The First Angel Proclaims . . .
"Saying with a loud voice, Fear God ..." -- Revelation 14:7
We live in an age of confusion. On the one hand "men's hearts are failing them for fear," and on the other "there is no fear of God before their eyes." People are bold to commit sin, but afraid to trust and obey God.
The first angel's message, bearing the everlasting gospel, begins on an imperative note: "Fear God." This fear is the only effective safeguard against spiritual faintheartedness. Godly fear (love and reverence for God) is the foundation of a healthy religious experience. It opens the way to all the blessings of the gospel, and preserves us against evil. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death." "Unto you that fear My name, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings" (Proverbs 9:10; 8:13; 14:26, 27; Malachi 4:2).
A Religious Awakening
Under the proclamation of Christ's soon coming in the prophecy of the first angel's message of Revelation 14, an angel is seen flying "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." "With a loud voice" he proclaims the message: "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" (verses 6, 7).
By the purity, the glory, and the power of the heavenly messenger, divine wisdom represents the exalted character of the work to be accomplished by the message and the power and glory attending it. The angel's flight "in the midst of heaven," the "loud voice" with which the warning is declared to all "that dwell on the earth," signify the rapidity and world-wide extent of the movement. This message was proclaimed on a global scale under the Spirit's anointing in 1843 and 1844 by Bible students who understood the prophetic messages of Revelation and Daniel, companion books of apocalyptic prophecy.
The first angel's message of Revelation 14, announcing the hour of God's judgment and calling upon men to fear and worship Him, was designed to separate the professed people of God from the corrupting influences of the world and to arouse them to see their true condition of worldliness and backsliding. In this message, God sent to the church a warning, which, had it been accepted, would have corrected the evils that were shutting them away from Him. Had they received the message from heaven, humbling their hearts before the Lord and seeking in sincerity a preparation to stand in His presence, the Spirit and power of God would have been manifested among them. The church would again have reached that blessed state of unity, faith, and love which existed in apostolic days, when the believers "were of one heart and of one soul," and "spake the word of God with boldness," when "the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 4:32,31; 2:47).
If God's professed people would receive the light as it shines upon them from His word, they would reach that unity for which Christ prayed in John 17 — "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:3-5).
Such were the blessed results experienced by those few who accepted the message. They came from different denominations, and their denominational barriers were hurled to the ground; conflicting creeds were shivered to atoms; the unscriptural hope of a temporal millennium was abandoned, false views of the second advent were corrected, pride and conformity to the world were swept away; wrongs were made right; hearts were united in the sweetest fellowship, and love and joy reigned supreme. This doctrine would have done the same for all if all had received it.
Meanwhile, this message has lost none of its power, momentum, or authority. However, most people love the praise of men more than the approval of God (see John. 12:43). Hence the message starts with the words: "Fear God." Make Him supreme; do not weigh the value or meaning of God's words by the opinion of the world's great men (see 1 Corinthians 1:23-31), but compare spiritual things with spiritual, and interpret Scripture with Scripture.
God has called His church in this day, as He called ancient Israel, to stand as a light in the earth. He has made them the depositaries of His law and has committed to them the great truths of prophecy for this time. Like the holy oracles committed to ancient Israel, these are a sacred trust to be communicated to the world. 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 earth. Christ declares to His followers: "Ye are the light of the world." To every soul that accepts Jesus the cross of Calvary speaks: "Behold the worth of the soul: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." This all-important work is as far-reaching as eternity. Jesus' love, manifested for the souls of men in the sacrifice which He made for their redemption, will actuate all His followers.
*Angel (Angelos, in Greek), means messenger. It often refers to human messengers (see Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:24; 9:52; James 2:25), as well as divine.