A few years prior to the end of the period of 2300 years (Daniel 8:14), shortly before Christ as our High Priest entered into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, there began a worldwide revival in expectation of the soon coming of Christ. Faithful Advent believers recognized the message of Revelation 14:6-8 as being entrusted to them by God. Although the majority among the Christian denominations rejected the solemn message of preparation, the first angel’s message, and thus became Babylon (confusion), the second angel’s message, serving as a warning, prepared the way for the third. Revelation 14:9-12. Since then, the everlasting gospel truth, which includes the commandments of God, is being proclaimed to all peoples, nations, and tongues. The gathering of the last church before the second coming of Christ is under way.
The closing work of the Gospel is represented in prophecy as being accomplished by three angels with important messages of present truth for mankind. These angels symbolize the people of God (movements) who proclaim the warnings entrusted to them. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, these messages call for men to make their final decision between truth and error and prepare to stand before the judgment seat of God and to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
“The three angels of Revelation 14 represent the people who accept the light of God’s messages and go forth as His agents to sound the warning throughout the length and breadth of the earth.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 455-456.
The First Angel.
The message of the first angel, having the “Everlasting Gospel,” calls upon all nations to fear God, give glory to Him, and worship Him as the Creator. Romans 1:16; Mark 13:10. It also points to the fact that the time of the investigative judgment has come. Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5, 17. Many, having forgotten God, felt that they were the rulers of their own destiny. Therefore, their allegiance must be called back to their Maker. It is their responsibility to obey God instead of pleasing themselves. This message points to the work of restoration of the original principles and institutions given by God in the beginning. Revelation 14:6, 7; Acts 3:19-21.
The Second Angel.
After the great Deluge in the time for Noah, God promised never again to destroy the earth by a flood. Unregenerate man disbelieved the promise of God and began to build the tower of Babel, which resulted in confusion. Genesis 11:1-9. During the early centuries of the Christian era, compromise between Christianity and Paganism led to the development of the papacy as prophesied in Revelation 13:1-10. In the book of Revelation, Babylon, represented by the woman riding upon a scarlet colored beast, together with her harlot daughters, is a fitting symbol of all apostate professed Christian denominations that have turned away from the law of God. The message of the second angel announces the fall of Babylon because they rejected the message of the first angel and denounces the corruption of the Protestant churches which are following the example of the Roman Catholic church. Apostatized Christianity, united with the State, will bring about persecution of the faithful believers and the final crisis. Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:3-6.
The Third Angel.
The third angel’s message is a strong warning against worshipping the beast and his image and receiving the mark of the beast (deliberate Sunday-keeping). “The papacy has attempted to change the law of God. The second commandment, forbidding image worship, has been dropped from the law, and the fourth commandment has been so changed as to authorize the observance of the first instead of the seventh day as the Sabbath. But papists urge, as a reason for omitting the second commandment, that it is unnecessary, being included in the first, and that they are giving the law exactly as God designed it to be understood. This cannot be the change foretold by the prophet. An intentional, deliberate change is presented: ‘He shall think to change the times and the law.’ The change in the fourth commandment exactly fulfills the prophecy. For this the only authority claimed is that of the church. Here the papal power openly sets itself above God.”—Great Controversy, p. 446.
This angel identifies the remnant people of God living in the last days. When Protestantism in America shall call upon the secular powers to enforce Sunday observance (the false sabbath), then an image to the beast will have been formed. All will then be called to decide between showing allegiance to the law of God on the one hand or accepting the decree of the beast (the Antichrist) on the other hand. And God will honor the choice of each individual. He will render eternal life to those who, in spite of the death decree, keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and eternal death to those who disobey Him. Revelation 14:9-12; 13:11-18.
“The third angel’s warning is: ‘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.’ ‘The beast’ mentioned in this message, whose worship is enforced by the two-horned beast, is the first, or leopardlike beast of Revelation 13–the papacy.”—The Great Controversy, p. 443.
The Image of the Beast.
“The ‘image to the beast’ represents that form of apostate Protestantism which will be developed when the Protestant churches shall seek the aid of the civil power for the enforcement of their dogmas.”—The Great Controversy, p. 445.
“The professed Protestant world will form a confederacy with the man of sin, and the church and the world will be in corrupt harmony.”—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 975.
“When the Protestant churches shall unite with the secular power to sustain a false religion, for opposing which their ancestors endured the fiercest persecution; when the state shall use its power to enforce the decrees and sustain the institutions of the church–then will Protestant America have formed an image to the papacy, and there will be a national apostasy which will end only in national ruin (ST March 22, 1910).”—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 976.
The Mark of the Beast.
“The sign, or seal, of God is revealed in the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, the Lord’s memorial of creation. The mark of the beast is the opposite of this–the observance of the first day of the week. This mark distinguishes those who acknowledge the supremacy of the papal authority from those who acknowledge the authority of God.—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 117.
“John was called to behold a people distinct from those who worship the beast and his image by keeping the first day of the week. The observance of this day is the mark of the beast (Letter 31, 1898).”—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 979.
The third angel identifies the remnant people of God by the following three main characteristics:
(a) The patience of saints, which is developed under great tribulation. Romans 5:3, 4; James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:7.
(b) The keeping of the commandments of God, including the seventh-day Sabbath, which is the seal of the living God and the special sign between Him and His people. Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 16:17; James 2:10-12.
(c) The upholding of the faith of Jesus which is the everlasting gospel and faith in His power to save to the uttermost those who accept Him as their personal Saviour. Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 1:9; 2:1-6; Ephesians 2:8.
“What constitutes the faith of Jesus, that belongs to the third angel’s message? Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Saviour. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. And faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus.”—Selected Messages, bk 3, p. 172.
“The proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages has been located by the Word of Inspiration. Not a peg or pin is to be removed. No human authority has any more right to change the location of these messages than to substitute the New Testament for the Old. The Old Testament is the gospel in figures and symbols. The New Testament is the substance. One is as essential as the other. The Old Testament presents lessons from the lips of Christ, and these lessons have not lost their force in any particular.
“The first and second messages were given in 1843 and 1844, and we are now under the proclamation of the third; but all three of the messages are still to be proclaimed. It is just as essential now as ever before that they shall be repeated to those who are seeking for the truth. By pen and voice we are to sound the proclamation, showing their order, and the application of the prophecies that bring us to the third angel’s message. There cannot be a third without the first and second.”—Selected Messages, vol. 2, pp. 104-105.
“Prophecy declares that the first angel would make his announcement to ‘every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.’ The warning of the third angel, which forms a part of the same threefold message, is to be no less widespread. It is represented in the prophecy as being proclaimed with a loud voice, by an angel flying in the midst of heaven; and it will command the attention of the world.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 449-450.
“The three angels of Revelation 14 are represented as flying in the midst of heaven, symbolizing the work of those who proclaim the first, second, and third angels’ messages. All are linked together. The evidences of the abiding, ever-living truth messages, that means so much to the church, that have awakened such intense opposition from the religious world, are not extinct. Satan is constantly seeking to cast a shadow about these messages, so that the people of God shall not clearly discern their import, their time and place; but they live and are to exert their religious power upon our religious experience while time shall last.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 17-18.
“The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received.'”—Early Writings, pp. 258-259.