Messengers from Heaven
16 Jun 2007, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
MESSENGERS FROM HEAVEN
Messengers don't always have a good reputation for bringing good news and sometimes the contents they deliver are not always well understood. At times there can be a sense of urgency surrounding them having people think of the worst possible outcome. Also knowing whom the message is from can determine the amount of concern or excitement that is going to be generated.
I will always remember the year 1969. Australian conscripts were still being required to serve alongside American troops in a very unpopular War that commenced in Vietnam in 1957. By the end of the 1960s, a new arrangement had been put in place by the Menzies' Government that enabled new recruits to be chosen by ballot based on their date of birth. This significant change came from an earlier Government decision to reduce the army intake numbers from 30,000 to 12,000 annually. The money saved was then used to purchase modern equipment that would be more in line with the American armed forces. However, through all of this, registration for National Service was to remain compulsory and would see over 15,000 young Australian men involved in active service until the end of the War in 1973 (Barnard, 2001: 371).
In 1969, I was a student at Avondale College ready to commence my undergraduate degree in Education. Every weekday in the early part of that year was to find large groups of young men anxiously standing by their letterboxes waiting for the morning mail to arrive. I remember this all too clearly. They were expecting to receive a small card that would eventually settle their immediate futures one way or the other. This document would either be advising them to report for enlistment at the Newcastle Office or it would grant them indefinite deferment.
I will never forget that moment of relief one particular morning as I took out a card from my letterbox that, in the latest ballot, had granted me indefinite deferment. However, it was with mixed feelings that I watched the anxiety on the faces of those who were now required to enlist. Some of those young men were to eventually serve in Vietnam in different capacities with a number of them never returning home.
As we turn to the Scriptures we also find God sending numerous messengers to His people. They were to be found in every epoch of human history. Many of these special ambassadors were given the privilege of sharing God's truth with a world that was in desperate need. It was a truth delivered in both oral and written form and passed down through the centuries to our modern day.
Angels, which means 'messengers' in the Hebrew tongue, have traditionally been the supernatural intermediaries that God used to convey His word to mankind (Neufeld, 1960: 44). Throughout the Scriptures we continually find reference to their activities as they have faithfully served God and man in this capacity.
However, God's messengers have also brought warnings of things to come and a way of escape for those who remain faithful to Him. Always, it would seem, there have been a remnant that have desperately clung to the truths of God's Word.
We need to remember that in every age God has always had a people and it is through this faithful line of followers that He was to entrust the good news of salvation for all mankind. This is often referred to as the 'Everlasting Gospel' or the 'Gospel of Grace'.
The Scriptures show how these important messages were originally passed from Adam and the Old Testament patriarchs through to the nation of Israel and its prophets.
From the troublous times of Israel we see it being passed to the Early Church.
From the Early Church to the Church of the Dark Ages.
From the surviving Wilderness Church to the Reformation and then from the Reformation to the Church of the Great Second Advent Movement (McFarland, 2006: 99, 100). This was to be the last church. The Church of the end time.
While the truth of God was suppressed and neglected during many of these periods, it was to be that long era known as the dark ages that we see a major falling away of the Christian faith. History records that it was the Protestant Reformation that became the force responsible for moving it forward again. With dedicated men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Melanchthon, along with thousands of men and women whose names no one even knows, the light of truth began to burn brightly again (Ibid: 100, 101).
From 1517, when Luther posted his concerns about the Medieval Church on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, it became a time of recovery as many of those long lost truths held by the early Church were being rediscovered (Ibid: 101).
However, as history records, much of this momentum of reform was lost as the Catholic counter-reformation took hold in Europe. Finally, institutionalism and denominationalism was to take precedence over everything else.
Much of this history was revealed to the prophet Daniel and also to the apostle John. Their visions were to lead us to the time of the end and the Second Coming of Jesus. In both cases the messenger was the angel Gabriel who was given the responsibility of explaining to both Daniel and John what they had seen.
After being shown the history of the true church described through seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor and the story of the false church through the seven seals, the apostle John was later shown a great religious awakening represented by three angels flying in the midst of heaven. All three were to bare messages of warning that were applicable to those living in the last days of earth's history (Brown, 1987: 146).
What was this great religious awakening?
While the reformation at large had lost its momentum, God was now to use the work of humble men throughout Europe and America to continue in their search for truth. And the truth that emerged from this work could not have been more timely bringing us to the Church of the Great Second Advent Movement.
In only four short decades this movement, spanning the Atlantic from Europe to America, had swept the religious world and was centred on the second coming of Jesus Christ. Scores of men from a variety of backgrounds had come to the same conclusion at around the same time.
Dr. Joseph Wolff who was the son of a Jewish Rabbi was first baptised into the Roman Catholic Church and later united with the English Church as a result of his independent thinking. A diligent Bible scholar, he began in 1821 to proclaim the Lord's soon coming and after taking this message to Africa, Asia, North America and England, became known as 'the missionary to the world'.
