The Everlasting Gospel 
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

2 – Review

In part one of this study, I defined the everlasting gospel — that I believe God raised the Advent movement to proclaim to the world in its global mission — that the gospel is the good news about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I also distinquished this everlasting gospel from what is generally taught within Christianity:  that, in Christ, God has obtained salvation, full and complete, for the entire human race.  This means that, in Christ’s holy history, God has redeemed mankind not only from the guilt and punishment of sin (the emphasis of most Christian denominations), but also from the power and slavery to sin, as well as from the nature and presence of sin.

In this study we will examine the two pillars which together go to make up the good news of the everlasting gospel.  The first is the unconditional agape love of God, which is the ground of our salvation.  The second is the “in Christ” motif, or the truth as it is in Christ, which is the means of our salvation.  On these two pillars rest the hope of the human race.

God not only so loved the world that He gave humanity His only begotten Son, but the incredible good news of the everlasting gospel is that He has already reconciled the entire human race to Himself by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  On these two pillars rest our whole hope of salvation, now and in the judgment.  Let us, therefore, examine what the Bible has to say regarding these two fundamental truths that together constitute the everlasting gospel.

The Love of God

According to the favorite text of the Bible:

John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It is this love of God that is the ground of our salvation.  In Ephesians 2, after painting a dark, dismal, and hopeless picture of mankind in verses 1-3...

Ephesians 2:1-3:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

...the apostle Paul penned these words in verse 4:

Ephesians 2:4-5:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.

This same idea is expressed by Paul:

Titus 3:3-5:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit....

Turning to the epistle of John we read these words of hope:

1 John 4:16-18:
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:  In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear [of the judgment] in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Yet, the fact is that too many Adventists are afraid of the judgment.  One reason for this fear, apart from their “mixed, confused ideas of salvation,” is because they have failed to realize that God’s love completely contradicts human love.  As a result, by projecting human ideals of love onto God, we pervert the good news of the gospel.  It is only when we know and understand God’s love, and what that love accomplished for mankind in Christ, that the fear of the judgment will be cast out and God’s people will be set free to turn this world upside down with the matchless charms of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament word for God’s love is the noun agape.  Unfortunately, there is no English word equivalent to this Greek word.  In fact, unlike the verb agapao, which means something different, the noun agape can hardly be found in secular Greek, the language of the New Testament.  It is as if the New Testament writers coined this word to describe God’s unique love, which completely contradicts our natural human love.

How does God’s agape love differ from natural human love?  It is of utmost importance that we see the distinction between these two loves, if we are to truly understand and appreciate the gospel.  The contrasts between God’s agape love and the love we humans naturally manifest are:

1.  God’s agape love is unconditional, in contrast to man’s natural love, which is conditional.  Unconditional love means that it is spontaneous and uncaused.  It does not depend on the goodness or the beauty of the one to be loved.  Conditional love, on the other hand, is reciprocal.  It is not a giving love but rather a need love.  It, therefore, depends on the goodness and beauty of the one to be loved.  As a result, it needs arousing.  When such conditional love is projected onto God, it perverts the good news of the gospel into good advice or conditional good news — we have to meet certain requirements — such as confessing our sins, obeying God’s law, and doing good works — before He can forgive us and take us to heaven.

But it is the unconditional agape love of God that is the ground of our salvation.  In Romans 5:6-10, the apostle Paul describes this agape love, which God has poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (verse 5):

Romans 5:5-10:
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

In reading this passage (verses 6, 8, and 10), you will notice that God’s agape love, which is the ground of our salvation, is in complete contrast to human love (verse 7).  It is while we were “powerless” (i.e., incapable of saving ourselves), “ungodly” (i.e., wicked), “still sinners,” and even God’s “enemies,” that Jesus died for us and reconciled us to God.  In contrast, human love can only die for a good person, and even this, says Paul, is rare.

It is only as we are rooted and grounded in this agape love...

Ephesians 3:17-19:
...So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

...that our faith can be established solidly on the rock Jesus Christ, and we can confess with the apostle Paul:

Romans 8:38-39:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2.  God’s agape love is everlasting.

