THE three angels' messages of Revelation 14 are considered to be the last great warnings for our world. They began to sound in the 1830's and 1840's. William Miller brought to the attention of much of the Western world the prospect of the Lord's soon return. Many rejected this message and persecuted those within their churches who were looking for Christ's coming. It became necessary especially after the first disappointment for these people to leave their churches, thus heeding the call of the second angel. Continued study brought to light the Sabbath message, which is basically the emphasis of the third angel. In this sequence, and within a short period of time, the three messages began to sound in the infancy of our denomination.
The first angel says, "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting 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." "The hour of his judgment is come" was understood to refer to the investigative judgment—the cleansing of this earth by the Lord's return. The great emphasis was upon this first portion of the message; the second portion, that of worship to Him who made heaven and earth, was relatively unnoticed because of their preoccupation with the first part, and because almost everyone in North America and the Christian countries believed in God as Creator. Although some ideas of gradual evolution of animals and plants and long eons of time had been proposed, yet most people had paid little attention to them. Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species was not published until fifteen years following 1844. Thus we can appreciate that the second part of the first angel's message, the admonition to worship Him that made heaven and earth, had little impact upon the population at that time because few believed otherwise. Now well over one hundred years later the situation has vastly changed. The majority of educated people either have serious doubts about Creation or disbelieve it entirely. We can see that not only is the judgment hour an important consideration in the first angel's message but, equally important, especially in this day, is the call to worship Him that made heaven and earth.
A proper perspective of the great controversy or the plan of salvation is impossible without a comprehension of God's role as Creator of this earth. So much of the message that we have to give to the world is based upon the creative acts described in the first two chapters of Genesis. Take away these chapters and our under standing of God's dealings with man throughout history is obscured.
Creation and the Sabbath Message
As we turn our attention to the message of the third angel, we find a fearful warning about man's allegiance; an allegiance that is signified by the day upon which he rests. We are clearly informed in the writings of Ellen White that the Sabbath will be the last great message, the last great is sue before Christ's coming. But the Sabbath can be no great test, it can be no covenant with God, if God's role as Creator and His work of creation is not understood. The Sabbath memorial is based on God's activities during Creation week. The third angel's declaration cannot be truly meaningful without the first. "The power of the proclamation of the first and second mes sages is to be intensified in the third."— Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 60. It is obvious that man will not be able to make an intelligent decision regarding the Sabbath unless he has an understanding of Creation. It is very important for us to understand the relation ship of Creation in the first message to the Sabbath in the third message. In The Great Controversy Mrs. White details the role of God as Creator and solidly links this understanding with the Sabbath.
By the first angel, men are called upon to "fear God, and give glory to Him" and to worship Him as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. In order to do this, they must obey His law. . . . One of these commandments points directly to God as the Creator. The fourth precept declares: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God:
"The importance of the Sabbath as the memorial of creation is that it keeps ever present the true reason why worship is due to God"—because He is the Creator, and we are His creatures.—Pages 436, 437.
Prophecy declares that the first angel would make his announcement to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." The warning of the third angel, which forms a part of the same threefold message, is to be no less widespread.— Ibid., p. 450.
What About the Flood?—Does It Matter?
With increase in knowledge and the study of the earth that commenced in the latter part of the eighteenth century, the Biblical story of the Flood as a basis for interpreting the phenomena of the earth's surface was rather quickly discarded. For some reason this story in Genesis has been subjected to more than its share of ridicule and criticism. The preaching of Noah, the building of an ark, the transporting of animals, the great Flood itself, all make an incredible story which modern man has had difficulty accepting.
We would not deny that it is a most unusual story, and that this constitutes a truly remarkable episode in the past history of the earth. We may ask ourselves if the belief in a universal flood as described in Genesis is important to Seventh-day Adventists. Is it important for one who believes in the nearness of the Lord's return and in the gospel commision?
