Saviour of the World
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 19 — The Three Angels’ Messages

Let’s conclude this most important study on the human nature of Christ by considering how it affects the truth of the three angels’ messages — that proclamation of righteousness by faith which God raised up the Advent movement to give to the whole world before the end comes.

Revelation 14:6-11
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.  Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice:  “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever.  There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

In 1888, when Waggoner and Jones equated the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 (above) with justification by faith, many questioned this assumption and wrote to Ellen White for her reaction.  Her response was:

The Review and Herald, 1 April 1890
Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message in verity.”  [KEY PTS.]

The three angels’ messages are a unique Adventist doctrine.  They are the restoration and proclamation of the everlasting gospel in all its fullness and beauty.  They are the fulfillment of one of the major predictions Christ made in Matthew 24 concerning end-time events:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

When the everlasting gospel of the three angels’ messages has been proclaimed “to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people,” there will be no excuse for any to be lost:

Revelation 14:6
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language, and people.

Every human being who has reached the age of accountability will have made his or her final and ultimate decision — either for or against Christ.  Probation will then close, and the end will come.

But what does the everlasting gospel of the three angels’ messages encompass and how does it differ from what the Christian church as a whole is proclaiming today?  Here, in a nutshell, is what the 1888 message perceived this most precious truth to be.

The first angel has the everlasting gospel to proclaim to every corner of this inhabited world.  It is the truth of the gospel fully restored and proclaimed as God’s final message of love and hope to a world lost in sin.  It is a message that warns the world that the hour of God’s end-time judgment has come and that mankind’s only hope in the judgment is in Christ’s righteousness.  God raised up the advent movement to proclaim this message as its “global mission.”

The second angel joins the first in proclaiming that Babylon has fallen because she has apostatized from the everlasting gospel.  The word Babylon comes from the root word “Bab-el” — Bab meaning “gate,” while el is the Semitic word for “God.”  Put together, the word Bab-el signifies human beings trying to reach the gate of heaven, or God, through their own efforts.  The tower of Babel is a good example of how humans try to reach heaven by their own effort.

Revelation 14:8
A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

This is how Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s great king, summed up the principle on which Babylon was based — the principle of self:

Daniel 4:30
[King Nebuchadnezzar] said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

According to the prophet Daniel, the reason the literal kingdom of Babylon fell was because Belshazzar, the king following Nebuchadnezzar, deliberately refused to recognize the God of heaven or give Him glory:

Daniel 5:17-28
Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else.  Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.  Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor.  Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him.  Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled.  But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.  He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.  But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.  Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven.  You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them.  You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand.  But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.  Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.  This is the inscription that was written:  mene, mene, tekel, parsin.  Here is what these words mean:  Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.  Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.  Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

The second angel of Revelation 14 does not add to the message of the everlasting gospel; he simply informs the world that spiritual Babylon has fallen because she has made all nations accept her perverted gospel. 

This gospel is polluted by man’s self-righteousness, a righteousness that is “filthy rags” in God’s eyes; it will not stand the scrutiny of the judgment because it is polluted with self:

Isaiah 64:6
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

The third angel joins the first two angels in proclaiming the everlasting gospel, but adds a solemn warning that if anyone deliberately and ultimately rejects Christ’s righteousness, signified by receiving the mark of the beast, he or she will have to suffer the verdict of God’s judgment by joining the devil and his angels in the lake of fire:

Revelation 14:9-12
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice:  “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever.  There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
Matthew 25:41
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

The mark of the beast becomes the outward sign of self-righteousness.  In the last days it will be manifested by accepting Sunday as a counterfeit day of rest in contrast to the Sabbath, which symbolizes God’s rest, or finished work.  To receive the mark of the beast is to rest in our own righteousness for salvation in contrast to resting in Christ’s finished work for us.  The seal of God is placed on those who are faithful to Him and who observe the seventh-day Sabbath as His day of rest as the outward sign of justification by faith in Christ’s perfect righteousness.  Hence the third angel’s message is justification by faith alone in verity.

But how does this message differ from the message of justification by faith preached by the popular churches of today?

The 1888 message of righteousness by faith went beyond the popular view of this doctrine preached by the Christian churches of that time, as well as today.  According to the popular view, righteousness by faith means God declaring righteous the sinner who believes in Christ.  It limits justification to only a forensic or legal declaration imputed to the believer and which involves no subjective experience.

