A Message from an Angel
In the 14th chapter of the book of Revelation, the apostle John, while exiled on the island of Patmos, sees a vision of a Lamb on Mount Zion. Though the Lamb had been slain, he now is “standing” (cf. 5:6). This most certainly is a representation of the resurrection of God’s slain Lamb, Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).
With the Lamb were 144,000 people, a symbolic number suggesting the full complement of those who have been redeemed. They were “purchased” (14:3) by the blood of the Son of God (cf. Acts 20:28), thus emphasizing the necessity of Christ’s death in Heaven’s wonderful plan of salvation.
Following, then, is a vision of six angels, and the messages they had been assigned by God to dispatch to earth. The focus of this brief article is to call attention to the first of these, and some of the truths set forth in the communication (14:6-7).
First of all, the angel is represented as bringing “eternal good tidings,” or, as reflected in the American Standard Version footnote, “an eternal gospel.” The phrase hints of the united continuity of Jehovah’s wonderful plan of redemption, from the beginning of time to the end thereof. By implication, the gospel never was obsolete, even in the so-called “Dark Ages.” By way of contrast, Mormonism alleges that the gospel was “lost,” until restored by Joseph Smith, Jr.
C.I. Scofield, a major leader of the dispensational movement, contended that there are “four forms of the Gospel,” and the “eternal gospel” of this text is to be preached only at the end of the so-called “tribulation” period—with special emphasis on the nation of Israel (Scofield Reference Bible, 1343). This is quite erroneous; the entire “dispensational” scheme is built upon the sand of reckless speculation that is void of responsible scholarship.
The narrative illustrates the universal scope of the “good news” about Christ and his offer of salvation to the whole of earth’s population (v. 6b), i.e., to those who obey the Lord (cf. Hebrews 5:9).
Second, there is the admonition to “fear God,” i.e., reverence him for who he is, and to be aware that eventually he will judge humanity. Additionally, there is the call to glorify him, i.e., render him glory by faithful service. The reason supplied for this charge is this: “the hour of his judgment is come.”
But what judgment is this? Some interpret it as a temporal judgment upon the persecutors of Christianity (E.B. Elliott, Horae Apocalyptice, 1847, iii.258ff). Others believe this “judgment” is equivalent to the gospel age, when men are “weighed in the balances according to their responses to the Cross of Jesus Christ” (Russell B. Jones, The Triumphant Christ and His Church, 1971, 77). Many, however, see it as a reference to the final Judgment. The certainty of this judgment is stressed by the futuristic aorist form, “is come” (cf. John 13:31).
In view of this, those of all the nations are admonished to “worship” God. God is depicted as he who “made the heaven and the earth and sea and the fountains of waters.” There appear to be two motivations for service stressed in 14:7, both the “goodness and severity of God” (cf. Romans 11:22).
The goodness of God is observed in the wonderful creation wrought in that initial week (cf. Exodus 20:11). The “heavens declare [the Lord’s] glory and the firmament shows his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). David was left breathless at the blessings bequeathed to humanity, as displayed in the heavens (Psalm 8:3-4).
But what is the meaning of “fountains of waters”? A strong case recently has been made by Dr. John Baldwin of Andrews University, who argues this phrase alludes to the Genesis Flood. See the phrase, “fountains of the deep,” in Genesis 7:11 (Ministry, May, 2006, 16ff).
It is well known that the book of Revelation draws heavily from the Old Testament. Westcott & Hort’s Greek Testament lists over 500 Old Testament references and allusions within the book of Revelation. Thus, the “fountains of the waters” may be a reference to that divine judgment that will come upon those who reject the everlasting gospel of God’s Son (cf. 2 Peter 3:3-7).
Some people are motivated by the Creator’s love; others need a stiffer nudge—a knowledge of ultimate judgment. Whatever the motivation, the wise will faithfully serve him.