"In the beginning, God." That is how the Bible starts. And at the end, "Even so, come Lord Jesus." Where are we in the flow of time? Not at some random place. There have been developments. We understand from Bible prophecy that the final movements will be rapid ones. In the Book of Revelation, we learn especially about these closing prophetic sequences. It is at the Bible's conclusion that its message is summed and concentrated, outlined and clarified for us.
Messages in the Book of Revelation
Consider some of the Bible's key closing sections. For example, Revelation 12. The chapter outlines the end-time warfare between Satan and the church. Satan persecutes the church, drives her into the wilderness, and even tries to murder the Jesus when he is just a baby. But God is there for His people. He protects and preserves them. Satan pursues, and persists in making war against them. As the church, the bride of God, approaches wedding time when she will at last be united with Jesus, only a remnant remain. Others have come up short. Group after group has been overcome. Love for the world has undone generation after generation. There were revivals and good starts. But Satan knows people all too well. Generation by generation he has tempted them and led them so that they themselves chose to act in such a way that they would be turned back to the bondage of Egypt.
And now, at the end, a remnant remains. We can know exactly which body of believers is the remnant. That body will keep God's commandments and will have the testimony of Jesus. When other churches are bowing to human traditions, when other churches refuse to obey the prophetic testimony of God, they escape Satan's open wrath. But there are faithful Christians who remain true to Jesus. Satan has His eye on them. He attacks them viciously.
Look around you. See churches keeping the traditions of men, like observing Sunday. See churches that approve homosexual sin. See churches that teach unbiblical errors, like the natural immortality of the soul. These groups, while at one time they may have been on God's side in the war, have failed. They have compromised with sin. They are not keeping God's commandments, and the testimony of the Spirit of God is no longer heard in them. There is a famine of hearing and obeying the Word of God.
But faithful churches, which uphold God's holy seventh day sabbath commandment, with those churches, Satan makes war. That's Revelation 12.
Revelation 13 identifies the Roman Catholic Church, the Papacy. It is the beast power of Bible prophecy thinking to change times and laws. It is that power in history which claimed to change the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday. Revelation 13 identifies another beast. This beast comes to power in the world around the close of the 1260 year prophetic period. It has two horns like a lamb, but it speaks as a dragon. This is a power that appears to many people to be just and righteous like the Lamb, Jesus. Yet as time passes, she becomes more corrupt. She becomes more dragonlike. Eventually this is a power that will compel and persecute. Eventually it will even enforce its own mark, the mark of the beast. All who will not bow to its claimed authority it will sentence to death. The contest will be between the churches modified law and God's law. Every person will be tested. None will escape the test. That's Revelation 13.
Then comes Revelation 14. There are three parts in the chapter. The first five verses are a vision of victory. The next passage in the chapter lays out what has been called the three angel messages. The last portion of chapter 14 is a vision of the Second Coming of Jesus and God's harvest of wheat, of commandment-keeping believers in Jesus. Each of these parts deserves our closer attention. Let's start with the angel messages.
Three Angel Messages
Revelation 14:6-13 presents a sequence of three very specific messages for God's end-time people. Lets look at each.
First Angel Message
The first angel message: Revelation 14:6, 7
The first angel flies through heaven. His message is not an addition to the gospel. It is the gospel! It is for every human being on the planet. Every nation, tongue, and tribe. It is for Americans, for Germans, for Maasai, and for every other tribe. None escape the message. None are somehow privileged so that they do not need it. All must bow before God together, whether they hav ea very big country or a very small country; whether they have a very rich country or a very poor country. God is no respecter of persons. His message is in 14:16, 7 is:
Fear God, and give glory to Him. The hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters.
The true God is different from all imagined gods. They do nothing; He made the world. He is to be respected. We give glory to Him; we become holy as He is holy.
