What is the Gospel

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of conducting my “In Light of the Cross” gospel seminar in New England. While there, a kind and gracious member of the Adventist Church I was speaking in, gave me a tour of the region and several old New England churches. Being a history buff, and realizing that the religious awakening, which spawned the Advent movement began in New England, created in my heart a deep appreciation for these old churches, some built in the early 1700′s or before.

New England Churches 100

I walked into one sanctuary, built in 1732,and sat on a pew deep in thought, contemplating the hundreds of people who had sat in that sanctuary over the last 280 years! I admired the pulpit from where the gospel was preached to weary sinners for centuries. Yes, I realize these churches were not Adventist churches, but they still preached the cross to sinners, and I imagine over the centuries many a sin weary pilgrim has laid his burden down on the altar and taken up the cross of Jesus. For that I am very thankful for these churches of various denominations. Each of these churches of various denominations were fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus that,

  ..this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, in [into] witnessing to all folks; and then the end shall come.Matthew 24:14 WYC (In my previous posts I often used the NLT Bible translation. However, writing about old churches and the religious awakening has me in a Wycliffe version frame of mind.)

When we think of the gospel we think of “good news.” Paul defines the gospel more specifically as the good news of the cross. The gospel is the cross.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of word, that the cross of Christ be not voided away. 1 Corinthians 1:17 WYC

Protestant churches rose out of the dark ages with the light of the gospel. John Wycliffe is remembered as “the morning star of the reformation.” If the sun rose up all at once it would blind us. God first sends the morning star to pierce the darkness so we become accustomed to a little light, and the sun gradually rises until noonday when the  darkness is gone and

the earth was lightened of his glory. Revelation 18:1 WYC

So while many think there are many different church denominations because everyone interprets the Bible differently, truth is, each Protestant church has discovered different points of light about the gospel, leading us gradually out of the Dark Ages. It is not so much about interpreting things differently as  it is about progressing as we have more light, with each ray of light leading us farther and farther out of darkness into the full light of the cross.

God has always had a people in every church, and the Protestant reformers were a light in the their time, leading to the Protestant Reformation, which brought us to the religious awakening and Advent Movement.

So the question is, what new light has the Advent Movement shined on the gospel of the cross?

1. The Gospel saves us from death instead of eternal torment.

 For the wages of sin is death.. Romans 6:23 WYC

The wages of sin is death and not eternal torment. As we study the doctrine ofthe punishment of the wicked, in the light of the cross, we get new light not only on doctrine but more importantly on the character of God. God is not a psychopath wanting to torture people because they did not love Him, and make them wish they had. He is a God of love. The purpose of hell is not to torment sinners (Though there will be torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth for a time) but rather to put sinners out of their misery.

For God loved so the world [Forsooth God so loved the world], that he gave his one begotten Son, that each man that believeth in him perish not, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 WYC

The most popular verse of the Gospel tells us Jesus saves us from perishing and not eternal torment in hell.

2. Jesus really died for us.

The Biblical teaching of the state of the dead changes how we view the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If we believe in the immortality of the soul, and that one does not really die, then Jesus never died and we are still without a Savior. However, the Bible teaches us that Jesus did not only truly die, but He died the second death for us. He faced not only death but the death of the wicked, which meant He loved us so much He was willing to go into total oblivion and be totally separated from God. He did not save us from the death of the righteous. He experienced and saved us from the death of the wicked – being totally separated from God, which has the effect of eternal oblivion.

..all the heathen shall busily drink, and they shall drink, and they shall swallow it all down; and then they shall be as if they had never been. Obadiah 1:16 WYC

3. Jesus saves us from our sin, not in our sin.

I once heard a Protestant preacher on the radio say, “In order for you to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” The preacher went on to talk about how Jesus saves us from sinful addictions. Seventh-day Adventists understand that on the cross Jesus freed us from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.

God the Father made him sin for us, which knew not sin, that we should be made [the] rightwiseness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 WYC

And he himself bare our sins in his body on a tree [Which he himself suffered, or bare, our sins in his body on the tree], that we be dead to sins, and live to rightwiseness, by whose wan wound ye be healed. 1 peter 2:24 WYC

Okay I think that last one needs a little help from the NLT!

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT

The gospel that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking into all the world not only gives us a clearer vision of the cross, but an even clearer vision of the the character of God.

God is a loving God who is not going to torment the wicked for all eternity because they did not love Him. He is a God of love who does not wish for us to perish. By understanding the Bible truth about death we understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice and what great depths he was willing to go to in order to save us. We understand that He saves us from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin, so that we don’t have to be slaves to the sinful addictions that hurt us over and over.

This is the gospel that pierced the dark ages until it will one day be preached all over the world and then the world will be lightened with His glory. May we engage in the work of spreading this Good News!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School less here. 

Why I Love Old New England Churches

I am writing today from beautiful New England.