In contrast, the most precious message of 1888 claimed that the truth of righteousness by faith goes beyond a legal declaration; it does in reality bring about a change of heart which makes the believing sinner obedient to all the commandments of God.  This message was part and parcel of the Day of Atonement “cleansing of the sanctuary” ministry of Christ, which began in 1844 and will continue until probation closes.

One reason the 1888 message has become controversial is this unique definition of righteousness by faith.  Many of those who hold strongly to the evangelical definition of justification by faith condemn anyone who adds a subjective experience to that doctrine.  The Adventist Church tried to solve this controversy at the Palmdale conference in 1976, when Adventist leaders and scholars met to discuss the issues.  Unfortunately, this conference failed to solve the problem, and the controversy is still being debated today:  Should righteousness by faith be limited only to justification, or should it include sanctification as well?

Scripture, especially the writings of the apostle Paul, often presents the truth of righteousness by faith in contrast to righteousness by works:

Acts 13:39
Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Romans 3:28; 9:30-33
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  ...What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the stumbling stone.  As it is written:  “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Galatians 2:16
...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

All through Scripture, righteousness by faith is presented as God’s way of saving sinners in contrast to man’s way of saving himself.  It is referred to as the new or everlasting covenant, in contrast to the old covenant.  Because our works have no merit and, therefore, contribute absolutely nothing toward the justification by faith that entitles us to heaven, many insist that sanctification, important as it may be, must not be included in the doctrine of righteousness by faith.

Such an unfortunate conclusion is the result of an incomplete understanding of the gospel.  It is based on a misunderstanding of what Christ saved us from in His earthly mission.  By limiting the salvation Christ obtained on the cross for all mankind to only salvation from the guilt and punishment of sin, we limit the doctrine of righteousness by faith to only a forensic or legal declaration that does not include the experience of sanctification.  All this is the fruit of an incorrect view of the human nature Christ assumed at the Incarnation in order to be the Saviour of the world.

Only in the light of the true and full gospel can we come to a correct understanding of the doctrine of righteousness by faith.  After all, righteousness by faith simply means appropriating to oneself, or receiving by faith, what God has already accomplished for fallen humanity in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ came to save fallen humanity from every aspect of sin — its guilt and punishment, its power and slavery, as well as its nature and presence.  Righteousness by faith must include all this.

According to the clear teaching of Scripture, the faith that justifies is also the faith that sanctifies, and it will also one day glorify the believer whose faith endures to the end.  In his introduction to the book of Romans, this is how Paul describes receiving the righteousness of Christ:

Romans 1:17
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  “The righteous will live by faith.”

Please notice, “from first to last” it is only by faith that we experience the righteousness of Christ.

When the Bible declares “the righteous will live by faith,” the living that results from accepting the truth of righteousness by faith does not begin when we go to heaven.  It begins the moment we step under the umbrella of justification by faith.  That is why Paul always ended his letters to the churches with counsel on how Christians who are justified by faith should live.  Righteousness by faith in practical reality means:

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Since Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” the life that He lived some 2,000 years ago in our corporate sinful humanity, He will again live in the believer today through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

This, too, is righteousness by faith, the power of God unto salvation:

Romans 8:11-14
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation — but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.  For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

God’s remnant people will realize all this when two things take place.  First, as a church, we need to correctly understand and accept a true understanding of the human nature Christ assumed and redeemed in His earthly mission.  We need to understand that, in the Incarnation, He assumed our sinful human nature dominated by the law of sin in order to fully redeem mankind from every aspect of the sin predicament.  This is truly the everlasting gospel, the three angels’ messages.

Second, God’s remnant needs to fully understand the New Testament definition of faith.  Too often, faith is defined today as simply “trusting in God.”  Faith does definitely include trust in God, but nowhere does the New Testament use the word faith as a synonym for the word trust; nowhere does it limit faith to merely trusting in God.  Faith involves far more.

According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, genuine faith involves three elements, all of which must be present in the believer if he or she is to experience the full truth of being justified by faith.

  1. A knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ.  Jesus told the Jews:

    John 8:32
    “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    By the word truth, Jesus was referring to Himself.  He went on to say:

    John 8:36
    “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

    Incidentally, this statement was made in the context to our slavery to sin:

    John 8:34
    Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

    Paul brings out the same thought when he declares:

    Romans 10:17
    Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

  2. Believing the truth as it is in Christ.  The fact that a person hears the message of the gospel is not enough to save.  A knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ must be accompanied by a belief in what has been heard.  To believe means a mental assent to the truth as it is in Christ.

