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.