The mention of the three angels’ messages immediately stirs the Adventist camp. A great majority embrace the messages as one of the doctrines defining the identity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Nearly all Adventist mission statements reference Revelation 14:6-12. Yet there are remote corners of the Adventist camp that groan when the messages are mentioned. In these corners reactions vary from outright denial of the interpretation to excess worrying over the reaction of the proclamation.
There are those standing on the edges of the three angels’ messages landscape. The debate is over the proclamation. Hovering on one side are those calling for a scalding, in-your-face revelation of the beast and the fire and brimstone awaiting those choosing the mark of the devil’s authority. On the other edge come voices clothed in what appears to be the sophisticated, academically superior armor of new light. They demand the old identities of Adventism be revised or thrown out and claim that a smooth message resonating with the collective wisdom of the world will usher in a great harvest where an invented new grace negates the need for repentance, reform, and holy living.
THE RIGHT FOCUS
Is it not time to call for a three angels’ messages reset? The edges of the church must draw together. The proclamation of the three angels’ messages is not optional. Too long have these messages been interpreted as bad news. But they are not bad news; they are good news.
The Three Angels’ Messages Committee at the General Conference is moving forward to energize this reset. All Seventh-day Adventists are called to pray, study, and with divine urgency reshape their perception, asking, “Do I see and embrace the good-news hope of the three angels’ messages?”
Divine counsel from Ellen White provides that from which both edges of the debate can benefit. She writes, “The proclamation of the first, second and third angels’ messages has been located by the Word of inspiration. Not a peg or pin is to be removed.”¹ She also writes, “We should not, upon entering a place, build up unnecessary barriers between us and other denominations, especially the Catholics, so that they shall think we are their avowed enemies. We should not create a prejudice in their minds unnecessarily. . . . From that which God has shown me, a great number will be saved from among the Catholics.”²
Research³ indicates that a small percentage of members are unclear on how to embrace the distinctive doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, including the three angels’ messages. If the proclamation of these messages is the work of the church just before Jesus comes, would it not be in the interest of every member to consider the good news of these vital messages?
One of the primary purposes of the three angels’ messages is to identify the characteristics of God’s remnant people. These characteristics include: (1) having the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12); (2) keeping the commandments of God (Rev. 14:12); (3) being guided by the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 12:17; 19:10). To strengthen our understanding of these messages, let’s briefly consider each one.
THE FIRST ANGEL
Overview: God’s end-time remnant church will proclaim Jesus’ life, faith, sacrifice, love, mercy, grace, righteousness, and victory to everyone. All will know God’s judgment is real and happening now (Rev. 14:7). Everyone will be called to give the Creator glory and recognize the Sabbath as the mark of the true gospel.
For deeper study:
■ Everlasting gospel: John 3:16; Rom. 1:16; 16:25, 26; Col. 1:26, 27. ■ Fear God: Deut. 6:24; 10:12; 1 Sam.12:24; Ps. 33:8; Prov. 16:6. ■ Give glory to God: Ps. 29:2; 96:8; Rom. 4:20-22; 1 Cor. 10:31. ■ Worship the Creator: Gen. 2:1- 3; Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Mark 2:27; Rev. 4:9-11.
THE SECOND ANGEL
Overview: The second angel announces the collapse of a false gospel and system of worship. The true gospel triumphs. Endtime Babylon is a global apostate religious power, a threefold union, composed of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and spiritualistic forms of false worship.
For deeper study:
■ Babylon has fallen: Rev. 13; 17:3-7; 18:4-11. ■ Collapse of the false gospel: Rev. 18:4-11. ■ Triumph of the true gospel: Dan. 7:27; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 14:12.
THE THIRD ANGEL
Overview: The third angel warns against worshipping the beast and his image. The beast represents the Papacy, and the image of the beast is formed when the United States makes and enforces laws for the observance of Sunday. The mark of the beast is received when Sunday is observed as the day of worship because it is commanded by law. As a final part of the judgment, evil and all who cling to it will receive its justice and be destroyed by fire—unquenchable until only smoke remains, the effects of which are eternal.
For deeper study:
■ Warning against worshipping the beast and his image: Rev. 12:17; 13; 18:1-5. ■ Christ uplifted and a people prepared: John 12:32; Rom. 3:22- 26; 8:1-4; 1 Cor. 1:2, 7, 8; 1 Thess. 5:23, 24; 2 Thess. 1:10; Titus 3:5-7; 2 Peter 3:10-12; Rev. 12:17; 14:12. ■ Smoke . . . day and night: Ps. 37:20; 68:2; Isa. 34:10; Mal. 4:1; Matt. 3:12; Jude 6, 7.
Not long ago my wife and I were part of an off-road four-wheeler group traveling across the rugged back country of Utah. Carefully we crept down the wall of a huge gorge as we prepared to cross a small stream. Just as we were beginning to relax, we rounded a hairpin curve and found a sign at the bottom of the canyon: “WHEN FLOODED, TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN”. No one criticized those who posted and proclaimed such a negative message. Each person looked that stream over very carefully. And though it appeared the sign had been there many years, and there were only three inches of water in the stream at the time, the signs of a raging torrent were strewn high up on the bank of that little stream. To all, the sign was good news. That old Utah sign made me wonder what Noah’s sign looked like (see Matt. 24:37-39).
PROCLAMATION: GETTING STARTED
The revival of commitment and urgency are among the church’s greatest needs. How do we get started? Prayer and Bible study must be our constant companion. With the Holy Spirit all things are possible.
In the late twentieth century, when cereal maker Kellogg’s realized that most people had heard of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes but few had tasted them, the company came up with a slogan: “Taste them again for the first time.” You are invited to “taste the three angels’ messages again, maybe for the first time.” Urgently study these themes of Revelation 14:6-12, using the Bible as the infallible standard of truth.
Complement your study with TheSeventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary and visit the Three Angels’ Messages Committee website (three angels.info), where you will find many helpful materials prepared by multiple entities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I urge you to visit the website today.
¹ Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 2, p. 104. ² Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), pp. 573, 574. ³ “2017-2018 Global Church Member Survey Concerning the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Reach the World 2015-2020 Strategic Plan: Meta-Analysis Final Report,” Oct. 2, 2018, online at https://bit.ly/AdventistGlobalMemberSurvey.