Constructing a Christ-Centered Adventist Faith, Part 4: Jesus and the 3 Angels

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Constructing a Christ-Centered Adventist Faith, Part 4: Jesus and the 3 Angels

The Focal Point of God’s End-Time Message

 

“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.”[1]

The 3 Angels’ Messages come at a climactic point in the book of Revelation. In chapters 13 and 14 of this apocalyptic book, we are shown the final showdown between the forces led by the Dragon (Satan), and the forces led by the Lamb (Jesus). The controversy between the two sides ultimately comes down to the response of those who dwell on the earth toward Jesus. Or in other words, will people surrender to the gospel, or reject it? Or will they get caught up in following a false gospel?

 

The end-time message essentially explains to us the most important aspects of salvation that will come into play just before Jesus returns. I’ve been in church many times where talks about the end of the world get centered on things like whether or not you should own a gun, how to survive in the wilderness, Sabbath-keeping, etc. I’m not saying that these topics have no importance (they can actually get pretty interesting sometimes). But as we’ve been going over in this series, the major focus should always be on Jesus and the plan of salvation.

 

When we talk about the end of time we have to realize that a proper understanding of the gospel is more important than any plans we may have of living off the grid and growing our own food when the mark of the beast is enforced. Our salvation is not going to come down to how well we avoid the beast’s mark, but how loyal we really are to Jesus. The 3 Angels’ Messages does a great job of explaining this to us in a succinct and concise way.

 

The Proper Response to the Everlasting Gospel

“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.”[2]

 

Immediately after the everlasting gospel is spoken of in Revelation 14 we are given a picture of the effects the gospel should have upon a person when they actually believe and accept it. It is important to understand that we are not getting a look at the “nice” side of God with the preaching of the gospel, and then the “stern” side of God when we are told to fear Him and be ready for the judgment. When we analyze the phrases found in the verse above, we will find that these things are naturally manifested in our lives when we enter into a loving relationship with Jesus.

 

Fearing (or showing reverence for) God and glorifying Him were natural responses from people in the gospel stories when Jesus would do something amazing in their lives. The gospel of Luke records a couple of instances where the language actually sounds very similar to that of Revelation 14. After Jesus heals the paralytic man, which was only an illustration of His authority to forgive sins, the Bible says this about the people:

 

“And they were all amazed, and glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today!’”[3]

 

Also, after Jesus raises the woman’s son from Nain back to life, which illustrates His power to spiritually raise us to walk in newness of life, we are told:

 

“Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us’; and, ‘God has visited His people.’”[4]

 

Fearing God and giving glory to Him is the natural response any of us should have when we truly allow Jesus into our hearts, and the power of the gospel takes hold of our lives. And the natural change that is wrought in our lives prepares us for the judgment that everyone must take part in. The only question is will we choose to honor God by surrendering our lives to Him. Or will we approach the judgment with fear because we refused to acknowledge our need for Jesus’ sacrifice, and open our heart to Him?

 

The call to worship the Creator, which is a direct allusion to the Sabbath commandment, is also simply a response to coming into contact with the Savior. We read in John 1:1-3:

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

 

Often, when the Sabbath commandment is mentioned, most people think only about God the Father being worshipped as Creator. But we have to remember that Jesus took just as big a role in the creation of everything. The gospel and the Sabbath are forever linked together because of this, but not only for this reason. The book of Hebrews tells us that, “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.”[5] And the book of Ezekiel says, “I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.”[6] It is the blood of Jesus that saves and sanctifies us, but the keeping of the Sabbath is the sign that we are willing to rest solely in the works of our Creator and Savior for this salvation. Any command that we are given in the Bible always comes back to what Jesus has done for us, and wants to do in us.

 

What About Babylon?

 

“Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”[7]

 

The best and most concise description of Babylon in the book of Revelation that I have seen comes from a quote from William G. Johnson:

 

“Babylon represents all human attempts to provide the way of salvation, all those plans and programs that, because they are built alone on human reason and devices, attempt to frustrate the divine plan for the world.”[8]

 

The part about “human attempts to provide the way of salvation” is what struck me the most. I’m emphasizing this to make the point that Babylon simply represents Satan’s all-out attack on the gospel, which is the only way of salvation. The second angel’s message is intimately linked with the first angel. Everything that the first angel preached about the everlasting gospel is now being counterfeited and repudiated by Babylon, and she is convincing almost the entire world of her lies. Ultimately, at the end of time, it will come down to whether we will believe and follow Jesus and the everlasting gospel, or whether we will believe and follow Babylon’s false gospel.

