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What is the True Gospel?

Written by: Camping, Harold    Posted on: 02/27/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                    WHAT IS THE TRUE GOSPEL?

                        by Harold Camping



                        TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Chapter 1 - What Is the Authority That Sturctures and Determines             the True Gospel?

Chapter 2 - What Is the Message of the True Gospel?

Chapter 3 - What Is the Mandate of the True Gospel?

                      -----------------

Copyright 1987 Family Stations, Inc. 290 Hegenberger Road Oakland, California  94621

Other Books by Harold Camping

Adam When? Biblical Calendar of History, The Feed My Sheep Fig Tree, The First Principles of Bible Study God's Magnificent Salvation Plan Let the Oceans Speak Seventy Weeks of Daniel Nine, The What God Hath Joined Together When Is the Rapture?

Other Bible Guides by Harold Camping are available in paper and cassette form.

Scripture Texts Are from the King James Version of the Bible



                    WHAT IS THE TRUE GOSPEL?



                          INTRODUCTION

.    What is  the true  Gospel?  There  is no  question that  is of greater  importance facing  the world  today.  This  is so because only the true Gospel will provide the answer that can save us from spending  eternity under the wrath of  God.  Therefore, as we seek to identify  the true Gospel, we will endeavor to discover answers to the following questions:  What is the authority that structures and determines the true  Gospel?  What is the message  of the true Gospel?  What is the mandate of the true Gospel? .    We  hear sermons of various kinds;  we read the Bible here and there; we  generally hear a  lot of good  things about the Gospel.  We hear about how  we are to walk  as Christians; we see  rules in the Bible that God has given to us for the  good of mankind.  But, we begin to wonder, what is  the essential structure of the Gospel of  the Lord Jesus Christ?  Can  we strip away the peripherals and get  right  down  to  the  very  substance,  the inner core of the Gospel?



                            Chapter 1

.    In order to know what the Gospel actually is, we must first of all determine the authority that structures and determines what it is.  This  is necessary because  the nature of  the true Gospel is defined  and  established  by  its  divine authority. In fact, the nature  of  every  religion,  gospel,  and  ideological  system is defined and established by its recognized authority. .    A Mohammedan, for example, may wish  to know how to live as  a good  Mohammedan.  So he  carefully consults the  Koran, a book in which Mohammedans  believe God has spoken.  The Koran, therefore, is the written  authority that establishes the  Mohammedan gospel, that is, the Mohammedan religion.  An orthodox Jew has a different authority. It includes what we  call our Old Testament, along with the  writing  of  the  church  fathers  that  are considered to be divinely  inspired.  That  is the  authority that  establishes the nature and character of the Jewish religion.  On the other hand, a Mormon  has as  his divine  authority the  Bible, plus the Book of Mormon,  which is believed  to be divinely  inspired.  Because the Book of Mormon came later than the  Bible, it has become  a shadow that lies over the Bible.  That is, someone who follows the Mormon gospel examines everything  he reads in the Bible  in the light of what is found in the Book of Mormon. .    Similary,  the  Roman  Catholics  follow still another gospel.  The authority that structures  and determines their gospel  begins with the Bible.  But the  Apocrypha books are also a part  of that authority,  as  are  the  visions  of  Joan of Arc, the visions of Fatima, and the infallible  utterances of the Pope.  All  of these are looked upon as divine, and together they make up the authority that establishes the character of the Roman Catholic gospel. .    Likewise,  the  charismatic  gospel  has  its  authority.  It believes that the Bible is  the Word of God, but it  also believes in divine  revelation through  visions, voices,  or tongues, which expands  their authority beyond  the Bible.  Therefore,  it has as its authority  the Bible,  plus the  messages presumably  received from  God  through  dreams,  visions,  and  tongues.  This widened authority  structures  and  determines  the  character  of  the charismatic gospel. .    Bear in mind that every time we have a different authority, we also  have  a  different  kind  of  gospel.  In other words, every gospel is  structured and determined by its authority. So when the authorities differ, the gospels themselves differ. .    But what  is the  true Gospel  of Jesus  Christ, who alone can save men and women from their sins?  What is the Divine Authority by  which it is structured and  determined?  These are some of the most  insistent questions facing the  church today, because we are living in  a day when  gospels are proliferating.  Every place we turn we find different  kinds of gospels.  Indeed, we  wonder, how can I really know I am following the true Gospel? .    One  definition sometimes offered to  describe the true Gospel is set forth in I John 4:2.  There we read that if we confess that Christ has come in the  flesh, then we are of God.  Yet as we read in Luke 4:34, the  demons also admit that Jesus Christ has come in the  flesh,  and  they  are  still  under  God's  wrath.  So that particular definition standing alone may not be  adequate in every case.  We have to know more about what defines and establishes the Gospel.  We  must, therefore,  discover the  divine authority that structures  and determines  the character  and nature  of the true Gospel. .    The  Bible indicates that it alone  and in its entirety is the authority  that establishes the  Gospel of the  Lord Jesus Christ.  Revelation 22:18-19 says it best.