    Keep in mind that much of the truth of the gospel may contradict our human reason or even the scientific method.  For example, when the disciples informed Thomas that Jesus had risen from the dead and that they had actually seen Him personally, doubting Thomas refused to believe this information until He could verify it himself.  As a result, Jesus said to him when He confronted his unbelief:

    John 20:29
    Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    Faith is taking God at His word, even though it may disagree with our rational or human experience.  When God informed Noah that the earth would be destroyed by a flood, Noah believed God even though it had never rained before.  Similarly, when God told Abraham that his wife would have the promised son after she had passed the age of childbearing, he believed, even though what God told him contradicted medical science and human experience.

    Romans 4:16-18
    Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.  As it is written:  “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

    But genuine faith does not stop at a mental assent to truth; there is a third requirement that is vital to one’s experience of salvation in Christ.

  3. Obeying the truth as it is in Christ.  It is here where most Christians come short of understanding the full meaning of New Testament faith.  By limiting faith to only a mental assent to truth, many have fallen into the trap of cheap grace.  This is the result of an incorrect view of the doctrine of substitution, the idea that Christ saved us by bearing our sins only vicariously on the cross.  Such a view, as we have already seen, leaves a big gulf between Christ and the human race He came to save.  Besides, this vicarious view of substitution limits salvation to a salvation from only sin’s guilt and punishment.  In my opinion, a correct view of the humanity of Christ is the only way to understand the true view of substitution and prevent the idea of cheap grace.

    The apostle Peter put it like this:

    1 Peter 2:24
    “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

    Please note how Peter links Christ bearing our sins in His own body with our having died to sins.  This is because the death of Christ was a corporate death; all men died in that one man, and faith involves understanding and obeying this truth:

    2 Corinthians 5:14
    For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

    Paul brings out the same thought when he states that we were delivered from the jurisdiction of the law as well as its condemnation by our death in the body of Christ:

    Romans 7:4
    So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

    The purpose of this death is not only that we may be saved from the condemnation of the law, but also that we may bear fruit unto God and serve Him in newness of the Spirit:

    Romans 7:4, 6
    So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  ...But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

    All this becomes meaningful when we recognize that Christ’s humanity was our corporate humanity that needed redeeming.

    True Christianity is more than a mental assent to the gospel; it is a participation in Christ and Him crucified.  Faith, therefore, involves obedience to the truth as is it is in Christ.  The Bible, and especially the apostle Paul, makes it crystal clear that faith is obeying the truth as it is in Christ.  Read the following texts and note the positive as well as the negative statements regarding the obedience of faith:

    Romans 1:5; 6:17; 10:16; 16:26
    Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.  ...But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  ...But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  ...But now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith....
    Galatians 5:7
    You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
    2 Thessalonians 1:8
    He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
    Hebrews 5:8-9
    Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him....
    1 Peter 4:17
    For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

    What does it actually mean to obey the gospel, and is this obedience synonymous with obeying the law?

    To the second part of this question, the answer is No!  Obeying the gospel is not the same as obeying the law.  However, obeying the gospel does lead to obeying the law.  To put it another way, the fruit of obeying the gospel is obeying the law.  Obeying the gospel is what saves or justifies us from sin subjectively, but such salvation also includes salvation from the power of sin and slavery to sin, and this, in turn, produces the fruit of the Spirit — agape love, the byproduct of which is joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  Such fruit is in perfect harmony with the law of God:

    Galatians 5:22-24
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

    But what does it actually mean to obey the gospel?

    The first thing we must realize is that obeying the gospel does not mean doing something.  Rather, it means surrendering the will to an already accomplished truth — the truth as it is in Christ and Him crucified.  Such obedience means we acknowledge and accept the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as our own life, death, and resurrection.  The holy history of Christ, realized in His humanity, implicated the whole human race.  He is the second Adam or mankind.  So faith is saying Yes to what God did to us in Christ.  A Christian, in other words, is one who is faithful to the truth as it is in Christ:

    Ephesians 1:1
    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus....

    Such obedience means that all aspects of our subjective salvation are based on an objective salvation already accomplished and realized in Christ and Him crucified.  Righteousness by faith is, therefore, the righteousness of Christ made effective in the believer through the operation of the indwelling Holy Spirit:

    2 Corinthians 3:17-18
    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

    And since Christ redeemed us from every aspect of sin, righteousness by faith encompasses salvation from every aspect of sin — not just its guilt and condemnation.

With this in mind, let’s turn now to consider what righteousness by faith involves and includes in terms of the three aspects of salvation — justification, sanctification, and glorification.

