ANGELS WITH GOOD NEWS
More than nineteen hundred years have passed since Jesus asked his followers to take the gospel to all the world. When that is done, he said, then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
The truth that the Son of God had come to reveal was not to be guarded as a secret known only by a privileged few. Some of the most popular religions in Jesus’ day, known as the Mysteries, were built around sacred information dislosed only to those who had passed through special rites of initiation.
But gospel means “good news,” and as such it was to be publicly made known. Jesus directed that it be given the widest possible circulation, even as far as “the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), “to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). As far as Satan’s lies had gone, so should go the truth.
The small band of Christian believers set out confidently to fulfill this immense assignment. They even expected to complete it in a very short time. Had not Jesus indicated that he would be coming back soon? Had he not warned them to be constantly on the watch lest they be unprepared for his return and he catch them by surprise? Some believers in Thessalonica even stopped working, in the mistaken belief that the end had already come. Paul had to inform them that there were still some important events yet to take place before Christ would return (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; 3:6–13).
But a whole generation passed, and still the Lord had not come. Now only John was left of the original twelve apostles, and he was imprisoned on the lonely Isle of Patmos. Had something gone wrong? The Good News had been well received by many. But it had also provoked serious and sometimes violent opposition. Many Christians had even been killed by the very people they were trying to help.
But, much more seriously, some believers were beginning to doubt the truthfulness of the Good News they had been trying to spread. Some were now even denying that the Son of God had really come in human form to bring the truth about his Father (2 John 7).
At this critical moment God sent another message of encouragement and explanation. To the elderly prisoner on the Isle of Patmos he sent the information recorded in the last book of the New Testament. John described it as “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1).
This message advised Christians to take a larger view of life than just the difficulties of the moment. The individual believer must understand that he has become actively involved in the great controversy between Christ and Satan, a conflict that involves the whole universe.
For the first time in the Bible mention is made of the war long ago up in heaven and the extent of Satan’s influence among the angels (see Revelation 12). The Christian must learn to view his special mission in the light of this great struggle. Then when it may seem that the work of spreading the gospel is doomed to failure and the second coming of Christ is indefinitely delayed, he will remember the great controversy and all that God has accomplished so far.
He will remember how through the ages God has worked so patiently to reveal the truth about himself—and he is still working just as patiently now to win the human race. Then discouragement over delay turns to gratitude and admiration for God’s infinite grace, and the believer is now himself more willing also to wait.
Moreover, John’s Book of Revelation speaks of Satan’s anger with those who dare to thwart his efforts to deceive the world. As he seeks to turn men against God, he is infuriated to hear the continuing testimony of those who still choose to “obey God’s commandments and are faithful to the truth revealed by Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, GNT). This should help believers understand why their efforts to teach the truth have stirred up such fierce resistance.
Then, looking into the future, Revelation 13 foretells Satan’s last, supreme attempt by means of deception, miracle, and force to silence the truth and establish himself as God. So severe is the struggle that John interrupts his description to say, “This calls for endurance and faith on the part of God’s people” (Revelation 13:10, GNT).
In chapter 14 the apostle goes on to describe this company of God’s people as still resisting Satan’s lies right up until the end. It is particularly mentioned of them that “in their mouth no lie was found” (Revelation 14:5). Even at risk of life they refuse to join the world in turning from the God of truth to worship the one Christ had called “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Instead, they persist in “keeping God’s commands and remaining loyal to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12, NEB).
As the contest moves on toward its climax, God’s loyal people are not just passively waiting for their Lord’s promised return. They will not allow the enemy to win the world by default! Instead, they redouble their efforts to complete their original commission to spread the truth to every corner of the earth.
Again in the symbolic language of the Book of Revelation, John writes of seeing this last great effort to spread the gospel as represented by angels bringing urgent messages from heaven. In chapter 14 he particularly mentions three.
The first of these John saw “flying high in the air, with an eternal message of Good News to announce to the peoples of the earth, to every race, tribe, language, and nation…. [The angel] said in a loud voice, ‘Honor God and praise his greatness! For the time has come for him to judge mankind. Worship him who made heaven, earth, sea, and the springs of water!’” (Revelation 14:6, 7, GNT).
“A second angel followed the first one, saying, ‘She has fallen! Great Babylon has fallen!’” (Revelation 14:8, GNT). God’s opposition has collapsed, both in corruption and in defeat!
A third angel followed the first two and in vivid language warned of the terrible consequences of believing Satan’s lies and joining him in rebellion against God. Again there is a call for “endurance on the part of God’s people, those who obey God’s commandments and are faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12, GNT).
These three messages, in the setting in which they are given, seem to sum up God’s last message of invitation and warning to our world. Yet the message is not new. The Good News of the first angel is described as eternal, everlasting. It has always been the truth.
It was the truth back in eternity, even before Lucifer began to circulate his lies. It is the same truth that has held the loyalty of the majority of God’s children throughout the universe. And it will remain the truth through the endless ages of eternity, the truth that is the basis for our freely given trust in God.
But what precisely is this truth, this everlasting gospel and Good News?