I GREW UP IN A HOME in which my mother faithfully took my sister and me to church every Sabbath. Our church was filled with many wonderful people, including a pastor who was completely committed to preaching “the three angels’ messages.” This phrase was regularly heard from our pulpit. Although I didn’t fully understand what it meant, I figured that whatever these three messages were, they had to be good. I could tell this just by the way people talked about them.
At the age of 12, I publicly committed my life to Jesus in baptism. Two years after this, I made a promise to God that I would speak for Him wherever He opened the doors. I had no idea that God would literally open the doors for me to speak for Him around the world!
As I grew older, my understanding of these three messages grew as well. But it wasn’t until I was asked to conduct a workshop about them for a youth conference that I felt like I finally got it. When I set my mind to grasp these messages so I could convey them to someone else, it was as if a light bulb went on and I realized what had been sitting in front of me since I was a little girl. For this reason, I consider that youth conference experience to be one of the most valuable of my life.
As I reflect on these beautiful messages in Revelation 14:6-12, I believe they form the heartbeat of the entire book of Revelation.
CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT
Before we take a closer look at them, let’s get a little context for what is happening in the book of Revelation. Chapters 1-13 picture God’s people struggling, surviving, escaping, having good times and bad times. Then Revelation 13:15 speaks of a power at the end of time that will “cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
Have you ever thought about the fact that if the Bible finished in Revelation 13, it would end with a Christian holocaust? This is no pretty script! This is a death decree that will face God’s people! But praise God, this isn’t where the Bible ends.
Right after Revelation 13 comes Revelation 14, and as this chapter opens, John sees a glorious scene of the 144,000 standing with the Lamb (Jesus) on Mount Zion. The Bible tells us, “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4).
This is a group of people who have a pure, undiluted faith. They haven’t been influenced by the popular “What’s most comfortable for me?” gospel. No! They are people of the Word, willing to do whatever the Bible says. Joyfully they lay down their all for the Lord. As a result, they get to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
Referencing Revelation 14:4, Ellen White writes, “All who follow the Lamb in heaven must first have followed Him on earth, not fretfully or capriciously, but in trustful, loving, willing obedience, as the flock follows the shepherd.”1
This scene is then followed by three angels flying in the heavens carrying specific messages of love and warning from God to a dying world. Next, we notice a great harvest that represents the second coming of Jesus. From Revelation 14 to the end of the book, we see just victory, victory, victory described for those who put their trust in Jesus, following the Lamb wherever He goes.
So the preaching of the three angels’ messages is the catalyst that brings on the rest of the book of Revelation. By embracing and sharing God’s final messages of love and warning to the world, we become part of the generation that helps fulfill the book of Revelation, which wraps up this earth’s history and culminates in the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Shouldn’t we all want to be part of this exciting movement?
THE FIRST MESSAGE
“I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, 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 who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water’”
(Revelation 14:6, 7, italics supplied).
As we look at this passage, we find three central themes: the everlasting gospel (which shows that we are saved by Jesus’ work, not our own—see Romans 1:16), the judgment (which is a call to flee to the safety of Christ), and worship of the Creator (which reminds us exactly where we came from and how we got here).
The message begins with the call to fear God. Time and time again throughout God’s Word, one of the key identifiers of God’s people has been that they “feared God.” This means they had absolute loyalty to God and full surrender to His will. It also means they have learned to take God and His Word seriously! Unfortunately, most people don’t take God’s Word seriously these days. They live and act certain ways based on their fear of society and what others think of them, not their fear of God or their respect of His Word.
Next, we are called to “give glory to God.” This has to do with living a lifestyle that brings God glory. The Bible tells us, “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Giving glory to God is not natural. Naturally we want to give glory to self! But we are called to die to self so Jesus may live in and through us.
