Old Mrs. Phelps had spidery hands and a spidery-velvet voice. The windows of her tiny house glinted across a meadow into Mom's kitchen.
Mom respected our neighbor. She even sent my sister and me over to Mrs. Phelps's place Monday nights for piano lessons from a faded, red John Thompson book. True, the older lady seemed a little odd, but their relations were cordial.
Until one spring afternoon.
The day was cool--too warm for an overcoat but too chilly for a dress alone. So Mom reached in her closet and brought out, for the first time since we'd moved there, a bright red sweater. Slipping it on, she walked outside to feed the chickens.
Mrs. Phelps was watching.
Soon, a spidery knock sounded on the kitchen door. Mom opened it.
"Mrs. Schurch," said our neighbor, "I must ask you to return my sweater."
Mom stared. "Your sweater?"
"That red one you've been wearing. It's mine." Mrs. Phelps's glance never wavered. "I lost my sweater just last week, and I believe you crawled in through my bedroom window and took it." Her spidery little hand crept out. "Please give it to me."
As my sister and I watched, horrified, Mom quavered, "Mrs. Phelps, there's some mistake here. I did not take your sweater." After a moment or two of futile argument, she numbly ushered her visitor out the door and closed it firmly.
But the incident wasn't over yet. When Mom turned from the door, she came face to face with her children.
"Mom," I asked faintly, "did you really take Mrs. Phelps's sweater?"
Yeah, Mom," echoed my sister. "You didn't, did you?"
Now, three decades later, Mom can chuckle about that tense little drama. But not then. "What hurt the most," she tells us, "wasn't being called a thief. It was finding out that my kids almost believed it."
God knows how Mom felt
Reeling from horrible accusations, God too has turned to face His children--only to hear them question, "God, are You really good? Do You love us? Do You really care after all?"
And that hurts. Because just like Mom, God not only cares about me, He cares about what I think of Him. He cares about what I think of Him because He knows that what I think of Him will determine how anxious I am to spend eternity with him.
And since God covets my eternal happiness more than anything else, He launches a powerful angel across the sky: "Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language, and people. (Rev. 14:6, NIV).
This angel--Bible scholars say he symbolizes God's faithful followers--has a message. A message for the Serbs in Bosnia. Congressional representatives. Single mothers. Firefighters. Alaska fishing crews. Me. You. Our kids. Every last person on the planet.
This angel's message contains the good news about what God's really like, the good news that He's intimately, passionately involved in your life. The good news that instead of being a spectator in the great conflict between good and evil, you're on center stage--and there are concrete things you can do to publicize the truth about God.
Listen to the angel list them: "He said in a loud voice. 'Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water'" (verse 7).
Why would a loving God insist on fear? Three answers. First, Bible "fear" has just as much to do with awe as with fright. Bible fear is a healthy reverence.
Second, a tinge of fear is really quite healthy for a child. When I was three, I didn't understand the danger of crossing a busy street--but I had enough respect for Mom's promised smack-on-the-behind not to try it. In the same way, a healthy respect for God's commands keeps me safe. His laws against sexual promiscuity, for example, nearly eliminate problems like AIDS and unwed pregnancies.
The third reason has to do with judgment--mine and God's. Because while the judgment the angel is proclaiming decrees my fate, God is under scrutiny just as surely as I am. Satan has accused Him of being an unfair, uncaring tyrant. By standing on God's side, by living as though I respect Him, by showing that I believe I can entrust Him with my future, I'm a tremendously effective witness on His behalf.
And if I feel any fear tingles, they evaporate as my Christian faith matures. First John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love...Perfect love drives out fear." I no longer fear Mom's discipline, for instance. Instead, I've become her grown-up friend, thankful for the wisdom and passionate caring with which she and Dad reared me. In the same way, the fear of God fades when my maturing love for Him (and my willingness to follow His will) mean I no longer need it.
"Give Him glory"
The second major message of the angel tells us to give God glory.
How do you give someone glory? Imagine you're at a football game, and in the final seconds the home team quarterback throws a perfect pass that results in a game-winning touchdown. With the rest of the local fans, you leap to your feet, thrust your fist skyward, and scream your delight. That's "giving glory"--letting the quarterback and anyone else who's listening know that you're overjoyed at the amazing thing he's done.
Of course, giving God glory means much more than giving a triumphant shout. You give God glory by keeping alert for things that show He's "alive and a-love"--the wiggly, licky affection of a puppy, the aerodynamic miracle that is a bumblebee, the crisp sweetness of ripe watermelon, the damp, sleepy hug of a bedtime child, the steady pulse of life along your neck. When you tactfully share with your family members and other people in your life your appreciation for these miracles and you credit God for them, you're giving Him glory.
The angel's third major message calls us to worship God. Worship is a combination of two things we've talked about--reverence plus praise. Worship is what you do when you meet regularly with other Christians to recognize how dependent you are on God, and when you openly give Him credit for all He's done for you.
I wish, back in that little kitchen, I'd looked up into my mother's eyes and said, "Mom, I believe you. I know you didn't do what Mrs. Phelps said you did." But instead of testifying to her good character, I doubted her.
I won't make that mistake again. --Pastor Maylan Schurch, copyright 1993 by Maylan Schurch.
The above story describes the first Angel's message of Revelation 14 in a simple, easy to understand fashion.
The second Angel's message of the same chapter describes the condition of the apostate churches in the last days--Babylon is fallen, is fallen...because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Bible scholars agree that the expression 'wine of the wrath of her fornication' refers to spiritual apostasy. The apostate churches of this world have made all the nations drunk with false doctrines, false gods, and false worship. But God has His seven thousands today who have not bowed down to baal. God's True Church teaches His unadulterated truth, keeps the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 12:17).
Click here for more information on the Three Angels' Messages as revealed in the book of Revelation:
There's yet another Angel, a fourth Angel of Revelation 18. This Angel reiterates and gives power to the same messages proclaimed by the three angels of Revelation 14. Let's read it: Revelation 18:1-5:
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
No doubt, the three Angels' messages are life-and-death messages given to us by a loving God who wants us to come out of Babylon; He wants us to choose life--eternal life and live with Him through eternal ages.
See also God's Gathering Call.
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the lifegate that all my go in.
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing thro' Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father thro' Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.
--Fanny J. Crosby