So the first angel comes with the everlasting gospel, the everlasting good news. What is it? Each of us should study and think this through for ourselves. The following is a summary of my understanding of the good news:
God is not the kind of person His enemies have made Him out to be — arbitrary, unforgiving, and severe. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” God is just as loving and trustworthy as His Son, just as willing to forgive and heal. Though infinite in majesty and power, our Creator is an equally gracious Person who values nothing higher than the freedom, the dignity, and the individuality of His intelligent creatures — that their love, their faith, their willingness to listen and obey may be freely given. He even prefers to regard us not as servants but as friends.
This is the truth revealed through all the books of Scripture. This is the everlasting Good News that wins the trust and admiration of God’s loyal children throughout the universe.
It seems to me, that’s the only “truth” it is safe to be dogmatic about. Here we can be like Paul and say, “Even if an angel came with a different picture of God, it is wrong, and I will not believe it.” To me, this is not a negotiable position. You can be adamant, immovable, and dogmatic about freedom, because you will never hurt anybody with that view. You are immovably committed to freedom, and to the picture of God as valuing nothing higher than the freedom of His children. To me, that is the essence of the message of the first angel (Rev 14:6-7). With that in mind, the second angel comes and simply says, “The opposition has collapsed in corruption and defeat” (Rev 14:8). Then the third angel warns of the inevitable consequences of preferring Satan’s lies to this magnificent truth (Rev 14:9-11).
Now it’s true that the third angel’s message has the most fearsome wording in the whole Bible. I’m sure the Devil would have us misunderstand these words as the words of an angry God. But all the previous books of Scripture have prepared us to understand the terrible consequences of sin. Through the words of Scripture, we watched Jesus die. We know that God would do anything to spare His children the same fate. Story after story in Scripture prepares us to see our heavenly Father as the One who would much prefer to speak gently to us of the truth.
When we know Him in this way, we can trust Him when He raises His voice one last time in these messages of warning and invitation. The God we worship would never allow us to pass through these closing events unenlightened and unwarned. Behind the fearsome warning of the third angel’s message there stands the God of Hosea 11:8 crying: “How can I give you up? Why will you die? How can I let you go?” The same person who wrote the awesome words of the third angel also wrote 1 John 4: “God is love. . . . There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:16, 18, Williams). The apostle John was the beloved disciple who knew all about love, the one who told us there is no need to be afraid. He is also the one who wrote the fearsome words of the third angel’s message. God could reveal this to him because he understood the larger picture of what God is like.
As loyal members of God’s family, we have the privilege of participating in the final proclamation: “This Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world . . . and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, GNB). The good news about the Kingdom is about the way the King runs His Kingdom. Could you conceive of any higher honor or privilege than to join with the loyal angels in making this good news, this everlasting truth about our God, known to all the world?