    For  I testify unto  every man that  heareth the words of     the prophecy  of this  book, if  any man  shall add  unto     these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are     written in  this book:  And if  any man  shall take away     from the  words of the  book of this  prophecy, God shall     take away his part  out of the book  of life, and out  of     the  holy city, and from the  things which are written in     this book.

.    By that statement God  established the parameters of  the true Gospel.  It is circumscribed by the Bible alone. .    The Bible, therefore, is the true divine authority.  It is the only  complete authority that  established the Gospel  of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because  it is the divine authority,  because it is from  God, it  is to  be entirely  authoritative in our lives.  We must eagerly  read it;  we must  eagerly study  it with  a view to being obedient to it.  And if we discover in our lives any kind of practice, or any kind of doctrine that is contrary  to the Word of God,  then as children of God, there will be  within us an earnest desire to  change that practice  or that doctrine  so that we will become more faithful to the Word of God. .    If  we follow an authority that  is narrower or wider than the Bible alone  and in its entirety, we  are not following the Gospel of the Bible.  Regardless of how holy it  may appear to be, such a gospel will not lead to salvation. 

                            Chapter 2

.    But now  that we  know that  the Bible  is the  authority that establishes the true Gospel, we wonder what the central message of the true  Gospel is.  We could  say that the Gospel  is God's love letter to mankind  whereby we can become righteous,  know the love of God,  come into  the more  abundant life,  or learn  to live to God's  glory.  We can think  of a lot of  verses in the Bible that describe and  perhaps even crystallize the essential nature of the Gospel. .    Actually, however, I think we  can find summed up in John 3:16 the core meaning of the Gospel.  This verse strips away everything else and gets right down to the essential message.  There we read:  "For  God so loved the world, that  he gave his only begotten Son, that  whosoever  believeth  in  him  should  not  perish, but have everlasting life." .    Ordinarily theologians  focus on the first  part of the verse:  "For  God so  loved the  world..."  And  that is a glorious phrase that  introduces  us  to  the  amazing  truth  that  God  in  His magnificent love  has provided salvation to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  But the love of God and  the salvation He has so generously provided cannot  be fully understood unless  we also understand the meaning of the  word "perish" found later on in the verse.  Only  too seldom  do we  hear a  sermon on that statement, "...shall  not perish..."  But the phrase, "shall  not perish," is also an integral part of the Gospel. .    When we search the Scriptures, we find that the word "perish," as it is used  in John 3:16, does not mean  "annihilation." In our English language when we say, "I will perish," we think of  dying, of  ceasing  to  exist.  But  in  the Bible the word "perish" has another definition.  The  Bible tells us that the  wages of sin is death (cf.  Romans 6:23).  And the  living death  that God has in view  is  to  exist  throughout  eternity  in  hell.  That is the predicament  of  rebellious  mankind.  That  is  what it means to perish. .    The  terrible  problem  of  mankind  is  that  we are sinners.  Remember Romans 3:10-11:  "There is none righteous,  no, not one:  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."  The heart  of man  by nature  is desperately wicked, as we read in Jeremiah 17:9. .    Because we sin - even a single sin - we will  perish.  Because we  have  been  created  in  His  image,  God holds each one of us completely  accountable to Himself  for the conduct  of our lives.  God has appointed a day at the end of the world  when we are to be judged.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27,  "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after  this the judgment..."  And because all of us  are sinners without  the Gospel, we  are all on  our way to hell. .    This  terrible  truth  cannot  be  seen with our physical eyes because we cannot look into the future.  But  what we see with our physical  eyes is  not the  whole story.  In fact,  it is  a very shallow and incidental part  of the whole story.  For  example, we may have  had a friend  who died.  We  have seen him  as a man who lived out his life well regarded  by his fellow man.  But then  he died.  He was eulogized at his funeral as one of the greatest, and then  we  all  went  about  our  business and forgot about Brother Jones.  