S U M M E R • 2 0 1 2
VOLUME 13, ISSUE 2
In the Epistle to the Galatians, the apostle Paul leaves no margin for error: there is only one gospel; there is no other. This gospel is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day—and by faith alone in His sacrifice for sin the sinner is justified, and by believing in Him the justified sinner is made eternally alive by the power of His resurrection from the dead. This is the gospel.
The word "gospel" by its very nature means the announcement of an event that has already taken place and which brings salvation to all who believe it. The meaning of the Hebrew equivalent of "gospel", basar, is the announcement of the king's victory on behalf of his people: "Basar!" In Scripture, "gospel" never refers or points to an incomplete or future event. To use the word "gospel" in a way that suggests it is not an accomplished fact is to pervert the meaning of the word itself and to twist the meaning of the gospel in the Scriptures:
And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus… and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 12:32,33,39).
This is the announcement of the gospel as commissioned by Jesus and given through the apostles.
In 1844 Seventh-day Adventism claimed center stage and proclaimed that it preached the "true gospel", but the Adventist gospel displaced the apostles' gospel. Error, though, will always be error, and every camouflage eventually gives itself away.
The Adventist church has policies that regulate every conceivable aspect of the administrative life of the church. These policies comprise a voluminous manual called The General Conference Working Policy. When I was an administrator and church leader in the Adventist organization, I knew my way around this manual fairly well. Back in those years when I was still an Adventist, I read the following working policy, but I was totally blind to what it really said regarding the gospel. Now I realize that working policy #075 unwittingly admits that Adventism preaches another gospel. Adventist leaders, however, have not realized the theological implications of this statement.
I came across this policy recently on a former Adventist website. It is part of an entire series of policies that regulates the "Relationships with Other Christian Churches and Religious Organizations". You can read the entire section here: http://adventist.org/beliefs/other-documents/other-doc5.html
Relationships with Other Christian Churches and Religious Organizations
6. In the origin and rise of the Seventh-day Adventist people, the burden was laid upon us to emphasize the gospel of Christ's second coming as an imminent event, calling for the proclamation of Biblical truths in the setting of the special message of preparation as described in Bible prophecy, particularly in Revelation 14:6-14.
"The gospel of Christ's second coming"?
The second coming of Christ is certainly our "blessed hope" (Tit. 2:13), but Scripture never refers to it as "gospel".
Why not? There are two reasons: the second coming has not yet taken place, and it is not the event of salvation. The event of salvation happened at the cross, when Jesus shed His blood to justify us from all sin. The true gospel, as we saw above in Acts 13, is the forgiveness of sins that God has already finished in His Son. Since it is already an accomplished fact, it can be preached as the gospel, the good news of salvation to everyone who believes.
To call the second coming of Christ a "gospel" is to misrepresent the Scriptures and to tread under foot the blood of Christ, because it is only in His blood that we have remission of sins.
Further, in policy #075, the so-called gospel of the second coming requires the "setting of the special message of preparation as described in Bible prophecy". In Adventist doctrine, this "message of preparation" actually means its "peculiar doctrines", its "distinctives": the Sabbath, the law of God, the 2300 days, the state of the dead, the gift of prophecy in Ellen G. White, the health message, the investigative judgment, and others. The Adventist's "special message" betrays a premeditated intentionality, brewed in a mind other than human, to redirect the eyes of men and women away from the cross and thus to exclude them from saving grace. Adventism has invented its own gospel, which, although it is bolstered with a multitude of Bible texts and preached with great pomp and circumstance in its evangelistic campaigns, is still another gospel.
We would rather think that a "false gospel" would be preached under the guise of strange-sounding doctrine. Instead, the father of lies has gone about re-packaging Christians' cherished hope, the second coming, and sold it as "the gospel of Christ's second coming" shored up by several unique "Adventist distinctives" which have the wrappings of Biblical doctrine but lack the substance of the remission of sins.
Adventist gospel lacks justification by faith alone
The Adventist organization has never included in its list of "distinctive truths" the doctrines of justification by faith alone, the cross, nor the atonement. Instead, they call the message of the cross an "emphasis" preached by "Sunday churches", but in their evangelism and internal teaching Adventists finally dismiss these churches as "apostate Protestantism", the "image of the beast", the "false prophet", or "Babylon" because they do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath.
For official Adventism, where, then, is the message of the cross? It is eclipsed because it is not their "emphasis". For Adventists, salvation does not center on the cross but on the Ten Commandments. Keeping the Sabbath is the mark of those who are saved. Other Protestants who may preach the cross are quickly branded as illegitimate because they worship on Sunday. The cross of Christ is effectively abolished. Sabbath, not Christ, is the last-day message.
While I was an Adventist conference secretary (and beginning to understand the gospel) I asked the Union president at a Union-wide workers' retreat, "If we really want to be a peculiar people and have a special message, why don't we preach the cross and 'out-grace' the evangelicals with the message of Christ and Him crucified?"
