Guests: Dr. Janice McKenzie and Dr. Doug Thomsen
In a world where bad news seems common, what is some good news that you’ve received?
The lesson this week looks at the “everlasting gospel” in Rev. 14:6. Sometimes we’ll use this word to describe something being the absolute truth if it’s the “gospel truth.” The word “gospel” comes from the Greek term “euangellion,” meaning “good news” or “a good report.” It was often used to describe the birth of a King’s son who could continue on the leadership of a country. The word could also mean a good report about a person. Throughout the New Testament, the “euangellion” is found in numerous places. Mark’s story about Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection is called “the gospel,” as is Paul’s defense of his overall message about Jesus found in 1 Corinthians 15. In Romans 1 however, Paul uses the word “gospel” to describe the theological and practical ramifications of Christ’s life and death for Jews and Gentiles alike; the gospel is the Good News of what God has done for us, by saving us. How does Revelation 14—the first Angel’s Message—use this term?
The first of three angels comes in response to the giving of the mark of the beast and compulsion to worship the image in ch. 13. We must remember the context of the three angel’s messages. While the Dragon (ch. 12), and the beasts from the sea and the earth (ch. 13) work together to deceive the inhabitants of the earth and attempt to draw people’s attention to the sea-beast and dragon, God gives his own messages that call people back to worship of the true God, the one and only creator. The message begins with the phrase, “And I saw another angel flying in amidheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.”
Much can be said about the details here. First, the first of three angels comes flying in “midheaven.” Some have said this is the middle of three “heavens,” reflecting an ancient cosmology where the atmosphere is the first, space is the 2nd, and God’s dwelling is the 3rd heaven. Paul uses the phrase “3rd heaven” to describe being in vision and in the presence of God. But mid-heaven here likely means the highest point in the sky, where everyone can see. It’s a figure of speech, not intended to be taken as some kind of so-called scientific statement about a flat earth.
Second, the idea of the “everlasting gospel” is a difficult one. If we read Revelation, we see similarities to Paul’s theology of objective, substitutionary atonement, but it’s more like Christ purchasing us with or by His blood. But is this what the “everlasting gospel” means in Revelation?
The first angel “has the everlasting gospel.” Is it possible that the “everlasting gospel” in Revelation is different than the “good news” of Paul’s letters or the “good news of Mark’s gospel? How is the idea of “fearing God and giving Him glory, and worshipping Him,” good news or how are they related to the good news?
Next, what makes this gospel “everlasting”? Is it because it deals with “everlasting life?” Or is the gospel here the good news about God’s character, His justice mixed with His love, His mercy that knows no bounds until people reject it utterly, His plan of salvation that is open to all but His wrath that falls on those who wish to hurt His covenant people? If this is the case in Revelation, then the everlasting part is that God never changes—he’s the same yesterday, today and forever. The good news is that He is trustworthy, just, holy and righteous, even in His dealing with the sin problem, including how He treats people like me, sinners by birth.
How does a message about the goodness and love of God resonate with people today? Do people need to hear this? Or do you think they need to hear more about the wrath of God against sin? Why?
The everlasting gospel in this that is “preached” uses a verb built off the same noun for “good news.” In other words, the gospel is “gospeled” to people. And in this case, it is “those who dwell on the earth.” If you did a search of every place in Revelation where “those who dwell on the earth” occurs, you will quickly find that these are people who are not followers of God. In other words, they are the ones who most need to hear the message. They are the ones who made the image to the beast in ch. 13. They are the ones who must be converted, to see the true character of God, and worship Him rather than the beasts or the dragon.
But the cost is high in the context of the three angels’ messages. If someone does not give homage to the image of the beast, one’s life is at stake and potentially forfeit. That’s a high price to pay to worship God. But Jesus’ words come back to us: “he who seeks to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Those who hear the gospel make up “every nation, tribe, tongue and people.” This is the same extent of nations from which the great multitude/144,000 is composed. It is possible, then, that there are some who dwell on the earth, who even see the image to the beast as something worthy of worship, who will hear this message, turn/repent, and be saved, and join the 144,000.
An important question here must be asked. Is this angel a symbol for the church and our partnership with God in evangelism to the world? Or is the angel in midheaven an indication that the final message is God’s to give, and His alone? He’ll us angels to share it; I can sit back and watch Him work… ? Most people I know who read it conclude that all of us have a role to play in joining in sharing this message. The Great Commission that concludes the gospel of Matthew (28:19, 20) invites us to be part of it.
What part have you played in either sharing the good news about God with others or preventing them from hearing it? Does my life reflect God’s character to others? List some things that may hinder us from sharing the good news? Now, what steps might we take to share it more effectively?
The final great message to the world in the face of the Dragon’s war against God will center upon the character and attributes about God, which we’ll see in the angel’s proclamation (vs. 7).