Will the “real” good news please stand up?
In Matthew 9:35 we are told that Yeshua traveled around, announcing the good news about the kingdom. In Matthew 10, the disciples are prepared and sent out to continue the teaching and the proclamation about the “kingdom of heaven” and the good news about it: that it is at hand. (Note that Yeshua was saying “at hand” in the present tense, which indicates that the “kingdom of heaven” was already “at hand” almost 2000 years ago!)
The church agrees that the good news is almost 2000 years old, too. But the church says that the good news is that Yeshua died on the cross, and has paid the debt for your sins. While this is true, and does qualify as good news, it wasn’t the good news that Yeshua wanted his disciples to teach! He told them to heal the sick and disabled, but His first instruction to them was to teach about the kingdom of heaven.
To help us understand that this teaching about the kingdom of heaven was separate and distinctly different than the simple forgiveness of sins, let us look more closely at the term, “kingdom of heaven”. If we do one of our Greek word studies, we find the word kingdom comes from the Greek word, basileia; which translates as royalty, rule, a realm, kingdom or reign. The word heaven comes to us from the Greek word ouranos; which translates as the sky, heaven (the abode of God), happiness, power, and eternity. So now that we have the specific Greek words, we can delve further into the meaning of basileia ton ouranos, or kingdom of heaven. (I am not fluent in Greek. Therefore the phrase basileia ton ouranos is probably not correct, according to the specific rules of Greek vocabulary. If you know the correct phrase which should be used in place of , please email editors@aNewChristianity.org and let us know. Thanks!)
The word kingdom, as well as the word realm, suggests an area (usually of land), where a king is in charge. The king is the one individual who has the power in this place. Similarly, the words reign and rule take this control of the king, and place it within a span of time. For instance, we would say: King Arthur reigned or ruled over Camelot for 33 years. Again, during this period of time, the power rested in the hands of the one individual. So as we look at this word basileia, all of the words which it translates as tend to point us towards the same place: the time and space in which this one individual has all control and has all power.
As we examine the teachings of Yeshua, (the Sermon on the Mount, for instance), we see that He was teaching the people within their circumstances, within their daily lives. For this reason, as we look at the Greek word ouranos, we have to look for the definition that fits within the frame of reference which Yeshua used in His teaching – the definition which meets people in their own circumstances. For this reason, I would eliminate sky, heaven, and eternity as functional definitions to help us understand ouranos in the context of daily life; and since we are already referencing power, that would be redundant. This leaves us with only one remaining interpretation of ouranos: happiness. Therefore, we find that Yeshua may well have been teaching about the basileia ton ouranos, or the “power of happiness”. We could refer to the “reign” of happiness, or to the “rule” of happiness, but even if those words are technically correct in translation, they don’t help us understand what Yeshua was teaching us, any better than “kingdom of heaven” does. Even to use the phrase “power of happiness” doesn’t really take us to the heart of the matter; we need to go one step further.
We’ve already seen that cultural axioms can be both valid and useful in helping us to better understand our relationship with the Father, (see the article God Helps…, and The Devil’s in the Details). In this case there is also an appropriate axiom which comes down to us from Francis Bacon (1561-1626): “Knowledge is power”. Indeed the knowledge and understanding of construction equipment, gives people the power to erect skyscrapers and to accomplish other large feats of construction. Those of us without this knowledge stand outside of the hardhat area, watching with awe as the construction workers do their work. So it is with the basileia ton ouranos. Rather than indicating that the “kingdom of heaven” was at hand, or that the power of happiness was at hand, I believe that Yeshua was going that one step further, using this phrase to indicate that the “real” good news was at hand; the “knowledge of happiness”.
Now, I can imagine what might be going through your mind as you read these words: Yeshua says the “knowledge of happiness” is at hand! You might be thinking that this statement sounds like something from a 70’s style “me generation guru”, which claims that we should only seek out our own contentment, and that this contentment should be our primary goal in life. This is not what Yeshua is telling us! Other articles on this site (the series of articles, What is Sin, especially), deal with sin, selfishness and the lower self, and make it clear that Yeshua is not espousing personal contentment as God’s will. Yet other articles on this site clearly state that the Father does want us to know His joy, and His happiness. The lessons taught by Yeshua, such as in the Beatitudes give us directions for achieving this happiness in our daily lives. The Father wants us to be happy, so much, that He sent Yeshua to live among as a fellow human being. And when Yeshua came to the earth almost 2000 years ago, it was in part, to bring us one of the best gifts ever... the basileia ton ouranos; the knowledge of happiness! This is the “real” good news!
Grace and peace to you all,
Post Script: As I have mentioned previously, I am writing these articles, and posting them as the spirit moves me. When I started the next piece, “The Case of the Missing Comma”, (which I began before I wrote this piece, The “Real” Good News), I didn’’t realize that I was starting a series on the Beatitudes, but at this point, it seems that such a series is inevitable. I do not know how many articles will be involved, but I hope that it will lead to a greater understanding of Yeshua’s “good news”, the knowledge of happiness; and I hope that you will find it helpful in better understanding your relationship to the Father, and His creation!