gifts were given to men in the past. Jesus himself was anointed with Holy Spirit after his baptism which enabled him to perform miracles [Acts 10:38]. On the day of Pentecost it was given to the apostles [Acts 2:1-4], who also were able to perform miracles [Acts 4:16]. They could pass the Holy Spirit to others [Acts 8:14-17], but these were not able to pass it on in turn [v19], so since the apostles and the first disciples died no men have had the Holy Spirit since [1 Corinthians 13:8,13]. The fact that no-one can perform miracles like the disciples in the first century is evidence that none has the Holy Spirit today, and none will have it until Jesus returns. The first disciples had a "foretaste of the powers of the age to come" [Hebrews 6:5] and in that future age the Holy Spirit will be possessed by the saints to a greater extent than in the first century [John 14:12] for the benefit of all mankind [Isaiah 35:4-6].

Jesus Christ

Jesus is both the Son of God and the son of Mary [Luke 1:30-32]. He came into existence when the power of God overshadowed Mary and he was born. He had no existence previously but was in the mind of God as the focus of his purpose [John 1:1,14] and therefore we read of him in the Old Testament long before he existed [Psalm 22:16].

It was necessary for Jesus to possess the same nature as us so he could gain his great victory over sin and death [Hebrews 2:14-18]. From his mother Jesus inherited our nature, which is sinful and dying, so he was tempted in all points as we are [Hebrews 4:15] but, being the Son of God [Hebrews 5:6-9], he was able to resist temptation and live a perfect life [1 Peter 2:21-22]. From his Father he inherited God’s mind which enabled him to keep his body in complete subjection to his Father's will [John 5:30].

Although Jesus never sinned, he inherited Adam’s sinful nature [1 John 4:2], and he therefore suffered the consequences of Adam’s sin, which is death [Romans 6:23]. However, because he was perfect in character, it was not possible for God in justice to allow him to remain in the grave, so after three days he was raised from the dead [Acts 2:24].

By his death Jesus declared God’s righteousness [Romans 3:25-26], condemned sin in the flesh [Romans 8:3], and provided a way by which we might not perish but have everlasting life [John 3:16]. Before we can benefit from this we must become related to him in the way he has commanded, i.e. by belief and baptism.

Some forty days after his resurrection [Acts 1:3], Jesus was taken up into heaven [Acts 1:9], to sit at God’s right hand [Psalm 110:1] in glory [Acts 7:55]. There he is a High Priest [Hebrews 4:14] and mediator between God and man [1 Timothy 2:5] so that, once we become related to him, we can approach God in prayer through him [John 14:13,14; 1 John 5:14] and he will intercede for us [Romans 8:34].

The devil is sin

Jesus destroyed the devil by his death for it is written of him: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that has the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" [Hebrews 2:14]. It is sin that has the power of death, "for the sting of death is sin" [1 Corinthians 15:56-57], and Jesus died to save us from death by destroying sin [Hebrews 9:26].

The word "devil", "diabolos" in Greek, means "false accuser" [2 Timothy 3:3], and sin is the greatest false accuser because it causes us to do things which falsely accuse God. The word is used in the New Testament as the personification of sin. Personification is common in the Bible, e.g. wisdom [Proverbs 3:13-18] and love [1 Corinthians 13:5] are personified as lovely women; riches are personified as Mammon [Matthew 6:24]; and sin is personified as a master who pays out the wages of death [Romans 6:23].

Jesus fought against the devil, or sin, all his life and defeated it daily [Luke 4:13]. By his perfect life, death and resurrection, Jesus destroyed sin [Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:12]. Since his resurrection, sin has been unable to affect him [Romans 6:9-10] and when he returns he will destroy sin for all his faithful servants [John 1:29; Hebrews 9:28; Luke 20:35-36; Revelation 21:4]. At the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, he will also destroy sin for the faithful of that age so that sin is totally eradicated from the earth with no-one subject to sin or death ever again [1 Corinthians 15:25-26].

God’s promise in the garden Eden

The victory of Jesus over sin was promised by God in the garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced punishment upon the serpent because it had beguiled them, saying to it: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it (the woman’s seed) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" [Genesis 3:15].

This promise gave mankind a hope because it indicated that sin (symbolised by the serpent) would eventually be destroyed. Sin would cause great misery and death but the time would come when a "seed of the woman" would destroy it, although in the process he would suffer injury. Jesus, born of a virgin [Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27,31], is the "seed of the woman". He fought victoriously against sin by living a perfect life, and then destroyed it by his death [Hebrews 2:14].

Although the Romans and Jews killed him [Acts 4:26-28] by crucifixion [Acts 2:23], Jesus recovered from this injury in being raised from the dead [Acts 2:24], free from sin.

Satan

'Satan' is a Hebrew word meaning 'adversary' and anyone or anything can be a Satan. In the Bible, an angel doing the LORD's bidding [Numbers 22:22,32]; Peter [Matthew 16:23], and many others are called 'Satan'. There can be good and bad Satans because we can oppose one another for good or ill.