But if  Brother Jones  died without  the Gospel, that is, without being saved, the next thing he will be aware of is that he is  standing  before  the  Judgment  Throne  of God, where he must answer  for  every  sin  he  ever  committed;  and  these  will be multitudinous.  Any one of these sins could condemn him to eternal damnation.  For him there  is no escape; there is  no reprieve, no parole.  There is no way out. .    Every  day  approximately  200,000  people  die  all over this earth.  When we  realize that  most of  these 200,000  people die unsaved and that  the next conscious thing they  will know is that they  are standing before  the Judgment Throne  of God, subject to eternal  damnation,  then  we  become  aware  of a horror story of magnificent proportions. .    We  sometimes hear about an earthquake in  which 50,000 people are killed.  We hear about wars in which 700,000 or 800,000 people are killed.  We hear about man's inhumanity to man.  We hear about famines that kill many thousands.  But none of these hold a candle to the  most dreadful tragedy  of all, the  dreadful, daily trauma that faces mankind. .    The horrors of man's inhumanity to man, the horrors of famine, of war, or of  whatever the trauma, result only in physical death.  But physical death in itself  is not the horror story.  The horror story  is that after  death there is  the judgment.  God's perfect justice demands eternal damnation as payment for sins. .    Unfortunately we do  not hear this part of the Gospel preached too frequently.  It is so reprehensible, so sorry, so serious.  It is so terrible that we  want to forget about it.  We  would rather just talk about the love of God.  We would rather talk about moral living.  We would prefer to talk about all kinds of things rather than this very important teaching of the Gospel. .    Wonderfully, the truth that hell is waiting for the human race is not  the whole story.  If  God had written the  Bible simply to tell us that we are going  to hell, we could still praise God that at least He warned  us.  But that knowledge  would not do us  much good, because we  are all sinners.  Because of  our sins, we would still end up in hell.  But woven into the  fabric of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus  Christ, like a  golden thread running  through the entire Bible, is the  message of hope.  It is the  message that we can know the love of  God by trusting in the Lord  Jesus Christ as our  Savior.  That  is  the  other  side  of the Gospel coin, the central  part of the  Gospel presentation:  "For  God so loved the world,  that  he  gave  his  only  begotten  Son,  that  whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." .    Now why  is it  that if  we believe  in Him  we will not go to hell?  The Bible tells us that it is because Christ became sin for us!  We read in II Corinthians  5:21:  "For he hath made him to be sin  for  us,  who  knew  no  sin;  that  we  might  be  made  the righteousness of  God in him."  Or, as Isaiah  53:6 puts it, "the Lord hath laid  on him the iniquity  of us all" (that  is, all who will hang their lives on Him). .    That  is the central message of the Gospel.  There is no other news that  can compare to this.  It begins with the terrible truth that  mankind is sinful and heading for hell.  But additionally it is the wonderful news that all of us who cry out to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy  and hang our lives on Him  can know freedom from hell because  He became sin for  us.  Laden with our  sins, as our substitute,  He stood  before the  Judgment Throne  of God when He stood before Pontius  Pilate.  He was  found guilty for  our sins, and God poured out His condemnation upon Him to the degree that is was the  equivalent of every  one of us  who would believe  on Him spending an eternity in Hell.  In this way  He paid for all of our sins.  He  satisfied God's  perfect justice  that demands  eternal damnation as  punishment for sin.  Since our sins  have been paid for, hell no longer threatens us.  We are no longer under the law that  decrees that we are to go  to hell.  We are now under grace.  By God's  grace we have become children of  God.  We have left the dominion of Satan (which we were in before we  were saved), and we have become citizens of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. .    The  pathetic fact,  however, is  that to  a high  degree, the church of today is no longer aware of this message.  This has been true  to some  degree throughout  history, but  it is particularly true today.  Obviously, there are exceptions.  Praise God for the exceptions!  But  to  a  high  degree,  the  church  has lost its sensitivity  to  the  central  nature  of  the  Gospel.  