What is the “eternal gospel” mentioned in Revelation 14:6 (NIV)?
Revelation 14:6 does not provide an explicit definition of the content of the gospel. One could and should assume that it is the same gospel of salvation by faith in Christ’s redemptive work found in the rest of the New Testament. The truth is that we do not need to assume anything, because a reading of the book of Revelation reveals John’s understanding of the eternal gospel.
1. Summary of the Gospel (Rev. 1:3-5)
It is precisely at the very beginning of the book that John introduces the good news of salvation through Christ, thus signaling the central importance of the topic in Revelation. John greets his audience in the name of the three persons of the Godhead, identified as the source of “grace” and “peace” (Rev. 1:4, NASB). These are two foundational soteriological terms. Grace is the gift of undeserved salvation, and peace points to our reconciliation to God through Christ. At the end of the greetings, John offers a doxology to Jesus and identifies Him as the one who “loves us” and “released [“freed” (NIV)] us from our sins by His blood” (verse 5, NASB). Here John explains how grace and peace can flow from the Godhead to us, namely through the sacrificial death of Christ, who redeemed us from sin. Divine love is manifested in the divine act of redemption made possible at the cost of the blood/life of Jesus. He died in our place. This is the very heart of the gospel.
2. The Lamb and Redemption
The same understanding of salvation is found in Revelation 5:9, 10, but this time it is accomplished through the work of the Lamb that was slain for us, thus reaffirming our interpretation of the phrase “through His blood.” The sacrificial language introduced in Revelation 1:5 is now visible in the sacrificial death of the Lamb. The heavenly beings sing a hymn to the Lamb proclaiming His worthiness because “you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9, NIV). The concept of redemption is expressed using the image of purchasing the freedom of slaves. The cost to the Godhead was the blood/life of the Lamb—Christ’s sacrificial death. It is through His death that the Lamb overcame the forces of evil and delivered His people. The eternal gospel became visible and continues to be visible in Revelation in the figure of the Lamb that was slain.
3. The Lamb and God’s People
The sacrificial death of the Lamb is developed not only through the concept of redemption but also through that of cleansing. This is a new image—humans are in a condition of uncleanness, separated from God and heading to extinction, in need of cleansing. The detergent is the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14). Only by accepting the divine offer of the saving effectiveness of the Lamb are humans declared free from moral and spiritual uncleanliness. Consequently, the blood of the Lamb enables God’s people to stand before God and the Lamb free from fear and in service to them (verse 15); a vivid contrast to the wicked, who cannot stand firm before the Lamb (Rev. 6:15-17). God’s people overcame the dragon through the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11), particularly when they accepted Him as Redeemer. At the end of the cosmic conflict, Christ sits on the throne as the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 22:1, 3), thus assuring us that His sacrificial death will be eternally effective, because it is the most glorious manifestation of divine love.