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28 March 2020

The "Everlasting Gospel" and the Coming Harvest

Synopsis:  Having contrasted the followers of the Lamb with the men that pay homage to Beast, the book presents the reader with a definitive choice with two very different everlasting consequences - Revelation 14:6-7.

Photo by OBV _design on Unsplash
OBV _design on Unsplash
The two preceding paragraphs presented two different groups. First, the “inhabitants of the earth” that render homage to the Beast. Second, the 144,000 saints purchased from the earth who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” There is no third category or middle ground between the two (Revelation 13:11-18, 14:1-5).

An angel appears to announce an “everlasting gospel,” the call to fear God and render homage to Him alone, for the final “hour of judgment” has arrived. In this vision, that judgment is pictured in two different kinds of “harvests,” each with a very different result. Which “harvest” one participates in is determined by how one responds to this “gospel.”

From the start of this literary unit (Revelation 12:1-16:21), the book of Revelation has been contrasting individuals and groups with two very different natures. This contrast will now culminate in one message to all men but with two different possible outcomes. Note the following comparisons: 
  • A son to “shepherd the nations” - vs. - The Dragon that “deceives the nations.”
  • The “seed of the woman” - vs. - The two “beasts,” the seed of the Dragon
  • They that “have the witness of Jesus” - vs. – The Beast has the authority of the Dragon.
  • They that “tabernacle in heaven” – vs. – The “inhabitants of the earth.”
  • The “inhabitants of the earth” pay homage to the Beast – vs. – Those purchased “from the earth” follow the Lamb.
  • The “inhabitants of the earth” have the Beast’s mark “branded” on their forehead or right hand – vs. – Those purchased “from the earth” have the Father’s name “written” on their forehead.
This running contrast lies behind the two different “harvests” about to unfold in the fourteenth chapter of Revelation.

(Revelation 14:6-7) – “And I saw another messenger flying in mid-heaven, having an age-abiding glad-message to announce unto them who are dwelling upon the earth, even unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying with a loud voice — Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judging is come; and do homage unto him that made heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters – (The Emphasized Bible).

And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven.” At three previous literary junctures, John observed “another angel” appearing on the visionary scene, as follows:

(Revelation 7:2) – “And I saw another angel ascend from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea.”
(Revelation 8:3) – “And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”
(Revelation 10:1) – “And I saw another angel, a mighty one, coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire.”

In each of the preceding passages, an angel arrived to perform a task at a transition point in the narrative. In Revelation 7:1-4, “another angel” appeared with the seal of God to seal the 144,000 “servants of God” before the “four winds of heaven blow upon the land, or upon the sea, or upon any tree.” This intervention occurred between the sixth and seventh seals.

The 144,000 “servants of God” in Chapter 7 is identical to the 144,000 men and women purchased from the earth in Chapter 14. In the “sealing of God’s servants,” they are sealed before any of the Seven Seals are opened, despite the location of this passage between the sixth and seventh seals (“Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God”). Likewise, in Chapter 14, the 144,000 have the name of the Father written on their foreheads before the series of Seven Bowls of Wrath.

In Revelation 8:1-6, John saw “another angel” appear after the seventh seal was broken and prior to the commencement of the Seven Trumpets. This angel had a “golden censer” full of incense symbolize the “prayers of the saints.” He then filled the golden censer with fire from the altar and hurled it “onto the earth.” This was followed by “claps of thunder, voices, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Only then did the seven angels begin to sound their trumpets.

And in Revelation 10:1-11, John saw “another angel” descend from heaven holding a small “opened scroll” in his right hand. This angel commanded him to consume the scroll – it was sweet to the taste but embittered his stomach. This was followed by the words of the angel: “It behooves you again to prophesy upon (epi) peoples, nations, tongues, and many kings.”

In Chapter 14, John saw “another angel” that was “flying in mid-heaven (petomenon en mesouranémati), having an everlasting gospel (euaggelion aiōnion).” His task was to “announce” this gospel to two different groups. As was the case with the seven seals and the seven trumpets, the angel must perform his mission before the Seven Bowls of Wrath are unleashed.

Announce” translates the Greek verb euaggelizō (Strong’s G2097), which is related to the noun euaggelion or “gospel” (Strong’s G2098). The Greek clause reads, euaggelion aiōnion euaggelisai, or, “gospel everlasting to announce.” English does not have a verb form corresponding to the noun “gospel” or “glad tidings.” The closest to the original sense an English translation can come is, “an everlasting gospel to evangelize” (Revelation 14:6-7).

