What is the True Gospel?
Written by: Camping, Harold Posted on: 02/27/2003
Category: Bible Studies
WHAT IS THE TRUE GOSPEL?
by Harold Camping
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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?
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Other Books by Harold Camping
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?
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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
. 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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