We get a lot of bad news every day because there are so many bad things happening these days—from natural disasters to political crises, from financial problems to greed, fraud, and military conflicts. Often bad news is overwhelming and depressing. But there are also some organizations and individuals who try to share good news. Here is an example: “Rookie to Pro: DC Police Officer Saves 9 Lives during First Year on the Streets.”1 We can still find a lot of good news. Yet, apart from such good reports the best news of all time is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I. THE SETTING OF THE FIRST MESSAGE
Context. The three angels’ messages must be understood in the context of Revelation 12–14 and the larger context of Revelation. Revelation 14:6 introduces the first angel’s message and announces what will be shared (the eternal gospel) and who the audience will be (those who dwell on earth— that is, every nation, tribe, language, and people).
The eternal gospel. The term “gospel” (Gk. euangelion) means “good news.” It is followed by the verb “to proclaim good news” (Gk. euangelizō). The duplication of “good news” in noun and verb form highlights that the message is not primarily a threat of judgment, but rather is very positive with a focus on God’s action in Jesus. The word “eternal” clarifies that the same gospel is found elsewhere in Scripture. It is the gospel of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Rom 1:9), the gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13) and peace (6:15), of truth (Col 1:5) and hope (1:23). This gospel appears already in the introduction to Revelation (1:5–6)—we are “freed from our sins by His blood”—although the term “gospel” is not used. Salvation is described in Revelation with wonderful imagery such as being purchased for God (5:9) from the earth (14:3), having washed one’s robes (7:14), and having one’s name written in the book of life (21:27). This is the starting point for the message that follows. Salvation has been secured. How to receive it?
II. THE CONTENT OF THE ANGEL’S PROCLAMATION
With verse 7, the first angel speaks. His proclamation consists of three strong imperatives: (1) The first calls people to fear God. (2) The second is to give God glory. As a reason, the hour of judgment is mentioned. (3) The third command is to worship Him because He is the Creator. Direct appeals to humanity are used only with the first message of the angels.
This message also touches on many important biblical themes. The background is salvation, as we have seen. But the major two emphases in verse 7 are who God is and how humanity is to relate to Him. This brings with it other themes such as creation, Sabbath (by the use of creation language of the fourth commandment), judgment, and worship within a sanctuary setting.
Fear God. Fearing God presupposes an acknowledgment of God’s existence and of His claims to our lives. One cannot fear a nonexistent being. Therefore, an atheist or agnostic cannot admit to fearing God, at least not openly. But what does it mean to fear God? Scripture contains calls not to fear (Gen 15:1; John 12:15) and also calls to fear God (Deut 6:24; 1 Pet 2:17). The respective Greek verb can be translated as “to fear” and also as “to have deep respect” (Lev 19:30). It is used in this second sense in the first angel’s message. In 1 John 4:18 the same author, John, states that we cannot approach God in love and simultaneously hide from Him in fear.
But love does not rule out respect. There is a certain tension in the sense that God is our beloved Father but He is not our buddy who only has to fulfill our egoistic wishes. “The message of the Apocalypse strikes at the heart of hypocritical and superficial religions. . . . Humanity no longer takes God seriously. He has become the good, harmless old father that we can manipulate or the sweet baby Jesus who is too cute to be real.”2 But confessing Christians, even you and me, may also fall in the same trap.
Deep respect for God has ramifications. Respect leads to righteous actions and an ethical lifestyle. It is associated with obedience and keeping God’s commandments (Deut 5:29), with loving like Jesus did and with serving God and humanity wholeheartedly (10:12). Those who “fear” the Lord do not mistreat and disrespect people (Lev 19:14, 32), nor do they wrong others (25:17).
Give Him glory. When humans give glory to God, they repent and turn to the Lord (Rev 16:9). When heavenly beings give glory to God, they praise and magnify God (4:9) for who He is: for His majesty, power, and holiness and what He has done (4:11). In Revelation 5:9–12 glory is attributed to Jesus because He has brought about salvation. Ellen G. White states, “To give glory to God is to reveal His character in our own, and thus make Him known.”3 So, we turn to God in repentance and while living our life with Him and proclaiming Him, people may notice that we “have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
But this is not common to humanity at large. Babylon is considered “the glory of the kingdoms” (Isa 13:19). People speak of the glory of science and knowledge and glorify victorious armies and violence. On a personal level, we may glory in our achievements and fame. Yet, Paul admonishes believers, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31, ESV).
The urgency to repent and glorify God is supported by the fact that the divine judgment has come. This seems to relate to the first phase of the final judgment, the pre-advent judgment.
Worship the Creator God. Proper worship is found in Revelation 4 and 5—worship of God the Father as Creator and worship of Jesus as Saviour. This worship is God-centered and includes all members of the Godhead. It maintains a healthy balance between God’s transcendence and immanence. It extols the character and nature of God and praises Him for His mighty works. It is universal and all-encompassing, provides a new perspective to life on earth, and is continuous and unending. Worship has also to do with practical issues such as caring for the needy and obeying God’s will.
The issue in worship is not primarily whether we feel good and benefit from what we are doing, whether we are blessed or entertained; worship takes place for God’s sake and must be directed to God only. Otherwise it becomes a form of idolatry.
In Revelation 12–14 true worship and false worship are seen in competition. No part of the Apocalypse is so dominated by the topic of worship as is its central vision. Of the eight usages of the term, seven apply to (1) the dragon (once), (2) the sea beast (three times), (3) the image of the beast (once), and (4) both sea beast and image of the beast (twice). In addition, this false worship is also universal and enforced by the evil powers. No wonder that the first angel’s message must call the world to worship God. This call is weighty and determines humans’ eternal destiny.
III. GOD AND JESUS, CREATOR AND SAVIOUR
Theology (Creator and Saviour). God created all things. He is the source of life, not part of creation. There is a marked difference between Creator and creation and always will be. Once having created, God wanted to be close to humanity. So the transcendent God drew close and met with His created beings. This is His immanence, especially manifested in the incarnation of Jesus for our salvation. From His uniqueness as Creator and Saviour derives His ownership of and authority over all creation. He can create, un-create, and re-create. He is the Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the Holy One. He is to be worshipped because He is not a deist God, but sustains creation and cares for it. In Revelation the Creator is not only God the Father, but also Jesus Christ (3:14) and the Holy Spirit (11:11). While Jesus is Saviour par excellence, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also strongly involved in the salvation of people. Revelation keeps creation and salvation together inseparably. You cannot have one without the other.
Anthropology (humanity). Creation and salvation also help to understand humanity. Humans are not an accident of nature. We are part of God’s creation and yet can think beyond creation. Being moral beings with our own will and freedom of choice, we can distinguish between good and evil and can choose to accept salvation and fear God or opt for eternal death by opposing Him (Rev 14:6–12). To know what creation and salvation mean and how they closely link humanity to God allows us to find meaning in life.
The first angel’s message may be understood as a summary of biblical creation and salvation passages. They are about the Godhead and us: Fear God. Give Glory to Him. Worship Him. Have an intimate relationship with Him and enjoy salvation.
1 Caroline Patrickis, “Rookie to Pro: DC Police Officer Saves 9 Lives during First Year on the Streets,” 7News, August 15, 2021, https://wjla.com/newsletter/dc-police-officer-saves-9-lives-one-year. Accessed December 1, 2021.
2 Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse through Hebrew Eyes (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002), 127.
3 Ellen G. White, “Our Constant Need of Divine Enlightenment,” Manuscripts 16, 1890.
Ekkehardt Mueller, ThD, DMin, is a retired associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.