Likewise, after the soundings of the first four trumpets, John “heard” the voice of an eagle “flying in mid-heaven” (petomenon en mesouranématiRevelation 8:13). The clause rendered “flying in mid-heaven” is an exact match in Greek to this earlier passage and this  is not coincidental; the term rendered “mid-heaven” (mesouranémati – Strong’s – G3321) occurs only in three related verses in the book of Revelation and nowhere else in the New Testament. In all three instances, the present tense participle or “flying” is used:

(e.g., Revelation 19:17. Compare - 8:13, 14:6,) – “I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds flying in mid-heaven [petmenois en mesouranémati], Come, gather together unto the great supper of God).

In Revelation 8:13, the entity flying in “mid-heaven” pronounced three “woes” upon the “inhabitants of the earth,” the last three of the Seven Trumpets. Most modern English versions identify this as an “eagle.” The King James Version, instead, reads “angel.” The difference is due to a variant reading in the Greek manuscript evidence; most of the better manuscripts have “eagle,” although the manuscript evidence for “angel” is not without weight. The internal evidence favors the reading “angel.” The book of Revelation uses “eagle” only three times, including this verse. Elsewhere, “eagle” or aetos (Strong’s G105) is used twice in similes, not for identification purposes (Revelation 4:7, 12:14).

In contrast, “angel” occurs over seventy times (Strong’s G32).  The differences in spelling in Greek between “eagle” and “angel” are not that great (aetos [αετω] versus aggelos [αγγελος]). In Revelation 4:7, one of the “fourth living creature” is described as being “like an eagle flying” (aetō petomenō). Similarly, in Revelation 12:14, the “woman clothed with the sun” was given two “wings of the great eagle, that she may fly to the wilderness.” And, again, in Revelation 14:6, John saw “another angel flying” (aggelon petomenon). It would have been easy for a scribe to conflate clauses from either of the two passages and, unintentionally, replaced “angel” with “eagle” in Revelation 14:6.

In Revelation 10:7-11, the mighty “angel” declared that when the seventh angel blew his trumpet, the “mystery of God will be completed as he told the gospel (euaggelizō) to his servants, the prophets.” The Greek verb euaggelizō or “evangelize” occurs only here and in Revelation 14:6 in the book. The related noun euaggelion or “gospel” is found only in this verse. Thus, euaggelizō or “evangelize” is a literary link between the two passages and raises the possibility that the “angel” in both is one and the same. Just as the “mighty angel” in the first passage commissioned John to “prophesy upon peoples and nations and tongues, and many kings,” so the angel “flying in mid-heaven” announced an everlasting gospel to “the inhabitants of the earth, AND to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.”

The appearance of the “mighty angel” with the opened scroll in Chapter 10 occurred between the sixth and seventh trumpets. Before the seventh trumpet sounded, John was told that he must “prophesy upon peoples and nations and tongues, and many kings.” This command was followed by the measuring of the “sanctuary” and the prophetic ministry of the Two Witnesses. Only after they completed their testimony and were slain by the “Beast from the Abyss” did the seventh angel sound the last trumpet that ushered in the “Day of the Lord” and the final judgment (Revelation 11:1-14, 11:15-19).

In Revelation 14:6-8, the angel “flying in mid-heaven” has an “everlasting gospel” (euaggelion aiōnion) to announce upon (epi) “the inhabitants of the earth,” AND upon (epi) “every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” The use of the preposition epi or “upon” is a literary link to the command for John to prophesy upon (epi) “peoples, nations, tongues, and many kings.” Epi used in the accusative case, as here, means “unto, towards, upon,” not “against” (Strong’s G1909). This is a “gospel” proclaimed to the groups listed in Revelation 14:7.

The Greek sentence clarifies that two different groups are to receive this “everlasting gospel” – the “inhabitants of the earth,” AND “every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” Consistently in the book of Revelation, the “inhabitants of the earth” is a group comprised of men and women who remain hostile to the Lamb and refuse to repent regardless of any plague inflicted upon them. Just as consistently, the “inhabitants of the earth” are marked for severe punishment for their refusal to repent and “fear God.” Note the following passages:

(Revelation 3:10) – “I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try the inhabitants of the earth.”
(Revelation 6:10) – “How long, O Lord, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?”
(Revelation 8:13) – “And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth!”
(Revelation 11:10) – “And the inhabitants of the earth will rejoice over them, and make merry…because these two prophets tormented inhabitants of the earth.”
(Revelation 12:12) – “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea, for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath.”
(Revelation 13:8) – “And all the inhabitants of the earth will worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb.”
(Revelation 13:12) – “And he exercises all the power of the first beast before him, and cause the inhabitants of the earth to worship the first beast.”
(Revelation 13:14) – “And he deceives the inhabitants of the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to the inhabitants of the earth, that they should make an image to the beast.”
(Revelation 17:2) – “With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her (Babylon) fornication.”
(Revelation 17:8) – “The beast that you saw…will ascend out of the Abyss, and go into perdition: and the inhabitants of the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”

Nowhere in Revelation is anything positive said about this group, the “inhabitants of the earth.” In contrast, at the outset of the book, Jesus is declared the ruler of the “kings of the earth.” This latter group does oppose the Lamb in several passages. However, at least some of its members are included among the groups “upon” which John is commanded to prophesy (Revelation 10:11 – “Prophesy upon peoples and nations and tongues, and many kings.” Compare - Revelation 6:15, 16:14, 17:2, 17:18, 18:3).