Demons

'Demon' was the name given by the Greeks to semi-gods who were supposed to be messengers between their gods and men. For instance, when they heard about Jesus they thought he was such a demon [Acts 17:18]. They also considered that mental illness was caused by demon possession. This was the terminology of the day so that when Jesus healed mentally ill people this was described as "casting out demons" [Mark 3:14-15]. Likewise the word 'lunatic' was used because of the belief that the phases of the moon also caused mental illness [Matthew 17:15,18].

Death

"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin" [Romans 5:12]. Adam and Eve sinned with the result that death came into the world [Genesis 2:17] and, as we all inherit Adam's nature [1 Corinthians 15:48-49] we all die [Psalm 89:48], and as we all sin ourselves [Romans 5:12], our natural destiny is to remain in the grave for ever [Ecclesiastes 9:10].

Adam was told he was made of dust and that when he died he would return to the dust [Genesis 3:19]. This is what will happen to us all [Ecclesiastes 3:20]. When we die, we cease to exist [Psalm 49:20]. We become unconscious and are incapable of thinking [Psalm 146:2-4], loving, hating [Ecclesiastes 9:5-6], or even praising God [Isaiah 38:18-19].

Adam was made a "living soul" [Genesis 2:7] which the New Testament explains is a "natural body" [1 Corinthians 15:44-45]. We do not have 'immortal souls' and this phrase is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It comes from Greek philosophy. 'Soul' in the Bible means life or being, and the word is used in the same way as we might say "poor old soul" or "Save Our Souls", e.g. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" [Ezekiel 18:20].

We are not immortal. When we die, we go into the grave and return to dust, not to Heaven or any place of eternal suffering. The Lord Jesus Christ who went to Heaven [Acts 2:32-34], but declared that no others would do so [John 3:13; 13:33]. The promise is that he will return to be with his disciples on earth [Acts 1:11].

Hell

The word "hell" means a "covered place" and is used for the grave. We see the use of this Anglo-Saxon word in "helmet" which is a covering for the head just as hell is a covered place for a dead body. Jesus was said to be in "hell" for three days and nights [Acts 2:31], when he was actually in the grave [Matthew 12:40]. The Hebrew word for this is "sheol" and the Greek word is "hades".

Gehenna

There is another word translated 'hell' which in the Greek is 'Gehenna'. This was a valley outside Jerusalem which was used for the city's rubbish, into which the bodies of criminals were thrown, and in which Israel had sacrificed their children by fire to their idols [Jeremiah 7:31]. A fire in Gehenna was kept burning so that it continually consumed all that was thrown into it [Isaiah 66:24]. Jesus used this as a figure for the judgment of the wicked, warning his disciples to live righteously that they might not be counted criminals by him and thrown into "Gehenna” [Mark 9:43-44].

Resurrection from the dead

The only hope of escape from the grave is to be raised from the dead [Ephesians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:3; Philippians 3:7-11], as Jesus was [Acts 17:31]. This hope of Christ’s disciples was expressed by the apostle Paul, "I count all things but loss...that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection...if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" [Philippians 3:8-11]. There is an definite order to the resurrection: "Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" [1 Corinthians 15:23]. Thus the resurrection of the faithful will take place when Jesus returns and this is the first thing he will do, after which he will also gather to him his disciples who are still alive [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].

God has appointed Jesus to be the judge of the living and the dead [Acts 10:42] and he will bring to judgment all who are responsible to God [Acts 24:15]. These will include those who have heard his invitation in the gospel, whether they have believed and been baptized or not, and they will stand before his judgment-seat to give an account of themselves [2 Corinthians 5:10]. People who are not counted responsible by God will remain in the grave for ever [Isaiah 26:13-14].

Those who are rejected by Jesus will experience the "second death" and return to dust for ever [Revelation 21:8]. Those who are accepted by him will have their bodies changed into immortality and incorruptibility so they live for ever [1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21]. This has been the wonderful hope of the faithful throughout all the ages. For example, the Psalmist exclaimed, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" [Psalm 17:15].

The source of our knowledge

The Bible alone reveals God’s truth. In our days, there is no other source of information about God and his purpose.

The Bible is the wholly inspired word of God, for "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" [2 Peter 1:21], and all their writings in the Scriptures are true and infallible [2 Timothy 3:16].

The principle that the Bible is the wholly inspired Word of God is the foundation upon which we base all our beliefs and we do so with absolute confidence.

What we must do to be saved

Jesus, immediately before he went to Heaven, commanded his apostles: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" [Mark 16:15-16]. This is what we must do to be saved and this transforms us from sinners into saints in the eyes of God. However, to receive a saint’s reward, we must obey the commandments of Christ given through his apostles [John 14:15; 15:10; Luke 10:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37].

Jesus himself said "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" [Mark 12:30-31].

There are many other commandments of Christ, the purpose of which is to develop characters in us like that of God and his Son. If we keep these commandments Jesus will not be ashamed to call us his brethren and sisters when he returns [Hebrews 2:12] and will say to us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" [Matthew 25:23] and "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" [Matthew 25:34].


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