Featured Image above is “Angel of the Revelation” by William Blake, circa 1805. The image is in the public domain from WikiMedia Commons.
An integral part of the Gospel message involves —
(1) judgment for the earth-dwellers;
(2) salvaion for believers.
Hendriksen’s Story about Waiting until It’s too late
“The first angel is sent to those who “sit on the earth.” That characterizes men in general on the eve of the judgment: they sit on earth. They are easy-going, indifferent, unconcerned, listless, and careless.
Think of the artist who found a convenient spot on top of an ocean rock from which to paint the beauty of the village and its surroundings. He is altogether unaware of the fact that the returning tide is surging about the base of the rock. So absorbed is he in his painting that he pays no attention to the lashing of the waves against the rock. He fails to heed the warning voices. He just sits and sits, absorbed in his painting. By and by the waves will bury him.” (see Hendriksen, p. 153, below.)
Let’s see how God will bring abut about His two-fold work of judgment and salvation.
I. The “good news” is for everyone, but has a use-by date on it.
vs. 6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.
Angels are spirits and are usually invisible, but they appeared in material form to deliver God’s messages in the Old Testament—cf. Acts 7:53 “You…received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Galatians 3:19 “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an Intermediary (Mediator = Christ). John Calvin says of this verse, “[Paul’s] meaning is, that the angels were the messengers of God, and his witnesses in publishing the law, [in order] that the authority thereof might be firm and stable.” (see Calvin below; ESV)
This is the gospel as we know it and find it in the Word of God, that is described here in this verse. There is not a different gospel for different times. The message involves judgment. This is a necessary part of the gospel. The good news is directed toward the saints in this case. It will be good news when the nations who oppose God are judged. Individuals can repent and be saved, but at this point, it will be too late for those whose heart is hardened by following the beast. The proclamation by an angel is indeed unusual. However, the Law was mediated through angels (cf. Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:2), and it is not unusual to find them speaking for God.
“The three angels of verses 6, 8, and 9 belong together. They have one purpose, namely to warn mankind with respect to the coming judgment in order that men may turn to God in true faith.” (see Hendriksen, p. 153, below).
Isaiah declares that God’s salvation is for the present time, and one should not wait.
55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
There will be time when it’s too late to seek the Lord. His day of grace and forgiveness is no longer offered.
When I was younger, my pastor told me a story I’ve never forgotten. A man was sharing his testimony about receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. After he finished with his testimony, he urged the man to repent of his sins and believe in Christ. The man replied, “Not now. I’ll do it later.” The pastor said, “Tomorrow isn’t promised. Do it now before it’s too late.” The man retorted, “It’s never too late. Remember the thief on the cross!” The pastor asked, “Which one?”
Two thieves were crucified, but one only responded positively to Jesus Christ on the center cross. It wasn’t too late for him, but when death came, it was to late for the other thief. He died in the sins.
II. The only safety in times of judgment comes from receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior.
vs. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
The essence of O.T. faith is “the fear of the Lord.” It involves two aspects:
1. fear of punishment; the immature response of a child.
2. fear of marring a relationship; the mature response of an adult.
The angel is calling men to faith in God. He calls upon men to shift their ascription of glory from man and his abilities to God the Creator. “Has come” is the past tense of the Greek verb — so certain it is put in the past tense even though it is future. Proverbs 29: 25 warns us of the danger of fearing a person or groups of persons more than we fear God — “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Matthew 10:28 states this warning too — “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
III. That God will bring judgment on this world system is absolutely certain.
vs. 8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
According to Daniel 5:1-31, King Belshazzar of Babylon takes sacred golden and silver vessels from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. Using these holy items, the King and his court praise ‘the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’. Immediately, the disembodied fingers of a human hand appear and write on the wall of the royal palace the Aramaic words “MENE”, “MENE”, “TEKEL”, “UPHARSIN,” Mene = “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end”; Tekel = “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting”; 28 Peres = “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” ( Rembrandt’s “Belshassar’s Feast,” 1636-1638 in the public domain.)
The experience has been preserved in our modern proverb, “I see the handwriting on the wall.” So has this world and its system seen in Revelation 14 its handwriting on the wall! We as believers cannot cozy up to the world system in our day and build our lives on its principles.
This verse begins the “table of contents” of the rest of the book. It prefaces the very end. It tells us what will happen to this world system when the judgment of God falls upon it. “Fallen” is so certain that it is placed in the past tense. Babylon is symbolic of this world system which stands for the pride of man molded into a heathen city-empire opposed to the things of God. (see Morris, p. 180.)
The reason for the destruction is due to two things:
1. Babylon had an evil influence upon the whole world by leading the nations away from God to immorality with substitutes — idols, etc.
2. Babylon has brought the wrath of God down upon her for her sin.
IV. People decide judgment or salvation depending on their allegiance either to beast or to God.
vs. 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,
vs. 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
I have heard people say, “You have to go along to get along.” I also read in God’s Word Matthew’s Gospel about two ways to go in life —
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Public domain image. “The Broad and Narrow Gates,” by Paul Beckmann ca. 1866, from an idea and commission by Charlotte Reihlen. On the left, a big fancy arch leads to sin. On the right, a small gate for plainer folk leads to a fountain and a cross. (full painting is available from this link.
John uses two words for “wrath” here —
1. thymos – passionate outburst of anger;
2. orgē – anger from a more settled disposition.
The usual word for divine wrath is orgē. However, thymos is used appropriately here because it is time for the divine fury. The angel describes the “reward” of the beast worshipers — judgment and torment. The drinking from the cup describes what will happen in time — when the wrath of God is poured out in the bowls. The tormenting with fire and sulfur will occur in eternity. The practice of mixing wine with water and spices is referred to in verse 10. The wrath in the cup is undiluted. Compare Isaiah 51:22, 23 for the image of the cup of wrath.
vs. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
The “time” period covered by the torment is eternity. There is no doubt that there is to be eternal punishment for the wicked. There is no hint of annihilation here.
V. The only safety for God’s people lies in patient persistence in their trust in Jesus Christ!
vss. 12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
“Perseverance” is an active bearing up under the pressure of trials. Obedience and faith characterize the people of God. God’s people persevere because they know that he will judge the wicked.
Jesus is the only light in a very dark world. Image “Adoration of the Shepherds”
by Matthias Stomer ca. 1650′ Public domain image from WikiMedia Commons.
It is difficult to know where to connect the phrase “from now on” (ap’ arti). Some MSS omit “yes” (nai). This would allow ap’ arti to go with either the preceding phrase or the following phrase. The reading should probably be, “from henceforth, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” They had been laboring and suffering. From now on, they will rest.
Kopos means “to labor to the point of exhaustion.” Ergon is “work,” but does not carry the meaning of “painstaking labor.”
I often have paraphrased verse 13 at the burial of a saint of God who had been faithful to Christ through many trials. “Rest peacefully, valiant warrior, your works follow you and your Lord’s reward awaits you!”
The Christian life is a difficult one especially when rewards on earth go to the folks on the broad way and not to those on the narrow way. But, Oh, the destination makes it worth all the trouble!
Next time, the Harvest of the earth.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
Calvin, J. (1548). Commentary on Galatians and Ephesians. Accessed 10 December 2020 from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom41.html
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
WikiMedia Commons for Images
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