Jeremiah 31:3:
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

That is why, in describing agape in 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 13:8a:
Love [agape] never fails.

In contrast, natural human love is changeable and, therefore, unreliable.  Out of sincere human love, Peter insisted he would rather die than deny his Saviour.

Luke 22:31-34:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Yet, when he was put to the test, he denied his Lord three times.

John 18:17-27:
“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm.  Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,”Jesus replied.  “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together.  I said nothing in secret.  Why question me?  Ask those who heard me.  Surely they know what I said.”

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face.  “Is this the way you answer the high priest?”he demanded.

“If I said something wrong,”Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong.  But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”  Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself.  So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?”  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

In contrast, this is what we read about Jesus:

John 13:1:
It was just before the Passover Festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Because God’s agape love never fails, we can have full confidence in the day of judgment.  Or, as Paul put it:

Romans 8:31b-32:
If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all [the death of the cross] — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Faith in God’s everlasting agape love is what will give the remnant courage to stand for Christ in the last days, even though they will feel forsaken of God during the great tribulation.

Isaiah 54:5-10:
For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.  “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.  In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.  “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.  So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

3.  Finally, unlike human love, which is ego-centric, God’s agape love is self-emptying.  In Philippians chapter 2, the apostle Paul tells us that, even though Christ was equal with the Father, so that divinity was not something to be grasped at, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave and was made in the likeness of man, totally dependent on the Father.  But more than that, He was even willing to step down further and become obedient unto death, “even the death of the cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

It was at the cross that God, in Christ, demonstrated that His love for us is stronger than His love for Himself.  To the Jews of Christ’s day, hanging on a cross was equivalent to hanging on a tree, the curse of God.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23:
If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight.  Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.  You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

And that curse is God abandonment, which results in the experience of the second death.  On the cross, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us.

Galatians 3:13:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

What did this involve?

Ellen G. White tells us that, as Jesus hung on the cross:

“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb.  Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice.  He feared that sin was so offensive to God that their separation was to be eternal.”  (Desire of Ages, 753.)

This is what He experienced for us on the cross.

In spite of this, He did not come down from the cross and save Himself, as Satan three times tempted Him to do.

Luke 23:35-39:
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.  They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read:  This is the King of the Jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:  “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”

The only explanation for this is that He loved us more than Himself and, therefore, was willing to say good-bye to life forever so that we could live in His place.  On the cross Jesus “tasted death (the second or eternal death) for all men.”

Hebrews 2:9:
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

This is what constitutes the supreme sacrifice of the cross and which demonstrated God’s unconditional and self-emptying agape love for us.  Incidentally, it was this self-denying agape love of Christ, manifested on the cross, that constrained or compelled the early Christians to put self aside and live only for Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

But the fact that God loves us unconditionally is not enough to save fallen mankind.  God cannot, even out of pure agape love, forgive sinners by overlooking or excusing their sins.  God is also a holy and just God and His saving grace cannot go against His own law which condemns sinners to death.  This brings us to the second pillar of truth on which the good news of the everlasting gospel rests, the “in Christ” motif.

The In Christ Motif

While God sent Christ into the world to be the gospel, it was Paul whom God commissioned to explain it.

Romans 1:1:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God....

That is why the Pauline epistles comprises almost half of the New Testament.  In reading Paul, you will find that there is a key phrase that runs throughout his epistles.  If you were to take this phrase out, there would be very little left of Paul’s exposition of the gospel.  This recurring phrase, which is the central theme of Paul’s theology, is the expression “in Christ” or “in Christ Jesus.”  This phrase is sometimes expressed by other similar phrases, such as “in Him,” or “by Him” or “through Him,” or “in the Beloved,” or “together with Him,” etc.  These are all synonymous terms implying the “in Christ” motif or idea.

The truth behind this phrase was first introduced by Christ Himself, when He told His disciples to “remain in me”...

John 15:4:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

...something they could not do had God not included them in Christ’s humanity at the incarnation.

