The world does not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its churches teach what they think the gospel represents.
Christ was a Messenger sent directly from God. The gospel He brought was not a syrupy, sentimental message about how “Christ is love,” or that “Christ is the answer.” His message was a direct, powerful announcement of the kingdom of God—the government that will soon rule over earth!
In this lesson, we will further solidify the gospel (meaning “good news”) of the soon-coming kingdom of God. We will examine the general sequence of events leading up to the Return of Christ—as the King of kings—to rule over the entire earth. In short, this lesson shows the world’s unexpected destination and how we will get there!
The literature referenced in each lesson establishes a foundation upon which following lessons build. It is not merely supplemental reading. It is critical that you read this literature in sequence with each lesson you study.
Take the time to write down the indicated scriptures in the same order as the numbered questions are presented under each separate heading. This will help you to internalize God’s Word. Those who followed this practice over 30 years ago still testify to the value of writing down scriptures and how periodic review has greatly etched these key verses into their minds.
In Lesson One, we read Matthew 24:14, which gives indications of when the end of the age would come: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” The very sign of the end of the age would be that the gospel would be taught—the same gospel Christ taught!
This single verse contains more information than meets the eye. It shows that the true gospel had not been preached to the whole world prior to this end time. If it had been preached in all nations for a witness, then it could not have been a unique sign that the end was at hand, because it would have been commonplace through the ages. However, it had not gone out except during the ministry of the end-time apostle, who fulfilled the role of the final Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Luke 1:17).
This is not to diminish the efforts of such groups as the Paulicians (A.D. 600s-800s), especially the Waldensians (1100s-1500s), and others of God’s Church throughout history. These peoples went to great lengths to spread the true gospel locally, in different locations, most often at the risk of their own lives. Their efforts were indeed commendable, and yielded fruit. Due to continual persecution and the lack of modern technology, they were unable to preach the gospel to all the world. Their Work was confined to local areas or a general region, at best.
Only in these last days did God open the doors to reach all nations, through the printed word, radio and television. Through these means, the Work of God reached the world in the relatively short-lived Philadelphian Era of the Church. Church eras will be discussed in detail in a future lesson.
This same message is now being echoed by the remnant of that Philadelphian Work. The Internet allows God’s Church to powerfully witness to the world. This Work fulfills a crucial role in announcing the coming kingdom of God.
The gospel to go out to all nations in these latter times is the same message delivered by Christ. Note the first reference to Christ’s gospel: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The word “kingdom” denotes government. Hence, the kingdom of God is the government of God. Shortly before Christ’s final Passover, He spoke a certain parable “because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11). Those converts who lived during the time of Christ looked for, hoped for, talked about and greatly anticipated the coming kingdom of God. It was very real to them. Luke 23:51 shows that Joseph of Arimathaea “waited for the kingdom of God.”
The belief in the kingdom of God was so prominent that it could not have been easily ignored by secular historians who wrote of the first century. We find this belief reflected in the writings of early scholars and theologians. Eusebius records from the writings of Papias of Hierapolis that “…there would be a millennium after the resurrection and that there would be a corporeal [a literal, physical manifestation] reign of Christ on this very earth” (Ecclesiastical History, Cruse Translation, Bk. 3, ch. 39, p. 105).
Eusebius, a Catholic scholar compiling his work in the fourth century, labeled the above-quoted belief by Papias of the second century, as being “unwritten tradition” and “too incredible” (Ibid.). This should come as no surprise, because the doctrine of the millennium as part of the true gospel was one of the first truths to be dismissed and counterfeited. As to the charge of “unwritten tradition,” we will see later in this lesson what the Bible has to say about such matters.
There are many more indications that the first-century Church readily believed in a literal millennial reign of Christ on earth. This belief was most accurately recorded in the writings of historian Edward Gibbon: “The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred, that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death [by divine protection; Rev. 3:10], or who had been miraculously revived [resurrected from the dead], would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1858, vol. 1, ch. 15, pp. 533-534).
This fascinating quote reflects the understanding of the apostolic Church, in regard to: (1) The millennium, (2) the 7,000-year timeframe of God’s plan of salvation, patterned after the seven-day week, and (3) the general order of future resurrections. This knowledge was widely understood by the apostolic Church. It was gradually lost and replaced by counterfeit doctrines introduced by the Roman Catholic Church.
After covering the gospel and what God’s kingdom represents, we will turn to the events prophesied to occur before the Return of Christ. Many Bible prophesies address events that are to occur shortly before the Second Coming. Let’s now review these events to understand where we are in Bible prophecy. This part of the lesson will review some of the events covered in our booklet, Are These the Last Days?
(1) Did the prophet Micah prophesy that the kingdom of God would be established on the earth? Micah 4:1-3.
Comment: This crucial scripture is almost identical to Isaiah 2:1-4. It appears twice in God’s Word for emphasis, establishing that God will re-educate the world—and all nations will ultimately be willing and eager to learn His truth.
(2) What will the peoples of the different nations exclaim when they learn the truth of God’s Way for the first time? Jeremiah 16:19.
Comment: The term “in the day of affliction” is not referring to the time of the kingdom. The context shows that this refers to the tumultuous time of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.
