If you met God face-to-face, how do you think you’d react?
The first angel flying in midheaven who has the everlasting gospel proclaims in a loud voice two imperatives in Greek: 1) Fear God, and 2) Give glory to him. These must be unpacked a bit in order to understand what the text is suggesting and what it is not. But these imperatives appear to be a part of the everlasting gospel. The call to fear God and give him glory are again urged in response to the beast compelling everyone to worship a human-made image, an idol. The command to worship the image is backed by force, compulsion, by teeth that bite. Failure to bow before the image brings about death. Of course Daniel 3 is being alluded to and the fiery furnace awaits the faithful Hebrews. But they refuse to worship the image that “Nebuchadnezzar set up,” even at the cost of their lives. They believed the God they served was able, and would save them from the King’s hand. It is that kind of faith that those living through the establishing of this new image will exercise. The beast is fearsome, without doubt. But Jesus’ words come again: “do not fear the one who can destroy the body but not the soul…”
Revelation 14:7: Fear God!
The first of these imperatives is to fear God. The Greek word, phobeomai, is the word from which we get phobia, a general fear—realistic or unrealistic, warranted or unwarranted—of something specific. Claustrophobia, the fear of tight spaces, or agoraphobia, the fear of wide-open spaces affect many people. But how should we think about fear of God? Is God someone to be “scared of”? The quarterly says we should think of this word as in reverence or awe, but not fear. While Jesus came to show us the character of the Father, and says that perfect love drives out fear, we must contend with the places in the Bible where people witness a theophany, a revelation of God or a divine being. Each and every time someone sees God, Jesus, or a glorified angel, the response is the same—falling face down, as if dead, and unable to move. The idea of being scared to death almost seems appropriate. This happened to Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, the guards around the tomb of Jesus, and John the Revelator. Divine visitors elicit fear because the senses are overwhelmed. How much more should we come face-to-face with God? To recognize that God is OTHER than I, that in His hand and will is all power to make and unmake the universe, to take life and raise it back up, that is a sobering thought. Certainly reverence and awe are the minimum emotions and actions we might feel and act out.
But of course these are also balanced by our knowledge of God’s character as shown through Scripture, through His law, and through the law incarnate in Jesus. As a loving father who invites us to come to Him, to have a relationship with Him, we have nothing to fear, just as a young child climbs into his or her father’s lap for comfort after a fall, for a story, or just a snuggle.
What has been your picture of God? How does it play a role in how you think about this command to “fear God”? Do you sense you have too much fear of God and not enough trust in His goodness? Or do you have too familiar a relationship with God and not enough respect? Where do we find the balance encouraged by the 1st angel’s message without swinging wildly to either side?
Revelation 14:7: Give Him glory!
The angel commands another action: those who dwell on the earth are to give Him glory. Both imperatives in this lesson are in the plural, that means they are not given to individuals per se, but to all those who hear. They are corporate commands, and the context suggests they are being given to the entire earth.
What does it mean to give glory to God? The word for glory here is the word used in the Doxology, the well hymn of praise to God. Doxa in Greek can refer to the brightness around a heavenly being, splendor or radiance emanating from someone’s countenance, a state of being great or magnificent, fame or honor earned by status or exploits in war, business, the arts, etc., or praise given for simply having certain characteristics. In this case, we are to give glory to Him, and that begins to narrow this list down.
What kind of glory can we give God? Certainly not the kind found reflected on the face of Moses when He had visited in the presence of God. Humans are not able to grant any kind of radiance or splendor to a God who dwells in unapproachable light. We can however, give Him glory for his attributes and make Him famous in the world. Although Time magazine may never run a cover with God’s picture (against the commandments anyway), but we can still make Him famous in our circle by talking about Him. Recently, a video was made by a “man-on-the-street” who asked random young people questions about the founders of America. Many could not recall the first president, though Washington is doubtlessly one of the most famous. But they could easily identify all the members of the Kardashian family and other famous Hollywood stars.
This angel asks us to make God famous, to give Him the praise and honor that is due to Him. Many people talk about professional athletes, movie or music stars, or political/military heroes far more than they talk about God. Perhaps we can change that; God can be the most famous, the most worthy of praise within my sphere. And that may start with something as simple as confessing our relationship with Him to others, asking if they’d like to hear more.
What attributes of God do you feel are most worthy of praise? How can we make Him famous in our circles? Have you ever been embarrassed to talk about your relationship with God? Tell of a time you confessed your love for Him to someone else…
In Revelation 12, the people of the earth overcome the Dragon by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Through the Johannine literature, Jesus testifies about the Father, and we are urged to share the same testimony. This plays a central part in giving glory to God. He is most glorified when I offer Him my body as a living sacrifice, when He works His will through me just as He did through His Son Jesus Christ.