This week I have been preaching and conducting a prophecy seminar at the Torrington Seventh-day Adventist church in Connecticut. Today, before my last meeting I was able to explore some older churches here in the area. Just as the United States is a melting pot of different cultures, so the Seventh-day Adventist church is a melting pot of different churches and denominations, made up of people from all denominations, who, in the mid 1800s came together during a religious awakening, and formed a church, taking Bible truth form each denomination and expelling non Biblical tradition, thus creating a church that goes strictly by the Bible, called the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I have a deep appreciation for each denomination and congregation who has preserved and shared with the world their light on the gospel and the Scriptures. God has always had a people. A people who love Him with all their hearts and want to follow Him. It is because of the light that each church had and shared during the religious awakening that I now have the light that I treasure as  a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. Even the Seventh-day Sabbath was not new to the Advent believers, but was shared with us by Rachel Oaks, a Seventh-day Baptist.

This is a Congregational Church in Milton Connecticut, established in 1829. Jane, my friend from Torrington and I drove by this church, and Lauren a neighbor of the church, was walking her dog. When she saw we wanted pictures she ran and got another neighbor Laura, who unlocked the church so we could go in. Laura also shared the history of the church with us. There was an older church built in the congregation, but during the course of time it was painted yellow. Part of the congregation could not stand the color yellow so they built this church instead of going to a church that was painted yellow.

According to Life Sketches, Page 309 and other references, Ellen White and other Seventh-day Adventists commonly used Congregational churches for some of their evangelism meetings.

Here is the original organ. Can anyone tell me what kind it is?

Lauren shared with us, how these steps were to make it easy for people to step off their carriages.

A special thanks to Lauren (Left) and Laura (Center) for dropping what they were doing in the middle of their busy morning today, to show me and Jane (Right) their beautiful church. I am so glad that God worked it out so we would meet Lauren walking by the church at the exact time we passed by.

In 1838 this Congregational Church was built in Plymouth Connecticut.

In the churchyard lies a graveyard with the oldest gravestone reading 1749. Soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil War are buried there. Many of the grave markers attest to the deep spiritual fervency of the church at that time. One grave marker for one resting saint says that she “walked with God.”

This stone is hard to read it is so old. It says, “Beneath this stone lies Deac. Daniel Potter, who in a comfortable hope of one day rising to a glorious immortality fell asleepe October 29th 1773.” I did not misspell sleep. Apparently in 1773 that is the way it was spelled. With the understanding this soul had of the state of the dead, I can’t help but wonder if the Congregational Church did not share their understanding of this truth with the believers who helped form the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In front of the church is a memorial for President Lincoln and the members of this church who gave their lives in the civil war. As a Seventh-day Adventist I appreciate the sacrifices made by this Congregational church local congregation in securing freedom for all mankind, and keeping united a country that celebrates religious freedom so we can all worship God in accordance with our own conscience.

This is the First Congregational Church of Litchfield, Connecticut. This congregation has been meeting since 1721, but this current church was built in 1829. I took a few pictures of the outside, and then wanted to see the outside. Usually there would be nobody there during the weekdays, but on this particular day they were getting ready for a sale to raise money for missions. A lady getting ready for the sale, opened up the church for me and let me take pictures. She gave me a lot of history of the church. This is the fourth church this local congregation has met in. She was so nice, I gladly gave her a donation for her sale.

Check out this pulpit with a staircase! This pulpit, built in 1829 is a strikingly faithful reproduction, based on recollections and certain parts still in existence of the pulpit built in the 1700s.

This is the view from the pulpit. Check out the pipe organ. It’s a 21 rank, two manual reuter organ. Installed in 1971, it replaced an electrified augmented tracker pump organ salvaged from the previous church.

“There shall be nothing in the white, unadorned meetinghouse to distract the worshipers from a sense of the Living God and His Work, preached, read and made visible in the bread and the cup on the plain table.” –Congregational Church Documents

The Litchfield Congregational church has been faithfully served by 26 different distinguished and dedicated pastors since 1721. Two of these pastors also served on the battlefield. Timothy Collins was a surgeon during the French and Indian war. George Richards was a chaplain during the civil war. Judah Champion was the longest serving pastor for 55 years, until he retired at age 79.

It was an honor and privilege to be able to visit these churches, where the gospel has been preached to and hope given to many a sin weary soul for centuries. While the churches are beautiful and magnificent, it is the members of the congregations who receive my deepest respect and appreciation, for keeping the doors of these churches open, so people can hear the good news of God’s love. I also thank God that at one of the churches somebody just happened to be walking by who knew someone who could unlock the doors and let me in. I thank God that at the other church, a kind lady just happened to be there getting ready for a sale, and was kind enough to take a break and show us around.

I also appreciate the Torrington First Methodist Church, for allowing the Torrington Seventh-day Adventist Church to worship and hold evangelistic meetings in their church. This is where we held the Daniel prophecy seminar I was here for this week. The original section of this church was built in 1865.

I also want to thank the members of the Torrington Seventh-day Adventist Church for hosting me this week and making me a part of their wonderful family. Bruce (second from left), Larry and Jane helped set up each night before the meetings. Larry and Jane also had me to their home during the meetings. Jane has been studying for a while, with several of the people who came to the seminar, and will continue to prepare them for baptism later this month.