Editorial Note: The writer of this article is a student in West Kentucky Bible School and also pastor of the Baptist church at Salem, Ky. He is the most promising preacher we know of for his age. He delights to minister out the strong meat of the word. In this article some vital doctrines are touched. It will delight those who love strong doctrine and rejoice in the glorious gospel of the blessed Son of God.
The Eternal Gospel
By Pastor Carroll Hubbard, 1931
"And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; saying with a great voice, Fear God and give glory to him, because the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him who made the heaven, and the earth, and sea and fountains of water." Revelation 14:6.
It is not our purpose to attempt an exegesis of this entire passage, but only to note what is here meant by the "eternal gospel." However, we might note by way of introduction that Revelation 14:6-13 gives the proclamation of the three angels. The first angel, which is mentioned in our text, is set forth as bringing, a world-wide diffusion of the gospel. This preaching of the gospel is to be the means of the saint's victory over Satan, "the Holy Roman Empire," and the counterfeit church. From our text comes our great missionary hymn, "Fly Abroad Thou Mighty Gospel." The gospel that is thus to be diffused among earth's inhabitants is said to be "eternal gospel." These are the words we desire to study in this article.
The word "aionion," which is the word used in the original for everlasting in this passage, has three meanings according Thayer's lexicon. They are: "1. without beginning or end, that which always has been and always will be" — examples of this meaning of the word are found in "the eternal God" (Romans 16:26), and in "the eternal Spirit: (Hebrews 9 :14); "2. without beginning" — see Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:1-9; Titus 1:2: "3 without end, never to cease, everlasting." We believe the gospel of the grace of God is eternal in all the meanings of the word given. For that reason we prefer to use the word eternal rather than the word everlasting. Not only is the gospel of endless duration as to future time, but its subject matter is front eternity: i.e., the saving purpose of God was adopted from eternity. Therefore, it is more than the "everlasting gospel;" it is the "eternal gospel." We come now to ask, In what sense is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ the "eternal gospel?" We answer:
1. It is eternal as to its substance."
That which goes to make up the gospel was settled from all eternity in the counsel and covenant of peace. Just as the down ward tumble of man was no surprise to God, so the gospel and its contents were not adopted because the Lord God found himself in a perplexing situation after man's fall. Before man was mare. the Son of God stood as a lamb slain for the sins of lost and depraved creatures. See Revelation 13:8. In I Peter 1:20 we read that Christ "was foreordained before the foundation of the, world" as "a lamb without blemish and without spot." For that reason the enemies, of the Lord Jesus, in all their hatred and malice could do no more than was determined before to be done. See Acts 4 :28. And in the crucifixion of the Lord of Glory, the enemies of the Lord, were only carrying out the foreordained and predetermined counsel of God; yet, because of the wicked motive that prompted them, they stand guilty of murder of the worst kind. See Acts 4 :23
While noting that the substance of the gospel is eternal, we might do well just here to note what the substance, of the gospel really is. There are many things said to 'be the gospel that have no connection with God's eternal gospel. Paul says that the gospel is "how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3. 4). Then the gospel has as its central and only theme, the atoning work of the, Lord Jesus. The gospel speaks to us of the vicarious, substitutionary work of him who, "knew no sin," but was made "to be sin for us . . . that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Baptism is no part of the gospel. See 1 Corinthians 1:17. God's eternal gospel is not only glad tidings; it is glad tidings of eternal redemption provided by the work of the cross. The gospel takes in three great facts; and weaves them together so that the justice of God is satisfied, and mercy is made exultant in the release of lost men. These three great facts, are sin, Christ, and calvary.
The eternal nature of the gospel of God distinguishes it from all counterfeits. New gospels are no gospels, but are rather delusions and snares of Satan. All new religions, new gospels, and new teachings that endeavor to lead men to God are worthless and empty because they are modern and not eternal. The gospel that truly saves was ordained of God in eternity.
