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Gospel of Salvation or Gospel of the Kingdom?

  • Os Hillman President, Marketplace Leaders
  • Published Jul 02, 2013
Gospel of Salvation or Gospel of the Kingdom?

 Your kingdom come,Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).  

I want you to imagine a conversation between Joshua and God. “Now Joshua, I have called you to take the leadership from Moses and I want you now to take my people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. However, once you cross the Jordan River I want you and all your people to sit down. Your mission is done.”  

“Ridiculous!” you might say. I would agree with you. But, in many ways, this is exactly what the American Church has done in the last fifty years. We have preached the Gospel of Salvation, but we have not taught the people to apply the message of the Gospel to their everyday life. This is the difference between the Gospel of Salvation and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Jesus did not come to merely give us a ticket to Heaven. He came to bring us much more: the Kingdom of God on earth. Nowhere in the Bible will you find the term "gospel of salvation." The Church does not exist for Heaven, but for earth. If it existed only for Heaven, then each of us would immediately be taken to Heaven.

Oswald Chambers said, “It is not a question of being saved from hell, but in being saved in order to manifest the Son of God in our mortal flesh." There would be no reason for us to remain on earth if there was not a work to be done. So why has God allowed us to receive this new birth and remain on earth? It is so that we might bring the Kingdom of God into our world--our families, our workplace, and our communities.

Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God more than 70 times in the New Testament—much more often than He mentioned salvation. While salvation is part of bringing the Kingdom of God on earth, it includes much more. When Jesus came to earth, He came in order to penetrate the very kingdom of darkness with light. He came to bring healing to sickness, replace sadness with joy, and fill meaninglessness with purpose. He came to change things for the better for a world that had no hope outside of God.

Chuck Colson cites that “Genuine Christianity is more than a relationship with Jesus, as expressed in personal piety, church attendance, Bible Study, and works of charity. It is more than discipleship, more than believing a system of doctrines about God. Genuine Christianity is a way of seeing and comprehending all reality. It is a worldview.”

God wants you to bring the Kingdom of God into the territory He has given you so that His will can be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Your domain is your workplace, family, and community. When the Gospel of the Kingdom comes into a life and a community, everything in its wake is impacted. However, we need to understand how the Church got to this place of being stuck on the Gospel of Salvation.

In 1999 we hosted a marketplace conference in Atlanta. One of my speakers was Landa Cope. Landa is Dean of the College of Communication for Youth with a Mission University of the Nations. Landa teaches all over the world. At that time she was writing a book and she was teaching us from her notes. Today her book, entitled The Old Testament Template, addresses the issue of the failure of the Church to operate from Jesus’ paradigm of the Gospel of the Kingdom versus the Gospel of Salvation. She believes this is why we have had such little impact in the western Church.

Her opening chapter tells a story about her sitting in her living room one day watching television when a British journalist began to say that Christians believe that the more Christians there are in a community, the more that community will be affected for good. The greater the Christian presence, then the greater the benefit to the society at large.

The TV journalist went on to describe a research project that was designed to discover if this was true. He evaluated the most Christianized city in America to see how this influence worked out practically. He defined most "Christianized" as the community with the largest percentage of church attendance regularly. That city was Dallas, Texas. He looked at various statistics and studies, including crime, safety on the streets, police enforcement, and the justice and penal system. He looked at health care, hospitals, emergency care, contagious diseases, infant mortality rate, and the distribution of care givers. He reviewed education, equality of schools, safety, test scores and graduation statistics. Jobs, housing, and general economics were also evaluated. Each of these categories was evaluated using racial and economic factors. Was there equity regardless of color, creed or income? And so on.

By the time the journalist host was done with the conclusions of the Dallas study, Landa was devastated. No one would want to live in a city in that condition. The crime, the decrepit social systems, the disease, the economic discrepancies, the racial injustice all disqualified this community from having an adequate quality of life. And this was the “most Christianized” city in America. Landa wanted to weep.

The host took this devastating picture of a broken community to the Christian leaders and asked for their observations. One by one, each pastor viewed the same facts about the condition of his city. With simplicity, the narrator asked each minister, “As a Christian leader what is your response to the condition of your community?” Without exception, in various ways, they all said the same thing, “This is not our concern ... we are spiritual leaders.”

Martin Luther said, “A gospel that does not deal with the issues of the day is not the gospel at all.”

God is doing a unique work in the earth today. There are seasons in which the Holy Spirit speaks things to the Church. During one decade it might be a focus on evangelism. During another, it might be a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit. During another, it might be a focus on social problems in cities.

