The three angels’ messages:

Antiquated message or relevant present truth?

Mark A. Finley, DDiv, is the founder and president of the Living Hope School of Evangelism in Haymarket, Virginia, United States. He also serves as an assistant to the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

In the 1840s, social, political, scientific, and religious revolutions began changing the world. Charles Darwin wrote his first draft of On the Origin of Species in 1842 but hesitated to publish his ideas. But by 1859, his thoughts had developed enough that he was willing to reveal them. Discussing the influence of On the Origin of Species, one prominent writer said, “Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, remains one of history’s most influential and talked about scientific papers. It introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection, a theory that became the backbone of modern biology.”1

The impact of evolutionary thought on science, philosophy, psychology, and religion is incalculable. If we are only products of fortuitous chance and nothing more than a collection of genes and chromosomes, life has little meaning. The reckless pursuit of personal happiness becomes our ultimate purpose. Life has little or no meaning if human beings are merely enlarged protein molecules.

Simultaneously with the development of evolutionary thought, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels rocked the world with Communist Manifesto, first published in London, then translated into various languages throughout the world. Extreme socialism combined with Marx’s oft-quoted statement that “religion is the opiate of the people,” along with the centralization of all power to a select few who considered workers, or the proletariat, as nothing more than building blocks in the wall of the state, further led to the dehumanization of human beings. Such social, political, scientific, and ideological movements placed an extremely low estimate on all human life, dismissing the concept of a personal God as Creator of the universe.

An enduring purpose

But God would not allow the world to remain without a witness to Him. It was also in the 1840s that God raised up a divine movement to proclaim His last-day message to a world longing to discover meaning and purpose. A group of Bible-believing Christians from multiple faith backgrounds began studying the ancient prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. There they discovered a message tailor-made for the times—one able to answer the great questions of an end-time generation. The heart of that message appears in Revelation 14:6–12. In a vision, Jesus visited the last of the living apostles, John, on the island of Patmos to reveal it to the world.

The three angels’ messages that appear in Revelation 14 lift us from the narrowness of the claustrophobic confines of our own self-inflated importance to focus us on an enduring purpose for existence. They give us an ever-widening reason for our being. Rightly understood, they speak to the fundamental moral and spiritual issues of the twenty-first century.

Revelation 14 divides into three parts. The first five verses of the chapter describe the redeemed people of God, now seen far above the trials of earth and with Jesus forever in heaven. The last eight verses of the chapter depict the second coming of Christ and earth’s final harvest. Revelation 14:6–12, strategically placed between the two events, contains God’s final directive to prepare earth’s inhabitants for the return of our Lord.

The everlasting gospel

With this background in mind, we are ready to consider Revelation 14:6–12. The first aspect that we notice in verse 6 is that it is of heavenly origin. It is an urgent communication of eternal significance for an end-time generation. John declares, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell upon the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (NKJV).

The gospel is the incredibly “good news” that Jesus delivers us from sin’s penalty. By faith in His shed blood and resurrection, we are delivered from the guilt and grip of sin. Although we may fail at times in our humanness, we are yet no longer under sin’s domain. Its hold on us has been broken. Christ’s plan to deliver us from the power of sin was not an afterthought. The apostle Peter describes it this way: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake”
(1 Peter 1:18–20, NIV). Ellen White adds, “The plan for our redemption was not an afterthought, a plan formulated after the fall of Adam. It was a revelation of ‘the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal.’ Romans 16:25, R. V.”2

The everlasting gospel, the good news of redemption, is based on God’s loving-kindness, boundless grace, infinite wisdom, and eternal justice. The gospel speaks of His true nature. It is at the very heart of His last-day message to the world.

God’s end-time mission

The next phrase in verse 6 reports that the angel has the “everlasting gospel” to proclaim to every kindred, tongue, and nation. Here is a mission so great, so challenging, that it demands our all. The three angels’ messages give us a purpose to live for something bigger than ourselves. They lead us from the narrow confines of our selfish hearts to the joy of service in God’s eternal kingdom.

Our lifestyle

Let’s consider the expression, “Fear God and give glory to Him.” The Greek New Testament word for “fear” in verse 7 is phobeo.

It is used here not in the sense of being afraid of God but of an attitude of reverence, awe, and respect. Above all, it seeks to convey the thought of absolute loyalty to God and full surrender to His will.

Such fear is God-centered rather than self-centered, the opposite of Lucifer’s attitude of pride and arrogance as outlined in Isaiah 14:12–14. The essence of the great controversy revolves around submission to God. Self-centered Lucifer refused to yield to any authority except his own.

The first angel’s message calls us to make God the focus of our lives. In an age of materialism and consumerism, when secular values have made self the center, heaven’s appeal is to turn from the tyranny of self-centeredness and the bondage of self-inflated importance to place God at the core of our lives.

