Lou: Now in light of this book’s theme that there is no need to be afraid of God, I have to ask; how can you preach the three angels’ messages without inspiring fear? Even the first angel’s message sounds a note of judgment (Rev 14:7). That makes one feel a bit uneasy. And after that comes the second and the third. How can you preach judgment, even in the first, without producing fear?
Graham: This is a very good illustration of the points we made before. We need to interpret texts like these. We did some of this in Chapter Nine, the one entitled “There Is No Need to Be Afraid of God.” We talked about judgment there. People interpret the concept of judgment in various ways. Those who prefer a more legal model of atonement will say, “There is no need to be afraid in the judgment, because we have a Friend up there. But they don’t mean the Father, they mean the Son. Or they may say, “We have no need to be afraid, because the legal penalty has been paid. The Father is fearsome, but if you’re paid up you don’t have to worry.”
I believe the good news that we don’t have to be afraid is based on the fact that our Friend up there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are our friends. That’s the best reason for facing the judgment unafraid.
Lou: You’ve challenged us to the hard work of thinking, yet you’ve still said the message is simple enough that a child can understand. If that’s true, then how is it that people have so many different versions of the gospel, even within our own fellowship? Why is there so much disagreement, often generating more heat than light, over the gospel? Why isn’t it so simple that everyone can say, “Oh yes, fine, that’s it, I agree.”
Graham: Well, Paul seemed to think it was simple. He says: “Since the death of Christ was explained so clearly to you, how could you be such dear idiots as to go back to the other view?” He even goes so far as to say: “Who has been casting a spell over you?” or as some versions say: “Who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1. Actually, Paul was right about that. We cannot leave out the adversary when talking about the gospel. The gospel is what defeats him. And he is determined to pervert it, not so much by contradicting it as by twisting it. There are many “twistings” of the good news and the adversary is involved in that. But we also need to allow for some honest differences. It’s hard to give up our prejudices, so we should be patient with each other. But the day is coming when we all need to have it clearly worked out, so we can stake our lives on it and survive the troubles of the End-time. We will have more to say about that in Chapter Eighteen.
Lou: Is there a sense, though, in which the gospel is such a gem that we will never fully encompass all of its beauty?
Graham: Oh, I like that. That was good to add. There are always different facets, but the different facets will not contradict each other. It’s only worrisome when there’s a contradiction. But no one person will see it all, nor speak of it in exactly the same way. Yes, that’s very well said.
Lou: Matthew 24:14 speaks of Jesus’ promise that the gospel will be preached in all the world. Now if the three angels’ messages are that gospel and they are to be proclaimed before the End comes, how widely are these messages being proclaimed and how close are we to that day?
Graham: An even more important question would be: Suppose we could document that the three angels’ messages were being broadcast to the entire world, how sure could we be that we’re giving them correctly? To me that would be the more worrisome thing, because there are different versions of how people understand them. But even if we knew they were being given correctly, would we ever be able to tell the day when Jesus will come? I don’t think we’ll ever know. We just need to give the message and go on giving it, and the Lord will know when the work is done.
Lou: And when He comes, we will know that it was completed.
Graham: Paul was much less concerned to know when it would be finished; than that it would be finished. He said, “I want to get to you in Rome and beyond; I’d like to get everywhere with this good news” (based on Romans 15). That should be our preoccupation as well, I think.