Moreover, unlike any of the “inhabitants of the earth,” some, at least, of the “kings of the earth” are found in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24 – “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it”). There is a hope of redemption for members of this group, unlike any of the “inhabitants of the earth.” Unfortunately, there is no hope for this latter group. As a whole, the names of its members are excluded from the “book of life of the Lamb” – “All the inhabitants of the earth” render homage to the Beast from the sea and take its mark and, therefore, all of them suffer the consequences.

In contrast, throughout the book of Revelation, the group labeled with the fourfold designation “nations, tribes, tongues, and people” is targeted for redemption by the Lamb, although there are places where the “nations” are under the deceptive influence of Babylon, the Beast and the Dragon. This fourfold listing is part of the symbolism of the book, four signifying what is universal (e.g., the “four corners of the earth”). Note the following examples:

(Revelation 5:9) – “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
(Revelation 7:9) – “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands.”
(Revelation 10:11) – “You must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.”
(Revelation 17:15) – “The waters which you saw where the whore sits are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”

While the “nations” may be deceived by the Dragon and Babylon, that condition is not necessarily permanent. At least some of the “nations” are found in New Jerusalem along with the “kings of the earth” (Revelation 21:24 – “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it”).

The “everlasting gospel.” The clause does not refer to the gospel of Jesus Christ preached by evangelists.  Its content is given – “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judging is come; and do homage unto him that made heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.” This is a message that is always valid, “everlasting,” and it is “good news,” that is, for anyone who responds positively to it. As we will see, for all who reject it, the results are catastrophic. So, this one “gospel” has two different effects, depending on how one responds to it.

The idea of negative consequences based on the rejection of the message was seen previously after the first two “woes.” The “plagues” unleashed by them failed to produce repentance from the “inhabitants of the earth.” Instead, they hardened their hearts and the “rest of men, who were not killed in these plagues, did not repent from the works of their hands” (Revelation 9:20-21).

For men and women who do “fear God” there is vindication and reward when the seventh trumpet sounds (Revelation 11:18 – “And the fit time of the dead to be vindicated came, and to give their reward unto thy servants the prophets, and unto the saints, and unto them who fear thy name —the small and the great”).

Pay homage to him that made heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.” This fourfold description is a link to the description of the first four trumpet “plagues.” The first caused the “third part of the earth to burn,” the second turned a third of the “sea” into blood, the third caused the third part of the rivers and the “fountains of waters” to turn bitter, and the fourth trumpet caused a third part of the celestial bodies in the heavens to be darkened. The angel “flying in mid-heaven” reminds his listeners that God is the creator and ultimate cause; He controls the plagues and their effects (Revelation 8:7-12).

The fountains of waters.” In contrast to the trumpet “plagues” about to be poured out on the impenitent “inhabitants of the earth,” the Lamb will cause all who follow him to drink from “living fountains of water.” Likewise, in the New Earth, the Lord will give to him “that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Revelation 7:17, 21:6).

The hour of his judgment is come.” This refers to the final judgment at the end of the age, the time when the righteous are vindicated and the unrepentant condemned. “Hour” is used elsewhere in the book of Revelation to refer to this final event:

(Revelation 3:3) – “Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”
(Revelation 3:10) – “Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, which is to come upon the whole world, to try the inhabitants of the earth.”
(Revelation 11:13) – “And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
(Revelation 14:15) – “Send forth thy sickle and reap, for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
(Revelation 18:10) – “Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”
(Revelation 18:19) – “Woe, woe, the great city, wherein all that had their ships in the sea were made rich by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.”

Before the Seven Seals could be opened, “another angel” ascended from the east to seal the “servants of God” before the contents of the seals were unleashed on the earth. Before the Seven Trumpets sounded, “another angel” appeared to offer the prayers of the saints to God before hurling fire from the altar out “onto the earth.” In Chapter 14, “another angel” appears “flying in mid-heaven” to proclaim the “everlasting good news” before the Seven Bowls of Wrath are emptied in order to “complete the wrath of God.”

The stage is set.  The everlasting gospel has been announced; men must now choose either “to fear God and worship him” or to face the “hour of judgment.” One “gospel” has been proclaimed but two very different harvests will follow: A harvest of wheat by the “Son of Man,” and an ingathering of grapes by “another angel.” Which harvest a person participates in depends on how he or she responds to the “everlasting gospel.”

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