Reading 2 – Sabbath, December 8, 2006

By Antonino Di Franca, Italy

Among the visions and prophecies in the Holy Scripture, we find the glorious image of angels flying through space, broadcasting messages to human beings!

Revelation 14 presents three angels, one following the other. Then, in chapter 18, still another angel flies through the sky, further empowering the messages of the first three angels. They all carry warnings from God to the world, urging all to accept salvation. Let us consider the first angel’s message.

The first angel
“I saw another angel

[the first in this chapter] fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters’.” Revelation 14:6, 7. These verses are full of interesting elements, some real and some symbolic. First, we meet an “angel,” a glorious heavenly being acting as a messenger. Earthly messages, spoken and written, are delivered by human beings; but the messenger in Revelation 14 is a holy being, pure and glorious. This angel, like the others, all flying in midair, is a symbol. In reality, it is God’s people. “The three angels of Revelation 14 represent the people who accept the light of God’s messages and go forth as His agents to sound the warning throughout the length and breadth of the earth.” —Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 455, 456.

A divine message
The second point is that the “angel” is not a silent one. He has a special message, called “the everlasting gospel,” the good news of salvation. Besides preaching the gospel, the angel warns about the seriousness of the time and invites everyone on earth to come to God. “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7.

This message has been preached since the beginning of the Advent Movement. The Lord has entrusted it to His people to give to the world in this time. “The angels are represented as flying in the midst of heaven, proclaiming to the world a message of warning, and having a direct bearing upon the people living in the last days of this earth’s history. No one hears the voice of these angels, for they are a symbol to represent the people of God who are working in harmony with the universe of heaven. Men and women, enlightened by the Spirit of God, and sanctified through the truth, proclaim the three messages in their order.” —Life Sketches, p. 429.

A missionary people
God’s people do not live for themselves only but especially to be a blessing to others. Our gathering together, visiting, preaching, preparation and distribution of literature, and all other work is not to be limited to our own church members. If it were, we could not be represented by an angel, a messenger to others. The Lord represents the work of this time through a heavenly herald to impress us with the need to be a missionary people. He has entrusted us with a message for the entire world. To preach the gospel should be our first priority at every level—the General Conference, as well as every union, field, church, institution, and individual member.

John the Baptist ministered by preaching to the people; Jesus did the same. Matthew 3:1; 4:17. During His three-and-one-half-year mission, He traveled and preached in Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. During His ministry, He chose and instructed twelve disciples. Matthew 10. Next, He sent seventy others to go before Him into every town and village of Israel, the chosen people, to prepare hearts for His message. The result? Even the disciples performed miracles! Luke 10:1, 17.

The gospel, Jesus announced, is for every country, people, and tongue. Before the end of the world, the good news would be preached everywhere. Matthew 24:14. His last reminder, before His ascension, was the same great missionary mandate: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. This commission should therefore be the center of our ministry. Time and energy, gifts and service, funds and printing—everything—should be employed for this purpose.

Counsel for our mission
Sometimes we don’t know exactly how to reach certain people, to speak to their hearts. This is why the Lord has promised his Spirit. We can begin missionary work in the simplest way, speaking words of faith and hope while going about our daily work among our family, friends, and coworkers. Hand them a nice magazine, book, or leaflet full of good, inspired counsel about the love of God. Never argue about Jesus! First, let others see Jesus in us. At home and in the homes of others, share the Bible’s sublime promises. Introduce people to the Lord Himself. Cooperate with other brothers and sisters of experience. Learn from the blessed counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy, such as the following:
“I remember when the converting power of God came upon me in my childhood. I wanted everyone else to get the blessing that I had, and I could not rest till I had told them of it. I began to visit with my young companions and went to their houses to talk with them and tell them my experience, how precious the Saviour was to me, and how I wanted to serve Him, and how I wanted them to serve Him also. So I would talk of the preciousness of Christ, and I would say, ‘Won’t you kneel down and pray with me?’ Some would kneel and some would sit in their chairs, but before we gave up, everyone would be on her knees and we would pray together for hours, till the last one would say, ‘I believe that Jesus has forgiven me my sins.’” —Welfare Ministry, p. 99.

