Worship the Creator
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we believe in the biblical concept of “present truth” (2 Pet. 1:12). It’s basically the idea that God unfolds truth to humanity at the time it is needed, with more and more light being given by the Lord over the ages. The first gospel promise, in Genesis 3:15, revealed to the fallen pair that hope would come through the seed of the woman. The promise to Abraham, that he “ ‘shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him’ ” (Gen. 18:18, NKJV) is a fuller revelation of the gospel promise. The coming of Jesus, who proclaimed that “ ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’ ” (Mark 10:45, NKJV), is, of course, an even greater revelation of the gospel truth.
Today we believe that the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6– 12 is “present truth” for those living in the last days prior to Christ’s return and the fulfillment of all our hopes as Christians. This week, we will focus particularly on the first angel’s message, for it contains truths crucial for those who seek to stay faithful amid end-time perils.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 26.
In a sense, one can say that the first angel’s message is the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19) given now in the context of the last days. It is, indeed, “present truth.”
Notice that all three texts place an emphasis on outreach to all the world, to “all the nations,” and to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” In other words, this message is universal in scope. Every person needs to hear it.
The universality of sin explains the universality of our mission and calling. “Every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” has done wrong, has violated God’s law, and has been “confined . . . under sin” (NKJV). Adam’s fall in Eden has impacted every human being; no nation or tribe or people has been immune. We all face the immediate consequences of sin, and without a remedy, we all would face the ultimate consequence: eternal death.
That remedy, of course, has been provided: the life, death, resurrection, and heavenly sanctuary ministry of Jesus, who is the only solution to the sin problem. Everyone needs to know the great hope of what God has offered them in Jesus Christ. This is why Seventh-day Adventists have gone throughout all the world, seeking to bring the message of Jesus to those who have not yet heard it.
In Revelation 14:6, the message to be proclaimed to the world is “the everlasting gospel.” It’s a message of hope for people in a world that, in and of itself, offers no hope at all.
Writing about the thief, Ellen G. White said that although not a hardened criminal, he had been “seeking to stifle conviction” about Jesus, and so “had plunged deeper and deeper into sin, until he was arrested, tried as a criminal, and condemned to die on the cross.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 749.
Yet, what happened to him? As he hung on the cross, the thief got a glimpse of who Jesus was, and so he cried out: “ ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’ ” (Luke 23:42, NKJV).
And how did Jesus respond? Did He say: Well, friend, I’d like to help you, but you should not have stifled your convictions by plunging deeper and deeper into sin? Did Jesus quote one of His earlier sermons: “ ‘Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’ ” (Matt. 5:20, NKJV)? Did Jesus, in any way, bring up the thief’s past mistakes?
No. Instead, Jesus turned to this criminal, this thief with a faulty character who had nothing to offer in the way of righteousness and who earlier had been cursing Him (Matt. 27:44). Seeing him as a new man, Jesus said (essentially): I am telling you, right now, I am giving you the assurance, right now, that your sin, your crimes, your faults, are forgiven, and thus “ ‘you will be with Me in Paradise’ ” (Luke 23:43, NKJV).
Here is the “everlasting gospel,” the foundation of the first angel’s message. Without this truth, nothing else we teach about the law, the Sabbath, or the state of the dead matters. What good are these teachings without the “everlasting gospel” at the heart of them all?
After talking about the proclamation of the “everlasting gospel” to all the world in Revelation 14:6, the first angel expands on this message. Therefore, as we proclaim the “everlasting gospel,” we must include the truths that are part of this gospel message for this time. In other words, “present truth” for the last days also includes Revelation 14:7.
To fear God and to give Him glory are not unrelated concepts. If we truly fear God in the biblical sense, we will give glory to Him. One should lead directly to the other.
In the verses above, the idea of fearing God is linked to obeying Him, and when we obey God, when we do what is right, we bring glory to Him. Although it is often said that to fear God is to be in awe of God and to reverence Him, it should go deeper than that. We are fallen. We are sinners. We are beings who deserve death. Who hasn’t at moments faced the startling realization of the evil of their deeds and what they would deserve at the hands of a just and righteous God for those deeds? This is the fear of God. And it is the fear that drives us, first, to the Cross for forgiveness and, second, to claim the power of God to cleanse us from the evil that, if it were not for the Cross, would cause us to lose our souls (see Matt. 10:28).
