How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Thus spake God through Isaiah (52.7). But let’s improve this translation:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings the Gospel,
who publishes peace, who brings the Gospel of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” [or "Your God is king"].
The Greek translation of the OT–the one popular at the time of the NT–used the same word that is translated as “Gospel” over and over again in our English versions of the NT. Nor is this simply reliance on a human tradition. Jesus himself makes the same equation from Isaiah’s Hebrew:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news ["the Gospel"] to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4.18, 19).
Jesus was quoting Isaiah 61.1, 2. It is worth mentioning here that, though Jesus declared that his announcement was, objectively, good news, it was going to be received quite badly by the hearers in his home town. The gospel can bring judgment but it does not cease to be the gospel, the Good News.
But the point here is that declaring that God is coming to be king is the Gospel. That is the message of Isaiah and that is the message of Jesus, which they both declare to be a Gospel, good news. Mark introduces his own Gospel to make the same point:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark has lots to write about in order to explain the Gospel, but this introduction gives us his shorthand summary and tells us that there is continuity between Isaiah and Jesus’ preaching in Israel: God is coming to be king.Incidentally, Luke makes it clear, if one wants to insist that Mark does not explicitly tell us, that John the Baptizer also preached the Gospel (Luke 3.1-20, especially v. 18; an interesting text to think about).
And after Jesus death and resurrection, this message continues to be about God as king and a new kingdom. Matthew’s Gospel assures us that both before and after Jesus’ death and resurrecton it is “the Gospel of the Kingdom” that is to be proclaimed (Matthew 4.23; 9.35; 24.14). Thus, the first sermon of the church:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
God is king in and through Jesus whose coronoation occurred through his death, resurrection, and ascension. This is the Gospel, the good news. In Christ, God is now king.
Of course, one can get confused because the Bible teaches that God is always ruling creation. That is a Biblical doctrine that needs to be preserved, but so do the Biblical priorities which rarely refer to God’s role as being king of a kingdom. No, God is king when the powers that rebel against him have been subdued and God’s people have been rescued from them. God’s general sovereignty does not mean there is no difference between God’s kingship over Israel when they are slaves in Egypt and his Kingship when he is dwelling among them in the Tabernacle leading them into the Promised Land. If we are going to simply gloss these great transitions as insignificant in comparison to God’s general unchanging control over the universe, then we will be unable to account for much in the Bible or in distinctively Christian theology.
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that “Jesus is Lord” is the essential content of saving faith and the good news for all people irrespective of their place in life. He writes:
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
God is king–this is truly good news.