I remember the quizzical look he gave me, perhaps questioning my Adventist loyalty, and his candid reply: "Well, we'll let the evangelicals do that. We have a special message to give for these last days." Then he immediately went back to another conversation he was holding with another worker about how to deal with local churches on their church-school subsidy default!
So Adventists will keep their "gospel of Christ's second coming". What astute trickery to draw sinners' eyes away and far from the cross.
Proclaim His death
Jesus did not ask us to proclaim the second coming until He returns. Rather, it is His death which we are to proclaim until He comes, and we remember it by means of the sacrament of His broken body for our sins. 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 instructs us,
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
It is by means of the new and better covenant that He has already inaugurated that we are saved by faith alone. We are not saved by the old and failed covenant of the law to which Adventist doctrine points as the way to prepare for the second coming (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 7-9).
Frequently the world-wide Adventist evangelistic campaigns proclaim the slogan, "Christ is coming soon, be prepared!" But this preparation does not call the hearers to the new covenant of Jesus confirmed through His shed blood. Instead, it calls the hearers to the law and to the old covenant of obedience. Here Adventists also distort the Scriptures: they pull Revelation 12:17 out of its context and apply it to themselves. That text clearly states that the saved have "overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (v. 11).
This verse describes those who keep the commands that God has given to believe in His Son and be saved (Jn. 6:29). Moreover, we know that believing in Jesus is not a vain hope because Jesus gave witness of His finished work through His resurrection. This is the gospel—Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, and it is the only gospel that Scripture recognizes as the Gospel.
The Lord Jesus never stated, "If you preach my second coming, I will draw all unto me." "No one comes to the Father, but through the preaching of the gospel of the second coming." "In the second coming there is remission of sins."
Rather, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all unto me" (Jn. 12:32). Only in His shed blood is there remission of sins. He took our sins in His body to the cross, became a curse for us, and through his wounds we are healed. Even Isaiah prophesying hundreds of years before Christ saw His sacrifice as complete, finished, to be given as an announcement, although few would believe it (Is. 53:1).
The Adventist gospel (according to policy #075) nullifies the redemption that the Lord freely gave us on the cross and postpones the event of salvation until the second coming. Moreover, one prepares for this coming by keeping the law. The law, however, never saves. Its function has always been to condemn, to entice the carnal nature to sin, and to guarantee God's wrath to the sinner (Rom. 3:20; 5:20; Gal. 3:19). Only the blood of Christ shed on Calvary can prepare one for His second coming.
The Adventist gospel says, "Jesus is coming soon; if you prepare according to our rules of preparation, you have a good chance of being ready when He comes."
The gospel of Jesus Christ says, "On the cross Christ already prepared you for His coming, and by faith in Him you have been declared ready for His coming, and nothing can change that."
The Adventist gospel of the second coming is as if a rescue boat came to a drowning, thrashing man gasping for air in the waves and tells him, "I have good news for you! Very soon someone is coming for you. Until then, take this little flashlight which also has audio for listening to truth-filled Bible studies; and you might as well take these red books as well [Ellen White's works] so you can read them and be prepared for your rescue. And here, try floating on these two tablets of stone, one of them has a number 4 on it—try getting a foothold on that one; you'll have a better chance at floating. But we can't guarantee you anything. If you don't follow our instructions to the letter of the law, you will drown forever."
The gospel of Jesus Christ sets a huge cross in front of the drowning one. Its arms grasp us and pull us into the life boat, and we are taken to the inn of faith where our wounds are healed and we are nourished and restored. We wait in that refuge until the Lord appears once again in power and great glory.
For this reason the Lord has asked us to participate frequently in the supper of His body, so that as we partake of the bread and drink the cup, we may "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor. 11:25, 26).
With the Adventist gospel one is never quite sure he is really prepared for Jesus' coming. How many times in Adventism world-wide have people gone to seminars on "Preparation for the Final Crisis" or "How to Prepare for the Last Days", and at the end, who can truly say they are prepared? No one. Moreover, people who say they are prepared are hypocrites, because they know full well that they have to suffocate their unbelief and the doubt in their own hearts. The only thing they feel for sure is more fear and uncertainty.
In contrast, the gospel of Jesus Christ says,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).
Even before the second coming we are already there by faith, sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
In the Adventist gospel we have the assurance of perdition. In the gospel of Jesus Christ we have the assurance of salvation. We are already counted among the saved, and by faith alone!
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:7-9). †
Copyright 2012 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Casa Grande, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised July 2, 2012. Contact email: email@example.com
Haroldo Camacho lives with his wife and two year old son in Cathedral City, California. He currently works as a translator for the California court system and recently completed the translation and publication of one of Martin Luther's major works into Spanish: Luther's 1535 Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. Haroldo was an ordained minister in Adventism. He taught at the Adventist seminary in Lima, Peru, and last worked for the Adventists as Secretary of the Southeastern California Conference. Haroldo earned a Ph.D. in theology from the School of Theology at Claremont, California , and finally discovered the gospel through the study of Romans and Galatians. Today he is working with several former students and others in Peru to organize independent gospel churches. (Haroldo likes to race bikes, too.)