  1. Justification.  The moment one hears and obeys by faith the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, such a person immediately experiences what the Bible calls justification by faith:

    Romans 3:28
    For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

    He or she subjectively passes from condemnation to justification, or as Jesus put it, from death to life:

    John 5:24
    “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

    As a result, the believer now experiences peace with God, since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus:

    Romans 5:1; 8:1
    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....

    This is because God considers the believer perfect in Christ — perfect in performance, perfect in justice, and even perfect in nature since, in His humanity, Christ accomplished all three for us.  He did this by His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  This is the good news of the gospel.

    Such is the beginning of the Christian experience.  The believer has been delivered from the fear of the second death:

    Hebrews 2:14-15
    Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

    He or she can join Paul in declaring:

    Philippians 1:21
    For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

    This peace with God and the hope of eternal life is the foundation of Christian living.  Unfortunately, many Adventists do not have this assurance of salvation.  As a result, they are unable to experience genuine sanctification that is motivated by love, and not by fear of punishment or desire for reward.  Even their confession of present sins is motivated by egocentric concerns which in itself is a sin in God’s eyes because it is polluted with self.

    It is crucial, then, that, as a people, we clearly understand what justification by faith is all about.  For without this understanding, our sanctification experience will be full of frustrations and hopelessness.  By limiting justification to only the forgiveness of past sins, most Adventists have been robbed of the joy and peace of salvation in Christ.

    Forgiveness, wonderful as it may be, is still a negative thing and does not give us title to heaven.  For the law demands perfect obedience, as well as a perfect nature:

    1 Corinthians 15:50
    I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

    But this the believer already has in Christ; Jesus produced for us a perfect righteousness in our corporate sinful humanity and fully redeemed it in the resurrection.  In Him we stand absolutely perfect and are fully qualified for heaven, both now and in the judgment:

    Romans 10:4
    Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

  2. Sanctification.  The moment the believer is justified by faith, God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in that person.  Not only does the Spirit convince our spirit that we are now the children of God and joint heirs with Christ...

    Romans 8:16-17
    The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

    ...but He also bestows on us His most excellent gift, the gift of agape love:

    1 Corinthians 13
    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

    Empowered by the gift of agape love that “is not self-seeking” (verse 5), the believer is able to follow Jesus’ command to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you:

    Matthew 5:44
    “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you....”
    Luke 6:27-36
    “But to you who are listening I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.  If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

    Such love is the most powerful witness to a selfish and sinful world.  It proves that the gospel is not merely words, but the power of God unto salvation:

    1 Corinthians 4:20
    For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

    Jesus Himself declared:

    John 13:35
    “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    It is this fact, above every other, that will lighten the earth with Christ’s glory.  It is this that will make it possible for God to declare, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”:

    Revelation 14:12
    This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

    When the fourth angel of Revelation 18 joins the three angels of Revelation 14 to give power to their messages, this witness will become a reality, and the earth will be lightened with God’s glory.  Then the end can come, and believers can experience glorification, the final stage of their salvation experience in Christ.

    All this is part and parcel of the glorious truth of Christ our righteousness and of the experience of righteousness by faith.  This is the truth that will one day swallow up every other truth.  We must keep in mind that, while the everlasting gospel is what Christ has already accomplished for fallen humanity in His earthly mission, the object of this gospel is more than just saving sinners from the guilt and punishment of sin, wonderful as this may be.  God’s purpose in saving us in Christ is also to restore His image in us — the image that sin has robbed us of.

    Sin not only deprived humanity of life, it also robbed mankind of the glory of God:

    Romans 3:23
    ...For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....

    Consequently, the gospel not only gives us eternal life, but it also restores the glory of God in the believer:

    2 Corinthians 3:17-18
    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

    This restoration begins the moment we are justified by faith, becomes more and more a reality during the process of sanctification, and will be fully realized at the second coming of Christ when glorification takes place.

    As we grow in grace and the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ, as we see more and more the glory of God shining in the face of Christ’s humanity, as we walk in the Spirit of Christ, we become “transformed into his image”:

    2 Corinthians 3:18
    And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

    This is what Paul meant when he declared to the Christians at Rome that they were justified by faith, had peace with God, and were now standing in, or under, grace:

    Romans 5:1-2
    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

    To Paul, standing in, or under, grace meant more than a ticket to heaven; it also meant that God’s grace or power was now available to the justified believers so that they might arrive at the glory of God:

    Romans 5:3
    Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance....

