Proclaim an eternal Gospel

(L.F. Schulze)

Read: Rev. 14:6-13.

Sing: Skber. 34:1.

Text: Rev. 14:6-7.

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, ďFear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water.Ē

Dear brothers and sisters,

A petrel is a small sea bird associated with storms. It is often called a storm or stormy petrel, or a fulmar. Perhaps its name was coined with reference to Peterís fear of the storm (Matt. 14:30 ).

In our pericope John sees three angels flying like stormy petrels high up in the heaven and announcing the coming hurricane of Godís judgment.

We pay attention to the first angel, flying in the zenith and crying with a loud voice in order that all the inhabitants of the earth (nations, tribes, and peoples) who are sitting smugly in self-content, should hear his message. Proclaiming the eternal, the true, valid, inviolable good news of the age of Jesus Christ, he cries out:

Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water.

Note the urgency of the angelís message: the hour of his judgment has come. The prophet Joel ( 2: 29 ) speaks of those days when God shall pour out his Spirit, and Peter defines it as the last days (Acts 2: 17 ). The last days run up to the day of the Lord, which is often mentioned in the Old Testament. In our text, however, the day has shrinked to the hour. The devastating storm of Godís judgment is at hand.

Note the outline of the form of the angelís message. It contains a command, followed by a reason, or an explanation:    

                   Fear God Ö, for the hour of his judgment has come.

The way in which this message is stated reminds us of the initial form of the gospel. John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, saying  

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3: 2).

Christ came with the same message (Matt. 4: 17 ). The Spirit relates Christís initial gospel even more pointedly in the gospel of Mark:

             The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and              believe in the gospel (Mark 1: 15 ).

Thus the form of the angelís cry reminds us of the initial gospel. And yet Ö it seems as if the message itself has changed. Repent turns into Fear God. The reason to repent was: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Now the reason is given as:  for the hour of his judgment has come. The angelís message contains even an extra call: worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water.

It looks like a different gospel. And yet Öit is not for the angel cries loudly and urgently to fear God, to turn back to him, to escape the imminent judgment, and to partake in the grace and coming victory of Christ. It is indeed the same gospel, the eternal proclamation of the coming age.

But why does the angelís message differ from the initial message of John the Baptist? The answer to this question is: because world history is developing in a certain way. It does not develop progressively. It is a common belief that history is evolving. Tomorrow shall be better than today. The message of the angel states the contrary: history is regressing, moving away from the fear of God, the principle of wisdom.

When Christ was born, God was feared (even in the mystery-religions of Hellenism), but he was feared in a wrong way. Therefore the initial message was: repent, meaning to change your thought and, consequently, your way of life. At the end of history the fear of God will be gone, bringing in its wake the fear of men Ė one man fears another, one group another, one nation another. Fear is like a two-sided coin. If we fear God, we fear no man; if we donít fear God, we fear all men. But Christ has taught us not to fear those who can only kill the body (Matt. 10:28 ). Our world where leaders cry ďpeace and stabilityĒ is rife with fear, because there is very little  fear of God in modern society.

The fear of God is eroded today by the superficial rationalism in the name of science; by the brazen materialism of our age; by the indoctrination of many TV programs in which Godís name is taken in vain, and by plays like Superstar, portraying Christ as a simple, sinful man.

Let us also note the additional message of the angel:

          Worship him who created heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of          water. 

This message tells us that at the end of time the beginning of time will be disputable. Evolutionism teaches exactly this. It says that ďman was not plannedĒ, meaning that there is no Creator. All that is needed to explain man and the world is a belief in the organismís capability to adept itself to changing external conditions, chance genetic mutations (variations), and an almost eternity of time. The danger of evolutionism is its pretence to present unsubstantiated theories as facts.

In this scientific and superstitious world you must fulfill your divine charge. Donít do it by trying to moralize in the hope of making men better, but proclaim the eternal gospel of the coming age of the victorious Christ. Call them back to the fear of God and teach them the knowledge of the Creator and his mercy. And if you ever get downhearted, embrace the wonderful message of our text that your charge is an angelic office, preparing the world for the hurricane of the judgment.

(Openingsrede, TSP , 23/3/1999).