There is great power in Jesus. “Now when we go into the house we should not begin to talk of frivolous things, but come right to the point and say, I want you to love Jesus for He has first loved you.… Take along the publications and ask them to read. When they see that you are sincere they will not despise any of your efforts. There is a way to reach the hardest hearts. Approach in the simplicity, sincerity, and humility that will help us to reach the souls of those for whom Christ died. We do not want to be negligent in this work.” —Ibid., p. 91.

The blessing of preaching
In preaching the message, there is blessing—blessing for the preachers, blessing for the hearers, and blessing for the entire church. On the contrary, if we don’t share the gospel, we will become like stagnant water, causing problems for both ourselves and others. Hearers but not doers can hardly be compared with a glorious angel heralding the gospel to the world. How does the Spirit of Prophecy describe those who reflect the angel’s light? “The faces of men and women who walk and work with God express the peace of heaven. They are surrounded with the atmosphere of heaven. For these souls the kingdom of God has begun. They have Christ’s joy, the joy of being a blessing to humanity. They have the honor of being accepted for the Master’s use; they are trusted to do His work in His name.” —The Adventist Home, p. 535.

“Work is a blessing, not a curse. A spirit of indolence destroys godliness and grieves the Spirit of God. A stagnant pool is offensive, but a pure, flowing stream spreads health and gladness over the land.” —The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 352, 353.

People who are not working for the Lord sooner or later become gloomy, critical, and faultfinding, unable to share the joy of the Lord. “When our church members during the week act their part in the service of the Lord, they will be roused from the despondency that is ruining many, body and soul. As they work for others, they will have much that is helpful to speak of when they assemble to worship God. The Sabbath meeting will be like meat in due season; for all will bring precious offerings to the Lord. When God’s people see the great need of sinners being converted, turned from the service of Satan to serve the living God, the testimonies they bear … will not be dark and gloomy, but full of joy and courage, life and power. Instead of thinking and talking about the faults of their brethren and sisters, and about their own trials, they will think and talk of the love of Christ, and will strive earnestly to become more efficient workers for Him.” —Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, p. 92.

It’s time to preach the message
Dear brethren and sisters, young and old, now is the time to let the light shine. Don’t wait, thinking that others will do your work. Get busy now; work for the Lord and for the beloved souls for whom He has given His life. If every one of us would be a little light, how blessed the world and the church would be.

“Church members … are to be ever ready to spring into action in obedience to the Master’s commands. Wherever we see work waiting to be done we are to take it up and do it, constantly looking unto Jesus.… If every church member were a living missionary, the gospel would speedily be proclaimed in all countries, to all peoples, nations, and tongues.” —Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 32.

“My brethren and sisters, it is too late to devote your time and strength to self-serving. Let not the last day find you destitute of the heavenly treasure. Seek to push the triumphs of the cross, seek to enlighten souls, labor for the salvation of your fellow beings, and your work will abide the trying test of fire.” —Ibid., p. 56.

The judgment hour
Another serious point in the first angel’s message is that “the hour of His judgment has come”—in heaven and on earth. Judgment began in 1844. Since then, cases are being judged one after the other. How long will the judgment continue? Here on earth, natural, social, and religious catastrophes claim the attention of unbelievers, who ask their meaning. The horrible September 11 twin towers attack and fall have exposed the insecurity of even the richest and, before that, most secure country in the world. Far East tsunamis, with all their devastations, have shaken not only the affected countries but also the rest of the world. Flooding in North America has found people unprepared for such emergencies. The war in Lebanon reveals how easily conditions change and illustrates the chances of a small war escalating into a world-wide crisis. Continuous attacks in Iraq, with daily loss of human life, and wars in other places reveal that without Jesus there is no respect for life. Even as the climate changes around the world, spiritual life becomes more and more superficial. Another year will soon end. Human history is almost over. God is speaking to us. His judgment hour has come, dear brothers and sisters. It is time to wake up and let the light shine! Messages from the Spirit of Prophecy leave no doubt about what we should be doing. “There is an earnest work of preparation to be done by Seventh-day Adventists if they would stand firm in the trying experiences just before them. If they remain true to God in the confusion and temptation of the last days, they must seek the Lord in humility of heart for wisdom to resist the deceptions of the enemy.” —In Heavenly Places, p. 347.