Then we have God's law. This angel message echoes the Ten Commandments, and particularly, the Sabbath commandment. The Sabbath commandment is different from all the other commandments. It points directly to God as the Creator. The Sabbath is part of the everlasting gospel. It is not an addition to it. It is not a supplement to it. It is part of the gospel, part of God's good news to mankind.
Revelation is a book intentionally filled with pictures and symbols. An angel flying in the middle of heaven is how God pictures the gospel work of His end-time believers. You see, it is really everyday people like you and me who are that angel. We are God's messengers. We tell others about the everlasting Gospel. We announce respect for God. We seek to be holy as He is holy. We give glory to Him. We announce the worship not of a Sunday God but of the Lord of the Sabbath. We announce that the Creator of the heavens and the earth deserves our worship because He is the Creator.
Second Angel Message
Then comes the second angel message: Revelation 14:
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
The message that Babylon is fallen is placed in an end-time setting. It speaks, not of ancient Babylon, but of the final, fully decayed system of false religion that Satan brings to perfection in the end of earth's history. It is a massive system of deception, closely weaving threads of truth with threads of error. It is a blend of church and state, religious and civil power. Even so, it is like the ancient Babylon. That mighty city-state at the time seemed impregnable. But in one night God made it fall.
Like ancient Babylon, God executes judgment against it, and it collapses. In our day, Babylon combines the power of church and state. Its work is to move people to accept its false doctrines and practices. In Babylon's golden cup are its false teachings. They are portrayed as a liquor, an intoxicating substance. Like other alcoholic beverages, the effect of false teaching is always to deaden the conscience. The wine of Babylon includes the observance of Sunday, a commandment of men, in place of Sabbath, the commandment of God. Babylon's teachings include the false theory of the immortal soul, in place of the Bible teaching that the dead sleep until the resurrection. There is much more wine in the cup, but these help us understand.
As Christians living in these last days, it is critical that we teach truth. This practice is going to offend people. But we have to call people to truth. This is not any random time. These are the last days! God's messengers must be faithful. The Ten Commandments contain positive messages and negative ones. God does not change. His church is the same; it does not change.
Third Angel Message
Next comes the third angel message: Revelation 14:9-13.
In this message the warning is given:
If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation (Revelation 14:9).
In the last days the development of Babylon reaches completion. The dragon's system of error and compulsion is perfected. The main players here are the sea beast--the papacy (Revelation 13:1-10), the earth beast or two-horned beast or lamblike/dragonlike beast--which is the United States controlled by apostate Protestantism, the dwellers of the earth--the citizens of the United States (Revelation 13:12-15).
The state compels worship of the papacy and at the same time compels citizens to worship the image which it itself makes. That "image" is a law compelling people to worship the papacy. At that time the test will come to every person on planet earth. Church and state will unite to compel the observance of Sunday, the false Sabbath.
The message of the third angel unfolds the apocalyptic symbols and identifies the agents involved. Those who faithfully proclaim this message warn the people of planet earth against permitting themselves to be compelled. This message, when the moment comes, places all who would be faithful to God into direct conflict with the state. Those who heed the message will receive eternal life.
Result of Messages
As Jesus' end-time believers, we give His the three angel messages. The result will be extraordinary. This is seen in Revelation 14:1-5. Jesus is standing on mount Zion. He is victorious. But He is not alone. With Him stand a very special group of believers.
The focus in this passage is on what these people have become. What happened when they gav etheitr hearts to Jesus? What is in their heads?
His name and His Father's name.
The loving, unselfish character of the Father and of Jesus is in their foreheads. They are morally like God. They agree with Him. They agree with His character; they seek for their character to be changed to reflect His character.
They determine that in the power God provides, they will not speak or behave in a way that dishonors God. They will not worship idols. They keep His seventh day Sabbath. They treat their parents respectfully. They do not steal, or kill, or commit sexual immorality, or bear false witness, or covet that which is not their own. God's law is written in their hearts and minds.
