The Three Angels
In recent issues of The Reformation Herald we have spoken about all three angels of Revelation 14.
Of the first of these angels it is written:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlast- ing gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6, 7).
Why do we call this angel “the first” when verse 6 says that he is “another angel”? Back in Revelation 8:13 John wrote: “And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!”
Now in chapter 14 John sees three other angels with different messages.
Another reason that this angel is called the first is because after him comes “another angel” and then “the third angel” followed them. So in this chapter we have:
1. “Another angel.”
2. “Another angel”; and
3. The “third angel.”
The first angel’s message: The everlasting gospel
The first angel is described as flying in the midst of heaven with “the ever- lasting gospel.”
Why does the prophet call this mes- sage “the everlasting gospel”? The main reason is because the plan of salvation wasn’t brought into existence after sin, but much earlier, in eternity past.
“The plan for our redemption was not an afterthought, a plan formu- lated after the fall of Adam. It was a revelation of ‘the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal’ (Romans 16:25, RV).
It was an unfolding of the principles that from eternal ages have been the foundation of God’s throne. From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency. So great was His love for the world, that He covenanted to give His only-begotten Son, ‘that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).”1 And this plan will be deeply studied in eternity.
The everlasting gospel provides a wonderful hope for repented sinners that Jesus Christ, the “Wonderful,” the “Counsellor,” “the mighty God,” “the Everlasting Father,” is their Advocate, their Representative in the heavenly court.
The inspired words of John are very comforting to all those who trust in “the blood of the Lamb”: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2).
If we believe in Christ and submit our- selves to His lordship, we can count on Him as our Defender in the most holy place.
After seeing the angel with the “everlasting gospel,” John talks about his message: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
Fearing God means lovely submis- sion to His highest position as the Sovereign of the Universe. “In the New Testament mention is made of a fear which has high moral quality and religious value.”2
Fear actually presents two contrast- ing meanings: “Anxious dread or terror in the face of danger; also reverence to or awe of God. . . . While ‘fear of the Lord’ can mean outright fear of God’s presence, it also means to revere God, an idea most directly expressed in the Wisdom Literature (e.g., Proverbs 2:5). Fear of God is connected to keeping the law and commandments (Eccle- siastes 12:13) and is . . . ‘the root of wisdom’ (Sir. 1:20). Most succinctly stated, ‘Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding’ (Job 28:28).
“To fear God, then, is to be com- pletely devoted to his will and its rewards while knowing the awesome consequences of not fearing him. This is the background to Paul’s injunction to the Philippians to ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12).”3
This is the meaning of the expres- sion “Fear God” as uttered by the first angel. And he further says: “Give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come.” Unconditional submission to God’s will and faith in Jesus Christ are the provisions to go to the divine judgment with reverent trust.
“Worship him.” What is the real meaning of worship?
In His talking with the Samaritan woman beside Jacob’s well in Sicar, Christ gave a meaningful explanation about true worship: “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24). Let us stress this expression: “true worship- pers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
Before understanding who are the “true worshippers,” we need to know what is “true worship.”
“Religion is not to be confined to external forms and ceremonies. The re- ligion that comes from God is the only religion that will lead to God. In order to serve Him aright, we must be born of the divine Spirit. This will purify the heart and renew the mind, giving us a new capacity for knowing and loving God. It will give us a willing obedience to all His requirements. This is true worship. It is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit.”4
The Second Angel’s Message
“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8).
The religious movement represented by the second angel announces the fall of spiritual Babylon, a symbol of the churches that rejected the first angel’s message.
“As the nominal churches refused to receive the first angel’s message, they rejected the light from heaven and fell from the favor of God. They trusted to their own strength, and by opposing the first message placed themselves where they could not see the light of the second angel’s message. But the beloved of God, who were oppressed, accepted the message, ‘Babylon is fallen,’ and left the churches.”5
Which churches were identified as Babylon denounced by the second angel?
“The second angel’s message of Revelation 14 was first preached in
the summer of 1844, and it then had a more direct application to the churches of the United States, where the warning of the judgment had been most widely proclaimed and most generally rejected, and where the declension in the churches had been most rapid. But the message of the second angel did not reach its complete fulfillment in 1844. The churches then experienced a moral fall, in consequence of their refusal of the light of the Advent message; but that fall was not complete. As they have continued to reject the special truths for this time, they have fallen lower and lower. Not yet, however, can it be said that ‘Babylon is fallen, . . . because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’ She has not yet made all nations do this. . . . The work of apostasy has not yet reached its culmination.”6
The Third Angel’s Message
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:9–12).
We find again the word “worship,” meaning submission and obedience. Those who do not submit themselves to the Lord for sure will submit to the beast. There is no neutral ground. If we are not totally under the control of the Spirit of God, we will be controlled by another spirit. These worshippers of the beast receive a sign in their fore- heads or in their hands. The prophet is here talking about following the beast either by conviction or just by practice. Those who receive the wine of false doctrines from Babylon will drink of the wine of the wrath of God. About them is written that they have “no rest day nor night.” In contrast with those who found rest in Jesus, the opposing class has no rest at all.
What is the meaning of the expres- sions “beast,” “image” of the beast, and “mark” of the beast?
The powers of heaven are repre- sented by angels; however, the earthly powers are symbolized by the beast.
“We are to warn men and women against the worship of the beast and his image—against the worship of the idol Sunday. But in doing this work, we need not begin a warfare against unbelievers. We are simply to present the Word of the Lord, in its true dignity and purity, before the minds of those who are ignorant or indifferent regarding its teachings. . . . We need not tell them that they will go to hell unless they keep the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. The truth itself, accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, will convict and convert hearts.”7
“John beholds a people distinct and separate from the world, who refuse to worship the beast or his image, who bear God’s sign, keeping holy His Sab- bath—the seventh day to be kept holy as a memorial of the living God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Of them the apostle writes, ‘Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.’ ”8
The Mark of the Beast
“When Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. He is paying homage to Rome and to the power which enforces the institution ordained by Rome. He is worshiping the beast and his image. As men then reject the institution which God has declared to be the sign of His author- ity, and honor in its stead that which Rome has chosen as the token of her supremacy, they will thereby accept the sign of allegiance to Rome—‘the mark of the beast.’ And it is not until the issue is thus plainly set before the people, and they are brought to choose between the commandments of God and the commandments of men, that those who continue in transgression will receive ‘the mark of the beast.’ ”9
With these solemn realities in mind, it is time to consider that other angel found in Revelation 18, often referred to as the fourth angel. R
1 The Desire of Ages, p. 22.
2 Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible. 3 Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. 4 The Desire of Ages, p. 189.
5 Early Writings, p. 237.
6 The Faith I Live By, p. 285.
7 Christ Triumphant, p. 178.
8 Evangelism, p. 233.
9 The Great Controversy, p. 449