The Angel Messengers
December 30th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE ANGEL MESSENGERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-30-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Angel Messengers. It is an exposition of Revelation chapter 14, verses 6 through 13. And if in your Bible you would like to turn to the passage, you can easily follow the message of this morning hour; Revelation chapter 14, beginning at verse 6 and continuing through verse 13 [Revelation 14:6-13].
In ancient Greek drama, great scenes like battles, the burning of cities, a conflict of navies at sea, slaughter and death were not portrayed on the stage. It was a stupendous attempt to do so to begin with, and it greatly complicated the story to end with. But in presenting those Greek dramatic stories, these tremendous things such as a burning city, or a great battle, or a war at sea were recounted by messengers who came on the stage and told the story so that the dramatic presentation could follow in sequence and in order.
It is somewhat of a like thing that happens here. Under the seventh trumpet [Revelation 11:15], these seven angels make these tremendous announcements, gathering together these final events that bring the consummation of the age. In verse 6 there is an angel preacher calling men to repentance for the last time [Revelation 14:6-7]. In verse 8 there is an angel messenger announcing the fall of Babylon [Revelation 14:8]. In verse 9 there is an angel announcing the everlasting torment of those who worship the beast and his image [Revelation 14:9-11]. In verses 12 and 13 there is a voice from heaven announcing the blessedness of our sainted dead [Revelation 14:12-13]. In verse 14 there is a scene of the Son of God reaping the harvest of the earth [Revelation 14:14-16]. In verse 17 and in verse 18 are two angels who announce and who reap the vine of this earth [Revelation 14:17-19].
Now, we shall read verses 6 through 13 [Revelation 14:6-13], and that shall be our sermon today. And next Sunday we shall begin at verse 14 and continue to the end of the chapter [Revelation 14:14-20].
And I saw another angel fly 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,
Saying with a loud voice, 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.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.
The first angel is seen in the midst of heaven. The glory of the firmament is his pulpit. And the whole earth is his auditor from every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, preaching the eternal gospel unto the sons of men [Revelation 14:6-7].
Do you remember in the life of our Lord, in the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem [Matthew 21:1-17], when even the children were saying, “Hosanna to God, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matthew 21:15] that the Pharisees in carping criticism, in carping criticism, said, “Make these disciples and followers hush” [Matthew 21:15-16; Luke 19:39]; remember what the Lord said? He replied, “If these should be still, the very stones would cry out” [Luke 19:40].
There is always a witness to the gospel of the Son of God in this earth, always. And when men refuse to testify to the glory of God, then God raises up other voices who proclaim His majesty, and His honor, and His dominion, and His glory; it is so here. When the final and ultimate enemy of God has drowned the witness of the grace of Christ in blood and in martyrdom, an angel preacher takes his pulpit in the firmament of the sky and announces to the entire earth the gospel of the Son of God, calling men this last time to repentance and to faith in the Lord. It is a majestic presentation. It is a glorious, dramatic scene. “I saw an angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell in the earth” [Revelation 14:6].
Then this second angel messenger announces, “epesen, epesen,” an aoristic verb, “Fallen, fallen is this vast mercantile world system represented by Babylon” [Revelation 14:8]. It is looked upon as one great final act, epesen, fallen. This is the end of all that we know in the political, and social, and economic life of mankind. And it is looked upon here as one great final act; “Fallen, fallen is Babylon, that great city that made the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication” [Revelation 14:8]. And the details of this tremendous fall, the end of this world system, is delineated in chapters 17 and 18 of this Apocalypse [Revelation 17:1-18:24].
Then the third angel announces the torment, the judgment upon those who worship the beast and his image and receive the mark in their foreheads or in their hands [Revelation 14:9-11]. The suffering of a Christian martyr burned at the stake may be for a moment, then it is over; then it is glory and reward. But the suffering of those who worship the enemy of Christ is forever and forever.
Sometimes you wonder at men who choose the brief pleasures of this life in the rejection of Christ rather than to suffer His indignation, and His ignominy, and His shame. I often wonder at young people who for a moment will choose the cheap rewards of this world rather than to follow in the holy call and commandment of our Savior. But so much of the world is that way and demonstrated so poignantly here.