The last part tells us “the hour of His judgment has come.” This means that God—not just His people—is on trial here. Satan has told the universe that it’s impossible for sinful human beings to be saved and that God is unjust in bringing humans to heaven while Satan and his angels have been cast out. He’s right in a way. It would be impossible if not for a perfect Substitute who has taken our punishment and now stands in the judgment in our place. Satan and his angels did not repent when they had opportunity. But when we repent, we are no longer under the condemnation of our sins. We are free in Jesus! As long as we are trusting in the blood of Jesus, God’s name and honor are vindicated and He has the right to bring us home (John 5:24 and Romans 6:22, 23).
In essence, the judgment is an urgent appeal for all to confess their sins and flee to the safety of Jesus while probation’s door is still open. When we do that, the judgment becomes good news, because the Judge is on our side. The Bible tells us, “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).
Let’s not forget the final appeal of the first angel’s message. It is the call to “Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:7). Interestingly, the only place the Creator God is referred to in the Ten Commandments is in regards to the seventh-day Sabbath. This is an appeal to return to worshipping God on the Sabbath.
THE SECOND MESSAGE
The next two messages are a bit shorter and more cryptic, but not any less significant.
In Revelation 14:8 the Bible tells us, “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’”
When John was writing the second and third angels’ messages, physical Babylon had already fallen. So John is not calling God’s people out of a literal location but out of a spiritual condition, a condition of spiritual adultery. Babylon actually represents a network of counterfeit religious systems that are leading multitudes to disregard the Ten Commandments of God. These counterfeits are based on spiritual lies instead of the absolute truths of God’s Word.
THE THIRD MESSAGE
The third angel’s appeal is a warning to those who linger in Babylon, the counterfeit religious systems of the world. It’s basically a plea to all God’s people still in Babylon: “Don’t take the mark. Don’t worship the beast. Get out while you still can.”
Revelation 14:9, 10 reads: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
These three messages can be distilled down to just two words each: (1) God’s truth, (2) Satan’s lies, (3) your choice. It’s important to recognize that if we want to escape the mark of the beast outlined in the third angel’s message, we must embrace the first and second angels’ messages. Although these three messages are carried by three angels, they come as a unit—a trio—together. This means that we cannot separate these messages. We must accept and embrace the first angel’s message before receiving the second and the third. And we must embrace the first and second angels’ messages before embracing the third. They work together.
So, what is it about these messages, swiftly couriered by three angels flying in mid-heaven, that makes them so important, so relevant for us today? I believe it’s because wherever these messages go, people’s lives are powerfully impacted and totally transformed.
Back when COVID-19 hit, the North New South Wales Conference in Australia, where I live and work, quickly adapted and took our evangelistic efforts to an online space. A young man working in Newcastle had an Adventist colleague share with him the website link for our series. Each evening he got online to hear the preaching of the three angels’ messages, and the Holy Spirit began to speak powerfully to his heart. As the series continued night after night, he
felt convicted of his need to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It wasn’t just about another spiritual high—it was about following biblical truth all the way, with heart, body, mind, and soul.
Today, this same young man has quit smoking and is involved in church every Sabbath. By obedience to God and His Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, he has had a complete transformation of character and is actively seeking to win his family and friends to Jesus.
These messages aren’t just random communications from God; they have been tasked by God with a super-special and specific purpose. They are to prepare a people for the coming of Jesus.
Ellen White writes, “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light-bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import,—the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”2
Today, as the three angels’ messages are zooming around the world, I want to encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can be a “three angel messenger.” This message as a unit will triumph for the simple fact that it is God’s message with Jesus at the center. The everlasting gospel might not be considered politically correct, but it is correct. It might not be considered popular, but these messages bear the signature of heaven and go with the guarantee of future triumph. This world will not last forever. Time is running out. A better world is coming. And there’s only one way from this world to the next. We must follow the Lamb wherever He goes. And if we follow Him, He will lead us safely home!
1 The Acts of the Apostles, p. 591.
2 Evangelism, pp. 119, 120