I contend that this story of a great flood and its resultant effect upon the earth has a very important bearing upon our mes sage to the world, especially on the important message of the third angel who deals with marks or signs resulting from Sunday or Saturday observance. Does it seem incredible that the Genesis Flood has a bearing on the Sabbath?
In order to understand this relationship between the Genesis Flood and the Sabbath, we need to examine the structure of the earth's surface. If we go to an area like the Grand Canyon, we see layer upon layer of rocks superimposed upon each other. These rocks often contain remains of past life and they often lie one above another in a predictable order. If certain types of fossils are found in a bed, one can know with reasonable certainty what to expect in the beds immediately above and immediately below.
Evolutionists are in the habit of speaking of the animals in the lower beds as primitive and those higher up as advanced. It is better to say that farther down in the rocks one is more likely to find remains of the kinds of animals that lived on an ocean bottom or in the sea; whereas, farther up near the surface he is more likely to find plants and the kinds of animals that live on land. Thus it can be said that wherever fossils are found they often show a predictable vertical sequence. For instance, from bottom up—trilobites, corals, armored fish, bony fish, coal, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and man.
Uniformity or Catastrophism?
But how did these fossils get into the crust of the earth? Those who do not believe in Creation have only one explanation—gradual accumulation—uniformity. Those who believe in Creation may accept that living things were deposited where they presently are by a universal and violent catastrophe that involved much water —catastrophism. Or they may insist that the Genesis Flood is not involved, that sediments which had been laid down over a period of time buried the type of life prevailing at that time and changed them into fossils—basically a uniformitarian view. But as we have already pointed out, there is an order to these fossils. If a believer in Creation does not invoke a universal flood to account for most of this order, he is forced to conclude that God must have created these creatures successively over a period of time. Any belief that God's work of Creation described in the first part of Genesis was stretched out over a long, indefinite time would have a profound effect on the Sabbath message.
The Warning of Peter
Peter has a remarkable passage in his second letter that can be helpful to us:
Note this first: in the last days there will come men who scoll at religion and live self-indulgent lives, and they will say: "Where now is the promise of his coming? Our fathers have been laid to their rest, but still everything continues exactly as it has always been since the world began."
In taking this view they lose sight of the fact that there were heavens and earth long ago, created by God's word out of water and with water; and by water that first world was destroyed, the water of the deluge. And the present heavens and earth, again by God's word, have been kept in store for burning; they are being reserved until the day of judgment when the godless will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:3-7, N.E.B.).*
As we examine this carefully we discover he is rebuking those who question that anything out of the ordinary has happened since Creation. This attitude is suspiciously similar to that of modern uniformitarianism. He then immediately goes on to give two examples of the incorrectness of this view. He points out that the waters out of which God raised up the earth over flowed and devastated it in a great flood, and that it will be destroyed again in the future by fire.
These texts should warn us to be careful about attempting to interpret past geological activities on a uniformitarian basis.
The Sabbath is a memorial of Creation. It is based upon the concept of a literal week of activity and a day of rest. I cannot conceive of the third angel going forward with power proclaiming a Sabbath based upon long, indefinite days of creation.
A Vital Relationship
The realization that the Flood has an important relationship to the Creation story and the Sabbath is vital. Take away the Flood and we are left with a belief in progressive creation over long periods of time.
Although most of us are familiar with Revelation 14:6-12, we may need reminding that "The most solemn, sacred work ever given to mortals is the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages to our world."—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 76. "There is no other work of so great importance."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 19.
As we see an increase in interest in the topic of creation (first message), as we notice more and more individuals become dissatisfied with their churches (second message), and as we see the message of the Sabbath, the memorial of God's creative activity, being more widely proclaimed (third message), we can be thrilled to know that this is an impressive evidence of the nearness of the end. But we who have an understanding of these messages have the fearful responsibility of proclaiming them. With God's blessing each of us can have an important part in the exciting days ahead, admonishing men to worship Him that made heaven and earth, making known to the world the God of Creation, and participating in the greatest work ever given to man. This is present truth. This is knowledge that man needs and for which he is seeking.
* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.