1 Corinthians 1:30:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

These “in Christ” phrases are the undergirding words of the gospel.  And if we don’t understand what Paul means by “in Christ,” we will never be able to fully understand the message of the everlasting gospel.

There is nothing we have as Christians except we have it “in Christ.”  As already mentioned, everything we enjoy and hope for as believers — the peace that comes to us through justification by faith, the holy living we experience through the process of sanctification, and the blessed hope we will experience at glorification — is ours always “in Christ.”  Outside of Him we have nothing but sin, condemnation, and death.

The expression “in Christ,” however, is a rather difficult phrase to understand.  Just as “you must be born again” was mind boggling to Nicodemus; so likewise, the concept of “in Christ” is a very difficult idea for us to understand.  How can I, as an individual, be in someone else?  Even harder to understand is, how can I, born in the twentieth century, be in Christ who lived almost 2,000 years ago?  This makes absolutely no sense to our way of thinking.

But what does Scripture mean when it tells us that we were together with Christ in His birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection, and now, are sitting with Him in heavenly places?

Ephesians 2:4-6:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

Because we cannot fathom these facts, we tend to ignore or skim over them.  Yet the whole understanding of the everlasting gospel hinges on our understanding the significance of these two vital words:  “in Christ.”

The “in Christ” motif or concept is based on the biblical idea of solidarity or corporate oneness.  Therefore, if we are to come to grips with this phrase, we must first understand what the Bible has to say about solidarity.  Two texts that help us understand Biblical solidarity are first, Romans 9:12:

Romans 9:12:
...Not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

The twins, Esau and Jacob, represent two nations, not individuals.

Genesis 25:23:
The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

The second is Hebrews 7:7-10:

Hebrews 7:7-10:
And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater.  In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.  One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

Levi paid tithe to Melchizedek “in Abraham,” since he was “in the loins” or body of his great grandfather Abraham when he paid tithe to Melchizedek.

Scripture presents three fundamental truths concerning the human race.  All these three facts are based on Biblical solidarity.  The first is that God created all men in one man, Adam. 

Genesis 2:7:
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Here we read God breathed into Adam’s nostrils “the breath of life.”  In the original Hebrew text, the word “life” is in the plural form (“the breath of lives”) and not singular, as our English Bible renders it.  That is why God named that first man Adam.  In Hebrew, Adam means “mankind.”  Of the 510 times the word “Adam” is found in Scripture, in the majority of cases, it refers to mankind rather than the individual Adam.

Secondly, Scripture clearly teaches that Satan ruined all men in one man, Adam.

Romans 5:12:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world [human race] through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned....

Paul concludes:

Romans 5:18:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

It is for this reason Paul can point to Adam as the source of our death problem.

1 Corinthians 15:22:
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

But the third fundamental truth of Scripture, and which constitutes the fantastic good news of the gospel, is that God redeemed all men in one man, Jesus Christ.  In order for Christ to legally or lawfully save fallen man, He had to first qualify to be our Saviour or substitute.  God did this by uniting the divine life of His Son to the corporate life of the human race that needed redeeming.

1 Corinthians 1:30:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

This is what made Christ to be the second or last Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:45-48:
So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.

That is why we must never look at Christ as just one man among many men, but as the One in whom all humanity was gathered up.

Once the divinity of Christ and the human race He came to redeem were united in one person, Jesus was then able to re-write our history, by His life, death, and resurrection.  In doing this, He changed mankind’s status from condemnation to justification unto life.

Romans 5:18:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

This is how the apostle Paul describes this incredible good news:

Ephesians 2:4-6:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

This is the truth on which the doctrine of righteousness by faith is founded.

Ephesians 1:3:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we put these two facts together — the unconditional agape love of God and the truth as it is “in Christ” — we have the everlasting gospel that comprises the three angels’ message of Revelation 14.  And when this message is preached into all the world for a witness, accompanied by the power of the fourth angel of Revelation 18, this earth will be lightened with the glory of God and there will be no excuse for anyone to be lost.  Then the end can come.

Revelation 22:17:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”And let the one who hears say, “Come!”  Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Amen.


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