Ellet J. Waggoner
The Signs of the Times | January 7, 1886
“And he said unto him, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:15, 16. These words were spoken by our Saviour after his resurrection, and shortly before his ascension. They are perfectly in harmony with his words recorded in Matthew 24:14, that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” There is no mistaking the extent of territory in which the gospel must be preached—nothing less than the whole world. And how long must it be preached? Read the whole of Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Then the gospel is to be preached until the end. The end here referred to is the same that is mentioned in verse 3, “The end of the world.” That this “end of the world” is in connection with the coming of the Lord, is shown by the words of the disciples in the verse last mentioned, and by the words of Christ in Matthew 13:40-43; 24:30, 31
The fact that by divine command the gospel is to be preached in all the world until the coming of the Lord and the end of the world, proves conclusively that until the Lord comes, a necessity for its being preached will exist in all the world. This needs no further argument, for it is nowhere disputed. We will therefore turn our attention to a consideration of what the gospel is, and what creates the necessity for its being so long and so extensively preached.
The word “gospel” means, literally, “a good message;” Webster’s first definition is “glad tidings.” According to its derivation, it might be applied to any good news; but in the Bible it is used with exclusive reference to one thing; what that thing is, we may easily learn from the Bible itself.
In Luke 2:10 we find these words, addressed by the angel of the Lord to the shepherds in the field: “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings [a gospel] of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The next verse tells what this gospel is: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Then the gospel, which is to be preached to all people, is the announcement of a Saviour. It is from this that Webster derives his specific definition of the gospel, as, “especially, the good news concerning Christ and his salvation.”
But the simple heralding of Christ, without stating the nature and object of his work, would not be the preaching of the gospel. The “good news” consists in the fact that Christ the Lord is a Saviour. That Christ comes as a Saviour necessarily implies that there are people to be saved, and something from which they must be saved. Turning to Matthew 1:21, we read the angel’s declaration before the birth of Christ: “And thou shall call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” Paul says (1 Timothy 1:15): “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” So it is manifest that the preaching of the gospel consists in the announcement that Christ will save people from sin.
But while the gospel is the good news that Christ brings salvation from sin, it is evident that that simple announcement would not suffice to produce the desired results, viz., that men should believe and be baptized. For there are millions of people who virtually say that they are “rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,” not knowing that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” No matter how destitute a man may be, it would be of no use to offer him money if he were ignorant of his necessities, and perfectly satisfied with his condition. So no man can feel any interest in the gospel as a means of salvation from sin, unless he (1) knows what sin is, and (2) is convinced that he is a sinner, and (3) understands the nature and results of sin, so as to realize that it is something to be shunned. Therefore the gospel, with its announcement of salvation from sin, must also make known what sin is. This it does, as we shall see.
John, the evangelist, so called because it is he who more than anyone else dwells on the love of God and Christ in the salvation of man, defines sin. He says: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. In harmony with this, Paul says, “Where no law is, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15. And “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Romans 5:12. Volumes could not define sin more clearly than do these three texts. We have found out, then, (1) that “gospel” means good news; (2) that the gospel of the Bible is the good news of a Saviour—Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10, 11); (3) that Jesus saves from sin (Matthew 1:21; 1 Timothy 1:15); and (4) that “sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4
So that, in short, the gospel announces the way by which man may be saved from the transgression of the law, and from the consequences of such transgression. Sin is the disease; the gospel is the remedy. And since the gospel is to be preached in all the world, until the coming of the Lord, it follows that “all the world,” yea, “every creature,” has sinned. This we read in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
It must also be true that sin will be in the world till the Lord comes. And this we verify by a comparison of Genesis 6:5 and 13:13 with Luke 17:26-30. But since sin is the transgression of the law, it also necessarily follows that “the law” will be in full force in all the world until the coming of the Lord. In other words, sin is the disease, and it cannot exist where there is no law. Romans 4:15. The disease, sin, does exist in “every creature” in “all the world;” for the remedy, the gospel, is to be thus extensively made known, and the great Physician would not send the remedy where it is not needed. “They that be whole need not a physician; but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12); and therefore the law, by which alone “is the knowledge of sin”—the disease—is binding upon “every creature” “in all the world.” Now since “the wages of sin”—the transgression of the law—“is death” (Romans 6:23), it is important that all men know just what that law is, the transgression of which brings death, and just what its nature and requirements. These points will therefore next claim our attention.