Monday, October 18, 2021

52. The Revelation - The Three Angels (Revelation 14:6-11)


The three angels do not appear in sequential or chronological order. Instead, they address activities that stretch across the tribulation period. Their messages anticipate the judgment of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15; 15; 16), which includes the final judgments at the end of the tribulation. The messages they bring are designed to produce a fear leading to saving faith. God will graciously offer sinners another opportunity to repent before unleashing the terrifying bowl judgments (Rev. 16:1ff.). The first angel preaches the gospel, the second pronounces judgment, and the third promises damnation.

The First Angel: Preaching the Gospel

"And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Rev. 14:6–7)

The specific angel that John saw is not revealed. While angels appear in every chapter from chapters 4 through 12, the nearest reference is to Michael and his angels (Rev. 12:7). The verses could also point back to the seventh angel (Rev. 11:15). In any case, another of the countless myriads of angels (Rev. 5:11) is selected for a very special purpose. Dramatically, the angel appears in the sky “flying in midheaven.” “Midheaven” refers to the point in the sky where the sun reaches its high point at noon (Rev. 8:13; 19:17). From that point, the angel would be most visible to those on the earth. There he will also be beyond the reach of Antichrist. This preaching angel will be unreachable and his ministry unhindered.

As he flies through the sky, the angel will have “an eternal gospel to preach.” This is the only occurrence of the noun for “gospel” in John’s writings, though the related verb translated “to preach” also appears in Rev. 10:7. Like a multifaceted jewel, Scripture describes the gospel in various terms, each looking at it from a different viewpoint, including the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of God, the gospel of the grace of God, the gospel of the glory of Christ, and the gospel of salvation (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesisans 1:13). Here it is described as “eternal” because it provides the means to eternal life.

The angel’s message is addressed to “those who live on the earth,” a phrase always used in Revelation to refer to unbelievers. The all-inclusive phrase “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” stresses the comprehensive, worldwide nature of the angel’s proclamation. The angel will call out with a loud voice to all unregenerate people everywhere. His loud voice ensures that he will be heard and emphasizes the urgency of his message. The angel’s message to sinners is “Fear God, and give Him glory.” He will call the people of the world to change their allegiance to the Lamb.

Unbelievers will be called to fear and glorify God immediately “because the hour of His judgment has come.” This is the first occurrence of this specific Greek word for “judgment” in Revelation. It will appear again in Rev. 16:7, 18:10, and 19:2. Up to this point in Revelation, the word “wrath” has been used to describe God’s judgment. God’s righteous judgments are the outpouring of His wrath against the stubborn and unrepentant world.

It would seem that the angel’s warnings would be superfluous. After all, by this point people will have experienced the devastating seal and trumpet judgments. The earth will have been devastated by worldwide wars, famines, and earthquakes, eventually they will realize those disasters are God’s judgments (cf. Rev. 6:15–17), yet they will defiantly refuse to repent (Rev. 9:20–21). Still, in His grace and mercy, God will again call sinners to repentance through the preaching of this angel. The angel gives one final reason for sinners to turn from Antichrist to God, proclaiming that people should “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” The created universe both offers proof of God’s existence and provides grounds for worshiping Him (Psalm 19:1–4).

The Second Angel: Pronouncing Judgment

"And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” (Rev. 14:8)

Unlike the first one, the second angel does not preach the good news of the gospel, but pronounces the bad news of judgment. Sadly, that implies that the first angel’s message was largely rejected. The second angel’s equally brief and direct message is “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.” The repetition underscores the certainty of Babylon’s judgment. Babylon’s future fall is so certain that it can be spoken of as though it has already taken place. Babylon in this passage refers not just to the city, but to Antichrist’s worldwide political, economic, and religious empire.

The final Babylon, personified as a harlot (Rev. 17:1–5), is described as “she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” The world will be intoxicated and seduced by the Babylonian false religion headed by Antichrist. The Greek word translated “passion” describes strong, consuming desires. As a result of their passion, sinners will engage in great rebellion. Having consumed the wine of the seductive harlot, the nations of the world will continue on their course of spiritual defection.

The Third Angel: Promising Damnation

"Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Rev. 14:9–11)

The three angels appear in a logical, perhaps chronological, sequence. The third angel will deliver his warning with a loud voice, so that all will hear and understand his message. God, being perfectly holy and righteous, judges people because they reject what they know to be true. That is why everyone sentenced to hell will be without excuse (Romans 1:20; 2:1).

The third angel’s dire warning is addressed to anyone who “worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand.” The angel warns that a terrible fate awaits those who persist in worshiping Antichrist. Once again, God graciously calls on sinners to repent in the final hour.

Those who drank the wine of the harlot Babylon also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, “which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger.” To drink of the wine of the wrath of God is to experience His wrath (Job 21:20; Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17, 22; Jeremiah 25:15). The full fury of God’s wrath, so long restrained, will be unleashed. John describes that terrifying reality by noting that “God’s wrath will be mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger.” “Mixed in full strength” refers to the ancient practice of diluting wine with water. The wine filling the cup of God’s anger is strong, undiluted wine. God’s wrath will be undiluted vengeance, unmixed with any trace of compassion.

The horrifying fate awaiting the person who drinks the wine of the wrath of God is to “be tormented with fire and brimstone.” The verb translated “be tormented” speaks of the ceaseless infliction of unbearable pain. The noun form of that verb is used in Luke 16:23 to describe the agony of the rich man in Hades. Fire and brimstone are often associated in Scripture with divine judgment (Genesis 19:24–25; Luke 17:29). Hell, the final resting place of the unregenerate, is described as the “lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20; 20:10; 21:8).

The third angel concludes his message declaring that “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.” His description of hell as the place where the smoke of the torment of the wicked goes up forever and ever (Rev. 20:10) is consistent with the rest of Scripture (cf. Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).

So these three angels deliver God’s last call to repentance before the final judgments fall and the Lord Jesus Christ returns. But God’s gracious warnings will go unheeded by most of the sinful world. There is perhaps no clearer illustration in Scripture of the sad truth that “men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).