For the last several decades we have seen the Church focus on proclamation evangelism. This has been true in the workplace movement as well. In 1930 CBMC, a workplace ministry, began with a focus on evangelizing men in the workplace. Twenty years later Full Gospel Businessmen International was birthed through Demos Shakarian. This too, was a focus on winning men to Christ.

Billy Graham arose in prominence during the fifties and sixties. His crusades won many to Christ. However, in the workplace movement we began to see some discrepancies similar to Landa’s story. We would often hear comments from Christians and non-Christians: “I will never work with a Christian. The last time I did I got burned.” The reason this was happening was that people were getting saved in the marketplace, but their lives had not been transformed. Their soul had been redeemed but their working life had not. In other words, the Gospel of the Kingdom had not been realized in their lives.

It wasn’t until the 1980s until this began to change in the workplace movement. Groups like the International Christian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) emerged in 1985 and began helping men and women apply the Word of God to how they worked. Work was no longer a platform for sharing the Gospel, it was now a place to bring the presence and power of God into the very way we operated our businesses. Many other marketplace groups birthed along the same time frame, also with a focus on applying the Word of God to how individuals worked.

In the nineties we began to see a new focus emerge. This focus was on social entrepreneurship and social transformation. Groups like the Pinnacle Forum and HalfTime with Bob Buford began to promote social agendas using entrepreneurship from a Christian viewpoint to impact the culture. Our organization, Marketplace Leaders, was birthed in 1996. Our mission is to help men and women fulfill their purpose in and through their work life.

Gospel of Salvation vs Gospel of the Kingdom

The simplest way to understand the distinction is the Gospel of Salvation deals only with salvation for your soul. The Gospel of the Kingdom deals with all things that the cross affected including salvation and reconciliation of all things, including the material world that was lost in the fall.

It is helpful at this stage for us to define what we mean by a Kingdom. Myles Munroe, author of a book on the Kingdom of God, describes a kingdom in these terms: “A kingdom is the sovereign rulership and governing influence of a king over his territory, impacting it with his will, his intent, and his purpose, manifesting a culture and society reflecting the king’s nature, values, and morals. A kingdom is the governing impact of a king’s will over a territory or domain, his influence over a people, and a government led by a king.”

Jesus’ desire was for God’s Kingdom to be manifested on earth. When He taught the disciples to pray, He petitioned His Heavenly Father by asking, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” While we may never see God’s kingdom completely manifested on earth as it is Heaven, Jesus IS telling us that we should ask for it and expect it. Moses was led by God not to establish a religion but a nation of people who would love, serve, and honor God. In other words, God wanted His Kingdom expressed through their lives completely.

An Incomplete Gospel

The following comparison between attributes of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Salvation provides a better understanding of the two. When Jesus prayed the Lord’s prayer He prayed for the manifestation of what was happening in Heaven to happen on earth. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9-10). His emphasis was more than salvation.

Gospel of Salvation

  • Proclamation evangelism/salvation
  • Eternal, heavenly focus, evangelistic
  • Addresses only the “Soul”
  • Rapture” escape mentality
  • Sacred vs. Secular - dualism
  • Focuses on Transaction
  • “Win the next soul”

Example: Nigeria

Gospel of the Kingdom

  • Soul and body
  • Impacts all aspects of society
    • Material, social, earthly, secular
  • Influence through service, godly leadership, active faith
  • Focuses on taking dominion
  • “Possess the Land”

Example: Almolonga

The above diagram shows the contrast between the Gospel of Salvation vs the Gospel of the Kingdom. One is passive; the other is active with a goal of taking possession as Joshua was instructed. One of the problems in the Church today is we often talk about “escaping this evil world” through the rapture instead of influencing the world.

Some research tells us that Nigeria may have as much as 60 percent of the population born again Christians. Yet, the culture has one of the greatest problems of crime and corruption of any nation in the world. That is because the Gospel of Salvation has been the primary message. Nigeria is a place where there are great evangelism campaigns, but the effect on the people has been minimal due to their failure to apply the Gospel to every area of their life.

Contrast this to Almolonga, Guatemala where 90% of the population is Christian and there are no jails because they don’t need them because they have effectively applied the gospel to every aspect of their life.

Books like the Left Behind series may be good fictional reading that has some level of truth, but it can instill in our minds a mindset that Christians are to wait for the “great escape” instead of focusing our time and energy on occupying the land and changing the culture. Jesus said He wants to return to a mature bride; that means a vibrant church that is active on impacting our world.

Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders and author of Change Agent and TGIF Today God Is First daily devotional.

Publication date: July 3, 2013