Too  many preachers  no longer  talk about  hell.  In  fact, I  once heard a theologian  from  a  reputable  seminary  publicly say the hell is "like  being in  an airplane  and just  going round  and round and round." In  other words,  he was  ridiculing hell.  He had better read  Deuteronomy  28  again.  He  had  better read Revelation 14 again, where  it says  "the smoke  of their  torment ascendeth  up forever and ever" (verse 11).  He had better read Matthew 13, Mark 9, and  Matthew 25  again where  Jesus says  things like,  " there shall  be  wailing  and  gnashing  of  teeth" (Matthew 13:42), and "their worm dieth not" (Mark 9:44), and where He speaks of eternal damnation  (cf. Matthew  25:46).  The  only reason  that we do not often read those passages is because they are so frightening.  But we had better be frightened  if we are not saved, because  hell is real. .    But  you see,  if someone  does not  want to  face the central message of the Bible because he does not  want to talk about hell, then what is  he going to  do with the  Gospel?  Unfortunately, we find that theologians begin to change the message of the Gospel to satisfy  their  own  desires.  They  begin  to  make  the  Gospel political.  They say,  for example, "Christianity  has to do  with being free from political oppression."  Or, they begin to teach an economic gospel by saying  that Christianity has to do with having enough food to eat and having economic security.  Or, they make it a physical well-being gospel by saying that the goal of the gospel is good health and happy lives here on this earth. .    These  three  aspirations  -  political  freedom,  economic security, and good health - are  sought by every man.  All mankind seeks  for these in  one way or  another.  We do  not have to call ourselves Christians to have these kinds of goals. But the fact is that none of these aspirations has any direct relationship  to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus  Christ, that is, to the  true, spiritual Gospel.  Let us see why this is so. .    In  Luke  16  God  gives  us  the  parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  Perhaps you are familiar  with that parable.  The Bible reveals that the rich man had all that money could buy.  Certainly we would assume  that, because he had all that money, he must have had a lot of  political freedom.  Also, he had at  his command the finest doctors and the finest nutritionists so that he could enjoy maximum good health.  Without a doubt,  he had economic  security and  everything that  goes along  with it.  If anyone appeared to have no need for the message of  the Gospel, it was this rich man.  He apparently had everything going for him. .    On  the  other  hand,  God  talks  about Lazarus.  Lazarus had nothing;  he was a beggar.  He had no economic security.  He could not afford a doctor,  even though he greatly needed  one.  Perhaps he slept out on the  streets and was getting insufficient  food or the wrong  kind of  food.  In  any case,  hs body  was laden  with sores.  He had  very poor bodily  health.  Certainly, as  a beggar who would be kicked by everyone who walked by, he had no political security.  He was considered to be riffraff.  He was  nothing.  If anyone  had  a  need  for  an  earthly  gospel, it would have been Lazarus.  As the story  continues, we learn  that both Lazarus and the rich man died. .    Suddenly  God  strips  away  the  curtain  and  gives the true picture  of these two men as they are to live throughout eternity.  What  do  we  find? We  find  that  Lazarus, who had none of the essential  desires  of  mankind,  is  resting forever in Abraham's bosom.  This figure of speech indicates that he is in the place of the highest good, the highest  blessing.  It is a picture of being saved and being forever in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. .    On the other hand, where do we find this rich man who on earth had  everything a man could  want? In this parable,  we see him in hell, piteously  crying out  to Father  Abraham to  "send Lazarus, that  he  may  dip  the  tip  of  his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for  I am tormented  in this flame"  (verse 24).  It  is a picture  of the utterly terrible nature of hell, and this rich man is to be there forever. .    Which  of these  two men  really needed  the Gospel?  Which of these men was really in need? .    If you had come to Lazarus with a political gospel or a social gospel,  trying  to  give  him  medicine and offering him economic security,  would that  have changed  his position  in Heaven?  The answer is no.  He  had no need insofar as the true, eternal Gospel is  concerned.  Surely,  as a  human being,  he could have stood a little  food.  