And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach upon those dwelling on the earth and on every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship the one having made heaven and earth and sea and springs of waters.” And another angel, a second, followed saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, who of the wine of the passion of her immorality she has given all the Gentiles to drink.” And another angel, a third, followed them saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the wrath of God having been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tormented in fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up to ages of ages, and those worshiping the beast and its image [will] not have rest day and night, and if anyone receives the mark of its name.” Here is the endurance of the saints, those keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice out of heaven saying, “Write: Blessed are the dead in the Lord dying from now on.” Yes, says the Spirit, that they will rest from their labors. And their works do follow with them.
Let us break down each of these messages from the angels. Overall, we can see they speak the destruction of Babylon, and the terrifying fate of those who worship this “Babylon”. This first angel doesn’t acknowledge the wicked and what their fate shall be. Instead, we’re told that this angel proclaims the “everlasting Gospel”. You can compare this with Matthew 24:14. The Greek word for Gospel is a derivative of the same word for evangelist. The word for preach is another derivative. There is a reason for this. Though there is a message, and there is a Gospel to be preached, it is intimately tied up with the bearer of that message. The man is the message, and the message is the man. The two cannot be divided.
In Matthew 25, when Jesus separates the sheep and the goats, how is it that neither of them knew when they treated the Lord poorly or very well? Righteousness is not something that we attain, but something that are. The righteous are righteous, therefore they act righteously. The actions that the sheep perform unto the least of these are righteous, not because of the “right-ness” of those actions, but because it is the righteous who perform them. The statement of being righteous is not a statement of doing rightly, but because you are righteous, the acts that you perform are righteous. Here, with the Gospel, it is not that you are preaching the Gospel because you know it, but because you are it. The message cannot be rejected without rejecting the one who proclaims it.
We can compare the message this angel brings with Acts 14:14-15. Paul and Barnabas not only speak similar words, but their actions show forth exactly what the words declare. The sentence “fear God” is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13, and is even the conclusion of the whole book. “Give him glory” comes from Joshua 7:19, 1 Sam 6:5, Isa 42:12, and Jer 13:16. “Judgment has come” reflects what has been said in 6:10, 16-17, and 11:18. “Springs of waters”, see 1 Kings 18:5, 2 Kings 3:19, 25, Exodus 15:27, Numbers 33:9.
What is it about this message that is “the eternal Gospel”? There is no mention of sin, no mention of repentance, no mention of Jesus, no mention of redemption, and no mention of the cross/resurrection. What makes this the eternal Gospel is not the words in themselves, for the Gospel is not a formula. What makes this the eternal Gospel is that it is absolute truth and reality being expressed through the character of the angel, the radical separation it calls for from the world, and the weight of glory in the proclamation. That is true evangelism.
A second angel comes behind this proclamation. He continues to declare the Gospel. His message is one of fallenness unto Babylon. Compare these words with Jer 51:7 and Isa 21:9. Here we find the wine of her fornication is now coupled with the wine of wrath. We find in 14:10 and 17:2 these as two distinct things. Though there is distinction, there should not be separation. It is like the Church and Israel. They are distinct, but don’t allow that distinction to dictate a separation. See Jeremiah 25:15. The two are one and the same.
Interestingly, the wine of her adulteries seems to be a play on communion. Think about it. You have the wine of the table of the Lord, which represents the blood of the sacrifice (or even the drink offering) prescribed in Leviticus 1-7. Ultimately, Jesus is that sacrifice. Yet, here we have the table of demons in that there is a wine of Babylon, which is adultery. This wine is maddening, whereas the wine of the Lord brings clarity.
The third angel then plays off of Revelation 13 in what he says. Most likely the worship and the reception of the mark are the same thing. To receive one is to receive the other. We can see in Jeremiah 25:15 this cup being offered to Babylon, and now she drinks it in full. Isa 51:17, Psalm 75:8, and Job 21:20 all speak of drinking God’s wrath. This cup is given to Jerusalem and Babylon. (In our text they are one and the same; a duality of Antichrist kingdom and unfaithful Israel.) There comes a time when the cup of wrath leads to Jerusalem’s redemption, but it leads to Babylon’s destruction. What precisely is it about the cup of wrath that will lead to this one’s salvation, but to another’s final damnation?
“He is tormented with fire and brimstone.” See Isa 34:8-10, Gen 19:24, and Eze 38:22. This concept of fire and brimstone was first introduced in 9:17-18, and is again repeated with 19:20, 20:10, and 21:8. While some maintain that hell is not eternal, but instead is about the destruction of the soul, I’m not sure that this verse supports that claim. Please note: the claim is not a rejection of hell, but of the eternality of hell. They believe that hell exists, and they don’t believe that after spending time there you’ll go to heaven. Annihilationists advocate that hell destroys the soul, thus giving reason to fear Him who can kill body and soul in hell.
They are tormented in the presence of angels and the Lamb. Why in the presence of angels? We can possibly compare Isa 14:15-16 and Ezekiel 28:16-18. This would advocate that the angels shall behold the demise and judgment of Satan. In beholding that demise and judgment, they shall also behold the demise and judgment of Babylon and all the people who worship Babylon. We do find the exact statement made by Jesus in Luke 12:9.
We can compare this first statement in verse 11 with 18:19, 19:3, 20:10, and Isa 34:10. “Have no rest” occurs in 4:8 as voluntary worship. See Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21.
This statement in verse 12 is a repeated statement from 13:10 and 12:17. We can also compare it with Rom 3:22 and Gal 2:16. Why does the judgment of Babylon require the patient endurance of the saints? It only makes sense in the understanding that there will be Jewish people in flight in the last days, running from the Antichrist’s fury into the wilderness where she will be taken care of by the Church for that stretch of time. While God sends judgment upon Jerusalem, which inevitably affects the Jewish people, the Antichrist is establishing his kingdom in Jerusalem. The cup of wrath shall not be solely given to Jerusalem with the judgment upon the Jewish people, but shall be given also unto the Antichrist and his followers.
This requires the patient endurance of the saints. We must be willing to invite the refugees into our own homes, knowing that this will be both illegal and threaten our very lives. Without that understanding, it just seems ludicrous that this verse would be here. This should be our rejoicing, and not our need for patient endurance. In chapter 19, heaven rejoices at the destruction of Babylon. Here we must patiently endure. John is pulling from the duality of Jerusalem/Babylon.
Our final verse in this section can be compared to Romans 14:8. This comes after declaring there is no rest for they who worship the beast. Though the beast and his followers shall have no rest, the saints of God shall eternally rest. Their deeds shall follow them. Yet, what does that even mean? This goes back to our discussion at the first. The righteous do righteously because they are righteous. Righteous deeds are not righteous simply because they are “good”, but because the righteous perform them. We find in Rev 19:8 that the Bride’s apparel is the righteous acts of the saints. We’ll be clothed in righteousness, just as we’re clothed with Christ.