“We are not, as a people, sufficiently aroused to the short time in which we have to work, and we do not understand the magnitude of the work for the time.

“The night soon cometh, in which no man can work. God calls for men and women to qualify themselves, by consecration to His will and earnest study of the Scriptures, to do His special work for these last days. He calls for men now who can work. As they engage in the work in sincerity and humility to do all they can, they will be obtaining a more thorough experience. They will have a better knowledge of the truth and better know how to reach souls and help them just where they need to be helped. Workmen are needed now, just now, to labor for God. The fields are already white for the harvest, and yet laborers are few.” —Life Sketches, pp. 211, 212. In the time of Noah, the flood did not immediately follow the flood message. The Lord first announced the end of civilization, then mercifully granted one hundred and twenty years of grace. Noah’s preaching and faithful example urged people to change their lives and prepare to meet the Lord, but they wasted the time. We also have been given ample time to prepare for the Lord’s coming, but grace will not last forever. How are we using our time? How are we helping others to prepare to meet Jesus?

Worship Him
The first angel’s message ends with an invitation: “Worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7. Such a call indicates that people are neither worshiping nor obeying God. As in the past, today men, women, and children look away from God and worship and serve their modern idols. Idols, of course, are not only statues or pictures in a temple or the sun or stars in the heavens. Idols may be interests, customs, ideas, habits, feelings—anything that leads the mind from the worship of God.

For many people, the first god is money; others idolize amusements; still others focus, to the exclusion of God, on travel, culture, sports, fashions, the media, a new car or an old one, their house or houses, or even furniture. You name it—someone has made an idol of it. God showers us with blessings every day, yet often we don’t even think about them, let alone thank Him for His gifts. We rob God by withholding thankfulness, obedience, honor, and glory. Humanity seems to have lost its way, like an off-course ship.

One day a ship went down on the coast of Ireland. Nobody knew how the vessel could have gone so far off course—until a diver plunged into the water and recovered the ship’s compass. Careful investigation revealed a strange bit of steel in a column of the box. How could the piece have gotten there? Shortly before the ship sank, one of the sailors had been asked to clean the compass. He used his penknife during the cleaning. A tiny bit of the tip of the knife blade broke off, but the sailor left it in the sensitive compass. Can you imagine? Such a little piece of steel influenced the magnetic needle so much that the ship was steered off course. It ran right into a cliff and sank.

That little piece of steel was insignificant to the sailor—but very significant for the compass and even more for the direction of travel, the security of the ship, and the lives of the passengers. It’s the same with the sin that challenges us human beings. At the beginning, it seems so insignificant to us and billions of others also; but little by little it leads people away from God, in the opposite direction, and eventually to shipwrecked, ruined lives.

Dear brethren and sisters of the entire world, let us not permit sin to destroy our lives. As long as we cultivate and idolize sin, God will be in second, third, or even the last place in our affections. We cannot truly worship Him. God is love, grace, justice, goodness, the source of true happiness. In the person of Jesus Christ, God sacrificed everything for us. Year after year, we receive uncountable signs of His mercy. Let us give Him His due—our faith and love, our obedience and service, our worship and gratitude. Let Him lead our lives as we preach to others the glorious “everlasting gospel,” then lead us all to the eternal harbor of peace and happiness. Amen.