As  a  human  being,  he could have stood a little compassion. But insofar as his relationship to God was concerned - that is the real need of mankind - he himself had no need. .    Identifying  the Gospel  message with  political, economic, or cultural  aspirations  has  caused  the  "Christian  Gospel" to be especially reprehensible to the leaders  of many nations.  When we send a message forth, tailored after the desires of mankind, which has  nothing to do  with the Gospel  of the Lord  Jesus Christ, we enter into areas of activity that threaten political rulers.  I am sorry to say  that in the past (and it  is still happening today), missionaries  often  went  to  China  and  to many other countries spreading  a  gospel  heavily  flavored  by their Western culture.  Thus the gospel message they brought  became identified to a great extent with physical prosperity or some kind of political freedom.  But that  is not  the Gospel  of the  Bible.  These  missionaries, unfortunately, were giving the wrong signals altogether.  They had begun  meddling in the  affairs of the  nations to which they were sent, affairs in which they  had no business and which had nothing to do with the true Gospel message. .    The  fact is that  the Gospel is  unconcerned with the kind of rulers that  a nation has.  It is unconcerned  with the political system under which a people lives.  It does declare, however, that it is God who puts up and puts down rulers.  It does warn that the citizens of any country are expected to be obedient in all  things to those  who rule over them.  But it does not  indicate that one kind of government is to be obeyed more than another. .    The Bible  is not  concerned about  the economic  situation of those who hear the  Gospel.  In the day that Jesus ministered, and as the  disciples went  out, did  man's inhumanity  to man  exist?  Indeed, it did.  There were slaves who were  piteously beaten and mistreated.  Was there  economic uncertainty?  Indeed,  there was.  It was a day when there were no mercy ships.  Certainly there were people dying  of starvation.  Were there  people who  desperately needed a healing who did not receive it?  Indeed, there were. .    Some people  misunderstood Jesus'  mission when  He healed the sick.  Christ  did  not  come  with  a  gospel that promises good health.  He simply did those miracles of healing as proofs that He was God and  in order to give us historical parables through which we can see the  spiritual nature of the Gospel.  They were earthly stories with a  heavenly meaning.  Once  Christ went to  the cross and  the apostles died,  we do not  find any further statements in the  Bible regarding  physical healing.  The Gospel  is concerned with spiritual healing:  "...by whose stripes ye were healed.  For ye were  as sheep going astray..." (I  Peter 2:24-25).  The Gospel has to do with the healing of our sin-sick souls. .    So the message of the Gospel is that  mankind is on its way to hell, but that anyone can know God's love by trusting in Christ. .    When  we become saved, we are  transferred out of the dominion of Satan,  which encompasses all the unsaved  people of the world, wherever  they are  found, in  whatever political  system they are found.  We  are  translated  into  the  Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,  which  is  a  spiritual  nation  made up of those who are born-again  believers,  regardless  of  political  ideology,  or cultural  differences, or  whatever.  Salvation  has nothing to do with political nations. .    Many theologians fracture the  truths of the Bible  concerning the  nature of  the  Gospel  when  they attempt to understand the meaning  of  Christian  unity.  Ephesians  4:4-5 teaches us that:  "There is one body,  and one Spirit, even as ye  are called in one hope of your  calling; One Lord, one faith,  one baptism..."  What kind of unity does  God have in view?  Well- meaning  but misguided theologians,  in attempting to  explain this unity,  have tried to introduce  concepts into the Gospel that  are foreign to it.  They effectively believe we  are one in  faith and one  baptism when we have equal political freedom, or equal economic prosperity. .    But the true Gospel has nothing to do with political activity. It has  nothing to  do with  economic desires  or desires for good health.  It looks far beyond all of  this.  When we have the true Gospel, whether we live in  Russia, China, Germany, South America, the United States,  or any other  country, there is  one Lord, one faith, one baptism.  It is spiritual unity.  It is a faith wherein we understand that our sins  are washed away.  Spiritually we have become  right  with&

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