ATIENCE IS A VIRTUE ALL SAINTS LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS MUST POSSESS. The third angel’s message (Rev. 14:9-13) emphasizes this fact. Where the first two messages (verses 6-8) feature God’s majesty, the proclamation of the everlasting gospel, and appeals for repentance and reconciliation, the third message focuses on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It provides insights into the judgment of unrepentant sinners (verses 9-11), beginning with both an ominous and a universal warning: “If anyone worships the beast and his image . . .”
Those who rebel against God will receive (or take) to themselves a mark—charagma—not a stigma or tattoo, but an imitation of God’s sign (Rev. 13:16) as a badge of loyalty to the world’s idolatrous powers. This mark is invisibly impressed in the forehead—a symbol of the mind, the seat of decision—or the hand—a metaphor for the power of doing.
They will drink of the wine of the wrath of God. The Greek tense indicates that as the rebellious willingly and deliberately worship the beast and his image, they also choose that which is unavoidable: the white-hot heat of God’s fury against sin. God’s wrath is mixed and unmixed, an apparent oxymoron that means it includes ingredients of both grace and settled indignation that is served undiluted into the cup of divine judgment.
They will also be tormented with fire and brimstone. In addition to our traditional interpretations, some commentaries suggest that “tormented” denotes being afflicted with physical, mental, and emotional suffering that throws one into commotion. Other commentators have suggested that “fire” represents their response of remorse, not repentance; while “brimstone” refers to a haunting regret that does not produce behavioral change. All is done in the presence of the angels and the Lamb (Rev. 14:10), demonstrating the certainty of heightened punishment. “Smoke” (verse 11), according to some commentators, refers to God’s potent presence (Ex. 19:18 and Rev. 15:8), while “for ever and ever” (verse 11) means a death that is complete and utterly destructive (cf. Isa. 34:10).
They will also have no rest day or night. Rejection of Jesus’ offer of grace (Matt. 11:28-30) produces no rest in their spirit in this life, and no place for them in the next (Heb. 4:1-11). They have no peace because they failed to respond when Jesus stood knocking at the door of their heart (Rev. 3:20).
When the great artist Holman Hunt finished his masterpiece The Light of the World, he invited a fellow artist’s opinion. His trusted colleague looked at the painting with experienced eyes, noting the wonderful expressions on the Savior’s face. He pointed to the powerful light shed from the lamp Jesus carried and the tangle of thorns around the doorway where He stood knocking. “It’s perfect,” exclaimed the artist to Hunt, “but you’ve forgotten one thing: a handle on the door.”
“Ah,” said Hunt, “you’ve missed the significance of my picture. The handle is on the inside.”
The second purpose of the third angel’s message is to emphasize the comforting work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the saints during the judgment of rebellious sinners (14:12, 13). It underscores the perseverance and steadfast endurance of those who (a) keep the commandments of God—not just the Ten, but all others (i.e., John 15:12), and (b) preserve the faith of Jesus (or faith in Jesus). Their loyalty and steadfastness to God, even at the expense of suffering and martyrdom, will bring rest, in contrast to the fate of the wicked.
The “voice from heaven” (Rev. 14:13) is the Holy Spirit speaking directly for the first and only time in these messages. After commanding John to write what he saw and heard, He pronounced one of the seven beatitudes in Revelation: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (verse 13). What comfort, encouragement, incentive to believers facing persecution and possible death! What hope for these uncertain times!
“Yes,” affirmed the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (verse 13). The word “labor” (kopos) denotes wearisome toil in doing good, a believer’s experience in sharing the gospel and serving our King. Their works follow these saints wherever they go (1 Cor. 15:58).
Let’s be in that number, when those saints go marching in!
Hyveth Williams is senior pastor of the Campus Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California. This article was published October 22, 2009.