My college classmates loved the theoretical and the chalkboard; I gravitated toward praxis, especially in the chemistry laboratory with all the beakers and Bunsen burners. While the pyromaniacs relished the explosions, and the aestheticians awed at the colorful spectrum of reactions, I took special interest in crystallization and purification.
Multiple ingredients created a final product, which ultimately had to be reduced and purified. What a sight to observe numerous starting components mixed, subjected to heat and other chemicals, and ultimately simplified into a singular crystal. The reaction could be reversed by different processes, but for now, here was a crystal that held the essence of its initial parts. Complexity was encapsulated in a crystal.
The heart of the book of Revelation contains two game plans to reach the globe. Revelation 13 is a page from the enemy’s playbook, where three entities ally to deceive the whole world (cf. Rev. 16:13-16). Revelation 14 is the counterpart plan from God’s playbook, where three angels prepare and warn the same world. Stated differently, it’s a global confrontation between frogs and angels, ribbits and trumpets, and warts and wings.
Though the three angels’ messages are short, they are quite dense in significance, resulting in many meanings that we are familiar with, if not fully understanding them. How many times have we heard long expositions on Revelation 14, only to be more confused than before? They do require extensive background information, cross-references, and considerable prophetic context.
Rightfully so, their loud voices call for our utmost attention and best hours of study because they are quintessential to Adventist identity, mission, and experience.* The density and solemnity of the three angels’ messages contrast markedly with postmodern flippancy. The challenge remains with the Advent movement to weave the heart of their warnings into our personal and corporate conversations.
If one could subject their components to the features of crystallization, their complexity could be captured as three crystals, if you will. The first angel’s message contains the gospel, the judgment, and the Sabbath. Concentrated even further, these three elements point to worship: worshipping the God who saved humanity at the cross, who defends us before the unseen worlds, and who creates and will re-create all in the image of restful grace.
The second angel cries that Babylon is fallen and warns of her immoral wine. This message declares that all deceptions will cease, false Christianity will be exposed, and that every form of oppression of God’s people will come to an end. It contains the crystallized hope that truth will ultimately be victorious and that the intoxicating effect of deception will finally conclude with complete sobriety.
Though the third angel’s message has elements of doom and wrath, emphasis should be placed on free will, the word “if,” and the theme of choice. The language is dire because the consequences are dire. But, with the first and second angels’ messages, provisions have been made available to escape the penalties of deception, selfishness, and rebellion. The gifts of divine power to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are granted to those who choose them.
Made pithy for mental portability, the three angels’ messages can be crystallized as worship, truth, and choice, also the ingredients for love. May we prayerfully embody these three simplified, but not simplistic, essences in all our Advent activity, business, and experience before the world.
* For more resources and the latest understanding on the three angels, visit threeangels.info or read the newest Ellen White compilation, entitled The Three Angels’ Messages.