Tag Archives: Rev 14:6-12

Questions and Answers (16:9)

Lou: Now in light of this book’s theme that there is no need to be afraid of God, I have to ask; how can you preach the three angels’ messages without inspiring fear? Even the first angel’s message sounds a note of judgment (Rev 14:7). That makes one feel a bit uneasy. And after that comes the second and the third. How can you preach judgment, even in the first, without producing fear?

Graham: This is a very good illustration of the points we made before. We need to interpret texts like these. We did some of this in Chapter Nine, the one entitled “There Is No Need to Be Afraid of God.” We talked about judgment there. People interpret the concept of judgment in various ways. Those who prefer a more legal model of atonement will say, “There is no need to be afraid in the judgment, because we have a Friend up there. But they don’t mean the Father, they mean the Son. Or they may say, “We have no need to be afraid, because the legal penalty has been paid. The Father is fearsome, but if you’re paid up you don’t have to worry.”
I believe the good news that we don’t have to be afraid is based on the fact that our Friend up there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are our friends. That’s the best reason for facing the judgment unafraid.

Lou: You’ve challenged us to the hard work of thinking, yet you’ve still said the message is simple enough that a child can understand. If that’s true, then how is it that people have so many different versions of the gospel, even within our own fellowship? Why is there so much disagreement, often generating more heat than light, over the gospel? Why isn’t it so simple that everyone can say, “Oh yes, fine, that’s it, I agree.”

Graham: Well, Paul seemed to think it was simple. He says: “Since the death of Christ was explained so clearly to you, how could you be such dear idiots as to go back to the other view?” He even goes so far as to say: “Who has been casting a spell over you?” or as some versions say: “Who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1. Actually, Paul was right about that. We cannot leave out the adversary when talking about the gospel. The gospel is what defeats him. And he is determined to pervert it, not so much by contradicting it as by twisting it. There are many “twistings” of the good news and the adversary is involved in that. But we also need to allow for some honest differences. It’s hard to give up our prejudices, so we should be patient with each other. But the day is coming when we all need to have it clearly worked out, so we can stake our lives on it and survive the troubles of the End-time. We will have more to say about that in Chapter Eighteen.

Lou: Is there a sense, though, in which the gospel is such a gem that we will never fully encompass all of its beauty?

Graham: Oh, I like that. That was good to add. There are always different facets, but the different facets will not contradict each other. It’s only worrisome when there’s a contradiction. But no one person will see it all, nor speak of it in exactly the same way. Yes, that’s very well said.

Lou: Matthew 24:14 speaks of Jesus’ promise that the gospel will be preached in all the world. Now if the three angels’ messages are that gospel and they are to be proclaimed before the End comes, how widely are these messages being proclaimed and how close are we to that day?

Graham: An even more important question would be: Suppose we could document that the three angels’ messages were being broadcast to the entire world, how sure could we be that we’re giving them correctly? To me that would be the more worrisome thing, because there are different versions of how people understand them. But even if we knew they were being given correctly, would we ever be able to tell the day when Jesus will come? I don’t think we’ll ever know. We just need to give the message and go on giving it, and the Lord will know when the work is done.

Lou: And when He comes, we will know that it was completed.

Graham: Paul was much less concerned to know when it would be finished; than that it would be finished. He said, “I want to get to you in Rome and beyond; I’d like to get everywhere with this good news” (based on Romans 15). That should be our preoccupation as well, I think.

The Good News and the Character of God (16:4)

How could Paul be so sure about this good news, when it has been opposed or misunderstood by so many through the centuries? What perversion was so serious that Paul could speak as strongly as he did to the Galatian believers? Through the years, I’ve asked many Christians what they consider to be the essence of the good news. The responses have included things like the atonement, the Second Coming, and eternal life; almost every aspect of the Christian faith. But if God is the way His enemies have made Him out to be, eternal life would not be good news, would it? Whether any doctrine, even the Second Coming, is good news depends on the kind of person we believe God to be.

I think, therefore, that the most fitting and truest answer to that question is one that a good friend gave me years ago: “The good news is that God is not the kind of person Satan has made him out to be.” Coming back to an earlier text, Paul related the good news to the issues in the Great Controversy when he suggested that if even an angel from heaven should come with a different version of the good news, we should not believe him. Instead, let him be outcast or accursed (based on Galatians 1:8-9).

