Paul Luckraft reviews 'The Gospel of the Kingdom' by Alex Tinson (GospelRevolution, 2010).
This book is a consideration of what Jesus actually meant by "this gospel of the Kingdom"which will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations before the end comes (Matt 24:14). It is the author's contention that this specific phrase requires careful attention and understanding if we are to proclaim an effective biblical message in these days. As the subtitle suggests, here we will find 'a compelling message for such a time as this'.
The Kingdom Rule of Jesus
Tinson explains that the gospel of the Kingdomis that facet of the Gospel which focuses upon the power and authority of the Kingdom rule of Jesus, seen initially in his life and in the early Church, and which will be seen in its fullness once Jesus returns.
This, the author asserts, is not the same as the gospel of salvation (repentance, faith, baptism and so on) which we find in Acts and the epistles. Tinson is not denying this aspect of the Gospel; in fact, he strongly advocates these things in the later chapters ('Will you inherit the Kingdom?', 'The Normal Christian Life'). This is also part of the full Gospel message and must be proclaimed to enable people to enter the Kingdom.
His point is that just preaching to get people 'saved' is incomplete if there is no further message of preparation for the Kingdom that will one day arrive on earth when Jesus returns. This is the context in which this phrase is placed, and why it is the gospel of the Kingdom which must be preached everywhere before the end.
Heralding the Messianic Kingdom
There is a whole chapter on 'The Kingdom Parables' of Matthew 24 and 25, which Tinson believes are key to understanding the gospel of the Kingdom. He is clear we should not ignore or avoid the harsh implications of some of them. In particular, there is a good explanation of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
Although the book is not offering a full exposition of what has become known as 'end time' theology, Tinson does provide clear and proper explanations of some of its key themes. For instance, judgment and the separation it brings, the millennium as a Messianic Kingdom and the rapture on Jesus's return (rather than some imminent magical disappearance).
It is important to assert that Tinson is not propagating 'Kingdom Now' teaching. He states, "the Kingdom has powerful relevance today, but is only seen in its fullness once Jesus returns" (p97). Certainly there is an aspect of Kingdom rule that we can see today through the authority of the Holy Spirit working through believers, but this is only a small foretaste. "Presently we have the Kingdom coming, not the Kingdom come"(p98).
Overall we are left in no doubt that the gospel of the Kingdom is primarily the message of the return of Jesus and its aftermath. This is the Messianic Kingdom, not a manmade one instituted prior to Christ's return.
As stated earlier, the author is not shy in condemning those who don't preach any gospel beyond the 'sinners prayer' and who then follow it up with teaching about having a great life now, rather than losing your life to gain an eternal one in a future Kingdom. To combat this, Tinson provides a very useful section on Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. By reminding us of this story, the contrast between certain kinds of modern triumphalism and the true struggles of a walk of faith and obedience could not be made clearer. It may also make you want to read this classic again and use it to test yourself in your Christian walk.
Towards the end of the book there are several pages outlining the author's own testimony. He shares that after conversion he attended many different types of church and meeting until he eventually fell into the 'Faith-Prosperity' gospel. He tried living this way for a while until God broke him free into the true biblical Gospel of faith, righteousness, peace and holiness. From this experience came a deeper understanding of the Word and a walk in line with the Spirit, and hence the message contained within this book. To read of his journey is encouraging and helpful.
Overall this is a well written and constructed book, though there is an annoying overuse of bold type. Instead of being used sparingly to emphasise key points, there are several occasions on each page where a few words (or even a single word) are highlighted for no apparent reason.
This is not a new book but its message remains very pertinent today, and especially as we approach the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) when we remember God's desire to dwell in the midst of his people and look forward to the coming Kingdom. Highly commended.
'The Gospel of the Kingdom: A compelling message for such a time as this' (158pp) is available from Amazon.
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