In the first angel’s message, the idea of fearing God and giving glory to Him is linked to judgment (Rev. 14:7). If the Bible is clear about any teaching, it is clear that God is a God of justice and of judgment. One day the judgment and justice so lacking in this world will indeed come. No wonder people need to fear God.
And that’s why the “everlasting gospel” also includes the reality of judgment. What is the relationship between these two elements? The gospel means “good news.” This means in turn that although we are all sinners and have broken God’s law, when Judgment Day comes, like the thief on the cross, we will not face the penalty and punishment that we deserve for our sin and lawbreaking.
The God who knows the number of hairs on our heads is going to judge the world. But that is precisely why the “everlasting gospel” is such good news. Judgment comes, but there is “no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1) for the faithful followers of Jesus, those “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus” (see 1 Cor. 6:11), because Jesus Christ is their righteousness, and His righteousness is what gets them through that judgment.
“Man cannot meet these charges himself. In his sin-stained garments, confessing his guilt, he stands before God. But Jesus our Advocate presents an effectual plea in behalf of all who by repentance and faith have committed the keeping of their souls to Him. He pleads their cause and vanquishes their accuser by the mighty arguments of Calvary. His perfect obedience to God’s law, even unto the death of the cross, has given Him all power in heaven and in earth, and He claims of His Father mercy and reconciliation for guilty man.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 471.
Along with the gospel, the call to witness to the world, and the call to “ ‘Fear God and give glory to Him’ ” (NKJV) comes the call to worship God as the Creator. And no wonder. All these other aspects of “present truth”—the everlasting gospel, the call to witness, the judgment—what do they mean apart from God as our Creator? These truths, and all other truths, arise from the foundational truth of the Lord as the One who has made all things. By worshiping the Lord as Creator, we are getting back to basics. We are getting back to the foundation of what it means to be human and alive and unlike any other earthly creatures—to be made in the image of God. By worshiping the Lord as Creator, we acknowledge our dependence upon Him for existence and for our future hope. This is why the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath is so important. It’s a special acknowledgment that God alone is our Creator, and we worship only Him. That is, along with the gospel, along with the judgment, the call to worship the Lord as Creator is given prominence here.
As final events unfold, pressure to worship the beast and his image rather than the Creator will come upon all the world. If we consider the fearsome warning about the fate of those who worship the beast and his image, we can better understand the emphasis on worshiping God as Creator, as the only One worthy of human worship. In the final crisis, this truth will become more crucial than ever.
Further Thought: Bible students have long seen a link between the call in Revelation 14:7 to “ ‘worship [H]im who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water’ ” (RSV), and the fourth commandment, in Exodus 20:11, when the Sabbath points back to the fact that “ ‘in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them’ ” (NKJV). However closely related the language, there is a change in which the text in Revelation points to the Lord as the One who made “the fountains of water.”
Author John Baldwin argues, “Assuming divine intentionality behind the phrase ‘fountains of water,’ why does Jesus have the messenger break the parallel listing of things mentioned in Exodus 20:11? Why does the angel mention ‘fountains of water’ and not some other class of created thing, such as trees, birds, fish, or mountains?
“Perhaps the reference to ‘fountains of water’ in the context of a divine announcement of the arrival of a unique time of divine judgment seeks to direct the reader’s attention to a previous period of divine judgment. . . . Perhaps God intends that the possible allusion to the flood by the words ‘fountains of water’ should underscore the truth that He is indeed a God of judgment, as well as a God of everlasting faithfulness and graciousness (both evidenced in the narrative of the Genesis flood). If so, the personal and spiritual implications of the flood connotation triggered by the phrase ‘fountains of water’ might be to encourage the reader to take seriously the momentous arrival of a new end-time process of individual divine judgment now announced by the first messenger of Revelation 14.”—John Baldwin, ed., Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital to the Doctrine of Atonement (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 2000), p. 27.