It seems, at first, incredibly dogmatic, almost arrogant, for Paul to speak like that. What if your pastor, at the end of the sermon this weekend, should say, “If anyone of you in the audience should disagree with my sermon, let Him be condemned to hell!” Would we think that perhaps the pastor was in need of a vacation? What do we make of Paul talking like this? Let’s not forget that it was an angel from heaven who began the circulation of misinformation about God. And that same angel from heaven masquerades as an angel of light in order to deceive you and me and turn us against our God (2 Cor 11:14-15).

Throughout this book we have spoken about Satan’s charges; that God is arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. He even charges that God has lied to us when He says that sin results in death. He says that God is selfish, not worthy of our love and trust, and not respectful of our freedom. At some length we have considered the way God replies, not in claims, but in demonstration. Remember how humbly God took His case into court, the court being the family of the universe? The good news is that God has won His case. The whole universe now agrees that Satan has lied about our God. “It is finished,” Jesus said (John 19:30).

By the life that He lived and the unique and awful way He died, Jesus demonstrated God’s righteousness, answered all the questions, and met any accusations leveled against God. Paul said he was proud to be a bearer of this good news. He also links the good news with the cross in 1 Corinthians:

Christ did not send me to baptize. He sent me to tell the Good News. . . . For the message about Christ’s death on the cross (emphasis supplied) is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God’s power (1 Cor 1:17-18, GNB).

Note how he combines the good news with Christ’s death, and also God’s power to save. He uses similar language in Romans 1: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel [the good news]: it is the power of God for salvation. . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed. . . .” (Rom 1:16-17, RSV). The good news, power, God’s righteousness, and the cross are all tied together. And there’s nothing new about this. This was the everlasting good news in Old Testament times as well:

Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord (Jer 9:24, NIV).

Let’s combine them all together now. The good news is about God. It’s about His righteousness. It cost the death of Christ to prove it. This good news about God’s righteousness has great power to move people, if they’re willing to listen. It has great power to win them back to repentance and faith. It has great power because it is the truth. It has great power because it is such good news.

The Eternal Good News (16:3)

What is this eternal gospel, this eternal good news? Surely, no one was more confident that he knew the content of the gospel than the apostle Paul. On one occasion, when his version of the good news was being seriously challenged by some of his own colleagues, Paul made this extraordinary claim:

If anyone, if we ourselves or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel at variance with the gospel we preached to you, he shall be held outcast. I now repeat what I have said before; if anyone preaches a gospel at variance with the gospel which you received, let him be outcast! Gal 1:8-9, NEB.

Now if the apostle’s language should seem too strong, this rendering in the New English Bible is the mildest I could find. Gentle J. B. Phillips translates, “May he be a damned soul!” The Greek is anathema esto. May he be “anathema.” The Good News Bible, produced by the American Bible Society, translates, “May he be condemned to hell!” The Living Bible states, “Let God’s curse fall upon him!” The King James Version translates, “Let him be accursed!” When do we say that about our fellow human beings? The New International Version translates, “May he be eternally condemned!” To say the least, Paul was profoundly convinced of the rightness of his version of the good news and the dire consequences of turning to another gospel. You recall how Romans 1 describes the dire consequences of turning away from the truth (1:20-32).

Paul was stunned to observe the willingness of so many early Christians, who had recently been set free from the meaningless requirements of false religion, to go back once again to the fear and the bondage of their former ignorance and misinformation about God:

I am astonished to find you turning so quickly away . . . and following a different gospel. Not that it is in fact another gospel; only there are persons who unsettle your minds by trying to distort the gospel (emphasis supplied) of Christ (Gal 1:6-7, NEB).