This eternal gospel was first made known, in some degree at least to Old Testament saints. They knew of the coining Messiah and rejoiced in Him. Specifically does the New Testament say that the gospel was preached to Abraham. See Galatians 3:8. In sundry ways this eternal gospel was prefigured and foreshadowed in the Old Testament, looking to the time when God would in these last days speak unto us by his Son. Hebrews 1:2. David knew of this eternal gospel; and, while rejoicing .in forgiveness of sins as a joyful realty, was made to say: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1). O thou blessed gospel of the grace of God, thou dust hail from eternity. Myraids of saints in all ages have rejoiced in thy riches. Thou hast been through bitter wars in time gone by, when sinful men would have corrupted thee; but today thou art the same eternal, unchangeable gospel of the happy God!
2. It is eternal as to its ground and basis.
The ground and basis of the gospel, like its substance, are from eternity; and are in themselves everlasting. Had it not been for the eternal work of, divine sovereignty in the eons past, we would have no eternal gospel! Let us note three things, that form a part of the ground and basis of the gospel, which in themselves are eternal:
(1) Election. In Ephesians 1:4 we read: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." And in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 We read: "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." Eternal election makes possible, yea, makes, certain, an eternal gospel. Election in time, as some would have it, gnaws at the very vitals of the gospel and makes the gospel a thing of time and not of eternity. It would be impossible for the gospel to be eternal if God's choice of the beneficiaries of the gospel were made in time. Eternal election means that before the worlds were made, God, according to his own good pleasure, chose out of a hell-deserving race a remnant for Himself, and foreordained them to eternal life through the Lord Jesus. God exercised this sovereign choice because it pleased him to do it, and not because of anything foreseen in the sinner to merit this election or choice.
"'Tis not that I didst choose thee,
For, Lord that could not be.
This heart would still refuse thee;
But thou has chosen me."
(2) God's love. The love that caused God to give the Lord Jesus for our salvation, and that caused Him to choose us for salvation, is an eternal love. Jeremiah 31:3 says: "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." The love of God that provided salvation full and free is not temporal and changeable, but eternal and absolute. That matchless, eternal love makes certain the eternal gospel.
(3) The new covenant. From Hebrews 13:20, 21 we read: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect. This everlasting, or eternal, covenant was made, not between God and man. but between God and His Son. In this covenant, the Son freely and voluntarily gave himself to die for lost men; and the Father gave him a seed, which the Father engaged to draw to Christ for salvation and to preserve forever. [See Isaiah 53:7, 10; John 6:37, 44; 17:11. - Ed.] This covenant is very aply set forth in Psalm 89:19-37. This mutual agreement was entered into before man was made, and before "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7).
3. It is eternal in that it reveals an eternal righteousness.
The gospel is a revelation of the righteousness of God, and that righteousness is eternal. Speaking of the gospel in Romans 1:17, Paul says: "Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Paul does not mean that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God as one of His attributes, for that would not be good news to the sinner; the righteousness spoken of is that which God imputes to believers. [See Romans 3:22. - Ed.] Since the righteousness here spoken of is God's righteousness, it must be eternal; and for that reason the gospel is eternal.
Here we may well note that the eternal gospel, which reveals air eternal righteousness, and apostasy are wholly incompatible. Imagine an eternal gospel, with subject matter that is older than worlds, and with eternal election; eternal love; and an eternal covenant as its basis, bringing a temporary righteousness. We are persuaded that there is no greater enemy of the gospel on the earth than the heretical idea of apostasy. It is a slander upon the eternal gospel of God; which speaks of eternal righteousness. Pendleton says of this eternal gospel "Its blessed effects will be eternal." This eternal righteousness is based on the redemptive work of Christ; and, since believers are in Him, who is their righteousness, there will never be a time when God will not see believers righteous and holy in his sight. "My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arm shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me and in mine arm shall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but MY SALVATION shall be forever, and MY RIGHTEOUSNESS shall not be abolished . . . . For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but MY RIGHTEOUSNESS shall be forever, and MY SALVATION from generation to generation" Isaiah 51:5, 6, 8).
"Complete atonement Christ has made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate'er His people owed.
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in his righteousness,
And sprinkled with his blood?
[From: T. P. Simmons, editor, The Baptist Examiner, Marion, KY, April, 1931, pp. 3 & 7. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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