The proclamation of the eternal gospel leads to an appeal for human beings to take God’s side in the cosmic conflict (Rev. 14:7). God respects human freedom and invites every individual to respond freely to His plan for them. This most important decision will determine each one’s eternal destiny. The call is like that of parents who, sensing the child is about to make a wrong decision, would do all they can to dissuade them from making it. The appeal comes from the heart of a loving God.
The magnitude of the decision is expressed through the use of three verbs in the imperative: fear God, give Him glory, and worship Him. We will discuss all three of them in more detail.
Fear could awaken us to do something to avoid the danger that generates it. In the Scriptures the presence of God could engender fear. Who would not tremble in the presence of a God who manifests Himself in glorious and impenetrable light and that causes nature to shake and recede before Him? Humans fear for their life, not because God threatens to kill them, but because they realize that the experience is so intense that they fear they would not survive it (Ex. 20:19). This incomparable God approaches His creatures longing to be their God. Consequently, the fear that manifested itself in trembling and terror pulls them to Him in awe, expressed in grateful submission to Him, in worship, and in fellowship with the One who is life in Himself (Deut. 5:26, 27). This is true reverential fear for the Creator and Redeemer God (Ex. 20:1; Rev. 4:10, 11; 5:8, 9).
The best biblical parallel for the appeal to fear God (Rev. 14:7) is Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14. (1) The imperative is used in both passages (“fear God”), indicating that this is an urgent matter. (2) The call is universal in that it is addressed to all human beings (“this applies to every person” [Eccl. 12:13];* “to those who live on the earth” [Rev. 14:6]). (3) To fear God is connected to judgment (He “will bring every act to judgment” [Eccl. 12:14]; “the hour of His judgment has come” [Rev. 14:7]). (4) To fear God is associated with keeping His commandments (“fear God and keep His commandments” [Eccl. 12:13]; “the saints who keep the commandments of God” [Rev. 14:12]).
The first angel urgently invites humans to make this glorious God their personal God and to manifest their “fear” of Him (or their “awe”) in submission to His loving will. The alternative is to fear/submit to the dragon to escape death (Rev. 13:15), but only He who is “the living One” died but is now “alive forevermore.” Only the Lamb that was slain can preserve life (Rev. 1:18).
“GIVE GLORY TO HIM”
Humans are to set aside their pride and instead ascribe honor and glory to God. The angel specifies how humans, immersed in a cosmic conflict in which God’s justice and love have been questioned, ought to glorify Him. The phrase “give glory to God” is used in the Bible in the context of judgment, to acknowledge human sinfulness and God’s righteous judgment. In such case, the phrase is a confession of guilt (Joshua 7:19) and/or an expression of repentance (Jer. 13:16; 1 Sam. 6:5).
In Revelation, “to give glory” to God describes, first, what takes place in heaven, where heavenly beings declare with one voice that God is worthy of receiving glory because He is the Creator (Rev. 4:9-11) and, through the Lamb, the Redeemer (Rev. 5:9-13). Second, humans are commanded to give glory to God here on earth (Rev. 11:13; 14:7; 16:9). Third, at the close of the cosmic conflict all will give glory to God (Rev. 19:7; cf. Rev. 5:13). On earth there is unwillingness to recognize that people are sinners and that God is a righteous, loving God. The appeal should go out to all, for some of them will witness the destructive upheaval of the forces of nature and will “give glory to God”; they will acknowledge that they are sinners and that God’s judgments are just (Rev. 11:13; Rom. 10:8, 9).
WORSHIP AND JUDGMENT
The appeal to accept the majestic God of the Bible as one’s personal God (to “fear Him”) and to confess one’s sinfulness, acknowledging God’s justice and love, is stated in the context of the announcement that “the hour of His judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7). Judgment is in principle a legal search for the truth. A crime of cosmic proportions was committed by evil powers when they attacked the integrity of God’s loving character, but in the final judgment His name will be cleared. The wicked promoted the dragon’s deception, but the judgment will reveal their mistake. It is now that humans should fear God and give glory to Him.
The final judgment is a Christian doctrine. According to the Bible, the final judgment consists of three stages. The first is the pre-Advent judgment in heaven, where the lives of God’s people are investigated to reveal whether they have remained faithful to their faith commitment to the Lamb (e.g., Dan. 7:8-10, 13, 22; Rom. 2:5, 6; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8). Christ will come to save His people and not judge them (Heb. 9:28).
Christians who believe in the immortality of the soul also believe in a pre-Advent judgment. The judgment of the immortal soul occurs when the person dies; at that moment the eternal destiny is legally determined. The Bible rejects the immortality of the soul and teaches that the person “sleeps” in the Lord until the coming of Christ. Second, there is a judgment after the millennium, when the forces of evil and their supporters will stand before the throne of God (Rev. 14:10; 20:11, 12), to be followed by the third aspect of the final judgment, the executive phase (Rev. 20), when the cosmos will be purified from sin. This most glorious event was typified in the Old Testament by the Day of Atonement, pointing to the moment (“the hour”) in history when the judicial process will begin in heaven, according to the divine calendar, in 1844 (Dan. 8:14; cf. Rev. 11:19; 14:7). While living in the antitypical day of atonement, we are to appeal to humanity to fear God and give Him glory.
The glorious and transcendental God of the Scriptures wants to be our God, but the decision is ours. The final judgment will reveal that, through the cross of Christ, God manifested His infinite love, saving sinners like us. For now, we have chosen to fear and to give glory to Him, taking the side of the Lamb in the cosmic conflict.
Questions for Reflection:
How can we connect the judgment message of the three angels in Revelation to the love story of the Gospels?
How can we “give glory” to God in our daily life?
Why is the promise of divine judgment a hopeful message in a world that is governed by ambition, sin, and evil?
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez and Díxil Lisbeth Rodríguez
Contributing Writer •
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez is well known to readers of Adventist World as he authors our monthly Bible Questions Answered column. He retired
in 2011 as director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, where he served for a total
of 19 years. Rodríguez was born in Puerto Rico, earned a Th.D. from Andrews University, and has worked for the Adventist Church as pastor, educator, and administrator. His daughter, Díxil Lisbeth Rodríguez, earned a doctorate in rhetoric from Texas Woman’s University and has served as university professor and hospital chaplain. “I enjoy teaching, but I have a passion for humanitarian mission and chaplaincy,” she says when asked about her favorite things to do. Both father and daughter enjoy conversing deeply about theology.