The First Angel’ Message
After the sealing work is completed, we are introduced to the people who are sealed – the 144,000. The 144,000 are portrayed standing on Mt. Zion with the Lamb and without fault before the throne of God. After we are told that they are sealed with the name of God, the prophecy wants to tell us how they are sealed with the name of God. In other words, what is the process, or what is the reason for the emergence of the 144,000? And why do they appear, at the end of time? Answer: the three angel’s messages produce the 144,000. It is the three angel’s messages that brings the harvest growing in the fields to maturity.
When two conventional armies battle for supremacy, the prize to be won is the amount of territory the victorious side gets to occupy. The same principle applies in the battle between two spiritual armies – only in the latter case it is not physical territory that is at stake – it is the spiritual territory of the mind and the heart – the battle is over the hearts and minds of the people. The battle between Christ and Satan is over truth, allegiance and worship.
The last battle to be fought for the hearts and minds of the people, the battle that produces the 144,000 is the acceptance or rejection of the three angel’s messages. The last end-time message, that produces the 144,000 is a threefold one – symbolized by three angels flying in the midst of heaven:
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment has come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall 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 ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Rev. 14:6-11.
The first angel’s message emphasizes four things; the everlasting gospel, the judgment, creation and worship.
The Everlasting Gospel
God said of Himself, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6). Jesus said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending… which, is and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). The Godhead has always been, and does not change. Therefore, the truth about God, and His plan of salvation does not change. It is rightly known as ‘the everlasting gospel’ because it has existed since everlasting.
Although the everlasting gospel does not change, it does have several different phases. As phases change from one to another, God’s servants have different roles to play during these phases and different messages to preach during these phases. Broadly, these phases are built into the structure and rituals of the sanctuary, there is a courtyard phase, a holy place phase and a most holy phase. It is also illustrated by the yearly cycle of Jewish festivals, in which there are seven phases. It is the privilege and duty of God’s servants to know each of these phases and to keep the world informed about progress. Jesus was speaking about alert, spiritually guided people, when He asked the question: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Matt. 24:45). In other words, who is going to give my people the right message at the right time? Who is going to know, at what point, the everlasting gospel is at and who is going to preach it. The first angel’s message was not something that was preached by Moses, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or Daniel or any other prophet. It was not even preached by Jesus. It could not have been preached by any of these servants of God, because it was not the right food at the right time. It could only be understood and preached at a specific time and moment when the everlasting gospel transitioned from one phase to another.
The Right Time
Scripture often uses the expression ‘the appointed time’ – there is a built-in timeline to everything that God does. There is even a timeline that governs the affairs of the natural world (see Jer. 8:7). In the same manner God has a built-in time line pertaining to the affairs of men and especially for the everlasting gospel (see Gen. 18:14; Dan. 8:19; 11:27, 29; Habakkuk 2:3; Acts 17:26, 31; Gal. 4:1-4). This timeline is expressed everywhere in Scripture. For example, the Jews were instructed to perform their worship services and conduct all their affairs, according to a delineated timeline. Jesus revealed there was such a timeline when His mother asked Him to help with the lack of wine at the wedding. His response was to tell His mother, “Mine hour is not yet come” (Jn. 2:4). When His brethren, exhorted Him to go with them to Jerusalem, He said the same thing to them, that He said to His mother, “My time has not yet come” (Jn. 7:6, 8; cf. Lu. 9:51). Jesus spoke extensively about His second coming, and He told us that it would occur at a certain time, known only to the Father: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matt.24:38). Even the evil angels are aware of this timeline (see Matt. 8:29). The first angel is also well aware of this timeline – the reason why the angel exhorts God’s people to “fear God and give glory to Him” is because “the hour of His judgment has come.”
The first angel’s message announces that a change has taken place in the kingdom of God. The everlasting gospel is transitioning from one phase to another. It is announced that we ought to “fear God” and “give glory to Him” because “the hour of his judgment has come.” In other words, the first angel is announcing the beginning of the judgment. But which judgment is it? There are two judgments in the Bible. There is one before the second coming and one after the second coming. The one before the second coming is commonly called the investigative judgment and the one after the second coming is called the executive judgment. The judgment referred to in Rev. 14, must be the investigative judgment, because it is not yet time for the harvest. The harvest does not occur until the preaching of all three angel’s messages have been preached and completed. In other words, it is still possible for people to be saved. The executive judgment takes place after the second coming and at the end of the millennium, and deals solely with the unsaved (see Rev. 20:11-15). Therefore, because salvation is still possible when the judgment in Rev. 14 begins, it must be the investigative judgment. [See Appendix for more information on the investigative judgement].
