Monthly Archives: September 2019

Questions and Answers (16:7)

Lou: I was thinking about the title of this chapter, “God’s Last Pleading with His Children.” Then I looked at those messages in Revelation 14, particularly the second and the third, and wondered if a more appropriate title might have been, “God’s Last Threatening.” Isn’t that what’s happening here?

Graham: Well, it certainly is a warning. The language is so serious. If we were more willing to listen, God wouldn’t have to talk like this. We looked earlier at the words of Hosea, “Come home, come home” (Hos 14:1-9), but humanity, both then and now, is not listening. This is the same God who sent she bears (2 Kgs 2:24) and thundered on Sinai (Exod 19:16-19; 20:18) because He doesn’t want to lose His children. In Chapter Nine I tell the story of a father on a mountain trail thundering at his son to keep him from falling off a precipice. People nearby might misunderstand what the father is doing until they see the whole situation. They might end up apologizing for misunderstanding the father’s action. Similarly, I think we owe God an apology for misunderstanding the times He’s raised His voice.

Lou: So what you’re really saying is that the tone of God’s voice is not angry as He says these things. It’s the serious consequences that call forth such serious warnings.

Graham: He certainly wishes to spare us these consequences. It’s somewhat like the tobacco problem. People often don’t believe there is danger in smoking, so the government requires serious notices on each pack of cigarettes. They’re trying to find as many ways to warn people as possible.

Lou: You gave a good deal of emphasis in this chapter on the gospel as “good news.” Still, it’s hard to see how the second and third angel’s messages (Rev 14:8-11) are really good news.

Graham: Well, there is also sadness in the good news. Victory in the Great Controversy will bring great joy on the one hand, but God is also going to lose vast numbers of His children forever. When the End comes, I see Him crying and smiling at the same time. “We’ve won, but look how many we have lost.” I just wouldn’t want people to think that the second angel is announcing good news because the other side has taken a beating, and the third angel is good news because the people who hurt me are going to be burned. I hope no one thinks it is good news in that way. But there is another way in which it’s good news. In the third angel’s message God is not torturing His children to death. If the death of Christ tells us how the wicked will die, God did not torture His Son to death. He sadly gave Him up, as He will give up the wicked in the end. That is also important good news. But you are right; it’s not totally good news. It’s also very sad.

Lou: But if the gospel includes all three of these messages, as I think you are saying, shouldn’t we say a great deal more about the destruction of the wicked when we preach the gospel?

Graham: Yes, if we say we are preaching the Three Angels’ Messages (Rev 14:6-12), then we’ve got to preach number three (Rev 14:9-11), which is about destruction. But if the cross demonstrates how the sinner dies, how can you preach the cross without preaching the destruction of the wicked? Or to put it another way, to preach the third angel’s message is to explain why Jesus died and how He died. So the third angel’s message is the message of the cross. That’s why we even speak of the third angel’s message as being righteousness by faith. It’s only if we preach it correctly, only if the third angel’s message raises serious enough questions about the death of the wicked, that we can go to the cross to find out by observation just how Jesus died. The cross is amazing good news, because it says there is no need to be afraid of God. He did not torture His Son on the cross and He will not torture the wicked at the end.

The Climax of the Eternal Good News (16:6)

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?