January 3, 2008

The Technical Meaning of the Term, “THE GOSPEL,” Part 4

Dear Guests:

We are continuing the special series by Greg Schliesmann


Exhibit G: Ephesians 1:12-14

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, “THE GOSPEL” of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Notice the phrase “the gospel” of your SALVATION.” Would crossless gospel advocates dare to argue that this refers to the “salvation” of believers from temporal wrath?

In light of yet another passage like this, how can crossless gospel proponents arguethe gospel” is just a general term for “good news” and never has a technical usage for the message of salvation by which the lost are saved?

We could go on. Some other passages to consider include Rom. 10:16; 2Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9 4:13; Col. 1:5; 1Thes. 1:5; 2Thes. 1:8; 2:14; 2Tim. 1:10; 1Pet. 1:23-25; 4:17.

I believe all of these show, beyond any doubt, that there is definitely a technical usage of the term “THE GOSPEL” that refers to the specific “message of the cross,” which is the wonderful news the lost must believe in order to be reconciled to God forever.

How important is this? I would like to present one more passage that demonstrates the importance of this issue and proves that the destiny for those who do not believe “the gospel” is eternity in hell.

Exhibit H. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10:

“Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not “THE GOSPEL” of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”

Notice that those who do not believe the gospel,” “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” It is hard to imagine any language that could more clearly teach that those who do not believe “the gospel will go to hell.

The Punishment of Eternal Hell

This passage clearly refers to eternal damnation in hell for several reasons:

First, those who do not believe “the gospel,” “shall be punished with everlasting destruction.” This is not temporary punishment—it is everlasting.

Second, this passage describes the judgment of those who rejected “the gospel” including the persecutors of the Thessalonians. Some might wish to argue the passage describes punishment during the Tribulation, but the point of this passage is about God’s final judgment of the lost. Paul encourages the Thessalonians in the midst of their tribulations by reminding them that God will ultimately judge those who rejected “the gospel.” Jesus Christ will be glorified among (Gr. “en”) the saints and admired among all believers when He exercises His righteousness and vindicates them by punishing the lost with everlasting destruction.

If this passage dealt with the Tribulation, those who persecuted the Thessalonians avoided the very punishment Paul promised they would suffer. This passage must deal with everlasting damnation. The persecutors of the Thessalonians will be raised from the dead at the Great White Throne Judgment and punished with everlasting destruction when they are thrown into the Lake of Fire. At the same time, Jesus Christ will be glorified and admired among saints, including the Thessalonians

Even if this passage described temporal wrath of the Tribulation, that ultimately does not help crossless proponents (unless they believe in a partial rapture) because the condition for a person living the Church Age to escape the Tribulation is exactly the same for escaping punishment in hell.

Third, those who did not believe “the gospel” will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” The word “presence” is literally “face.” This means that the Lord’s literal presence will bring their everlasting destruction (this is the same idiom found in Acts 3:19). Every damned person will face the Lord before suffering the Lake of Fire, whether that person is living at the end of the Tribulation or whether that person is raised at the Great White Throne Judgment. According to Revelation 20:12, those who persecuted the Thessalonians will be raised to “stand before God” (Rev. 20:12). This short appearance before the Lord and the glory of His power will result in their eternal destruction. This aspect of the verse, as well, only fits with eternal destruction in hell.

It seems superfluous to point out even more reasons why this passage definitely speaks about the punishment of eternal hell for those who do not believe “the gospel.”

Believe “the gospel”

This passage not only speaks about the eternal damnation of the lost but it also identifies the lost by the fact they have “not obeyed the gospel.” By contrast, the saved are those who “believed.”

The phrase “them that know not God and that believe not the gospel” is an example of hendiadys. Paul explains the same people in two ways. The ones who do not know God are the ones who believe not “the gospel.” Paul speaks of knowing God in the sense that every saved person has known God by believing in Jesus Christ (see Mat. 11:7; John 17:3, 25; Gal. 4:9; 2Cor. 4:4-6).

Free grace believers should not be startled by the phrase “obey not the gospel.” This does not refer to obedience to a set of commandments. In this context, it refers specifically to the obedient response to one specific message of “the gospel.” That response is to believe it. This is clear from the contrast between the damned who have “not obeyed the gospel” (v. 8) and the saved which are “all those who believe” including the Thessalonians “because our testimony among you was believed” (v. 10).

Notice that the opposite of “obey not the gospel” (v. 8) is “our testimony among you was believed” (v. 10). Some crossless gospel advocates have argued there is a distinction between believing a message (i.e. the gospel) and believing in Christ. This passage, like many others, shows that Scripture speaks of believing a message as the condition to salvation. In contrast with the lost who did not obey the gospel, the Thessalonians believed Paul’s testimony of the gospel. Because of that, they are counted among the saints among whom the Lord will be glorified and admired when He avenges them by punishing the lost. There is no contradiction between believing the gospel and believing in Christ.

Paul speaks the same way in Romans 10:16: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel.. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?” Please notice again that the way to believe the Gospel is to obey it.

It is obvious from this passage that “the gospel” does have a technical usage for the specific message the lost need to believe in order to be saved. If the Thessalonians were not familiar with this technical usage, it would have been quite a terrible surprise to find out those who “obey not” an unidentifiable message were doomed to eternal destruction.

This passage is a real problem for those who cannot say “the gospel” refers to the specific message the lost must believe in order to be saved. Think again of Jeremy Myer’s conclusion—essentially, ‘the gospel’ includes everything in the NT, if not everything in the entire Bible.” If this were true, how could we ever be sure of escaping the doom that awaits those who believe not “the gospel” according to 2Thes. 1:8-10?

Continue at The Technical Meaning of the Term, “THE GOSPEL” Wrap Up

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