Manuel Lacunza, a Jesuit priest of Spanish origin living in Chile, found his way into the Scriptures where he discovered the truth of Christ's soon return. His published views were written under the assumed name of Rabbi Ben-Ezra in order to escape the expected Church censure. These documents were translated into a number of languages, before finally being translated into English in 1825. This God-given material was now to move many Protestants and Catholics alike to renew their interest in the study of Bible prophecy.
The work of Wolff, Lacunza, Bengel, Gaussen and many other prophetic scholars was to be seen by the speed at which the Second Advent movement swept through the churches bringing with it some astonishing results. The Book of Daniel that was to be sealed up until the time of the end was now being understood.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Thess 2: 3 had warned the church not to look for the coming of the Lord in his day '…except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed.' This falling away was understood to cover the whole of the 1260-year period ending in 1798. This was then seen to commence the time of the end characterised by the preaching of the Second Advent message.
One of the most prominent of the American preachers of this new movement was no seminary-trained scholar. With only a Bible and Cruden's concordance, this one time Deist and farmer was able to trace the great lines of prophecy, coming to the belief that he was living in the closing days of earth's history. While William Miller drew some wrong conclusions from his studies, there is no question that God used him to stir the people of America to study the prophecies making that country the real centre of the great advent movement across the world (Brown, 1987: 147; White, 1950: 368).
It was here that the prophecy of the first angel's message was to have its most direct fulfilment as the message of Christ's speedy return was being sent to far distant lands (White, 1950: 368).
What was this message?
Let's read John's words in Revelation 14: 6,7. (NIV)
'Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel [the gospel of grace] to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people. V7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgement has come Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
This warning was the beginning of God's last call for heaven.
It was to be a gigantic rescue operation from a God who loves and cares for you.
Without Him we are lost and helpless.
Because it is God's last call for heaven, it is essential we understand what these messages are all about.
We cannot afford to be unprepared for the greatest event in history. The Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The fact that it was an angel messenger that brings this warning is significant. The purity, glory and power of this supernatural being should help us understand the exalted nature of the work that needs to be accomplished by God's people.
The angel's flight in the midst of heaven, and the loud voice that brings the warning to be shared with all that dwell on the earth gives ample '…evidence of the rapidity and world-wide extent of the movement' (White, 1950: 355).
Author Ken McFarland was to note that: 'We have entered a period of time unlike any other in earth's history. It is a time when the Lord will use His people in a powerful way to proclaim the message of Revelation 14 [involving the saving truths of the gospel] and prepare people, through the grace of Christ, for His soon coming' (Mcfarland, 2006: v).
The message of this first angel begins with the words to 'Fear God and give Him glory…',to respect and reverence Him. We need to remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and that spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2: 14). This fear is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness, His holiness and His self-sacrificing love. It also helps us to receive the gospel as our hearts become attuned to holy influences.
The need to fear God in the Angel's introductory words would indicate something about the spiritual confusion of our time as the Church has drifted away from the truth of the Gospel and God's divine law. Rom 3: 18 tells us that the lost have '…no fear of God before their eyes'.
It is a wake up call for all of us to disentangle ourselves from the false concepts of the world and come to grips with the truth of God's Word.
The call to give glory to God is a reminder to us that we are to honour and exalt Him only. Paul's words confirm such a stand with these words in Phil 1: 21 where he says: 'For to me to live is Christ'.
As this warning message continues, the Angel's words 'Fear God and give Him glory' are now to be qualified with the following words when he says: '…because the hour of His judgement has come'.
We need to understand that the message of Salvation has been preached in every age, but this message is a part of the gospel that could only be given in our day, for only then would it be true that the hour of His judgement had come White, 1950: 356). That part of Daniel's prophecies, which related to the last days when 'many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased' (Dan 12: 4), was now to be more fully understood.
This judgment hour message, that explains God's dealing with sin, was also to show what the saving power of Jesus has done for you and I. While it summons each of us here to day to recognise our individual moral accountability to God, it also results in the vindication of God's character, His truth, and His people, in front of the whole universe.
The first angel's call to 'Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water' was a call to worship Him exclusively, because we owe our existence to him. He is our creator and while everything around us seems to be in disarray, we are reminded again that this is still God's world.
This call is also most timely because creature worship has prevailed in many places throughout the world. God is calling worshippers today to worship Him 'in spirit and in truth'. This form of worship was also to encompass the Sabbath as a memorial of creation (Anderson, 1974: 151) and we need to be careful that on this special day we don't allow man-made pageantry and entertainment to take the place of true worship (Rudy, 1981: 328). This form of worship was to '…make ready a people prepared for the Lord' (Luke 1: 17).
This is the primary aim of the First Angel's Message - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. It is a wake up call. It is God's last call for heaven.
It was designed to separate the professed people of God from the corrupting influences around them and to wake them up to their true spiritual condition (White, 1950: 379).
What was the response of the churches to this message?
