Many of you know that I have not had the best attitude recently regarding some modern day church practices. I’m not attractional. I love Jesus, I love people, but I am not sold on all of the methodologies the church to connect the two. Don’t get me wrong, I desire to see people come to faith in Jesus, people need Jesus. I believe people need to hear that there is a God who loves them, that He has a plan for them, etc. That should be the message that their Christian friends give them, people need hope.
During the last days on earth, a time that guys in my eschatological camp refer to as the tribulation, there will be a different gospel declared. In Revelation 14:6-7, John writes about an angel, flying in midheaven (the sky) proclaiming what is called the “eternal gospel” to all people on earth.
He will be saying, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
–Rev 14:7 (NASB)
As you read through the book of Acts, its interesting how the gospel sounds so much different when presented to the crowds, than it does today. In Acts 2:23, Peter delivers it with some of the strongest rebuke possible, even citing guilt for Jesus’ murder. In Acts 3, we see him call the crowd to repentance (Acts 3:19) with great clarity. We see Stephen’s defense in Acts 7 culminate in one of the most incredible rebukes recorded:
“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” –Acts 7:51-53 (NASB)
Stephen was martyred right after that one.
Of course, most of this fiery preaching was directed at the Jewish religious crowd, we something apparently softer in tone in Acts 8 with Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. This is on of those beautiful cases where someone is looking at the scriptures, and only needs gentle instruction,… he was half way there.
During Paul’s journeys we see him reasoning with the religious crowd as well as the non-religious, but one thing seems to follow him from town to town,… trouble. He didn’t get into trouble because he was preaching an attractional gospel to the crowds, he got in trouble because the gospel was presented with a call to repentance. This isn’t so popular. Many folks will cite his sermon on Mars Hill as the model for how the gospel needs to be presented today. Paul uses the Athenian “unknown god” as a springboard to “share.” When he gets to making a point about resurrection, he loses the crowd however, and only a few are saved.
The gospel in every case, seems to call men to “do” something,… to repent, believe, be baptized, etc., but it never leaves them feeling okay about not doing anything.
Which presentation is better suited for our society in America? Are we basically spiritual people, who like the Ethiopian or the Athenians just need some clarification? Or are we more like the murderous self righteous religious crowd, who need a rebuke?
I fear that the “good news of salvation in Jesus” is being watered down these days to the point of being impotent. Our “culturally relevant gospel” may leave more people hearing the “eternal gospel” from the angel that we realize.