In every age God has given His people a special mission. And while the specifics of how to carry out that mission may vary, the ultimate goal is always the same—to bring people into a saving relationship with God that will last for eternity.
More than 2,500 years ago God called a young man to an important mission lasting not only through his lifetime but down the ages into our time and beyond. Standing fearlessly in the courts of kings, Daniel was a bright light as he ministered to those at the highest levels while standing in the presence of the King of kings who “reveals secrets” and “makes known what will be in the latter days” (see Dan. 2:29).
Those prophecies, particularly the ones regarding the last days, are identified in Revelation 10 as a “little book,” sealed until the time of the end. John is told, “Go, take the little book which is open. . . . Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth” (Rev. 10:8, 9).
In Revelation 10 John represents God’s people who experienced the Great Disappointment in 1844. The open book is the book of Daniel, containing the 2,300-day/year prophecy concerning the cleansing of the sanctuary and the coming investigative judgment. Believing Jesus was about to come was sweet to the Advent believers, but when Christ did not appear as expected, it was a bitter disappointment. They had preached the message of Jesus’ return, but their work was not yet complete. There was an additional message that, in God’s plans, must be given to the whole world. This message, divided into three parts, is outlined in Revelation 14:6-12, and is known as the three angels’ messages.
The Spirit of Prophecy tells us the first and second messages were given by the early Advent believers. The third message would be added to the first two and would be given just before Jesus returns. The combination of these three messages would be the final appeal of God to this world.
Our mission as God’s remnant church is made abundantly clear by inspiration: “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. . . . The world is to be warned, and God’s people are to be true to the trust committed to them.”¹
Since we are entrusted by God to proclaim these messages to the world, how important it is that we understand the messages and the importance of sharing them.
THE FIRST MESSAGE
The first angel’s message, in Revelation 14:6, 7, proclaims the everlasting gospel: salvation through Christ’s righteousness and grace—His justifying and sanctifying power. The angel announces that the time of judgment has come and calls people back to the true worship of God, recognizing Him as the Creator.
The announcement that we are living in the time of the judgment is based upon the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 8:14—after 2,300 mornings and evenings (or prophetic days, which equal years) the sanctuary would be cleansed. Since October 22, 1844, we have been living in the period of time known as the pre-Advent judgment—the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The results of this investigative judgment will determine who will be taken to heaven when Jesus returns.
The call to worship God as Creator automatically places upon people the responsibility to observe the day that honors His creative act. We are told, “The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not.”²
But there is more to worshipping God as Creator—there must be a willingness to reject false theories about the origin of life. It is impossible to believe in evolution and yet say God is Creator of heaven and earth. The two concepts do not mix. Further, evolution is a part of spiritualism, since “spiritualism teaches ‘that man is the creature of progression; that it is his destiny from his birth to progress, even to eternity, toward the Godhead.’”³
The second angel’s message, found in Revelation 14:8, announcing the fall of Babylon, was first presented in the summer of 1844.⁴ Because in the prophecy this announcement follows the preaching of the judgment, and because the churches to which this message applies were once pure, Babylon here refers to churches that have rejected the warning of the judgment.
The message “Babylon is fallen” is repeated in Revelation 18:1-4. God’s people who are still in Babylon are called out so that they will not be guilty of participating in her sins and will not receive the plagues to be poured out upon her. Therefore, Babylon is constituted by churches that teach many of the theological errors passed down through the church of the Middle Ages.
Although the fall of Babylon began in the summer of 1844, it is a gradual process and will not be complete until (1) the churches reject the three messages of Revelation 14 and accept the strong delusions and lying wonders presented by Satan; (2) these apostate churches unite fully with the world, accepting and believing what the world accepts and believes.⁵
For God’s people still in Babylon to understand the urgency of getting out, they must understand the sins and errors of Babylon. This places a tremendous responsibility upon God’s people to carry out His mission of proclaiming these messages. Although this proclamation will be met by intense anger and fierce opposition for exposing Babylon for what it is, we must move forward with Christian love and biblical authenticity, just as those in the past have carried out their God-given mission.⁶
The third angel’s message, found in Revelation 14:9-11, contains a clear warning: don’t worship the beast or its image, or receive its mark. This message is based on the prophecy of Revelation 13. The beast represents the apostate church. The image of this beast is created by the second animal, representing the United States. Note Ellen White’s explanation: “In order for the United States to form an image of the beast, the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends.”⁷
For more than 200 years the United States has stood as a beacon of religious freedom. According to Bible prophecy, however, the time is coming when religious freedom will be violated, and a movement will so control the government that laws will pass fulfilling the wishes of the apostate churches. The end result of forming this image is intolerance toward anyone who disagrees with what this church/ state relationship demands.⁸
The mark of the beast, observance of a false day of worship, is an institution that clearly sets forth the authority of the beast. One church boldly boasts that it has changed the seventh-day Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Other churches indicate they worship on Sunday as a memorial of Christ’s resurrection. Neither assertion is biblical.
Apostate religious leaders will be filled with anger as they are unable to refute scriptural evidence for the sacredness of Saturday, and Sabbathkeepers will be persecuted and imprisoned. Amid these events the proclamation of the third message will have a powerful effect as people see prophecy being fulfilled exactly as commandment keepers said it would. As the conflict between truth and error intensifies, a purging takes place in God’s church. “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. . . . They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren.”⁹
Those who hold fast to their Savior and refuse to abandon the truths found in the three angels’ messages realize they must, through God’s strength, carry on with His mission, leaving the results with Him. Their faces will be “lighted up hastening from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. . . . The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. . . . The truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. . . . Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.”¹⁰
Brothers and sisters, what we are seeing today is a wake-up call, urging us to look to God’s Word and be ready for what’s coming. Only by relying completely on Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit will we be able to accomplish anything! God is preparing us for the outpouring of the latter rain, enabling us to proclaim with a loud voice the life-giving messages of the three angels.
Today I invite you to respond to God’s call by saying, “Yes, Lord, by Your strength and power, I will go proclaim the three angels’ messages. Wherever You send me, I am willing to go.” Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
Why is it important to read the three angels’ messages in the larger context of biblical prophecy?
What would you say to people who have read this reading and tell you that they are afraid to think about end times and final events?
How would you formulate the essence of the three angels’ messages if you were to share them with a friend who has never heard about them?
¹ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1909), vol. 9, p. 19. ² Ellen G, White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 605. ³ Ibid., p. 554. ⁴ Ibid., p. 389. ⁵ Ibid., p. 390. ⁶ Ibid., p. 606. ⁷ Ibid., p. 443. ⁸ Ibid., p. 445. ⁹ Ibid., p. 608. ¹⁰ Ibid., p. 612.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @pastortedwilson and on Facebook: @Pastor Ted Wilson.