The message of the first angel contains a direct allusion to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. This is evident for three major reasons. 1) There is a strong verbal parallel between Rev. 14:7 and Exod. 20:11. Both passages contain the words “made,” “heaven,” “earth,” and “sea.” They also contain a reference to the one who created. While similar language can be found in Psalm 146, that Psalm does not play a consistent role in Revelation the way that the Ten Commandments do. It is likely that Psalm 146 and Revelation 14 both allude to Exodus 20, Revelation is not primarily referencing Psalm 146.
2) Rev. 14:6-7 contain references to salvation (14:6), judgment and creation (14:7). All three themes echo the First Table of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2, 5-6, 11). While thematic parallels by themselves are the weakest evidence for an intentional allusion, this triple collection of thematic references is quite remarkable and in conjunction with other evidences makes the allusion to the fourth commandment almost certain for Revelation 14:7.
3) There are multiple references to the Ten Commandments throughout this section of Revelation. There are direct references to the commandments as a whole at the beginning and end of the section (Rev 12:17; 14:12. We have earlier noted the counterfeits of the first four commandments in Revelation 13. In addition there are the verbal parallels in 14:7 and the thematic parallels cited above. It seems clear that there is a strong structural parallel to the Ten Commandments in Revelation 12-14. There is little question that the final call of God to the world is in the context of the fourth commandment.
In conclusion, note the narrowing of focus as you read through Revelation 12-14. First, there is a reference to the commandments as a whole in Revelation 12:17. Then in chapter thirteen the focus zeros in on the first table of the commandments, as the beast counters each of the first four commandments. Then in Revelation 14:6-7 the multiple references to the first table of the law focus in on the fourth commandment alone. It is a powerful literary way to focus the readers attention on the fourth commandment and its role in the final crisis over worship.
The beasts’ (all three of them) calls to worship (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 15) come in the context of multiple counterfeits of the First Table of the ten commandments. The first commandment forbids worship of any other God. The beast, on the other hand, demands worship (13:4, 8). The second commandment forbids idolatry. The land beast sets up an image to be worshipped (13:15). The third commandment forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain. The beast, on the other hand, excels in blasphemy (13:6). The fourth commandment is the seal of the covenant, containing the name of the ruler (Yahweh), the territory He rules over, and the basis for God’s rule (Exod. 20:8-11). In contrast to this seal of God, the world is offered the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17).
This entire section of Revelation is centered in the commandments of God (12:17; 14:12). But in chapter 13 the focus narrows down to the first table of the ten, the four commandments that deal specifically with our relationship to God. These four commandments concern who to worship, how, what not to do, and when to worship. In their words and actions, the dragon and his allies counterfeit each of the first four commandments. This sets the table for the decisive allusion to the fourth commandment in the first angel’s message (Rev. 14:7, cf. Exod. 20:11). The references to the ten commandments in Revelation 12-14 move from the general focus (12:17; 14:12) to the first table of the law (Rev 13) to a specific focus on the fourth commandment (Rev 14:7), which I will elaborate on in the next post.
Revelation 12:17 speaks of a war that the dragon will wage against the remnant. In chapter thirteen the dragon goes to the beach and calls up a pair of allies to help him in the conflict, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth. The language of this conflict is military—“make war” (Rev 12:17). But a careful look at Revelation 13 makes it clear that this is not primarily a military battle, it is a “war of words” like the war in heaven portrayed in chapter twelve. The surface impression of Revelation is that it is all about the grand political schemes of the world’s nations. But closer examination shows that there is an overarching spiritual purpose in this apocalyptic vision. The unholy trinity seeks through deception and intimidation to shake the loyalty of God’s people and draw them away from faithfulness. The purpose of Revelation is to empower God’s people to resist all such encroachments.
In the New Testament generally, judgment is closely related to the gospel and it comes in three phases. First of all, judgment occurred at the cross (John 12:31; Rev. 5:5-10). The entire human race was judged in the person of its representative, Jesus Christ. At the cross, human sin was condemned in the suffering and death of Christ (Rom. 8:3). Then at the resurrection, the entire human race was approved in the person of Christ and raised from the dead (Acts 13:32-33). So the Christ event delivers two messages regarding the human race. One, the entire human race is condemned on account of its rebellion and sin. Two, the entire human race is acceptable to God in Jesus Christ. These two messages together are the sum total of the gospel. One without the other is unbalanced and leads to discouragement or licentiousness.
Second, throughout the New Testament judgment language is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel. Whenever the gospel is preached people are called into judgment based on their response to what Christ did on the cross. The preaching of the gospel is judgment hour (John 3:18-21; 5:22-25). People see how impossible it is for humanity on its own to be acceptable to God. At the same time they see how the death and resurrection of Jesus (the essence of the gospel—1 Cor 15:1-4) removes all barriers to full acceptance with God. If both these things are true, the preaching of the gospel is the most decisive moment in anyone’s life. In my view, this is the background to the four horsemen of the seals (Rev. 6:1-8). They portray the going forth of the gospel, the victorious response of those who accept it and the increasing consequences of rejection. The gospel is the supreme reality of the whole Christian era.
Third, there is a judgment at the end which ratifies the judgments we passed on ourselves in response to the hearing of the gospel (John 12:48). This is not double jeopardy. The end-time judgment ratifies the judgments we made on ourselves when the call of the gospel came to us. While the book of Revelation references the first (Rev 5) and second (Rev 6:1-8) phases of judgment in symbolic terms, it reserves the language of judgment for this end-time phase (Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 17:1; 20:4). In Rev. 14:7, the second and third phases of judgment outlined above occur together. The close of probation occurs when the final proclamation of the gospel (Rev 14:6-12) has divided the whole world into two camps (Rev 12:17). The second phase of the judgment (in the preaching of the gospel) is completed at the same time as the third phase. That is what we call the close of probation.