The gospel is the good news that Jesus defeated sin, death, and evil through his life, death, and resurrection. The gospel is hopeful, in part, because it’s honest about the world. The message is honest about the biggest problems facing our lives and the world: sin, death, and evil.
Sin is the truth that is difficult to deny and easy to prove: all humans fail to be human. In our thoughts, relationships, actions, work, economics, and politics we all fail to live as the image of God—trusting his goodness and obeying his calling. We honor and worship created things instead of the Creator. We lie, steal, cheat, lust, curse, and make our own way in this world. But Jesus defeated sin.
Death is the epitome of fallen life—life as it was unintended. This is never more clear than at a funeral, despite all the nice things we can say about the person we are burying. The sting of death is its total perversion and defeat of life. Death is the culmination and result of sin. But Jesus defeated death.
Jesus has defeated evil. N.T Wright makes this point well in “Evil and the Justice of God.”
It isn’t that the cross has won the victory, so there’s nothing more to be done. Rather, the cross has won the victory as a result of which there are now redeemed human beings getting ready to act as God’s wise agents, his stewards, constantly worshiping their Creator and constantly, as a result, being equipped to reflect his image into his creation, to bring his wise and healing order to the world, putting the world to rights under his just and gentle rule.”
Evil, according to Augustine, is the absence or lack of good. It is also the culmination of sin and death perpetuated by sin and death. Evil is the darkest of nights and realities that has come into our world. Disease, poverty, abuse, war, violence—the whole lot of it is evil. The world is distorted and consumed by evil. Jesus defeated evil.
Through Jesus’ Life, Death, Resurrection
The life of Jesus, as the revelation of God’s own character, demonstrates the way things were meant to be and how short humanity falls from that bliss—personally, relationally, psychologically, socially, politically, economically, and in every other dimension of life. In Jesus, we see abundant life lived whole and unified with God, animated and sustained by the Holy Spirit. This is the life he came to give through his death and resurrection.
The death of Jesus speaks to how God has personally taken the terrible cost of that failure on himself in the person of Jesus—the shame, humiliation, agony, alienation, and especially the consequences of it, both human and divine. The death our sin is destined us for, Jesus died.
Jesus rose from the dead. The glorious resurrection of Jesus inaugurates a new creation which has passed through the horrors of sin and death—a new humanity made of Jesus’ disciples living in the power of this new life in which sin and death have been defeated on their behalf. It is the fitting beginning of a coming world in which the conquered power of sin and death will be finally removed.