“For we have heard the Good News, just as they did. They heard the message, but it did them no good, because when they heard it, they did not accept it with faith” (Hebrews 4:2 GNB).
This passage brings us to the subject of the “gospel,” a word that refers to “glad tidings” or “good news.” In a Scriptural context, the gospel relates to the “good news” regarding Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. That sacrifice atones (or “makes up”) for our sins and enables us to enter a relationship with God by grace through faith in Christ.
We can identify the foundational elements of the gospel message with a look at the following passage from 1 Corinthians 15:1-4…
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (NIV).
One Biblical scholar helps us understand what this good news meant to the people of Old Testament Israel…
“To understand this verse we must identify the pronouns. ‘Us’ refers to the first-century Jewish readers of this letter, ‘them’ to the generation which came out of Egypt. The words ‘the gospel was preached’ are the translation of a verb which means ‘to announce good news.’ The character of the good news must be defined by the context.
The good news which was announced to the first-century readers of this epistle was that of a spiritual rest in Messiah. The good news given to the generation which came out of Egypt was that of a temporal, physical rest in a land flowing with milk and honey, offered to a people who had been reduced to abject slavery for 400 years and who had lived on a diet of leeks, garlic, and onions during that time.” (1)
For the Israelites who departed ancient Egypt, this good news represented the promise of God’s rest in a land “…in which you will lack nothing” (Deuteronomy 8:9). Today, this good news represents the offer of eternal life and rest through faith in Christ.
Despite these differences, there is one common denominator between them: unbelief was (and is) a disqualifying factor that prevents us from enjoying God’s promised rest, as we’ll see next.
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Hebrews 4:2) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.