Sanctification

Fearing God reveals our attitudes and giving glory to Him speaks of our actions. Thus, fearing God has to do with what we think, while giving glory to Him involves what we do. Furthermore, fearing God deals with the inner commitment to make Him the center of our lives, and giving glory to Him reveals how our inner convictions translate into a lifestyle that honors the Lord in everything we do. The apostle Paul explains what it means to give God glory: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31, NKJV). When God is the center of our lives, our one desire is to glorify Him in every aspect of our existence, whether that has to do with our diet, the things we wear, or our entertainment. We give glory to God as we reveal His character of love to the world through lives committed to doing His will.

God’s justice

Revelation 14:7 continues, “ ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come’ ” (NKJV). The issues in the great controversy between good and evil will be finally settled. The universe will, at last, see that God is loving and righteous, compassionate and fair. The judgment reveals that God has done everything He possibly can to save every human being. The judgment sweeps aside the curtain and reveals the cosmic drama in the great conflict between good and evil. It contrasts God’s character of self-sacrificing love with Satan’s totally selfish ambition.

Revelation 14:7 is a divine commentary on Daniel 7:13, 14, 26, and 27. Before a waiting world and a watching universe, God demonstrates in heaven’s eternal judgment that He has done absolutely everything possible to save all humanity. Judgment passes in favor of the people of God (v. 22). His grace is sufficient so that no one needs to be lost. Those who are lost are not doomed because of an arbitrary act on God’s part. Their fate results from their own rebellious choices. They have spurned God’s love and rejected His grace. The judgment reveals to the entire universe His untiring, continuous, heartfelt attempts to save every person on our planet.

The judgment will make all wrongs right. Righteousness will triumph over evil, defeating the powers of hell. Injustice will not have the last word—God will.

Creation

Nothing ever catches God by surprise. For centuries, Satan had been planning his attack on the biblical teaching of Creation. Revelation 14:7 ends with an appeal to “ ‘worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water’ ” (NKJV). Here is a clarion call to worship the Creator at a time when most of the scientific world and much of the religious world have accepted the theory of Darwinian evolution.

Creation speaks of our value in God’s sight. We are not alone in the universe, some speck of cosmic dust. Nor are we a genetic accident. Instead, He created us. Creation is at the heart of all true worship. The Sabbath speaks of a Creator’s care and Redeemer’s love. God’s holy rest day points us to a Creator who made us for a magnificent purpose and loved us too much to abandon us when we drifted from that goal. Every week, the Sabbath reminds us of the One who has provided all good things for us. Rather than an arbitrary legalistic requirement, it reveals that true rest from righteousness by works is found only in Him, a God who has achieved so that we can rest in His achievements.

True Sabbath rest is the eternal link between the perfection of Eden in the past and the glory of the new heavens and the new earth in the future.

Religious confusion

What about the second and third angels’ messages? What is the meaning of the phrase “Babylon is fallen, is fallen” and the expression “the mark of the beast”? Although scholars have written volumes on both topics, here is the essence of their meaning. Both expressions speak of self-centered arrogance and human pride rather than self-sacrificial love.

Babylon represented humanity’s proud achievements. It was a symbol of human works, not God’s grace, of human traditions instead of God’s commands. In the book of Revelation, spiritual Babylon represents the confused teachings of all religious bodies. Spiritual Babylon downplays and marginalizes the authority of Scripture, substituting human authority for it.

At its very heart, the mark of the beast exalts the human above the divine. Elevating humanity’s word above God’s, it replaces His commandments with human decrees. We see this especially in the change of the Bible Sabbath to a day of a church’s choosing. The mark of the beast becomes a symbol of loyalty to a church-state unit in contrast to the Sabbath that is a sign of loyalty to the Creator of the universe.

God’s last-day message comes to a climax in Revelation 14:12 when the apostle John in prophetic vision describes a group of grace-filled end-time believers who “keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.”

Saved by grace, their hearts are filled with the faith of Jesus. His faith motivates and transforms them. It frees them from the guilt of the past, delivers them from the bondage of sin in the present, and fills their hearts with hope for the future. They can do nothing else but through His power give Him their allegiance and serve and obey Him forever.

God’s end-time movement

End-time believers filled with the faith of Jesus will go through the greatest time of trouble in the history of our world. But through His grace and by His power, they will emerge victorious. The three angels’ messages will be proclaimed in every city, town, village, and neighborhood. Tens of thousands of people will accept God’s last-day message. God will finish His work on earth. Every person will make their final, irrevocable decision for or against Christ, and Jesus will come in power and glory to take His people home.

  1. “First Draft of Darwin’s Origin of Species Goes Online,” CBC News, April 17, 2008, https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/first-draft-of-darwin-s-origin-of-species-goes-online-1.766695.
  2. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 22.

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Mark A. Finley, DDiv, is the founder and president of the Living Hope School of Evangelism in Haymarket, Virginia, United States. He also serves as an assistant to the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

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