Good news is only good news if you know what the bad news is. But what if the good news has been hidden by an oft misunderstood word, such as “gospel,” or by refusing to talk about the bad news?

Most native English speakers know that the word gospel is from the English of the 1600s, meaning “good news.” In the days of King James, using the word gospel to translate the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion; from which we get the words evangelize/evangelization) was good. But these days I’m not so sure. Recently someone at work told me they enjoyed Gospel music. I was rather surprised, until I realized that they meant a certain genre and sound of music, and not the content.

In English, we talk about the “gospel” and in Hebrew, we talk about the “בשרה” (bsora—preaching or news). When the true meaning of this word is so hidden, it is easy to forget, what the good news actually is.

As I said at the beginning, good news is only good if we understand to the depths of our being what the bad news is. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think about it whenever someone asks me to do a Bible study with them—we often get into this discussion. I ask my student what the bad news and they don’t know, or answer with a question, “that we’re sinners?”

Jesus explained what the bad news is very simply:

He who believes in Him [the Son, i.e. Jesus] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
John 3:18–20 NAS95

We don’t talk enough about hell these days. It is on the list of taboos when talking about a loving God. But that is why Jesus was preaching the “Good News.” Every single human being who does not believe in Jesus is already condemned by God. That is very bad news—if it is true.

News like this will get you killed. No one likes to be told they are wrong, not by a person, and certainly not by God. No wonder so many people want to change the meaning of what is written in the Bible. No wonder so many governments and false religions want to persecute real Christians. They don’t want to know that their deeds are evil, and their only hope is to thrust themselves on God’s mercy for forgiveness.

Sometimes I fear I am too delicate in sharing what I believe: a like here and there on Facebook, a thought, a comment. But this is what I believe with my whole heart. If I cannot talk about my precious Jesus and the very real hope He has given me, then I am truly hope-challenged.

I have never forgotten what Cori TenBoom shared in one of her books. She asked her father why so many Christians were turning the Jews over to the Nazis. Why weren’t they willing to try to save their lives? Cori’s father replied, “Just because a mouse is in a cookie jar does not make it a cookie…”

There are a lot of mice walking around in cookie costumes. More tragically, I think there are quite a few cookies walking around dressed up like mice! Why? They are afraid they will be eaten. Yet cookies are meant to be eaten—uneaten cookies become stale and uneatable… good only for the mice to eat.

It is very possible that those of us who believe in Jesus will face challenges the world over that will try our faith as it has never been tried before. May we be committed to speak the truth in love, ask God for HIS love for all whom we meet, and have HIS burden for the lost. May we seek to be shining lights proclaiming the good news without compromise, and may we see the soon return of our Lord and Savior.

Maranatha—even so Lord Jesus, come quickly.