(3) What role will Christ have in the kingdom? Luke 1:32-33.
Comment: Christ will reign as Ruler and King. He is the personage known as the God of the Old Testament. We will prove His identity in an upcoming lesson.
Comment: Writing out these verses should help reinforce not only the extent of Christ’s reign, but the enthusiasm with which the world will rejoice.
(5) What does the prophet Daniel tell us about the coming kingdom of God? Daniel 2:44.
Comment: To better understand this verse, begin reading Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (vs. 36-44). Notice that God sets up this kingdom, which will smash and replace all of man’s kingdoms and governments.
(6) As Daniel shows the rise and fall of world empires, by whose authority is Christ coronated as King over all peoples and nations? Daniel 7:13-14.
Comment: The “saints of the Most High” are those who qualify to rule in the kingdom of God by overcoming sin. They are either part of the first resurrection or changed into spirit beings at Christ’s Return.
Comment: There are many more references in the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament, answering this matter. Notice that man, when changed to spirit beings in the God Family, will rule over and judge angels!
The fact that the real gospel is the good news of the coming kingdom of God is lost to the world.
Notice that the terms “gospel of the kingdom,” “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” appear over 40 times just in Matthew. The same terms appear about 30 times in Luke. Many Old Testament prophets also discuss various aspects of the coming kingdom of God.
(1) Would Christ allow the preaching of a different gospel that focuses on “how love surpasses obedience,” or “how Christ loves us just as we are,” instead of the gospel He taught? Galatians 1:8 (read verses 6-7 before writing out verse 8).
(2) Was this Paul’s personal opinion? Galatians 1:9.
Comment: Although one might understand the 6,000 years allotted to man, he would not know the exact elapsed year within that plan nor the precise time of Christ’s Return. Add to this equation the fact that time is to be cut short (Matt. 24:22; Rom. 9:28).
(2) Could someone discern by certain signs that Christ’s Return is near? Matthew 24:32-33.
(3) Will some feel that there is no urgency—that much time still remains? Matthew 24:48.
(4) What signs did Christ mention when His disciples asked Him, “what shall be the sign of Your Coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:4-7.
Comment: In verses 4-5, Christ defined the first sign as religious deception. This began as early as the first century, and has gained momentum ever since. In verses 6-7, Christ spoke of warfare—a proliferation of wars. Later in verse 7, He cited famine and then pestilence. Finally, He mentioned earthquakes. In a future lesson, we will show how these signs are the keys to understanding a sequence of events recorded in Revelation.
For now, we should regard them as signs that, as they intensify, show that Christ’s Return is near. Of course, as pointed out in Lesson One, the going forth of the gospel of the kingdom is the primary benchmark, and “then shall the end come” (vs. 14). After the gospel has gone forth, the abomination of desolation appears, which signals the beginning of the Tribulation.
(5) How severe is this time of tribulation? Matthew 24:21.
Comment: This event is clearly Satan’s wrath upon the final era of God’s Church and the modern-day descendants of Israel. Christians who have grown lukewarm and un-governable are in danger of suffering martyrdom, which will be brought upon many thousands. Those who are faithful unto death, without denying God, will be in the resurrection. But Scripture shows that half (Matt. 25:1-12) will break down and accept the “mark of the beast.”
Meanwhile, 90% of the population of the nations of modern Israel will lose their lives in this most terrible of all times (Rev. 6:8; 9:15), which will continue for 2½ years. Next comes the Day of the Lord, which lasts one year. Thus, the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord together comprise 3½ years.
(7) Does all of the end-time Church of God suffer this martyrdom? Revelation 3:10.
Comment: Clearly, there is a group who will be protected through the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord until Christ’s Return.
(8) What event follows the Tribulation? Matthew 24:29.
Comment: These signs in the heavens signal the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the Day of the Lord. (Other events are concurrent with these major events, but, at this stage, we are focusing only on the major trend of events.) The Day of the Lord consists of a series of miraculous events from God to punish the beast power and rebellious mankind. Christ returns at the “last trump,” after a series of plagues called the Trumpet Plagues.
Comment: Contrary to professing Christianity’s popular belief, the Day of the Lord has nothing to do with Sunday. As the Bible clearly shows, it is a year of severe retribution against those who rebel against God.
(10) Is a powerful, reverberating trumpet blast to accompany Christ’s Return? Matthew 24:30-31.
(12) Is this the time when the world’s governments become subject to Christ? Revelation 11:15.
Comment: Some professing Christians regard Matthew 24:45-46 as a mandate to involve themselves in social activism as “do-gooders.” Rather, this mandates that all true Christians become and remain faithful servants, within God’s Church, wherein are found “little ones”—and to be found busily doing God’s Work. Each servant must be serving God as a way of life—growing and overcoming—even up to the time when “His Lord, when He comes, shall find so doing.”
We have covered the gospel and a general introduction of what that kingdom represents. We also covered some of the major events prophesied to occur before that critical juncture—the Return of Christ, which ushers in the kingdom of God. To internalize the crucial sequence of end-time events, carefully read Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Now that you have completed this lesson, be sure to read our free booklet What Is the Kingdom of God? It provides an in-depth explanation of what you have just studied.