In the fourth and fifth verses we get an even better understanding of what this means. They are without fault before the throne of God. They are blameless. They are in harmony with God. How? Their attitude is as in the fourth verse: they have learned by experience to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They have learned to follow Jesus instead their own ways. They have become completely glued to the Bible. His Word they have placed in their heart that they might not sin against Him.
Here is where many fail. They do not follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They do not follow all of God's will as revealed in the Bible. They mix worldly practices, traditions, the teachings of men, with the teachings of God. The result is an unholy blend of truth and error. The result is that in the end they do not have the name of the Father or of Jesus in their forehead.
Rather, they have a character in them which has been formed as a mixture of good pieces and bad pieces, of unselfishness and of selfishness. They are not ready for God's harvest. They are like the vegetables in a garden which never ripen. They are like a calf that never grows into an adult cow. They cannot persaude the world that Jesus makes a difference because there is confusion in their hearts, mingled right and wrong. Jesus is followed only part way. Unless they change course they will never stand with Jesus on the top of that mountain.
But that is what we want. We want to stand on the top of the mountain with Jesus. Then we must give the message faithfully.
The Final Harvest
Finally, let's think about the last part of the chapter, verses 14-20. Here we have a picture of the final ripening. There is wheat that comes ripe, and there are grapes that come ripe. In Revelation 14:15, an angel tells Jesus, "Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." This is the wheat. God is like the farmer who successfully brings the food in His garden to ripeness. God is like the keeper of cattle who raises a strong herd.
This calls to mind Satan's dispute with God over Job, found in the Bible book of Job, chapters one and two. Satan approaches God and and God brings up the topic of his servant, a man named Job. God tells Satan that Job serves Him faithfully. But Satan disagrees. He tells God that Job serves God selfishly, that if the material benefits of serving God are removed, Job will curse God. God then allows Satan to go out and tempt Job. Satan wreaks havoc and does what he can to discourage Job. But Job remains faithful. There is yet another round of testing. Job remains faithful. Satan is vanquished.
But Job is one person. Angels are watching the whole conflict between good and evil play out. They want to know who is right: Satan, or God? Could a large group of people who believe in Jesus be changed? Could a significant group have God's law written in their foreheads?
This last portion of Revelation fourteen gives the answer. God brings a whole harvest of wheat to ripeness! God does it! People freely choose Him and are changed by Him and the universe sees the result.
God is able to thrust in His sickle and reap the harvest.
But there is also sad news. In this vision there is another class of persons, represented by grapes. The grapes become ripe. But there is no harvest of these grapes; these grapes are destroyed. Verse 19:
The angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
God harvests the ripe wheat. The wheat is good. But He destroys the ripe grapes. For, you see, the wicked have also been fully formed. But it is not the character of Jesus that is formed in them; it is the character of the destroyer. They are completely selfish; they are completely unlike Jesus. They have received the mark of the beast. They are the result, not of copying the character of Jesus, but of reproducing the character of Satan. They are drunk with false teachings, blending God's ways with man's ways. They reek of the use of compulsion, state power, to force people to worship. They are the opposite of Jesus.
Summary and Appeal
There is in the Bible a special final set of messages. God's end-time people must deliver them faithfully. They are represented as three angels flying above the earth. In prophetic symbol, these angels represent us. God's message is to be given by faithful believers to every nation, tribe, and every people-group on planet earth. This will require lots of people. Do you want to come and give this message? Then come! Follow Jesus wherever He goes. He sends His message over the whole planet--from New York to London to Nairobi to Talek. His message comes to famous places and to places many people have never heard of. When it comes to those places, those who want to do what Jesus says hear His voice speaking to them in the messages. They receive the messages. Then the word that came in, goes out. If Talek receives the message in power, then from Talek that message will go out in power.
To be Christian means also to rise up and tell others. Don't keep Jesus' end-time message to yourself; share it! Ask others to "Come and see!"
Mara Vision Outreach Bible Mission Camp, Maasai Mara, Talek Kenya 2016-08-12