Creation and Worship
When God wanted to convince the people of the earth, that He was the one true God and all the idols that they were enamored of, were false gods, He would often refer to the fact that He was the Creator. Psalm 96 is a classic example:
O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens. Ps 96:1.
In Isaiah there is a lengthy passage condemning mankind’s bewitchment with idolatry. Therefore, God appeal to the people to compare His power, with the fallacy of idolatry and false gods. He concludes His argument by stating:
Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish. Isa. 44:24, 25.
Paul made the same argument, when he was exhorting the people of Lycaonia, not to make sacrifices to idols and false gods:
Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein. Acts 14:15.
Paul made the same argument, yet again, when he confronted the all-encompassing nature of idolatry in Athens, where they even had an idol for the ‘unknown god’ just in case they missed honoring one of these so-called gods:
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Acts 17:22-31. cf. Isa. 46:1-10; Dan. 5:23; Habakkuk 2:18.
The angel preaching the first message of the three, is simply making the same point that has always been made. Why worship that which is not real? Why worship that which cannot help you? Come back to the true worship of what Him that is real, of Him who can help you. Jesus has told us how to do that. Jesus also confronted false worship verses true worship in His interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well:
Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Jn. 4:22-24.
The reason why this message from the fist angel is so pertinent and relevant is because we have just been informed in chapter 13, that the people of the earth would worship the beast. Therefore, the appeal to turn away from false worship to that which is true, comes yet again to the people of the earth, one last time.
Creation and the Sabbath
Since God has always emphasised His power and authority, because He is responsible for all of creation, would it not be reasonable to predict that God would give His created beings, a memorial of His creation. Something that would constantly remind His created beings that He is their Creator. Would not such a memorial safeguard His created beings from slipping into false ideology and false systems of worship? In fact, God Himself, saw the necessity of such a memorial and He provided mankind with such a memorial, with the institution of the seventh-day Sabbath at Mt. Sinai. He has done the same thing at the end of time:
|The Old Testament Command to Worship on the Seventh-day Sabbath
|The New Testament Command to Worship on the Seventh-day Sabbath
|Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Ex. 20:8-11.
|And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment has come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Rev. 14:6, 7.
The origins of the seventh-day Sabbath, go back to creation. God finished His work of creation on the sixth day, and the next day He ‘rested’ from His work. Therefore, there is no more appropriate memorial for creation, than the seventh-day Sabbath. It is the day that God Himself ‘rested’ from the work of creation, therefore God has decreed that mankind should follow His example. This is why both the Sabbath and creation are intertwined together in the 4th commandment of the ten. In fact, Scripture often reminds the people of God, of the connection between the Sabbath and creation:
Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you…Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. Ex. 31:13, 16, 17.
And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. Eze. 20:20.
The purpose of the 7th Day Sabbath, was to forever keep the knowledge of who the true God is – the God of creation. And if the people of the earth, had kept this knowledge and kept the 7th Day Sabbath, they would never have fallen for the worship of false gods and idols – they would never have been deceived into worshipping the beast in the last days. And it is for this reason that creation and the memorial to creation is emphasised in the last days, because the people of the earth have fallen yet again, into the worship of false gods and idols. Just as God, in the past, called His people out of idolatry and the worship of false gods, and to preserve the truth, by honouring the true Sabbath day (see Ex. 31:13-16; Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 56:2-6, 58:13, 14; Jer. 17:21-27; Eze. 20:1-24). God is doing the same thing in the last days. The first angel’s message is the same message that has been given repeatedly in the past. The only difference between the past and the present, is that the first angel’s message, is the last time the inhabitants of the world will hear it.
In the last days, God has one last message to give to the world, before the end comes, with the second coming of Christ and the destruction of the world. The message is a three-fold one, epitomised by three angels flying in the heavens. The fist angel’s message, is an announcement, that the time, for the beginning of the judgment has come. In addition to the warning about the judgment, the first angel’s message is a call to the people of the earth, to return to the worship of the Creator. Worshipping the Creator, would of necessity, involve a recognition of the memorial of creation – the 7th Day Sabbath. Which in turn, would necessitate the formation of a movement, that honoured the command to worship on the 7th Day Sabbath.
The reason why prominence would be given to the 7th Day Sabbath, in the last days, is because the Sabbath is the greatest evidence against and the greatest rebuke to the worshipping of false gods and the practise of idolatry. The reason why this first angel’s message must be heralded throughout the world, is because the world, at large, has fallen into the worshipping of false gods and idolatry, as it has done, so often in the past.