Mark from the Northeast sent in an oft-asked question about the gospel in Mark 1:14-15:
Mark 1:15 says, “‘The time has come, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” My wife and I are loyal listeners. Could you elaborate on this verse, please?
To understand verse 15, you must consult the previous verse. It reads, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” The word translated gospel simply means good news. The context shows us that verse 15 refers to the good news that the kingdom of God was being offered to that generation of Jews. The kingdom had come near. Some translations say that it was “at hand.”
Major confusion comes when we think that this refers to the good news of the letter to the Galatians: justification by faith alone, apart from works.
But why did the Lord Jesus speak of repentance? The condition for everlasting life is faith in Christ. Not repentance. The issue here is not individual salvation. The issue is the coming of the kingdom of God for the entire Nation of Israel living then.
For the kingdom to come, the Jewish nation must believe and be in fellowship with God. Hence the call to repentance and believing that the kingdom of God was at hand. To believe that it is at hand would likely mean that one would believe that Jesus is the King bringing in the kingdom. If someone believed that, he would likely come to believe Jesus’ promise of everlasting life to all who believe in Him (e.g., John 3:16).i
See this February 2022 blog explaining Mark 1:14-15.
Sadly, many misunderstand and think that the gospel of the kingdom is the offer of eternal salvation to all who repent and believe in Christ (for example, see this article by gotquestions.org). As I looked through various commentaries, all except The Grace NT Commentary interpreted Mark 1:15 as Jesus’ offer of eternal salvation to individuals who repent and believe that the kingdom has come.
It is impossible to turn Mark 1:15 into the same message as John 3:16. The former is a call for the Nation of Israel to repent and believe that the kingdom has drawn near so that the kingdom might come at that time. John 3:16 is the promise that whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life and will never perish.
John 3:16 does not mention repentance or the kingdom.
Mark 1:15 does not mention everlasting life or believing in the Lord Jesus for it.
John is an evangelistic book. Mark is not.
The expression the gospel of the kingdom only occurs five times in the NT, all in Matthew and Mark (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15). All but Matt 24:14 indicate that the Lord Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom during His earthly ministry.
Matthew 24:14 refers to people preaching the gospel of the kingdom during the Tribulation. Jesus prophesied, saying, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” We are not commanded to preach the gospel of the kingdom today. We do not know how long it will be before the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation. But once the kingdom is less than seven years away, the good news of the coming kingdom will be preached once again.
Mark 1:14-15 can be easily understood if we recognize that the kingdom was offered to Israel in the first century but was rejected.