First Angel's Message

In the Bible, the second coming of Christ is the one event toward which all others tend. It is represented as a day of wrath, the time when sin and sinners are destroyed and the land becomes desolate. The language of the inspired writers expresses in most vivid terms the scenes of that day when God arises from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth. “For, behold, the LORD cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” Isaiah 26:21

Questions present themselves: Is mankind to have no warning of this destruction so soon to burst upon him? Is he to have no token of the coming storm that he might avert the impending destruction? Will irretrievable ruin swallow up a sinful world and God give no intimation of its approach?

Such was not the case with the antediluvian world, nor is it the manner of the just Judge of all the world to visit mankind with judgment without giving him ample warning that he might, if he will, avoid the coming destruction.

The Elijah Message

The last writer of the Old Testament wrote of that day: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5–6

In announcing the birth of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel declared that his work would be done in the spirit and power of Elijah. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17. As the forerunner of the Messiah, preparing the people for Christ’s ministry, John fulfilled his mission. Speaking of John, and the work he had done, Jesus said, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” Matthew 11:10

In its greatest and most complete fulfillment, however, this prophecy must have an application to the days just before Christ’s second advent. There must be a message to prepare a people for the return of the Lord. This message, brought to view in Revelation 14, is worldwide in its scope. Represented as being proclaimed by three angels, it is the last such message in the New Testament to be announced. By their acceptance or rejection of this message, every person will have decided for eternal life, or for everlasting woe.

The First Angel’s Message

“And I saw another angel 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

Most Bible truths are truths that have been relevant to all people and for all time. The message of Revelation 14:6, 7, however, in addition to proclaiming the everlasting gospel, is unique in that it announces that the Judgment is in progress; hence, this truth could not have been properly given before the beginning of the Judgment. The apostles looked forward to a day when the Judgment would take place (see Acts 24:25), but this is the announcement that that day has come; and it can, therefore, only be given just before Jesus’ return.

Closely associated with accepting the gospel is repentance. “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:14–15

Repentance implies a change in mind—a desire to do differently. It is not sufficient that we merely confess our sins; we must also forsake them. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7

During the Judgment, according to Paul, “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” Romans 2:16. Every act of the life, no matter how secret, will be evaluated in determining the destiny of the soul. Our acts, however, are not all that is considered in the Judgment. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36. Words are an index of our thoughts, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Matthew 12:34

For the gospel to be effective, it must, therefore, affect our thinking. Speaking of the Christian walk, Paul assures us that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4–5. In bringing even our imagination into subjection to Christ, the gospel has the power to change the whole man; for as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

A Call to Worship God as Creator

In announcing the Judgment, the call is given for men everywhere to worship God as the Creator: “Worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7. The true basis of divine worship is found in the distinction between the Creator and His creatures. It was to keep this truth ever before the minds of men that God instituted the Sabbath in Eden; and so long as the fact that He is our Creator continues to be a reason why we worship Him, the Sabbath will continue to be the memorial of that event and a sign between God and His people. It is in keeping the Sabbath that we show Him our respect as Creator. “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. . . . It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed.” Exodus 31:13, 17

Just as there was a work to be done in preparing His people for His first coming, there is a work of spiritual restoration to be done in the Christian church to prepare them for the Judgment and Christ’s second coming. The work that was to be carried forward in Nehemiah’s day in rebuilding Jerusalem is symbolic of this spiritual restoration and is referred to by Isaiah. “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:12–14 (NKJV)

No Scripture for Sabbath Change

Though no statement asserting the change of the Sabbath can be found in the writings of the Fathers produced during the first three hundred years, many claim that their testimony furnishes decisive proof that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day of Revelation 1:10. A search of the Scriptures, however, reveals that there is only one day that both the Father and the Son claim as, in a peculiar sense, belonging to them; and that is the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. This evidence is set aside without answer, however, and the first day is claimed to have this honor.

The Early Church Kept the Sabbath

The early Christians observed the Sabbath in the most conscientious manner—otherwise, they would have been stoned. Instead of this, we learn from the book of Acts that at times they even received the grudging respect of their unbelieving nation. (See Acts 5) To suppose that the keeping of Sunday had begun among them is to accept a supposition for which there is no probability. The Sabbath was a strong tie that united them with the life of the whole people. In keeping the Sabbath holy, they followed not only the example but also the command of Jesus.

Tradition versus Obedience

While it is true that Christ arose on Sunday, it does not follow that one should give up and forsake the Sabbath which God Himself has commanded, nor that we should seek to transfer that which marked the Sabbath to another day of the week, though that day may be memorable. To do this would require an equally definite command from God, abolishing the former command. But for such a command, there can be found no evidence.

The Sabbath was given to man at Creation and restated in peals of loudest thunder at Sinai. Within the pages of Scripture there cannot be found any command doing away with or in any way altering the Sabbath, for the Lord has given no sign to replace it as a memorial of His creative power or of His power to sanctify us. (See Exodus 31:13, 17) In the last day, many will claim to have had a relationship with Christ (see Matthew 7:22–23), but will find that they are not recognized by Him because they, like Cain, have chosen their own way to worship Him rather than the way that He laid out for them. (See Genesis 4:3–7)

The Law of God is the expression of His character. God possesses absolute, invariable, and immutable independence; and His Law is without variableness, unalterable, and eternal because it is the transcript of His character. No event can take place that will in any sense make it necessary to declare a law of contrary nature. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. Any change in the Law would mar its perfection. The slightest variance in its precepts would give reason to the hosts of heaven to think that God’s counsels and declarations are not to be relied upon but need to be remodeled, because they are of a faulty character. Should any change be made in the Law of God, Satan would gain that for which he had instituted controversy.

It would be far more consistent for nations to abolish their statutes and permit the people to do as they please than for the Ruler of the universe to annul His Law and leave the world without a standard to condemn the guilty or justify the obedient. He who rules the world in wisdom and love is a God who changes not. (See Malachi 3:6) He does not abolish today that which He enforced yesterday. The Law of God may be ignored, despised, rejected, and trampled upon, but it is still the great standard of righteousness, immutable and indestructible.

When in ignorance we have transgressed God’s Law, He is very understanding of that fact and accepts our best intentions, however wrongly they may have been expressed. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” Acts 17:30. When, however, the truth of His will is revealed to us, it then becomes a testing matter, the outcome of which reveals our true attitude toward God and His authority.

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