Seventh-day Adventists and the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 are often thought of synonymously. For years the very logo of the movement depicted three angels flying in midheaven with a message for all the world.
Historically, we have believed that the first angel’s message went out to the early Advent believers of the 1800s. Following that first message, the second message is a call to come out of Babylon, or the confused religions of the world. We even believe that the third angel’s message began to be heard in different parts of the earth, but that its widest impact was somehow limited until the future.
But what if we could look at these messages in an entirely new way, in a future context in which each message takes on new meaning?
We don’t have to look far to see a future moment for these messages. In Early Writings we read these words: “When the messages of the three angels come prominently before the world again just before the second advent of Christ, the angel of Revelation 18:1 joins in the proclamation of the second angel in the message that ‘Babylon is fallen.’ ‘Come out of her, my people.’”*
Adventists find their roots and meaning in history. I’m not here to debate that. But I suggest that sometimes we lose our prophetic relevance by keeping in the past things that should have fresh application in our current reality.
These three messages should be heard collectively and sequentially. They point out that God is asking us all to decide about whom we worship before judgment is pronounced on the whole world.
THE FIRST ANGEL
“Then 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’” (Rev. 14:6, 7).
This message is a call to fear God. Solomon wrote: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Prov. 8:13). This message is also a call to give glory to God. How do we do that? Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8). The fruit of the Spirit comes from our complete surrender to the Holy Spirit, the result of embracing this message.
Then it makes it clear who would understand this message—those who believe in judgment and in the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
I don’t know any group in the world that makes more sense of this message than Seventh-day Adventists. It also makes sense that if a message goes out, it gets people to join a movement that then swells and moves to step two.
No other religious group believes in the judgment hour message, calls people to give God glory, and celebrates God as Creator of heaven and earth every seventh day.
This first message has been taken up earnestly by the Seventh-day Adventist Church as we seek to eschew evil and honor the Creator by giving Him glory, doing all this in the context that time won’t last forever, and believing in the current, ongoing judgment of the living.
Who gives this message around the world? Individuals who have received it, who identify with the movement, and who, in love and mercy, give it by example, by pen, and by voice.
THE SECOND ANGEL
“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’” (Rev. 14:8).
This message is serious. It’s a clear announcement that religion has become corrupted, and that God will not tolerate false religion much longer. This is His call to those now awakened by the first angel, those who accepted that first message. They go out and declare it to their friends in Babylon—historically identified as the fallen churches of Christendom—those who rejected the everlasting gospel message. In His mercy God gives them another warning; this message goes to them.
Many will listen to this message that their belief system is corrupt. Deep down they may have felt that something is not right. Now more surely than ever, they know it is not.
THE THIRD ANGEL
This last message to all the world begins with “If anyone . . .” It’s almost as if anyone who didn’t understand the first message or didn’t answer the call of the second are told: This last one is for you. God in His mercy is addressing you.
The third angel begins with a warning that has an urgency like no other. It’s a call either to allow God to save you, or to try to save yourself. God is clear: salvation is a matter of worship. Because of the faithful call of friends and family, many who now hear the call will exit the fallen churches and their mistaken worship and join with the Advent movement, going out together to give the last message to the world. This third message is intensified by the call of a fourth angel, who repeats mightily the cry of the second and adds the warning of the imminent seven last plagues: “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.’ . . . ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities’” (Rev. 18:1-5). The message goes to all who have ever professed to be followers of Christ; to all who have ever heard and resisted the Holy Spirit’s whisper; to people everywhere who are still part of the religious, ideological, spiritual confusion that is Babylon; to those who profess no faith, or a faith that has nothing to do with the God of the Bible.
In His mercy, God gives every human being alive one last opportunity to hear and see the message in living color. Then everyone will either choose to stand with God’s people; or insist on venturing forward on their own, trying to save themselves.
You and I have the opportunity to get in on the action. Jesus’ invitation is: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
* Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882, 1945), p. 304.