Looking Above A Series on The Revelation of Jesus Christ: The Everlasting Gospel Revelation 14:6–13

We sing these words often, but do we fully grasp their weight? What is it that separates the redeemed from the unredeemed? What is it that separates believers from unbelievers? What is it that separates the saved from the lost? What is it that separates the elect from the reprobate? And, in the words of Revelation 14, what is it that separates the 144,000 from the rest of mankind? To these questions we can respond with but one word: grace. It is grace that separates the redeemed from the unredeemed, the believer from the unbeliever, the saved from the lost, the elect from the reprobate, and the 144,000 from the rest of mankind.

It is grace—amazing grace—that is seen in the vision of Revelation 14:6–13.

We begin with verse 6, where John writes, “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 . . .” This vision of the angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on earth, sets before us the sovereignty of God’s amazing grace.

Notice in the first place that it is an angel who proclaims the gospel. A heavenly messenger proclaims the gospel, not an earthly one. There is no human messenger present here—no apostle, no preacher, no evangelist—no man is present to bring the gospel. Here there is only a heavenly messenger—a heavenly messenger alone brings the gospel. The point is that the gospel goes forth irrespective of the agency of man—the gospel is simply not dependent on any man, whether it be apostle, preacher, or evangelist. When it comes to the proclamation of the gospel, no man is indispensable.

Notice in the second place that the gospel is called the everlasting gospel. You might recall here the words of Isaiah 40:6–8, “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” The point is that the Word of the Lord is not dependent on man. The gospel is everlasting, man is not. Thus the gospel is not dependent on man. It is an everlasting gospel.

Now, of course, we believe that God uses means. We believe that God calls men to preach the gospel. Romans 10 makes that clear. The point of Revelation 14, however, is this: no man—be he apostle, preacher, or evangelist—can take credit for the message, nor for the success of that message. It is God who gives the message, and it is God who gives success to the message. It is God who sends forth His Word, and it is God who accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it. There is, then, no room for boasting, no room for pride—not on the part of any apostle, preacher, or evangelist—for the success of the gospel does not come from them. It is all of grace, sovereign grace, amazing grace.

   
Verse 6 sets before us the everlasting gospel. Verses 7–11 proceed to set before us the content of that gospel, and they do so by turning our attention to the messages of three angels.

Consider the first angel, verses 6–7: “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—saying with a loud voice, ‘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.”

The first angel comes with the command to fear God and give Him glory. We are commanded to fear God and give Him glory because the hour of His judgment has come. The first angel proclaims a message of urgency. The hour of judgment is at hand. In the message of the first angel we learn how we should view the time period in which we live. It is a time of supreme urgency. The whole time period between Christ’s first coming and His return is pictured to us here in terms of an hour. We are living in the hour of His judgment. It is but a little time until Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead. The day of grace is almost over. The hour of judgment is at hand. It is only a little while until Christ comes to judge and to establish a new heavens and a new earth.

From the first angel we learn that the message of the gospel is a message of urgency. Gospel proclamation carries with it the urgent warning of judgment soon to come. That’s part and parcel to the message of the gospel.

Consider the second angel, verse 8, “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

The second angel comes with the message of the fall of the city of man. Babylon is set before us here as the city of man. From the time of Cain onward, fallen man has been involved in the enterprise of building the city of man in rebellion against the city of God. Now we are told that the city of man will fall. Fallen man, you may recall from Revelation 13:18, bears the mark of the beast and the number of his name, and that number is the number of man: 666. Man was created on the sixth day, and in and of himself, he cannot attain the seventh day, the day of rest. If left to himself, man falls short and fails to attain the seventh day. In fact, his is failure on failure on failure. Thus, while man builds his kingdom, while he develops culture, while he builds society, he is certain to fail; his kingdom must fail. This is the message of the second angel: the city of man is certain to fall.

From the second angel we learn that the message of the gospel is a message that man only fails. Gospel proclamation carries with it the message of the failure of man. That’s part and parcel to the message of the gospel.

