Tag Archives: Rev 14:9-11

Questions and Answers (16:10)

Lou: You spoke about the last sentence in the third angel’s message (Rev 14:12). Is that really part of the message? The punctuation seems a bit ambiguous.

Graham: Most commentators believe verse twelve is included in the third angel’s message, even though in most translations the quotation marks close with verse eleven. But the message of the third angel is so fearsome, it calls for the endurance of the saints. Perhaps verse twelve is a response to all three messages, but it especially responds to that dreadful number three.

Lou: I’m concerned about the wording of verse twelve because it has been a favorite of mine for many years. In the New International Version it talks about “remaining faithful to Jesus.” The King James, which I learned many years ago, talks about “having the faith of Jesus.” How do we interpret that phrase?

Graham: Well, it’s a technical thing, but the Greek can be translated “faith in Jesus” or “the faith that Jesus had.” And that’s why some versions go one way and some go the other, and none of them are consistent in the way they translate it from one place to another.

Lou: How do you make that kind of choice as a Greek scholar?

Graham: Well, the context will sometimes indicate. At other times, the context makes no difference either way. In this case, Revelation 13 talks of those who are loyal to the adversary, and Revelation 14 talks of those who are loyal to the true Christ. So in Revelation 14:12 I like the translation “faithful to Jesus.” But suppose it’s the other way. “The saints are those who have a faith in God such as Jesus did” or, “The saints are those who trust in Jesus.” Either way we come to exactly the same conclusion. So it really makes no difference. If I were to create my own version, though, I’d put it, “Remain loyal to, or trust in, Jesus.”

Lou: There’s another word in there: “Here is the patience of the saints” (KJV). Other translations say: “Here is the endurance of the saints” (RSV, ESV). And still others have “patient endurance” (NIV).

Graham: That last phrase is an interesting combination of patience and endurance. One possible translation is “patience,” as in “I am patiently waiting for the Lord to come; don’t disturb me.” The underlying Greek word means “remaining under,” as if you were pushing something or carrying a heavy burden. You put your shoulder to the wheel, you stay under, and you shove with all your might. That’s the root word here. “Endurance” is a better English translation. But the New International is even better, “This calls for patient endurance.” That’s really bridging both ideas. Patient endurance isn’t easy.

Lou: It strikes me that this phrase is comparable to our colloquial expression today, “hanging in there.”

Graham: That’s true.

Lou: The third angel’s message refers to a “mark of the beast” (Rev 14:9, see also 13:15-17). Many Christians put a lot of emphasis upon the mark of the beast. It seems to be very important to the message. So what is it?

Graham: Well, since dreadful things happen to those who have the mark, we had better know something about it. There are many, many different answers to your question. We will go into this in more detail in the next chapter, when we talk about Satan’s final effort to deceive. In a nutshell, earlier in the book of Revelation it talks about God’s loyal people having a seal (Rev 7:1-4). It seems they have some mark of loyalty and trust. The mark of the beast seems to be comparable to this seal. Those who have the mark prefer Satan’s lies to the truth. They have accepted him, the false Christ, as their redeemer. So we need to identify something that would be an appropriate mark. I’m very impressed with the fact that if you research Vicarius Filii Dei, a historic papal title, the literal meaning is “substitute for the Son of God,” which is exactly what Satan has wanted to be. But I’m more intrigued with the fact that, through the centuries, you can find the very number 666 connected with devil worship and other misrepresentations of the truth. Whatever it is, the mark of the beast is connected with rejection of the truth, a preference for Satan’s lies, and loyalty to him.
We will focus more on these issues in the next chapter. The issues are more important than the identity of the mark. You won’t get the mark unless you prefer Satan’s side, so I’m more concerned about being on the right side, than about what the mark itself might be. Because if I’m on the right side, I won’t get it.

Questions and Answers (16:8)

Lou: Graham, you and I know that the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is strongly connected with this third angel’s message. How was it that our church came to identify with the third angel’s message?

Graham: It’s actually something of a historical accident. The Adventist pioneers saw the three angels happening in a historical order. The first angel’s message was given, and then the second, and then the third. We do feel that we’re the people with the final message, which includes number three. But the Adventist pioneers always referred to “the three angels’ messages.” They realized it’s a barren message to preach number three alone. We should always preach all three.

Lou: Would you go so far as to say that there’s something especially unique about this third angel’s message? Is it appropriate to identify myself as a Christian who believes in the third angel’s message?

Graham: Well, if one took the third angel’s message just the way it reads without understanding what the rest of the Bible has said about it, then a Seventh-day Adventist is a Christian who believes in eternal torment.

Lou: Uh, oh! That’s not what I had in mind!

Graham: I’m sure it wasn’t, but by calling people’s attention to the meaning of the cross in the larger setting of the Great Controversy, we can offer a truly biblical explanation of the third angel. At first glance, the third angel’s message is fearsome. But to explain it in the light of how and why Jesus died is to bring very heartening news to people. The message is serious, yes, but it is no reason to be afraid of God.

Lou: So the Seventh-day Adventist Church has chosen to strongly identify itself with all of the three angels’ messages (Rev 14:6-12). How did that choice come about? Do you think it was a good one?

Graham: I think it was a very good choice, because the position that these three messages have in the Bible suggests they are the final messages of invitation and warning. They also provide us with a wonderful opportunity to summarize all the rest of Scripture. If you read these three messages apart from the rest of the Bible, they’re fearsome. But if you read them in the light of all sixty-six Bible books, it is an opportunity to demonstrate our conviction that the whole Bible is the word of God. The Bible should be read as a whole, and these three messages must be understood in the light of all that’s gone before.

Lou: But that raises another question. Why not just take the third angel’s message (Rev 14:9-11) as it reads? Why not read it and just believe it the way it reads, that people are going to be burned forever, that the smoke of their burning goes up forever and ever (14:11)?

Graham: Well, if you were reading the whole Bible you would just have read in Jude that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with eternal fire (Jude 1:7), but that fire went out a long time ago. So the book of Jude prepares you for these words in Revelation. And then there is the slave who doesn’t want to be set free, so they punch a hole through the lobe of his ear and he serves his master “forever” (Exod 21:2-6). The rest of the Bible prepares you to understand this fire and smoke that goes up forever and ever. See also the section in Chapter Nine on “How Sinners Die the Second Death.”

Lou: So you’re saying that I have to interpret the Bible to find its real meaning. I can’t just take the surface meaning of texts. Each text has a context and a history, so I have to work at understanding Scripture.

Graham: When people say, “We must take that text just the way it reads,” I often say, “Well, let’s turn over here to Deuteronomy where it says, `Take the tithe and buy strong drink with it and rejoice before the Lord’” (Deut 14:22-26).
And they’ll say, “Oh no, don’t take that text just the way it reads; let’s interpret that with care.”
And then we turn to the text where it says, “Give wine to the poor, that they may forget their misery” (based on Proverbs 31:6-7).
And they will say, “No, let’s interpret that.”
Then we go to, “It would be better not to marry; but it’s all right if you can’t control yourself” (based on 1 Cor 7:36-37).
“Oh, let’s interpret that.”
“Women shouldn’t speak in church” (based on 1 Cor 14:34-35).
“Let’s interpret that.”
Then we come to the third angel’s message and they say, “Let’s take it just how it reads.”
When it comes to the Bible, we need to be consistent all the way through. We want to find the true meaning, we don’t want to cheat. We want to know exactly what it means. And it takes the whole of the Bible to do that.

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.