If this section was introduced with a sanctuary vision (11:19), then we expect a series-of-seven to follow, as has been the pattern throughout the book. Some point to the seven plagues of ch. 16, but there is an intervening sanctuary vision in ch. 15, and a series-of-seven in ch. 14 that some people miss: seven angels! Adventists often focus on the “three angels’ messages”, and well we should, but we often fail to see the others that follow. The seven angels are bracketed on both sides by scenes of God’s sealed saints (14:1-5 and 15:1-4). The heart of Revelation is all about God’s call to His people to come out of Babylon and to be part of His wheat crop, ripened by the sun, ready for harvest.
As in ch. 7, the 144,000 are now pictured. Their placement here, following the mark of the beast and those who follow him, is a counterpoint to the dragon’s war and the masses of earth who fall for his deceptions. God has a faithful remnant who won’t buy in to the beast’s kingdom, though it costs them their lives.
In what way is this group similar to the great multitude/144,000 in ch. 7? In what new ways is it described, and how do these pictures reveal it’s “experience” with the beast, and the threats associated with not receiving the mark/worshipping the image?
The three angels’ messages could easily take an entire quarter of study on their own. Here, we can look at the fundamental issues the raise, and how we can best hear and internalize the messages.
1. The first angel’s message (14:6-7) – This angel carries the everlasting good news. The word “gospel” (Greek: euangellion, “a good report”) was used for the birth of a king or emperor, someone to carry on the kingly line. Thus the birth of Jesus is called in Mark’s narrative, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” The everlasting Good News, then, is that God’s son will reign forever. This is wonderful because with the announcement of the fall of Babylon, there will never be another affront to Christ’s rule.
God deserves glory because the “hour of His judgment” has come. The Greek text allows God to be both the “one judging” and the “one who is judged.” Both fit here, and most likely, both happen at the same time As God judges between those who are part of His Kingdom and the kingdom of the beast, His approach is going to be questioned. Is He a just judge? Is He fair? Righteous? Consistent? Law-abiding? These are all the questions that Satan raised against Him, and which the book of Revelation takes great pains to answer. In the final chapters, God’s character will be vindicated through His just approach to judgment.
The command to “worship Him who made” is as close to a quote from the Old Testament as we’ll see in Revelation, and it recalls the 4th commandment. Surely the concept of “resting on the 7th day” as a sign of allegiance and an act of worship to the creator is still important to God’s people. In many places we’ve replaced the command to “rest” with the idea of “go to church.” While corporate worship was a tradition of both Paul and Jesus, let us remember that the command is to “rest from our labor.” Sometimes our weekly worship services are more work than they are rest, and we justify it by saying the priests in the temple are exempt. Once again, Jesus is the model here. He did good on the Sabbath day, spent time with His disciples out in the wheatfields, healed, taught, and called the Sabbath a delight, not just for Himself, but for others, too. Finally, the mention of “streams of water” recalls the flood, where God re-created the earth.
Why would God chose something like the Sabbath as a sign of His relationship with His people? What is so unique about this command that it can reveal God’s sovereignty and set God’s people apart from those who are not?
2. The second angel’s message (14:8) – Though we haven’t even been introduced to Babylon the great yet in Revelation’s narrative, this angel announces its fall. How appropriate that the kingdom of Satan and his city—a counterfeit of God’s holy city—is so insignificant to God that it is fallen before it ever even arises.
3. The third angel’s message (14:9-13) – Mostly a warning, the third angel pleads with earth’s inhabitants not to worship the beast or receive his image. The first and third messages show that worship is a central feature of Revelation’s righteous and wicked; both worship, but only one side is worthy of homage, praise, and loyalty.
Worshipping the beast brings negative consequences. The “tormented forever” language here is unmistakable, but it helps to remember that Revelation is symbolic. Also, New Testament language about how to treat one’s enemies helps make sense of this language. In Romans 12:18-21, Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22 for the ideal on how to treat one’s enemies. The principle is graciousness and kindness, and by so doing, it heaps burning coals on their heads. The kindness of an enemy is torment, and God’s eternal graciousness in giving what his opponents want most is tortuous. The smoke of their torment also parallels in a negative way the incense prayers of the saints that rises to God. But with the wicked, the smoke rises forever because they aren’t offering prayers in humility.
The third angel’s message is the final warning to a perishing world, the last pleading of God to accept His mercy and love. Once again, the righteous are shown faithful keeping God’s commandments and possessing the faith of Jesus (“in Jesus” and “like Jesus had” are both possible here).
Why do you suppose Revelation uses such harsh language in its warnings? What do the images of torment and suffering suggest about the depth of the spiritual issues at stake and their seriousness? Do you think a softer, gentler message would be more effective?
What is our role in making sure these messages are proclaimed to a dying planet?
The two harvests suggest a time of dividing, much like the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. The harvester of the righteous is Christ himself and the first harvest is implied to be wheat, while an angel reaps a second harvest of grapes (of wrath). Revelation 19:15 says it is Jesus, however, that presses out the winepress of God’s wrath. While some consider this the 2nd coming language, it may also describe the ripening of God’s people under the 3rd angel’s messages before the final judgment, while the ripening of the grapes experience the gathering described in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). Jesus’ parables related to growing wheat are certainly applicable here, such as the sower and the seed, and the harvest language in the feasts of Passover and Pentecost.
These two harvests suggest there are only two types of people spiritually. Are you comfortable with this idea, that there is not a lot of gray area? What would be the dividing line between these two groups? What makes each group unique?
Chapter 14 is a counterpoint to the Dragon’s war and his allies in chs. 12-13. God has a last-day people and message, and desires that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God’s messages even have a counterfeit in chapter 16 under the 6th plague, as we’ll see. But God won’t let Satan’s propaganda win out.