If the goal of the gospel is simply to get people into heaven, as many believe, what is its relevance to daily life? Most people who hear the gospel will not die for years, so they will have little incentive to respond immediately. If the gospel has little or no relevance for the here and now, the logic for evangelism is weakened. It would be like me trying to sell you a front-row seat to a New York Yankees game for a date yet to be determined by the ball club sometime between now and 2080! You would not be likely to purchase a ticket. It may be a good deal, but where’s the urgency? Waiting would seem to be more prudent.
Professor William Abraham explains that there must be a logic for evangelism.1 The gospel must have relevance for the present and not only for the distant future. According to New Testament accounts, the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom (and not the promise of going to heaven) was the thrust of Jesus’s gospel sermons. It provided the rationale for evangelism. The words “gospel” and “kingdom” are so interconnected that the New Testament writers use the umbrella terms “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” 20 times to describe the good news of salvation.
When the message that Jesus and the apostles preached is compared to most contemporary gospel messages, the difference is like night and day. In many ways, the messages are complete opposites of each other. One emphasizes a future salvation, but the other invites people to enter the kingdom of God now. According to one, you have to wait to experience the blessings of the kingdom, but according to the other, the benefits of the kingdom are available for you to enjoy this moment while you are alive and well on planet earth.
A discovery of the kingdom of God and its relevance for today will revolutionize your life! Join me for a short jaunt through the New Testament. Get ready to be surprised by what lies ahead—the kingdom of God will leap off each page. By the end of this chapter, you are likely to be asking yourself, “How have I missed this all these years?”
R. Alan Streett, Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2013).