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The Everlasting Gospel

The phrase, “the everlasting gospel,” is one that every Adventist is very familiar with. We all know the three angels' messages inside out. They have been the central focus, the key teaching of the movement, ever since it started more than a hundred and sixty years ago.

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, (7) Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (8) And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. (9) And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, (10) The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: (Rev 14:6-10)

These messages are as well known to us as the back of our hands. The first angel proclaims that it is the hour of God's judgment, the second declares that Babylon is fallen, and the third warns of the consequences of worshipping the beast and his image and of receiving his mark. What is interesting is that, as the first angel begins to fly through heaven, the Bible tells us very clearly that what he has to preach is, the everlasting gospel.

For many years of my Christian life, this never made much of an impact on me. As far as I was concerned the message to be preached was, “the judgment is here and you had better get ready,” “Babylon is fallen and you had better get out,” and, “the mark of the beast is coming and you had better not worship on Sunday.”

The first tract we ever published in our ministry was entitled, “The Mark of The Beast” and we handed out close to a million of them. There was a time when I was so obsessed with the mark of the beast issue that if I sat beside somebody on the bus, the first thing that came to my lips in making conversation was, the mark of the beast. I realize that I was typical of many Seventh-day Adventists who believe that to preach the gospel in the context of the third angel's message basically means that you warn people that if they worship on Sunday, they are going to get it, that the answer to their problems is, they need to start keeping the Sabbath.

Not all Adventists see it this way, but it must be admitted that this is indeed what many regard as the preaching of the gospel and the message which is to be given to all the world.

The Essence of the messages

There is no denying that there are three messages, but what is the essence, the heart of these three messages? It is the everlasting gospel. If it is everlasting then it goes beyond context, time and place. You can't limit this everlasting gospel to the end of time, if it is everlasting it was there from the garden of Eden, it stretches across the ages, across the 6000 years.

I think what we have done to some extent, is that we have mistaken the context in which the message is preached for the message itself. The truth that Babylon is fallen is not the gospel. That is not the good news. What the Bible does is show us the setting in which the gospel is to be preached, the context in which the truth is to be proclaimed with power in the last days. We have taken the context of the message, and we have made it the message.

It is true that there are some critical things happening. It is the hour of God's judgment, Babylon is fallen, the mark of the beast is here, but in all of these crises, what is God's answer for humanity? What is God's agency for delivering people, for saving people in the hour of the judgment, or the fall of Babylon, or the mark of the beast? What is the hope for any human being? It is only the everlasting gospel. If we give anything else to human beings as their hope we are doing something terribly wrong. Our message is the everlasting gospel, there never was any other message for mankind.

Of course when we preach the gospel, we need to put it in context. There are certain peripheral things associated with the gospel that might come into the picture, but really, essentially, men are saved only by the preaching of the gospel.

Ellen White wrote a great deal of material concerning the message that was brought by elders Jones and Waggoner in 1888. Here is what she says in the 1888 materials on page 1575, speaking about the message brought by Jones and Waggoner:

“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal 3:24) In this scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. The law reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ, and to flee unto him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world. {1888 1575}

It's hard to believe this and not want to weep. The main point I am focusing on here is that there is a certain light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory, and Ellen White was not discussing the fall of Babylon or the mark of the beast or the judgment hour, she was talking about the message of Christ and His righteousness, the light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory.

In 1888, the conflict was about the law, the law in Galatians. That's what Ellen White says right here. Why does the law have to become an issue? Why does it seem that when we start lifting up Christ we put down the law? Why? It can only be because some people have put the law where Christ alone is supposed to be, they have put the law in place of Christ. If something is sitting in the place of Christ, how can we put Christ in His rightful place unless we topple that thing from that place? That's what happened in 1888.

The end is upon us and at the same time, we have not yet seen the glory that is to lighten the world with the glory of God, I don't think we have yet seen it, we cannot truthfully say that we have seen this glory. Here is another quote from Testimonies to Ministers page 91:

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. {TM 91.2}

Righteousness by faith is not against the commandments of God. Righteousness by faith is against seeking to be righteous through the commandments, but it is not against the commandments of God. Any man who is righteous by faith will keep the commandments of God. “It is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.”

Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure. {TM 91.2}

Inspiration is consistent and in every place that I can think of where it talks about the message to be preached at the time of the end, it identifies this message to be preached as, the gospel.

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Mat 24:14)

Then shall the end come, not when the American economy crashes, not when there is the seventh pope, not when all the conspiracy theories come together, it is when the gospel of the kingdom is preached into all the world, then shall the end come. That is the factor that is critical, for God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples was,

. . . . Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.(Mark 16:15)

That is our commission, that is our task, we have no other work to do. Anybody who is preaching anything else is not doing the work of God.

Every religion in the world is preaching morality. Each one might have slightly different rules. One person's concept of morality may be that my dress must be at my ankle, another person's concept of morality is that at a certain time of the month men and women must be separated. Each person's concept of morality is just based on what particular rule each religion emphasizes. But the gospel, the truth that saves men is the truth that God has given us life in His Son. Christianity presents a Saviour, it presents help for the helpless. It presents a way of lifting us up, not demanding that we do, so that we can have life, but presenting a gift of life, so that all that we could not do can be done. That is the gospel. That is what saves people and Jesus says it must be preached everywhere and then the end will come.

One of the difficulties we have had is that we have had different understandings of what the gospel really is. This confusion exists in the Adventist church, and it exists in Christendom in general. What is the gospel, what does the word gospel really mean?

The word gospel means, “good news.” This alone dismisses many versions of the gospel being preached today.

If the gospel is the message of the mark of the beast, then it, in itself is not good news. It is not good news to tell somebody that he cannot buy or sell if he refuses to accept the mark of the beast. Good news is not about what you must do, Good news is about what has been done for you.

Let me clarify that: Good news is best understood and appreciated against the background of bad news. If somebody gives me a dollar, this may not be anything to shout about, especially if I already have a hundred dollars in my pocket. But if there is a man on the street who has not had anything to eat for a couple of days and somebody gives him a dollar, then that might just be the very best news in the world for him at that moment. Good news is appreciated when it is set against the background of the bad news and this is exactly what the Bible does for us in proclaiming the gospel.

We first of all have to appreciate what is man's real problem before we can understand what the gospel really is, and that is why, in all the discussions we have had, as we have tended to focus on certain issues, the difficulties have come up again and again because we have not been agreed on what the bad news really is. Some of us say, “the bad news is that I have done a lot of wrong things in my life.” But the real bad news is that I never could help doing those bad things. The bad news is not that the tree is bearing sour oranges, the bad news is that even if you pick all those sour oranges, the tree will continue to bear only sour oranges. The problem is not the oranges, the problem is the tree. Bad news.

It seems to be good news when God says, “keep my law and you shall live! There is a way to find life. Do what is right, keep the law.” There seems to be a way out when God says that the fearful and the abominable and the liars and the thieves shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. Then you know, to avoid that fire I need to stop lying, stop being afraid stop being abominable and stop stealing. It sounds like good news, until I discover that I can't. Then it becomes really bad news! In order to have life you must do something which it is impossible for you to do. This is the worst news in the universe.

But when you discover that the one who demands it of you has done it, has fulfilled what is required fully, and gives it to you as an absolutely free gift and all that remains is for you to take it, what could be more wonderful? The good news is that God has given us eternal life and this life is already in His Son. And he that hath the son already hath life and is passed from death to life. That is good news!

Is there any other way that people can be saved? No for this is the gospel and the gospel is God's way of saving men.

(Rom 1:16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

(Gal 1:8-9) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

This is the message that is to band this earth from end to end, from sea to sea from coast to coast, then shall the end come. We are at that climactic moment in time, that decisive point in the world's history when the power of God is about to fall upon His people. We are all sensing it because we can see what is happening, we can hear and see it. We know we are at that point in history. At this time it is imperative that we not only understand, but experience the gospel for ourselves. This is what our Father in heaven has been waiting for since 1888. He wants it to happen today. May we be among those in whom His will is fulfilled.

(Source: Restoration Ministry)

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