Good News: The gospel message is truly Good News

Everyone loves to hear good news, and that has been true for centuries. Almost 3,000 years ago Solomon penned the following proverb: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (Prov. 15:30). The Bible is full of good news about many different subjects. Of course, not all God’s good news is marked out for us in bold letters, so we must search it out of the text. But if someone had published a newspaper (let’s say, The Jerusalem Gazette) since the time of Adam, some of the good news might have been:

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Good News! God promises…” Wait! Stop the presses! Before we go any further, it would be wise to explain to our young and Internet savvy readers what an “Extra” is, because they have never seen one. To do that, we need to set the historical context of the “newspaper.”

Getting the latest “news” has always been of primary interest to us humans. The earliest way to get the news was by word of mouth. However, news by word of mouth is notoriously unreliable. To remedy that, as early as a few centuries before Christ, the Romans began to publish primitive “newspapers:” the Acta Diurna, the Acta Senatus, and the Acta Publica. The Acta Diurna gave accounts of the Roman army, while the Acta Senatus reported activities of the Roman Senate. The Acta Publica was more like our newspaper today, and recorded a variety of things of interest, such as trials, sacrifices, obituaries, etc. Not widespread or published daily like our modern newspapers, these papers would be periodically posted in public places.

By the time of Christ, however, the Acta Publica was published daily in Rome and often included activities of the Royal Family. “Newspapers” continued to develop through the centuries, and by 1620 the first newspaper in English was printed in, of all places, Amsterdam. 1774 saw the first daily paper in the United States, and the trend toward more and more news reporting has finally led to such things as CNN’s 24-hour continuous news coverage.

The obvious problem with a morning paper is that it cannot keep people updated on important news that occurs during the day. We today get around that by tuning into the “evening news” on the internet, radio, or TV. Before those media existed, however, the problem was solved by the introduction of the “Extra,” an additional or “extra” newspaper, usually very limited in scope, that would come out late in the day to inform the public of developments in stories of great interest. Publishers would employ newsboys to go out on the streets and aggressively sell the late edition. Thus, the well-known cry, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it,” came into the English language.

With that background, we are now in a position to delve into the Bible and find all the good news. We start our search in Genesis, and as we continue through the Old Testament, a startling picture develops. Although things happened that were certainly good news, like the following possible headline: “Walls Of Jericho Fall By Themselves—Conquest Made Easy,” the Bible does not call anything that happened in the Old Testament, “good news.” In fact, although the Hebrew language has a word for “news” (which can be good or bad depending on the context), it appears only once in the Old Testament. That one occurrence is the messenger who reported Saul’s death to David, thinking he had delivered good news (2 Sam. 4:10; this is also the Septuagint’s only use of euangelion, “good news”). What seems worse, as we search the Old Testament for “good news,” it turns out that many of the prophetic declarations, written down in what we know as the prophetic books, are not only not called “good news,” they are called a “burden.”

Words of reproof and correction are rarely a blessing, and it was often a burden to the prophet to deliver them. For example, “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi” (Mal. 1:1 KJV); “The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite” (Nah. 1:1 KJV); “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see” (Hab. 1:1 KJV); “The burden of the word of the LORD…” (Zech. 9:1 KJV). Unfortunately, the NIV and many other modern versions read “oracle” or “message” instead of “burden,” and thus do not properly communicate the difficulty of chastising people and foretelling the destruction associated with the Day of the LORD. “Burden” is the proper translation. [1]

In contrast to the “burden” spoken by many prophets, think how refreshing, how exciting, and how inspiring it must have been to hear the message of John and Jesus. Imagine being a Jew near Jerusalem at the time of Christ. Life was harsh, and the Roman occupation made things almost unbearable. Nevertheless, history tells us that at that time there was an increase in Messianic expectation, and people’s hopes were generally high (this expectation was in part due to information spread earlier about the Messiah being born, the interpretation of the book of Daniel, and, of course, the Adversary conjuring up false Messiahs (Cp. Acts 8:9)). Given that scenario, imagine traveling down a street near Jerusalem and, seeing a crowd, walking over to see what was happening. Upon approaching the crowd, you hear a man talking, and you catch the sentence, “Repent, and believe the good news!”

Good news? There is good news? That’s a change! What is it? The good news John and Jesus proclaimed was that the Kingdom of God was near: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2; cp. 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:11). Now that was something to get excited about!

In contrast to the one appearance in the Old Testament (about something that was not really good news at all), “good news” (euangelion) is found 76 times in the New Testament. This fact is made even more amazing when we take into account how much larger the Old Testament is than the New Testament.

Every Bible reader should be aware that God considers the message in the New Testament “Good News.” However, this is hidden to many people because quite a few modern versions continue to use the word “gospel” in their translations, as did the older translations like the King James Version and most people do not know that it used to mean “good news.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “gospel” as “a good or joyful message,” and relates it to the life of Christ and salvation. Today, however, when the average person hears the word “gospel,” he thinks of a more modern definition. The 2003 Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary does not even have the definition of “good message,” and although it recognizes that “gospel” can relate to the message of Christ, it also lists this definition, which is the more usual way the word is used in public: “something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine; ‘took her words as gospel.’” It is safe to say that many Bible readers, when reading the words, “Repent, and believe the gospel,” do not know the crowd was being asked to believe “the good news.”

After the death and resurrection of Christ, there was more “good news.” God has now made it available to be saved, i.e., to have everlasting life in Paradise, simply by having faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9 and 10). The message of salvation through Christ is a dominant theme throughout the New Testament. Paul writes by revelation to the church at Corinth: “…I told the Good News to you…. For I delivered to you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he has been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15: 2b, 3, 4).

It certainly is good news that anyone and everyone can have the blessings of everlasting life simply by believing in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No wonder the word “good news” appears so often in the New Testament! No wonder God commands us to spread the message of Christ and of salvation!

Spirit & Truth Fellowship International works to provide books, audio and video, seminars, and websites that present the good news, and help others present it.

What a blessing it is for Christians to live in an age so full of good news: Christ has been raised and is coming back! We will all get new, wonderful, bodies! Earth will be re-made into a Paradise! Thank God we can go out into the world and present “good news” rather than “the burden of the word of the LORD.” Let’s take advantage of this wonderful age we live in, and go forth into all nations, bringing the Good News people so desperately need.

Endnotes:

[1] R. Harris, G. Archer, B. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press, Chicago, 1980), Vol. 1, pp. 1421 and 1422.

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