    The primary meaning of grace in the New Testament is undeserved favor — God’s loving disposition towards the sinful human race which led Him to send His Son to save us:

    Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9
    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace....  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

    However, the word grace is also used to mean the power or strength of God, made available to the justified believer in order that he or she might live the Christian life and fulfill the divine purpose.  The apostle Paul often used the word grace in this sense when applying it to his own life and mission:

    1 Corinthians 15:9-10
    For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
    2 Corinthians 12:7b-9
    Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
    Ephesians 3:1-12
    For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me:  to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

    In the process of sanctification, no change takes place to our flesh or sinful nature; it remains innately sinful until the second advent.  Sanctification brings about a change only to our characters as they reflect more and more the loving disposition and behavior Christ revealed in His humanity and especially at the cross:

    Romans 5:8
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    It is the experience of glorification toward which we Christians look forward when it comes to the redemption of our vile bodies:

    Philippians 3:20-21
    But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    This is the blessed hope, when we will be totally delivered from the sin problem.  Until then, our own sinful natures will be our worst enemies in our battle against sin.  But thank God, in our struggles with the principle of self that dwells in our members, there is no condemnation, because we are in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:1). 

    Romans 8:1
    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....

    In Him we stand perfect.

  3. Glorification.  This is the ultimate reality of salvation obtained for sinful humanity in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the blessed hope of justification by faith to which all believers longingly look forward.  While justification gives us Christians our title to heaven, and sanctification makes us fit for heaven, glorification is when heaven will become a living reality.

    Remember that, during the process of sanctification, no change takes place to our sinful nature.  It continues to remain dominated by the law of sin, the principle of self.  Because of this, the flesh becomes our greatest hindrance to living the Christian life.  Paul told the Christians at Rome that believers will be groaning within themselves, anxiously and patiently waiting for the redemption of their bodies:

    Romans 8:22-23
    We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

    Justification by faith gives us peace with God, since Christ becomes:

    Romans 10:4
    Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

    Sanctification by faith manifests or witnesses to the saving power of the gospel:

    2 Corinthians 3:17-18
    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

    But glorification eradicates sin from our natures and ushers in eternal life as a tangible reality:

    Philippians 3:20-21
    But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

But all three of these experiences are the result of God’s redeeming grace obtained for fallen mankind in Christ when He assumed our sinful humanity in the incarnation and redeemed it by His life, death, and resurrection.  No wonder Ellen White could write:

Selected Messages, 1:244
The humanity of Christ is everything to us.

This is the full and complete gospel I believe God has raised up the advent movement to restore, proclaim, and witness to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before probation can close and this sin-cursed world of ours can be brought to an end.  A true understanding of the humanity of our Saviour, in the light of this full and complete gospel, will, therefore, play a vital part in finishing this God-given commission.  This is why I feel it is so important that God’s people stop throwing mud at each other and be willing to sit down with their Bibles and let the Holy Spirit guide them into all the truth on this important subject.  May that day come soon.  Amen.


Key Points in Chapter 19
• The Three Angels’ Messages •
  1. The gospel — justification by faith — is the essence of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, as Ellen White confirmed (Review and Herald, 1 April 1890).

  2. The first angel has the everlasting gospel to proclaim to the whole world.  The second angel announces that Babylon has fallen because she has apostatized from the everlasting gospel.  And the third angel adds a solemn warning that anyone who deliberately and ultimately rejects Christ’s righteousness will suffer the verdict of God’s judgment.

  3. The 1888 message of righteousness by faith went beyond the popular view of the gospel being preached at that time — and today.  According to the popular view, righteousness by faith means God’s declaring righteous the sinner who believes in Christ.  The 1888 message taught that righteousness by faith goes beyond a legal declaration; it does in reality bring about a change of heart which makes the believing sinner obedient to all the commandments of God.

  4. According to Scripture, the faith that justifies is also the faith that sanctifies, and it will also one day glorify the believer whose faith endures to the end.  Righteousness by faith, then, includes justification, sanctification, and glorification.

    1. Justification.  The moment one hears and obeys the gospel by faith, he or she immediately experiences justification by faith.  He or she subjectively passes from condemnation to justification — from death to life.

    2. Sanctification.  The moment a believer is justified by faith, God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in that person.  Empowered by the gift of love, the believer is able to live a holy life and grow in the grace and knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ.

    3. Glorification.  This is the ultimate reality of salvation — the blessed hope to which all believers longingly look forward.

  5. Genuine faith involves more than simply trusting in God.  It involves:
    1. A knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.
    2. Believing the truth as it is in Jesus.
    3. Obeying the truth as it is in Jesus.

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