Consider the third angel, verses 9–11, “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘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. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’”

The third angel comes with the message of eternal damnation. What is so terrifying about his message is this: his message has individuals in view! Those persons who scorn the warning of judgment, those persons who belong to the city of man, and are presently involved in building the city of man, will ultimately be damned. They will be made to drink of “the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.” Poured out on them will be the wrath of God without mercy, without restraint. They will be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Sometimes jokes are made about “fire and brimstone” sermons. This is no joke. This is torment and pain beyond description, the just deserts of those who have sinned against a holy God and who have not fled to Jesus Christ for mercy and grace!

But that’s still not all. We are told in verse 11 that “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.” Where there is smoke, there is fire! What Jesus says about hell is true: the fire is not quenched for all eternity. Burning, eternal burning shall torment the damned, but it shall not consume them. Notice that the smoke of their torment ascends forever. Ever dying, but never dead; ever burning, but never consumed; such is the condition of the damned in hell.

Consequently, “they have no rest day or night.” Here is what those who belong to the city of man finally attain, no rest day or night. They never attain the seventh day. They never rest. And notice how eternity for the damned is marked: it is marked in terms of day and night, as if to add to the horror of their suffering. When day is gone, night comes, and it brings no rest from their torment. When night is gone, day comes, and it brings no rest from their torment. Forever and ever the torment continues, and that without hope, and that without end!

From the third angel we learn that the message of the gospel is a message that proclaims eternal damnation. Gospel proclamation carries with it the message of eternal damnation. That’s part and parcel to the gospel message.

The cumulative effect of the messages of the three angels is to bring us to verses 12–13, where we learn of the patience and mission of the church.

In verse 12, we read, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” In light of all that we have just read and considered, here is the response of the saints: we are called to patience, and we are called to cling to Jesus. When you consider verses 6–11, with all the horrors and terrors they contain, you are led to consider Jesus Christ and what He has saved you from! He has saved you from the horrors of hell by experiencing those horrors Himself and in your place. And now you begin to see how gospel is truly good news! Consider what your Savior has saved you from. Does it not lead you to extol the sovereignty of grace!

Here also is the mission of the church. To be sure, we are called to patience, but that patience does not imply inactivity. We read in verse 13, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.’”  

Those who die in the Lord are blessed because for them there is no more danger, no more toil, no more snares; by grace they have been led home. They are blessed indeed. They rest from their labors, and their works do follow them. Those who die in the Lord rest from their labors. In distinction from the damned in hell, who do not rest day or night, those who die in the Lord rest for all eternity: they have reached the seventh day of rest, even the Sabbath of God.  They rest from their labors, and their works follow them. That implies that prior to death, they did labor, and they did work! This does not mean that their labors and works have somehow become the meritorious basis for reward in heaven. It does mean that even their good works and their labor were given to them by grace. Notice that it is the Spirit who speaks these words—the Spirit who unites us to Christ and makes us wholeheartedly ready and willing from now on to live for Him. It is the Spirit who causes us to work. It is the Spirit who causes me to labor. Our work and labor on behalf of the kingdom of God are gifts of grace!

Now, let’s tie this all together. We have before us here in verse 13, something of the mission of the church. She is called to labor and work on behalf of the kingdom of God, not to build that kingdom here below as though it were an earthly kingdom, but to work on behalf of the kingdom of God in such a way that men and women are called to look to the kingdom above, even to Jesus Christ!  
You might remember here the words of verse 6: the everlasting gospel is to be proclaimed to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people! We said above concerning verse 6, that the gospel goes forth irrespective of man. While that is true, it is not intended to absolve us of our responsibility in proclaiming the gospel. Rather, it is intended to remind us that the success of the gospel is not of us.  That too is all of grace.   

For in the final analysis, what is it that separates the redeemed from the unredeemed? What is it that separates believers from unbelievers? What is it that separates the saved from the lost? What is it that separates the elect from the reprobate? And, in the words of Revelation 14, what is it that separates the 144,000 from the rest of mankind? To these questions we can respond with but one word: “Grace.” It is grace that separates the redeemed from the unredeemed, the believer from the unbeliever, the saved from the lost, the elect from the reprobate, and the 144,000 from the rest of mankind. It is grace, amazing grace!  

And we’ll have all eternity to grasp the full weight of that! 

Rev. Brian Vos is the pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan

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