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. 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.”
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.”
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, 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. 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.”
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!” – Revelation 14:6-13 ESV
John is shown yet another vision or scene. He starts out this section with the familiar “then I saw”, which in Greek is kai eidon. It signals a change in content marked by a change in what John is seeing. He sees “another” angel, which means another of the same kind. This is another and different angel other than the seven introduced in verse 2, and it will be the first of six angels introduced in the rest of this chapter. This angel is described by John as flying in mid-heaven and proclaiming “an eternal gospel.” When we hear the term “gospel”, we most often associate with good news and the proclamation of salvation made possible through Jesus Christ. But in this context, it has to do with God’s coming salvation, but His judgment as well. It is eternal in that the impact of its message is ageless and not restricted by time. It was good news to the believers living in John’s day and remains good news to all of us hearing its message today. The angel is proclaiming the good news “to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Revelation 14:6 ESV). He is flying through mid-heaven, so evidently, as he circumnavigates the globe, all on earth will hear what he has to say. And the content of his message is very specific, leaving no doubt as to what God demands.
“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.” – Revelation 14:7 ESV
He calls on the people of earth to fear God. They are to reverence Him for who He is. He is God Almighty, the God of the universe and the creator of all things. In his book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote of the kind of fear this angel was demanding.
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV
Notice that the fear of God is accompanied by obedience to His commands. This angel is letting the inhabitants of the world know God demands obeisance and obedience, reverence and submission to His will. And that will require that they give Him glory, repenting of their wrong perceptions regarding Him. They must turn from worshiping the Antichrist and acknowledge God as the one true God, who alone is worthy of glory and honor. They must worship Him alone as their God. And the motivation for their worship is His coming judgment. And as we will see in the remaining chapters of John’s book, there will be those who hear and heed this message, bowing down before God in worship.
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed. – Revelation 15:4 ESV
But there will also be those who refuse to listen to the angel’s message, rejecting his call to worship the one true God.
…and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. – Revelation 16:9 ESV
People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. – Revelation 16:11 ESV
…and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. – Revelation 16:21 ESV
As has been the case throughout the centuries, the good news regarding God and His offer of salvation from the wrath to come will be rejected by many. They will curse Him rather than repent and turn to Him. Instead of worshiping and glorifying Him, they will utter blasphemous curses against Him.
This angel is followed by a second one who is proclaiming yet another message.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” – Revelation 14:8 ESV
This is a message of premonition, revealing what is about to happen. As of the moment John heard this angel’s message, Babylon had not yet fallen. But it would. It was inevitable and unavoidable. God was going to judge Babylon. And that begs the question: What exactly does the angel mean by “Babylon”? Is it the literal city of Babylon or a more figurative reference to something else? The answer is probably, “Yes.” It appears that during the period of the tribulation, the ancient city of Babylon will be restored and reassert itself as a global player during the end times. It will also become synonymous with the political and religious powers of the day. Throughout the Scriptures, the name, “Babylon” has become closely associated with ungodliness and rebellion against God, ever since the fall of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
God announces the coming destruction of Babylon. Not only will the city itself be destroyed, but all that it represents, including the religious and political systems that arise out of the city. The angel describes Babylon as an immoral woman, who has seduced the people of the world, enticing them to commit spiritual adultery against God. Chapter 17 will deal with the guilt and well-deserved destruction of Babylon in greater detail.
“Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” – Revelation 17:1-2 ESV
Then John sees yet another angel, whose message is directed at all those who chose to take the mark of the beast or Antichrist and worship him. And it is difficult to see the content of this message as good news, because the angel clearly states to all who bear the mark of the beast, “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” (Revelation 14:10 ESV). As bad as this sounds, it is not a reference to hell or the Lake of Fire. This is going to be some form of temporal punishment meted out by God on all those who rejected His offer of salvation and turned to the Antichrist as their false messiah. These people will suffer unparalleled pain and suffering and it will be in the very presence of Christ and the holy angels. Their suffering will take place while they are forced to look on the one who offered His life as a sacrifice for their sins. But they rejected Him.
John is told that their torment will be eternal, “forever and ever.” They will have no rest from their punishment. And this stands in direct contrast to the statement made by Jesus. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV). Jesus came to earth, offering weary sinners with eternal rest and comfort. And the first angel offered them a form of rest, complete with “springs of water”, but they refused. Now, they will “have no rest, day or night.”
But this angel has a call to all of those who have placed their faith in Christ during the great tribulation. This includes the 144,000. They are to remain faithful to the end. All of this is to be good news to them, because it reveals that their God is going to deal justly and righteously with all the injustice in the world. Their suffering will soon end. Their persecution as a result of their faith will be eliminated once and for all. The tables will turn. So, they are called to endure. To remain strong and not lose faith. God is going to act on their behalf.
Finally, John hears a voice from heaven, proclaiming a message to all those who will suffer and die during the great tribulation. He is told to put this message in writing, so that it will last.
“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!” – Revelation 14:13 ESV
This is both a warning and a blessing. John is being told, in no uncertain terms, that there will be many believers who die in the remaining days of the great tribulation. They will die as a result of their faith in Jesus. Their faithfulness to Him will merit the wrath of the Antichrist. Their refusal to accept the mark of the beast and to worship the Antichrist will bring about not only their persecution but, ultimately, their deaths. But they are told that they will be blessed. They will receive rest from their labors. This is not saying these believers will receive blessing or salvation because of their labors. It is not promoting a kind of works-salvation. It is simply saying that their efforts to remain faithful on this earth during the dark days of the tribulation will be followed by the blessing of eternal rest. Their good deeds will follow them in the sense that they are the proof of their salvation. Jesus refers to this in His Olivet Discourse.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:24-40 ESV
These believers, living during the final days of the tribulation, will exhibit their faith through acts of kindness to others. They will reveal their transformed hearts through clear signs of transformed living. Even at the risk of great persecution, they will show love to others. It is not their acts of kindness that will save them, but those acts will be the proof that they have been saved. And their visible expressions of love for others will be tangible proof of their love for Christ.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.