A martyr may suffer for the moment, then all of the agony of life is done, and an everlasting crown is his forever. But these who worship the beast and his image are tormented in fire and in brimstone forever and forever [Revelation 14:10-11]. The judgments of mortal man and the decisions and choices of people are almost unbelievable, so represented here in these who had rather have this world with its passing show, in a moment gone and forever, rather than to have the eternal commendation and reward of the holy presence of God [Matthew 6:19-21].
Then comes this next one which is one of the most beautiful of all of the passages in the Bible, “Here is the patience of the saints,” these that suffer for Jesus’ sake, these that go beyond the gate outside the wall bearing His reproach, these who had rather suffer with Christ than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season:
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.
This is not a saying of John. It is not an observation of the holy seer. But this is a commandment of God, and this is a voice from the highest heaven: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” [Revelation 14:13]. This New Testament begins in the sayings of Jesus with the beatitudes for the living [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. And in this last book of the Bible it ends with a beatitude for our sainted dead: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” [Revelation 14:13]. Every syllable of that golden saying is precious, sweet like honey and like the honeycomb. As the psalmist avowed, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” [Revelation 14:13].
Death is an enemy. It is called in the Scriptures, “the last great enemy” [1 Corinthians 15:26]. It is called in the Scriptures, “the king of terrors” [Job 18:14]. Death is an interloper. It is an intruder. It was never planned. It was never in the purpose of God. Death brings to the end every man’s hope in this world. All of his aspirations and visions are dissolved by that cruel and pale horseman.
But in Christ and in the faith of our blessed Lord, there is no victory in the grave, and there is no sting in the presence of death [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. God hath made this king of a universal dominion to praise His glory and to serve His heavenly purposes. How does He do it? “Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” In death we are then immediately blessed, immediately blessed [Romans 14:8; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Revelation 14:13].
Often you hear people ask the question, “Do these who die, do they immediately go into the presence of God?” There are those who say, “No.” There are those who speak of intermediate states shut out from the presence of God. There are those who speak of soul-sleeping in the grave. There are those who speak of many, many other things. But the Bible, with one accord and with one revelation, never varies from the avowal that when we leave this body we are immediately present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:2-8].
There is an immediate blessedness that is bestowed upon our sainted dead. For example, in the seventh chapter of this Book of the Revelation, beginning at the fourteenth verse:
These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth upon the throne shall dwell among them.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, shall shepherd them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Immediately the blessed of the dead; that’s what our Lord said to Ephesus: “He that overcometh, he that overcometh will I grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” [Revelation 2:7]. When our Lord said to the church at Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” [Revelation 2:10], or as the chapter concludes in those last verses in the close of the Apocalypse; “Blessed are they that wash their garments, that they may have right to the tree of life” [Revelation 22:14].
Jesus said to the thief who died by His side on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. There’s no exception to that blessedness, the immediate blessedness of our sainted dead. “I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” [Revelation 14:13].
If it is precious to have His favor here in this world, think what it is to be in the presence and look upon the face of God in heaven [Revelation 22:3-5]. If it is wonderful even seeing through a glass, darkly here; think how much more resplendent to see face to face [1 Corinthians 13:12]. If it is a comfort to the Christian to know in part what we understand here, think what it is to know even as God knows us in the world that is yet to come [1 Corinthians 13:12]; the immediate blessedness of those who die in the Lord [Revelation 14:13].
“Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors” [Revelation 14:13]. That is one of the most magnificent scenes, pictures, dramatic presentations to be found in the Word of God; “that they may rest from their labors.” It is a picture of a worn mariner coming into the port at home from the storms and tempests of the sea. It is a picture of the old and grizzled soldier, laying his armor by, ceasing from the conflicts and the miseries of war, and finally in peace turning homeward his hope, his heart, his face, his life, his dreams, and his aspirations; the reward of all he ever fought for and stood for, coming home; “that they may rest from their labors.”
I am reminded of the beautiful verses that are written as an epitaph on the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson:
Under the wide and starry sky, dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse ye grave for me: ‘Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill.’
