"The word for gospel in the new testament is euangelion. It's built out of a prefix that means good or joyful and a root word that means message or news. The word was used widely in the New Testament world to mean 'the message of victory, but also used of political and private messages bringing joy.' It was spoken as an announcement. It had a celebrative feel to it. The messenger exulted over the news he had to bring. It was good news."

John Piper, God Is the Gospel (pg 20)

Jesus' Definition of The Good News or "The Gospel"

How did Jesus first describe the good news of the gospel? How did He first announce it? The following was the inaugural speech of His mission. He was in the synagogue before the Jewish leaders where He read from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 61:

“1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.”

Jesus said, "today this is being fulfilled in your presence" Luke 4:21

But religion has presented the "Good News" as not actually news ...and not very good. It hasn't been "news" because it isn't true unless you believe a particular brand of theology. It hasn't been "good" because the jury is always out whether or not you are truly loved or accepted by their "god". Jesus however presented the gospel as an announcement of something that had changed the fabric of the universe, forever ...that love was not going to fail. That what had been lost will be found and restored. And those who had been alienated will be reconciled. Jesus said the curse was being reversed. The "news" was about how the universe was being put back to rights.

Is there any bad news? Depends on what you mean by bad news. To assert that people can damn themselves forever in eternal torture is indeed more than bad news. But to say that if you rebel against the Grain of the Universe (Love Himself) you will fall into the hands of the Living God, the Consuming Fire...well that doesn't sound safe or smart, but it is not without hope. But why keep smoking those cigarettes just because nice doctors will use chemo and radiation to "cure" you when you get lung cancer? With the rejection of God and His love there will be loss, regret and the fiery eradication of all that is false within you. So why would you not come now?

The Good News is that God will not ever give up on our redemption. But we decide how much pain we go through in that process. He will have His way in our hearts because "love wins". God is love. Love created you and God says all things are "from Him and through Him and will come back to Him". (Rom. 11:36) Paul said that the last enemy to be destroyed is death...and all things will be made subject to Him so that He will be “all in all”. Wow, to be one with perfect love Himself. And Jesus invites us to come... and taste, now. "Come unto Me all you who are weighed down and burdened and I will give you rest". Matt 11:28

Continuing Isaiah 61, the prophet goes on to describe more aspects of God's restoration even in light of "vengeance" and "ashes" and "devastation". There's a contrariness to God's love but it always leads to a rebuilding of "the ancient ruins" and restoration of "the places long devastated".

...and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

What about the "day of vengeance", the "ruins" and the "devastations"? There is a sense in which God's love is against you, in order to rescue you. (It’s called intervention). He announces the way of rescue and invites you to come. His love then either works with your cooperation or against you, which turns out to be actually FOR you, to eventually heal and redeem you. If you consider the story of the Prodigal Son* you understand how for some of us it takes an "exile" into "a far country" to "come to our senses" and return to our loving, waiting Father. This "exile" is God's love contradicting our destructive ways. The more we are out of alignment with our Father's heart the more intense the "exile" experience. It's best to come home... now.

I guess the question is, do you want to be the cause, and therefore also the recipient, of the devastation, or a rebuilder of it? Do you want to be a Restorer or a Restoree?

So the Gospel is: the invitation by Jesus to come out of "exile", out of bondage to self and others, and out of captivity to let Jesus give you freedom, healing, and rest. He is the ultimate Hero saying, even to the death, "I have loved you and provided for your rescue. The 'exile' you think you want away from My presence I have taken upon Myself on the cross for you. I prayed, 'Father forgive them, they do not understand what they are doing'".

"God, through Christ, was reconciling the world to Himself..." II Cor 5:19. The cross was the pivotal turning point in the history of mankind because Christ is the only One who ever actually entered into our "wreckage" and redid the world and recreated the life, His life, that we rejected and destroyed.

"If the death of His Son restored our relationship with God while we were still His enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of His Son will save us." Rom. 5:10

But the the gospel is so entirely holistic that one angle or aspect is not sufficient to represent all that God has done to redeem and restore the world. God's very name is I AM that I AM. He is the "I AM whatever you need", (literally, fill in the blank) signifying His ability to be all in all, everything you need. So there is not one way to describe Him as Savior. We are each unique in our persons and in our problems and He is everything we need, forever. He is not only a Father, but a Mother, a Brother, a Friend, a Lover, a Shepherd, the Light, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Door, the Healer, our Strong Tower, our Deliverer, our Redeemer,...the list goes on because our needs are many and diverse and He has covered all the bases for you and me. The gospel is: He is all you need.

Is it about saving me from a location of never-ending hell?
Some translations of certain passages have been interpreted as such but this notion goes against everything else Jesus taught and the entire trajectory of what the Story of God (the Bible) is about and the very nature of God's character, which we are told clearly is love and mercy. So no, He did not save you from a location but from a condition. The message of the gospel is that we have been rescued from death and our sin nature and reconciled back to God from our alienation from Him. (See “Questions” for more clarification)

How do I become a follower of Jesus?
We can't give anyone a formula. If you look at the many ways that Jesus approached discipleship you will see much of it was tailored for the person. But the first thing Jesus clearly taught you must do is...come. Come with a thirst to know Him, and a hunger to be made right before Him in your own heart and then to join in His dream and passion to restore the world.

There's a humility involved in saying you need Him and the life only He can give. And this life was purchased with His own blood. His life for yours. The great exchange. That is the gospel.

How do I get this life? Some words Jesus uses are: come... knock... seek... ask... drink... taste. These are some other ways to describe faith. Just like an inheritance, until you believe you have it you will never draw on it. It's all been done but it is not operative until you come ...with your need. Pride is one thing grace is opposed to. "All we need is nothing and nothing is often too big a price for us to pay." So the first step is just to come.

What you do from there is between you and Jesus. No one can tell you what He's going to say to you at first, what He might put His finger on, what He wants to begin to heal. Some who followed Him ended up giving up everything, others used it up for Him, others lost it all, while some even lost their lives. But this was not some religious ritual but was done all in light of Someone they wanted more than their stuff, even more than their own lives.

The most important thing to know is that God's love is never earned by you. Your redemption was earned for sure, it cost Jesus His life to set you free and rescue you, but for you the price is free. The paradox about this freedom is that when give yourself to God you become His slave. But to finally be in union with the freest Being in the universe you become for the very first time in your life, truly free. You can begin to act and think in the ways you were created to act and think. Only when something is acting in accordance with their nature are they truly a free agent. "If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed". (John 8:36) "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)

So what if I decide I don't want to give myself over to the freest Being in the universe and I want to be a slave to myself, others and the tyranny of the world? Love is presented clearly in Scripture as an unquenchable fire. The opposite of love is indifference not hate. God's perfect love opposes all that mars His creation, including you. His holy loving opposition has been described as a consuming fire, a refiner's fire, a winnowing fork, a threshing sledge, a... yikes. Not something you want to mess around with, yet not hopeless as the traditional doctrine would have it.

“... love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
“Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.”
....................... Song of Songs

Ending with the passage from Isaiah, written 700 years before Jesus was born, we find Jesus fulfilling the Good News on two levels. First, the good news is to the spiritually poor, blind and imprisoned. Jesus is announcing that He is the One they have been looking for all along and is the One sent by God to be God among them. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But secondly, He is also the One to announce the Kingdom of God that is coming when God's reign in heaven will be brought to earth. Jesus' physical healing of the sick, blind and lame was a glimpse of the fully redeemed world to come where He will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more suffering, death, crying or pain.

“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8

*The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32