Why is it that so many of our evangelists, when conducting a mission (a term commonly used in British countries by various Protestant denominations for a series of evangelistic meetings), wait so long before coming to the real point and purpose of the endeavor, —that of preaching the third angel's message? To preach the threefold experience and application of the everlasting gospel is the sole reason for our existence as a people. This constitutes our message to the world, but we so often delay in reaching this subject in a series of meetings.
Someone replies, "We must first gather an audience, and then we will preach the message to them." As preachers, we often hesitate to present the "mark of the beast" to our audiences. Thinking to arouse interest, we usually give first preference to such topics as the following: "The World Outlook," "European War Clouds and Rumblings of Armageddon." Then, weeks later, when the time comes to present the mark of the beast, we draw a deep breath, and with a resigned "Here goes; I'll scatter them now," plunge into the dreaded subject. But why should we be so reluctant in presenting this, the very kingpin of our platform, the crux of our message?
In my own experience I have found it best to present the message in Revelation 14 almost at the first. I find that in doing this I gather my best congregations. That is where the real interest in the mission begins. People come out to hear this subject, and I gather good congregations, even though it is hard to get large audiences in Australia. Perhaps it is because the hour is come when this third angel's message should be presented.
It will take study to present this important topic early in a series. But it fully repays the effort. The Revelation is a wonderful book. Next to His lifeblood, I believe that the book of Revelation is perhaps the greatest gift of Christ to His church; and it came through the gift of prophecy. The third angel's message is the kernel of the Revelation. To make that message clear, the book has been given. That message is also the climax of the gospel, the last glorious conflict between the "mystery of godliness" and the "mystery of iniquity." Then why should we attempt to preach it within the compass of one or two subjects? Why not see through the whole book of Revelation the varied steps leading up to the real presentation of that message of the three angels?
Some tell us that Revelation is the summary of the Bible. If it is,—and I believe it is,—then the message that we as preachers are called upon to give is the summary of the Bible, because it is the summary of Revelation.
The message is itself the gospel. It is the everlasting gospel. It is not a fiery denunciation meant to wither the hearts and blast the interests of those who come out to hear it. True, it is a gospel of warning, and is among the direst of all warnings. Nevertheless, it is to be presented as the gospel. And it should be our studied purpose to preach it in such a way as to win men from the consequences denounced by it. We must seek to win them, and not repel them. This message is not a scourge put into our hands with which to flog the Roman Church. It is the warning voice of God in gospel tones urging the last generation of men to flee from the wrath to come. When Christ gave His direst warnings, there were "tears in His voice," and a yearning plea in His heart. If we as preachers learn His method, then the presentation of the mark of the beast will be a mighty appeal to men to seek shelter from the coming storm. In proof of this, I can say, to the glory of the message, that as many from the Roman Catholic Church as from any other one church, accept this presentation in my missions.
The First Angel's Message
An Angel With the Everlasting Gospel
Advertise this to suit yourself, but you will find that this is a good subject with which to begin a series of meetings. There is need of the gospel today, and we should be foremost in preaching it. It should be foremost in our preaching program. That is where it is placed in the message, and God put it there. Religion has not lost out; but men have, because they have forsaken its real teachings. Despite all the iniquity of the world and the backslidden condition of church life, the gospel still prevails. And God wants us, as Adventist preachers, to tell the world that—to tell this generation of men who need to know of it! A week of very helpful sermons can be preached on this the opening phase of our message. We can advertise these subjects attractively, too, so they will appeal to people. In addition to all of this, such a beginning will give us the correct standing before our audience and the neighborhood. It will silence the critics who proclaim that we do not preach the gospel. But above all it will bring the gospel to men who need it so much today.
We should learn how to urge upon men the claims of salvation from sin, in the advent setting. We must learn how better to beseech men to come to Christ and be saved. Interesting lectures are all right in their place. But that place is not the pulpits of this movement. I believe that this is the hour when we should preach the gospel of our Saviour's grace with great power. It seems to me that God expected this of us when He put the gospel in the very heart of this message.
This is the next feature. Men are fearing anything but God today. This is an age of godlessness. And the prophecies predicted that just such a condition would prevail in the last days. Surely, the time is ripe for just such a message, and we have it. A very interesting series of addresses can be preached on this phase. Attention should be called to 2 Timothy 3 and related prophecies. We can call attention to the prevailing fear that is in the world, —the fear of the future (Luke 21:26). This is not the fear of God. The fear of God will give to us His "Fear not," because we know His kingdom is coming.
And Give Glory to Him
We are to give glory to the God who made heaven and earth and the fountains of waters. Today men are giving to blind chance the glory due the Creator. This message calls upon men to give it to God. In this section of the series, addresses can be given on "Creation, Not Evolution." Thank God that this message has produced such men as George McCready Price, who has provided us with the necessary ammunition to combat the claims of evolutionists.
The Hour of His Judgment Is Come
In this section the second advent and the judgment can be treated. This will give opportunity for sermons on the certainty of the advent, the signs of the advent, and the results of the advent, the millennium, and the home of the saved. And all the time while preaching we shall be establishing the reasonableness and the setting of the message in the minds of our hearers. The presentation of the sanctuary question, of course, comes in this section.
(To be continued)