[from “Requiem,” by Robert Louis Stevenson]
“That they may rest from their labors.”
And these two words used here, “Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, anapauō, translated here “rest,” kopos, translated here “labor.” But those Greek words have no picture in them, no hint in them of these common drawings we see of our sainted and departed dead who are sitting on some cloud up there with a harp in their hands in the forever and eternity, doing nothing. There’s just nothing like that in the Bible, and the picture here in those two Greek words is altogether different. The word anapauō, translated here “rest,” a better translation would be “refreshment.” And the word kopos, translated here “labor,” would be better translated “trouble, weariness” [Revelation 14:13].
When we work in this life and when we pilgrimage in this life, there is attendant always the drag of this mortal coil. There is fatigue. There is weariness, and all who live in these days experience the sorrows and the disappointments of visions that never materialize, of hopes that never came to pass. It’s the toiling and the labor of the days of our life. But in heaven, in heaven, there is no weariness and no fatigue. And there’s no drag of the old carnal nature. But the rest is the refreshment of an endless activity, serving God according to the eternal assignments of our Lord for His people. I’ve read of birds who rest upon the wing. It is that kind of a thing God hath in store for those who love Him. It is a worship and an intensive activity. It is a service and a ministry that is ever full of gladness, and joy, and unweariness.
Those are the two same and identical words that are used with reference to us who come to Jesus in the twenty-eighth and thirtieth verses of the eleventh chapter of Matthew, the sweetest invitation our Lord ever extended to humankind: “Come unto Me, all ye that weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls” [Matthew 11:28-29]. This is the blessedness of God for His sainted dead.
“And their works do follow them” [Revelation 14:13]. How true will you always find in the Word of the Lord, how true will you always find the—I hate to use the word “theology” of the Bible, the doctrine of the Bible. It’s always clouded with scholarship and academic phrases, but I don’t know how else to say it other than to use the “theology” in the Bible—the teaching, the doctrine of the Bible. Always, every time it is presented, it will always be true to the revelation, always true to the doctrine, always true to the faith. For example, in the twenty-third Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Look at the doctrine. The theology always perfectly presented; “He restoreth my soul,” first, then, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness” [Psalm 23:3]. Not turned around, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, into good works first, then the great regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.” No, always that first, “He restoreth my soul, He saves my soul, He regenerates my spirit,” that first: I become a Christian first, then, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” [Psalm 23:3].
Now you have the same thing here in this verse. “And their works do follow them” [Revelation 14:13]. Who is first in heaven? Why, bless your heart, our holy, and precious, and heavenly Savior, He is the great forerunner of the Christian: He has entered into the veil [Hebrews 6:19-20]. He has gone to prepare a place for us [John 14:3], and first is the grace of God and the love and the forgiveness of Jesus [Ephesians 1:7]. These are first. Then following us are our works, our good deeds; these things we have sought to do in love, and praise, and worship, and ministry, and service to our Savior [Revelation 14:13]. They follow our Lord in His love and grace going before [Hebrews 6:20]. Isn’t that a sweet and comforting thing? Do we lose anything in death, having toiled, having worked, having labored for Jesus here? Do we lose? Do we lose when the grave cuts us down and buries us out of sight, and we ascend up to be with God [1 Thessalonians 4:16], do we lose? Never, says God.
That tear that was shed out of the love of Jesus, God saw it. Nobody else maybe, but He saw it. And that humble prayer that was prayed, God heard it. And that desire in the heart to worship God and do good for Him that maybe never materialized, He wrote it in His book. That gracious gesture, that sweet and kind word, that little note maybe that you wrote out of the love of your heart and for Jesus; these things never fall to the ground. They are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 21:27]. “And their works do follow them” [Revelation 14:13].
In this last moment that remains, not all, not all are blessed in death. Do you remember the text? “I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, who die in the Lord” [Revelation 14:13]. There is no blessedness for those who die and fill a Christless grave, unpardoned, unholy, unforgiven, shut out. No, the blessedness is to those who die in the Lord.
