We all have heard the simple phrase ‘the good news’ or the word ‘gospel.’ It’s often preached in churches as inheriting eternal life. So the ‘gospel’ or ‘good news’ is defined as Jesus’ death on the cross in place of us so we can access the Father in heaven. So the ‘gospel’ is, often times, equal to eternal life. The ‘good news’ becomes about how we can get to heaven.
But have you ever wondered what the ‘good news’ meant in the first century world? What did Jesus and the apostles mean when they spoke about the ‘gospel’? Did it only mean eternal life? Or was there a deeper meaning? In this four part series, I’ll place the ‘good news’ in the first century context. And then talk about how Jesus used it in his world and then what it means for us today.
Let’s do this.
The Greek word for ‘good news’ is euaggelion. It comes from two Greek words: eu meaning good, and aggelion meaning message, news or headline. It’s the idea of watching TV and all the sudden it’s interrupted by someone saying, “Sorry to interrupt your regular broadcast, but we have important news.”
It’s the headline that can’t wait for tomorrow.
In fact, the Greek military used the original word long before the time of Jesus and Paul. Whenever two armies approached the battlefield, one army was the defender and the other army was trying to conquer.
The nearby cities would commission a runner or herald to watch the battle, hoping that their defending army would be stronger and win. They knew that if the conquering army won the battle, they would be destroyed. Their culture would cease to exist; their way of life would be shattered.
If the conquering army won, their men would be killed, their children made slaves and their women raped, ultimately ending with loss of their identity. Through the agony, torture and death, they would become someone else entirely.
All their hope hinged on the strength of their defending army. Their freedom from slavery, rape, death, oppression, depression, addiction, hate, selfishness, anger, self-inadequacies, was hanging in the balance.
If their team won, whole and complete freedom was the prize. Their freedom wasn’t just about maintaining what they had; it was about the hope of becoming what they were destined to be.
They knew that their whole and complete freedom came at a great cost. Their men had sacrificed their lives to ensure their freedom. Their sacrifice bought freedom. So with the freedom came a wonder, awe, joy and gratefulness for what these men sacrificed.
Thanksgiving ought to be at the heart of freedom.
So the nearby cities would place runners at the outer edge of the battle, and as the runners saw the conquering army begin to lose and be destroyed; as soon as victory was inevitable and secure, the runners would sprint back to their cities.
They would sprint back to the people who would be waiting to hear the news whether or not they would be killed, raped and enslaved.
And the runners would approach the town, joyful and ecstatic, and from a distance the city would hear the runners shouting, “euaggelion, euaggelion, euaggelion.” Good news, good news, good news!
And the cities would rejoice for they no longer had to become someone they were never meant to be.
To them, the ‘good news’ was more than a future anticipation of something; rather it was a present freedom resulting in a renewal of mind, body and spirit. When your very existence is threatened yet spared, the way you view life changes.
The ‘good news’ is living with the awareness that you should have been raped, enslaved or killed, but sacrifice and grace ensured you wouldn’t. The ‘good news’ is the understanding of the present reality of deliverance from everything that threatened you. Everything.
The ‘good news’ is the understanding of the present reality
of deliverance from everything that threatened you.
Are you with me?
So Jesus picks up on this idea and uses it to describe his ministry. That’s why Jesus spoke very little about a future heaven. Yet spoke much about bringing the life of heaven to earth.
It is a weak Christianity to believe that ‘good news’ is simply contained to eternal life. There is a whole freedom of body, mind, soul and spirit that accompanies the ‘good news’ now, in this present reality.
In the next post we will discover how Jesus used this idea of the ‘good news.’
Get ready to be shaken…
See Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Read Dr. Skip Moen’s articles on his site: www.skipmoen.com