While initially accepting the judgement message showing the end of all things was near, the churches just before 1844 were later to refuse it and were to force many to leave their congregations. Their ministers, who should have been the true watchmen of the house of Israel, were so full of worldly hopes and ambitions that they missed this wonderful opportunity. Many of the people, who implicitly trusted their pastors also refused to listen and by so doing had rejected the means by which Heaven had provided for their restoration (Ibid: 380).
In Revelation 14: 8 the first angel is followed by a second, saying: 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.'
The early Christians understood the Biblical usage of the word 'Babylon' all too well, as it reaches back to the beginning of human history to 'Babel'. A word that Gen 11: 9 tells us is associated with confusion.
The apostle John uses 'Babylon' as a comprehensive term to describe all religious bodies and movements that have fallen away from the truth. This message of the second angel prophesying the fall of Babylon was to find its fulfilment in the departure of Protestantism at large from the purity and simplicity of the gospel (Rudy, 1981: 330)
This second angel's message was first preached by the followers of Miller in the summer of 1844 and had a more direct application to those churches of the United States who had rejected the first angel's message concerning the judgment (Ibid). However, this warning was to have increasing relevance as we see the gradual fall of the churches reaching complete fulfilment at the end of time when all nations will be forced to '…drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.'
This cup of intoxication represents the false doctrines accepted into the Church as a result of an unlawful connection with the world. This entry has corrupted the faith and, in turn is exerted back on the world in the form of doctrines plainly in opposition to the words of Scripture (White, 1950: 388).
We are told that 'at the close of the nineteenth century Christianity was to come face to face with modernism, the debates of which lasted well into the twentieth century… This was to result in a new generation of preachers growing up with a greater burden for the social gospel than for the gospel of Jesus Christ' (Rudy, 1981: 332).
With the surge of ecumenism in the 1940s, new winds of religious thought began to be felt based on existentialism, secularism, social and economic activism and scientism. This new development was to subject many of the fundamental teachings of the church to attack. In many cases the virgin birth falls away, the Christmas story becomes a legend. Jesus had no messianic consciousness. He knew nothing of His death, resurrection and His second coming, He never performed miracles. He was only truly man, but not truly God, and the Last Supper was not instituted by Him (Ibid).
Not only is this appalling corruption of the Christian faith manifested in the Churches, but there is also a rejection of the true mission of the church. In many cases, the preaching of the Gospel in all the world has taken a lower profile while others have completely rejected it (Ibid: 332).
The Christian Church has reached a point of crisis as secularism has taken over much of Church life with many nominal Christians becoming secularists at heart.
However, this should not be a source of discouragement to the true Christian as we remember that Christianity was born in a time of crisis. What we see now may well be the beginning of the greatest manifestation of spiritual power and glory that the church has ever seen as the Holy Spirit completes His work (Ibid: 335).
And the third angel of Rev 14: 9-11 followed them, saying with a loud voice: 'If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark on the forehead, or on the hand,
He too will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels, and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.' (Rev 14: 9-11).
No other message in the Bible is as solemn as this one. Fortunately, for mankind, this is a timely warning, letting men and women know what lies ahead.
Worship will be the decisive issue involved in this third angel's message and every individual will be compelled to make a choice before the Lord returns. The controversy will centre on the law of God and particularly on the fourth commandment. The message of the third angel, warning men of the false Sabbath, fitly accompanies the fuller understanding of the first message of judgement.
When the issues are clearly set before us we will be required to choose between the apostate powers of the earth and that of the God of heaven.
We are told in Rev 14: 12 that 'This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.'
We need to remember that the purpose of these three angel's messages is to warn us of error and identify truth. Those who accept this final warning from God constitute a worldwide movement of people from all religious faiths who will follow God's Word (Melashenko, 2003: 73).
This will eventually gather all those who are of an honest heart from every nation, kindred, tongue and people to become eternal citizens of the heavenly kingdom.
Dear friends we have entered a period of time unlike any other in earth's history. A time when the Lord will use His people in a powerful way to proclaim the message of Revelation 14 and prepare others, through the grace of Christ, for His soon coming. Don't ever be hesitant about your faith and the heritage of truth given to us by God. Remember that God loves you and wants you in the kingdom.
My prayer this morning is that we will all be a part of this final group of people who have remained faithful and true to the God of heaven and will have the privilege of being with Him for eternity.
Anderson, R. A. (1974) Unfolding the Revelation. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association
Barnard, L. (Ed) (2001) Australia through Time. Sydney: Random House Australia Pty Ltd.
Brown, W. J. (1987) Angels - We never Walk Alone. Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association
McFarland, K (2006) The Called…The Chosen - God has Always had a People. USA: Hollis Scarbrough
Melashenko, E. L. (2003) What the Bible Says About… Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
Neufeld, D. F. (1960) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary. Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association
Rudy, H. L. (1981) The Messages of Revelation. Vol 2. College Place, Washington: Colorado Press
White, E. G. (1950) The Great Controversy. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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