At the heart of Christianity is what’s called the Gospel. Gospel means ‘good news’ – and it’s this good news about Jesus that shapes everything we believe.
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Keep scrolling for a more in-depth overview of what the Gospel’s all about, or click ‘next steps’ if you’re keen to think about how to respond.
What is the Gospel?
The story of the world according to God can be found in the Bible.
The Bible is a deep, thought-provoking book that has many different connecting threads between its 66 individual volumes – one of these is the theme of light and dark. Here is a brief version of the story of the world according to God:
The Bible starts with God. You may have read Genesis 1:1, which starts, “In the beginning, God…” He is the Bible’s starting point and ending point, which is why Christians spend so much time thinking and talking about him. The rest of the Bible tells us all sorts of things about what he’s like, such as this:
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
1 John 1:5
God is described as being like light. Brilliant, perfect light, without even a hint of shadow. Light goes outwards, it spreads and affects everything it touches – and God is the same. The Bible tells us that God created the world and everything in it, and that the high point of it all is humanity. He created humans to be like him, to live with him and to live in relationship with him. But there’s bad news.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
All human beings reject God. They don’t want him in their lives; they’d rather live on their own. So they swap him out. But what’s the alternative to light, what can you swap it for? The only possible alternative is darkness.
This has all sorts of implications; it means people are no longer like God and their lives are bent out of shape compared to how they should be. Their relationships with him, with each other, with the world, and even their own internal self-image becomes darkened.
This is what the Bible refers to as ‘sin’ – the rejection of God. Of course, there’s still lots of good in the world – glimmers of how things should have been, hints of God’s goodness and light. But it’s like a cracked mirror, the reflection is broken.
“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.”
But the good news is that God doesn’t leave us to walk in darkness. Instead, he joins us in it. He doesn’t huff, nor does he treat us with anger as we by all rights deserve. Instead, Jesus, God the Son, became a human and entered the world.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
God himself came into the world, just like a great light dawning in a shadowy valley. Jesus preached that people were sinners, that they’d turned from the God of life and light – but that they could turn back, receive forgiveness and know God by putting their trust in him. He’d come to rescue people out of darkness. Some people reacted very positively to him and came away from meeting Jesus with transformed lives. Others reacted very negatively. So negatively, that they wanted him dead.
“This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Jesus died on the cross. It looked like his rescue mission had failed. But the Bible explains what was going on. Jesus was putting himself in humanity’s place, so that humanity could go in his place. We get a glimpse of this in the account of his death:
“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).”
At his death, Jesus is surrounded by darkness and is cut off from his Father; he’s cut off from the light. Not out of helplessness, but out of choice, so that humanity can know God again. This is how the Bible desribes the event elsewhere:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
This is the heart of all that Christianity is about. Two big swaps. We swap light for darkness. Jesus takes our darkness so we can share in his light. There’s nothing humans can do about our situation; no heroic acts or good deeds can take us out of darkness. But if we admit our sin and trust in Jesus and what he’s done, we really can enter Jesus’ kingdom.
The Bible tells us that this is where history is heading. One day Jesus will return and God’s kingdom of light will fill everything. There won’t be a shred of darkness left.
“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp... There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 21:23, 22:5
This is the good news that God gives us in the Bible. The the forgiveness of sins; the restored relationship with God, each other, the environment, and internal self-image – all coming from faith in Jesus. Experienced in part now, but fully in the future. In the meantime, Christians have been given the Holy Spirit so that they can know God better and they can be transformed to be like him through listening to him in his word, the Bible.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).”
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
But that day which means joy for Christians, is bad news for those who don’t trust in him. The Bible describes that one day those who are still set against God will be completely removed from his presence. They’ll be given over fully to the darkness they’ve chosen.
This means that sin is let loose to run its full course. Anger that was once under the surface will become fully-fledged, murderous rage. There’s no more truth, so little, white lies will become malicious deceit. People will be left in the darkness without any further chance to turn back to God. It’s not a threat, but a loving warning to turn to him now.
“ Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light – pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?.”
God is light. We chose darkness. God joined our darkness to bring us back so we can enjoy living in his light.
You might find it appropriate to pray to God in light of what you've just read. Here is a prayer you could say if you wanted to become a Christian:
I’m sorry that I’ve lived my life loving darkness and hating light. I admit that I’ve not wanted you and that I’ve been living for myself before you and before other people. Please forgive me. Thank you that you came into my darkness in your Son, Jesus. Thank you that because of him I can enter into your light again and call you my Father. Please fill me with your Spirit help me to live as your child. Please help me to look forward to the day where I can live in your kingdom of light.