Three solemn messages are proclaimed from the midst of heaven by three mighty angels in Revelation 14:6-12, the first and third with loud voices—suggesting, at the very least, the crucial nature of the content.
What’s the context of these messages? Until chapter 14, divine judgment has been projected to the future. The first angel now declares judgment a present reality: “the hour of his judgment has come” (verse 7). Thereby the sequencing scenes of John’s Revelation visions indicate the passage of time. The insistence on present judgment punctuates a pivotal time in salvation history, let alone world history. It is final, worldwide, and the ultimate life-and-death matter. Seventh-day Adventists rightly call attention to this decisive judgment.
It must also be emphasized that this judgment in Revelation 14 is linked to an astonishing, often neglected sentiment. Truly, divine judgment is a fearful time—yet the angel dramatically connects it with the “everlasting gospel” (verse 6, KJV). This is the only time in all Scripture that these two words are connected, although there is mention of an “everlasting covenant” in the Old Testament.
For example, after the Flood, God establishes an “everlasting covenant” with Noah and his family—along with every living creature: “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures” (Gen. 9:16). Later, with Abraham, God again draws attention to this agreement, “an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7).
Being “everlasting” reminds that the “gospel” was not suddenly devised to meet the emergency of sin. God’s grace is everlasting—truly “good news.” Many Old Testament believers understood this. To them, divine judgment elicited the highest praise, because God’s people would finally be vindicated and sin wouldn’t persist forever.
One example: Psalm 98. After eight verses calling for shouts of joyous praise from humans and all nature, comes the reason for all the jubilance: “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Ps. 98:9; see also Ps. 96:10-13).
In Scripture’s final book more heavenly beings again insist that it is time for divine judgment to vindicate God’s people from sin’s deadliness found everywhere: “the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty . . . because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth’” (Rev. 11:16-18).
Judgment is good news! Angels insist that judgment and gospel belong together. Unless we comprehend this, the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 will be misunderstood:
Our message is a life-and-death message. We need to know it is and let all see and know that it is the Word of God’s great power. If we present it as it deserves to be presented, if we constantly show the inextricable intertwining of the first and second angels’ messages with the third, then the Holy Spirit will apply it powerfully to human hearts. We must intentionally concentrate the power of the first and second angels’ messages in our proclamation of the third.
The first angel highlights the issue of true worship—rightly linking it to the great Creator, “who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev. 14:7)—words directly quoting the Decalogue’s fourth commandment. This connects with the Genesis Creation summary, using the same three verbs of the Creator’s actions (Gen. 2:1-3). Thereby, we are reminded that the Creator is Judge—all part of the “everlasting gospel.” We are securely assured that, against formidable barriers, the promise to Abraham that through him all the earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:3), will be fulfilled by the angel messages being proclaimed to “every nation, tribe, language and people” (Rev. 14:6).
This perspective is vital for understanding the fearful messages of the second and third angels that delineate false worship and its deadly results. This pattern is found all through Scripture: when God must administer judgment against sin, He always warns beforehand, making plain the standard—and a way of safety.
The angel message is the Eden message, God’s promise to “put enmity” between the serpent and the woman that pointed directly to her Descendant (Gen. 3:15), “the first promise of a Savior who would stand on the field of battle to contest the power of Satan and prevail against him. . . . The angel that proclaims the everlasting gospel proclaims the law of God; for the gospel of salvation brings men to obedience of the law, whereby their characters are formed after the divine similitude.”1
A distinctive, crucial cross-cultural mission has been entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We should be eager to proclaim these angel messages about God fulfilling His promise to remove sin and its deadly effects from the earth. “By the mighty cleaver of truth—the messages of the first, second, and third angels”—God separates His people “from the world to bring them into a sacred nearness to Himself. He has made them the depositaries of His law and has committed to them the great truths of prophecy for this time. Like the holy oracles committed to ancient Israel, these are a sacred trust to be communicated to the world.”2
Seventh-day Adventists have been invited to join the angel voices. “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12, ESV).3 We can be encouraged that He will give the “patient endurance” we need (verse 12) while our commandment-keeping obedience signals to the world that the great Creator-Judge has never lowered or altered nor harshly administered the moral standard by which He brings judgment.
All this is part of the good news of the gospel. In fact, the longest of the three angels’ messages, which troubles some, is the grandest of all, articulating the biblical teaching of justification by faith! “Several have written to me,” Ellen White writes, “inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, ‘It is the third angel’s message in verity.’”4
What a grand angelic message we are privileged to proclaim!
Jo Ann Davidson is a professor of systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.