That means a very humble and simple thing. It is this. If I am to be received of God on the other side of the river, I must receive Him in this life, in this day, in this present world. If I am to be rewarded in the world that is to come, I must be a Christian here. I must open my heart to receive the Holy Spirit of Jesus, that He might place in my soul a willingness, a yearnedness, a longing to see God’s face, to love the Lord, that I might be in Him a new man, a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” [Revelation 14:13].
And if I am to be blessed in the eternity that is to come, I must be a Christian here. I must love the Lord here. I must accept Jesus here. I must be a follower of the Lamb in this life, if He is to choose me to be His servant and fellow soldier in the world that is to come [Matthew 25:23].
And that’s our invitation to you this precious morning hour. Is there somebody one here today, who’d give his life in faith and in trust to Jesus? Would you make it now? Would you do it now? Or is there a family to come and put their lives with us in the fellowship of this blessed congregation? As the Spirit of God shall say the word and lead in the way, if God bids you here, make it now. Make it now. This is a sweet, beautiful time to come. In this balcony round, on this lower floor, this last Lord’s Day of an old year, facing what God hath in store for us in the new and greater year, “Preacher, here I come. I give you my hand. I give my heart to the Lord.” Or, “We’re all coming this morning; my wife, our children.” As the Spirit shall lead in the way, make it today, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE ANGEL MESSENGERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. In Greek drama, scenes of battles, death, burning cities, disaster at sea were not enacted on stage, but announced by messengers
B. These seven angel-messengers make announcements regarding the final events of the consummation of the age under the seventh trumpet
1. The last appeal to men to turn to God (Revelation 14:6-7)
2. The fall of Babylon (Revelation 14:8)
3. The torment of the followers of the beast (Revelation 14:9-11)
4. The comfort of the sainted dead (Revelation 14:12-13)
5. The final harvest of the earth by the Son of Man (Revelation 14:14-16)
6. The final battle of Armageddon(Revelation 14:17-20)II. The angel preacher(Revelation 14:6-7)
A. His voices reaches extremities of earth, announcing judgment of God and calling men to reverence and fear and worship the Lord
B. Unusual how God raises up witnesses when human lips are silent (Luke 19:39-40)
C. Forces of darkness cannot stop the testimony of the Word of God(2 Timothy 2:9, Isaiah 40:8)III. The fall of Babylon(Revelation 14:8)
A. Epesen – aorist verb that describes as one great act the destruction of this evil world system
B. In one vast intervention of God, entire evil system is taken awayIV. Torment of those who follow the beast (Revelation 14:9-11)
A. Contrast with the suffering of the Christian martyrs – for a moment there is agony, then glory as God gives them the crown of life
B. Those who worship the beast are tormented foreverV. The blessedness of the sainted dead (Revelation 14:12-13)
A. Commandment from God the Father to write the beatitude given here
1. New Testament begins with sayings of Jesus in beatitudes for the living
2. New Testament closes with beatitude for God’s sainted dead
B. Death is an enemy, the king of terrors – God in Christ has taken out the sting of death
C. Those who die in the Lord are immediately blessed(2 Corinthians 5:8, Revelation 2:7, 10, 7:14-17, 22:14, Luke 23:43, Philippians 1:21-23)
1. World says “blessed are the living”; God says “blessed are the dead”
D. Rest from their labors – like the worn mariner wearied from long endurance of hardship at sea entering the port at home
1. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem and Epitaph”
2. Greek koimeterion is “a sleeping place” – our word for “cemetery”
a. Jesus waking daughter of Jairus(Mark 5:39)
b. Jesus raising Lazarus (John 11:11)
c. Revelation of comfort given to Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
E. Labors – the life yet to come is filled with intensest activity(Luke 19:17, 19)
1. Rest from labor – does not mean inactivity, but kopos means “weariness”, fatigue and toil of laborious effort
F. Their works do follow them – the forerunner is Jesus
1. First God restores the soul, then leads us in paths of righteousness(Psalm 23:1-3)
2. Preceding them is grace and love of Jesus – our works last, not first
3. All the deeds done, tasks finished, there is an eternal reward
G. “Who die in the Lord” – some die in unforgiven sins, saying no to Jesus
1. For those living unpardoned and dying unforgiven there is no blessedness