He goes on to ask how they could possibly be so foolish, comparing the good news they had received with what they had given up. Look at Galatians 3:1: “You foolish Galatians! Who put a spell on you? Before your very eyes, you had a clear description of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (emphasis supplied)!” Gal 3:1, NEB. He continues reasoning with them in Galatians 4:8-9, GNB: “In the past you did not know God, and so you were slaves of beings who are not gods. But now that you know God (emphasis supplied) . . . how is it that you want to turn back. . . ?” Notice how the same turning point for the Galatians is related to the knowledge of God (Gal 4:9), to the good news (Gal 1:6-7), and to the cross (Gal 3:1). All three of these texts address the same subject. The good news of the cross is the truth about God.

Paul is sympathetic with the Galatians, in spite of his strong words. After all, what could be expected of new converts when some of the leading Christians in Jerusalem were themselves contradicting and compromising the gospel of Christ (as described in Acts 21:15-28)? Even Peter, after his broadening experience with Cornelius, reverted to some of the narrow views that he used to hold. According to Galatians 2:11-14, Paul was moved to correct Peter to his face and in public. How could Paul feel right about doing that? In 1 Corinthians 13 he wrote that love is never rude. Love never insists on having its own way. This is also the Paul who wrote Romans 14. He was so respectful of other people’s freedom that, when there was disagreement over this or that religious matter, he would say, “Let everyone be fully convinced in his own mind,” and, “Who are you to criticize one another?” Rom 14:5, 10.

But when people suppressed or perverted the good news about God, gentle Paul spoke out with almost frightening conviction and power. He even went so far as to suggest that these legalistic agitators were confusing the new saints about the good news of truth and freedom. They were upsetting the new converts by urging them to re-adopt the rite of circumcision and other legalistic details. He said, “I wish they would go the whole way and make eunuchs of themselves” (Gal 5:12). You know that Paul must have been deeply moved to say that about those legalistic agitators.

The Three Angels’ Messages (16:2)

As you look over those three messages, there are many terms that call for explanation. But they are all discussed elsewhere in the Bible. That is why we really need all previous sixty-five books to understand the sixty-sixth. You may recall our discussion of one of these terms in Chapter Nine (“There Is No Need to Be Afraid of God”), the word “fear” (Greek: phobêthête), as in “fear God” (Rev 14:7). In contexts like this, the word does not mean terror. It means reverence. Since this angel brings good news (Rev 14:6), he must not mean that we should be terrified of God. A number of versions have ventured to clarify this, for example: “Honor God” (Rev 14:7, GNB) and “Revere God” (Berkeley). Words like that can also express the meaning of “fear.”

Still, there is much fearsome wording in these three angels’ messages. If this is God’s last pleading with His children, would it not have been better to have just the first angel’s message, and then the last sentence of number three? If God is pleading with us to trust Him, wouldn’t that have been better? The message could then say, “Honor God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the seas, and the springs of water” (Rev 14:7). And then go straight to, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Rev 14:12). Why do we need all that fearsome wording in between? Wouldn’t the shorter version have seemed more like pleading?

In answering these questions, it is important to note what has gone before, particularly Revelation 12, 13, and then 14. Chapter 12 describes the war between Christ and Satan, and all the efforts of Satan to deceive both angels and men. Then Chapter 13 describes Satan’s final effort to deceive, which is the subject of the next chapter in this book (“Satan’s Final Effort to Deceive”). In his final effort, Satan is primarily seeking to deceive the people living on this planet. Revelation 13 describes his almost complete success. The whole world worships him, except for a certain few. The chapter even describes the powers and the organizations that Satan works through in order to accomplish his deceptive purposes. They are represented by biblical symbols drawn from the other sixty-five books of the Bible. More than that, near the end of Revelation 13, his loyal followers are pictured as bearing a mark of their preference for and trust in Satan’s end-time emissary—that mark is notoriously known as the “mark of the beast” (Rev 13:16-18).

Then comes Revelation 14, God’s last pleading with His children, the three final messages of warning and invitation that are the subject of this chapter. Knowing the whole history of earth, one is not so surprised at the fearsome words of warning in the second and third angel’s messages (Rev 14:8-11). But we should always read these in light of the first angel, who comes with good news, the everlasting gospel (Rev 14:6). That’s what the word gospel means; good news. The first angel doesn’t come with new information. He brings the everlasting good news. This good news has always been the truth. It will always remain the truth. It will always remain the basis of our faith and trust and freedom for eternity.