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The New Testament "Gospel" is the good news that the King has come. It is the proclamation that Jesus is King, proven by the righteousness of God when He vindicated Jesus by raising Him from the dead.
The antithesis of the Gospel is the idea that the usurpers are the real ones chosen to be kings.
The New Testament story of Jesus is a story of conflicting views as to who is truly called to be the King. This story has its roots in the calling that Jacob-Israel gave to his son, Judah in Gen. 49:10, "The Scepter shall not depart from Judah. . ."
The conflict itself was foreshadowed in Absalom's revolt against David in 2 Samuel 15. Absalom was the usurper, while David was the divinely-appointed king of Israel. Verse 6 says that "Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel," and was thus able to usurp the kingdom from David. He did this also with the help of Ahithophel (2 Sam. 15:12), who was David's counselor and friend. David wrote of him in Psalm 55,
12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. 13 But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. 14 We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
The New Testament story is the fulfillment of the story of David and Absalom. Jesus played the role of David. The chief priests played the role of Absalom, usurping the throne from its rightful Heir (Matt. 21:38). Jesus' friend Judas (Matt. 26:50) played the role of Ahithophel. Thus, the stage was set for the greatest drama ever.
Jesus came of the tribe of Judah and of the seed of David in order to qualify lawfully and prophetically as the Messiah-King. But because he came as a "good fig," the school of Shammai disagreed with Him and His idea of being a peaceful Messiah. Shammai had been the leader of the Sanhedrin from 20-30, dying just as Jesus was beginning His ministry. According to the Wikipedia Online,
"Hillel's grandson Gamaliel succeeded to the position of president after Shammai in the year 30, but the Sanhedrin would remain dominated by the house of Shammai until around 70."
And so, Jesus ministered during the time that Shammai's "evil fig" views dominated the Sanhedrin. There is no way that they would have accepted Jesus as the Messiah-King, because they preferred some great general who would refuse to submit to Rome. Though God had decreed captivity in the days of Jeremiah, and though Daniel 7 had clearly prophesied that the captivity would continue far beyond the 70-year mandate given to Babylon, the followers of Shammai disagreed with God's verdict in the divine court.
In Jesus' parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21, we see the entire history of Israel and Judah encapsulated in a single parable. God had planted a vineyard in Canaan. Israel was the vineyard, and Judah was the plant, or vine itself (Isaiah 5:7). The vineyard-keepers had usurped the fruits of the kingdom for their own use and persecuted the prophets sent to them, even stoning some of them. Finally, God sent His Son, saying, "surely they will reverence My Son." Instead they said in verse 38, "This is the Heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance."
This reveals the heart of the story and the theme of this drama. Absalom knew who his father David was, and he desired the throne for himself, rather than to let it go to his younger brother, Solomon. Absalom did not overthrow his father by accident, nor by ignorance, nor by a case of mistaken identity. He overthrew David precisely because he knew who David was. David was his competitor for the throne.
So also the house of Shammai knew that Jesus was the true Son of David, the Heir to the throne. They rejected and condemned Him precisely because of who He was. It was NOT a case of mistaken identity. Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, as prophesied by Micah, and He was of the right tribe and lineage. He had done all the miracles that they expected of the Messiah. But they did not like the way He fraternized with the Romans, Phoenicians, Samaritans, and others that they considered less than human. Worst of all, He showed no interest in overthrowing the Romans. In short, Jesus did not subscribe to their evil-fig mentality.
Yet they knew that the Messiah was to be the King. If they had allowed someone to come as a rival King, it might alarm the Roman government. And for what? Jesus showed no talent as a great general, so he was obviously more trouble than he was worth. The Shammaites in the Sanhedrin had no faith in this Messiah, and the people themselves followed their leaders blindly.
The Gospel, then, is about having faith in Jesus as the Messiah-King. Those who reject Him are those who agree with the chief priests, the "evil figs" of Jeremiah 24, who look for another messiah that is more suitable to their own fleshly goals. The good figs, on the other hand, are those who came to see Jesus as the true Heir to the throne and who were willing to go against the temple's leaders and risk excommunication.
The Gospel has to be seen, not only as having faith in Jesus Christ (as King), but also in terms of God's vindication of Him as the Messiah. He was vindicated by divine verdict through the righteousness of God (as Judge) by raising Him from the dead. To have faith in Jesus Christ necessitates believing that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). Finally, one must also believe that the purpose of the Messiah was to fulfill the sacrifices in the law--that is, to believe that Jesus Christ came as the Lamb of God, whose blood was shed for the remission of sin.
These are the basic elements of the Gospel that require our "faith." These are the basics that we must believe, if we are to call ourselves "Christians."
Then there is the problem of Judas, the disciple and friend of Jesus who yet betrayed Him. Judas tried to force Jesus to save Himself by a dramatic miracle, because he did not understand or believe that Jesus had to die for the sin of the world as the Passover Lamb. He believed that Jesus was the true King, but not the sacrifice for sin. And so he was caught assisting Jesus' rivals, the usurpers, the "Absalom" company. He fulfilled the role of Ahithophel.
Judas Iscariot (Hebrew: Ish-Kerioth) was a "man from Kerjath-arba," the ancient name for Hebron (Joshua 14:15). Hebron was the place where Absalom began his revolt against David (2 Sam. 15:10). Hebron means "friendship." So Judas came from Hebron as Jesus' friend in order to fulfill the type of Ahithophel in this struggle for the scepter.
Today, and in the past century, we are seeing the second part of this story unfold in the context of the second appearance of Christ. This time the struggle does not focus upon the scepter, but upon the birthright. The birthright is the right to bring forth the sons of God, because it is the Fruitfulness Mandate of Gen. 1:28. The birthright belongs to those "chosen" to bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom--the Sons of God.
Does this right belong to non-believing Jews? Are they chosen to receive the birthright? Are they chosen even apart from Jesus Christ? Or are they still "Absalom" who, if you recall, was killed at the return of David (2 Sam. 18:14)? The prophetic story shows that Absalom was killed, and Ahithophel hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23), as did Judas in the NT (Matt. 27:5). So who is Judas today? How do we avoid playing his role?