 

The Mark of the Beast

 

“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.”[9]

 

Coming out of atheism and into the Seventh-day Adventist church left me with a large learning curve to tackle. One of the major things that I spent a good amount of time seeking to understand, and be able to prove, was how the mark of the beast and the seal of God had to do with the Sabbath. Although the very text of Revelation 13 and 14 makes it obvious that the issue will be about worship, and then the first angel announces the very commandment dealing with the worship of the true God, I made it more complicated than that.

 

After bouncing around all through the Bible and bewildering the person I was teaching with a plethora of texts, I would tell them how important keeping the seventh-day Sabbath was going to be at the end of time. Somehow, I went from talking about the everlasting gospel to only focusing on one commandment in the decalogue. Now, don’t get me wrong, the 4th commandment is of extreme importance today, and will continue to be until Jesus comes. But it is not more important than the gospel. When studying these passages, we need to make the Sabbath the simple part, and the gospel the major part.

 

If we keep in mind that all three of these angels are connected to each other, then it becomes easy to see that those who receive the mark of the beast are simply those who reject the everlasting gospel that has been preached to all the world. They are the ones who want what Babylon has to offer rather than what the Lamb has to offer.

 

There will always be speculation about whether the mark of the beast is a chip placed inside of us, anything with the number 666 on it, or some type of vaccine that will be forced on all the world. Whether people believe these things, or understand Sunday vs. Saturday worship to be what the Bible really teaches is not the primary focus now when I’m studying these texts with people. When a person truly accepts the gospel of Jesus Christ in their life I have confidence that these other details will take care of themselves. If we can help people to follow the Lamb wherever He leads them, then they will never have to worry about receiving the mark of the beast.

 

The Perfect Blending of Law and Gospel

 

“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”[10]

 

John could not have picked a better way to end the 3 Angels’ Messages. With one phrase he managed to sum up the essence of the everlasting gospel. We are given a picture of what we should be focused on in order to make it through the end-time crisis, and really any crisis for that matter. Once again, it doesn’t come down to ducking and dodging different beasts and what they’re bringing upon the world. It comes down to loyalty to Christ.

 

Many scholars have concluded that the words “faith of Jesus” should really be rendered “faith in Jesus.”[11] Here we see that the end-time saints (really every saint) understand that the law and the gospel can never be separated. Paul says it well in the book of Romans: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”[12] But we have to remember that Paul spent a lot more time talking about faith in Jesus rather than the specifics of the law. He understood that once people got faith down pretty good, the law would take care of itself in their lives. I believe we would do well to follow his example.

 

“The gospel of Christ is the Good News of grace, or favor, by which man may be released from the condemnation of sin and enabled to render obedience to the law of God. The gospel points to the moral code as a rule of life. That law, by its demands for undeviating obedience, is continually pointing the sinner to the gospel for pardon and peace.”[13]

Read the rest of this series!

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Notes.

[1] Revelation 14:6 All scriptures are taken from the New King James Version

[2] Revelation 14:7

[3] Luke 5:26

[4] Luke 7:16

[5] Hebrews 13:12

[6] Ezekiel 20:12

[7] Revelation 14:8

[8] Johnsson, W. G. (1992). The Saints’ End-Time Victory over the Forces of Evil. In F. B. Holbrook (Ed.), Symposium on Revelation: Exegetical and General Studies, Book 2 (Vol. 7, p. 35). Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

[9] Revelation 14:9-10

[10] Revelation 14:12

[11] Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009) 464.

[12] Romans 3:31

[13] Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, September 27, 1881.

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About the author

Tony Dennis

Tony Dennis is from Sacramento, California, and spent most of his life as an atheist. His big dream, when he was young, was to become a professional poker player. He was converted to Seventh-day Adventism when he was 21 years old by reading the book Steps to Christ. He went on to graduate from the Pacific Union Conference’s school of evangelism, SOULS West. He has been a teacher now at SOULS West for the past three years, teaching classes on Daniel, Revelation, and the Sanctuary. He has also recently started a YouTube channel entitled By Every Word to help young people understand and apply the Bible to their lives.