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“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If any man worships the beast and his image, and receives 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.” (Revelation 14:9-12)
The message above is known as the third angel’s message. It follows the messages of two other angels that are to give vital messages of God to the world, and this third message is to be given to the world with a “loud voice”, so that all may hear the warning, and take heed not to honor and worship any but the only true God, and declaring the fearful judgment upon those who the bow the knee to the beast and his image.
There is, in the lines of angelic warning, a revelation of those who do not take the worship the beast and his image by bowing to receive the mark “in their forehead or in their hand.” It tells us decidedly what God’s people will look like in the midst of this critical time, and brings forth the issue which is to try the whole world, to rightly “discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Malachi 3:18)
•A MARK IN THE FOREHEAD OR HAND•
The saints who serve God at that time are described in no uncertain terms: “here are they” is a pointed statement so that we might mark closely who these people are who do not receive the mark of the beast in their forehead or in their hand. And who are these saints? They are those who “keep the commandments of God”.
In speaking of the commandments of God, we are told in the Scripture: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: …And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.” (Deu. 6:4-8) Those words God commands us to keep are to be in our hearts, bound upon our hand and in our forehead. When speaking about “these words”, God speaks in no uncertain terms as to what those words are: “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it” (Deu. 6:1)
The third angel’s message contains the last message of warning, with the dividing line between the saints of God who keep the commandments, statutes, and judgments, and those who would choose against keeping “these words” in their forehead and hand and instead receive a mark in the place where these words of God are supposed to be.
The sign upon the hands is the sign of the works which are a testimony that you serve and obey the living God. Regarding His saints, it is said that God establishes the works of their hands: “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. ” (Psa 90:17) And again, “LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” (Isa. 26:12) Take notice that the saints have peace because they keep the commandments of God, and it is God that works in us by His divine power to keep those same commandments. This sign is a sign of the hand; the works which are an outward manifestation of the principles that are being worked out in the heart. This peace cannot be manifested in the soul unless there is obedience to God’s Word: “O that you had hearkened to My commandments! Then your peace would have been as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea:… there is no peace, says the LORD, for the wicked.” (Isa. 48:18,22) For this reason, the wicked have no peace, because their works testify that they do not keep the commands of God. “The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.” (Psa 9:16) “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.” (Isa. 59:3)
•THE REST OF THE THIRD ANGEL•
And what exactly of the commandments is the conflict of the third angel? “If any man worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark in his forehead, or in his hand…they have no rest day, or night…” There is only one primary commandment among the ten written in stone that deals with rest: The Sabbath commandment.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exo. 20:8-11)
The very crowning act of creation was that God rested from all the work that He had created on the seventh day. Those who receive the sign of redemption in their hand, will reflect that they are in this same image as God; resting and following the pattern of rest that He, Himself, has laid out.
This rest further testifies of obedience to God’s Word. It testifies to God’s power to make us holy, and unite us to all of His divine precepts. That it is the work which He does on our behalf as our God. “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you… it is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Exo 31:13-17) When God speaks of sanctifying, He speaks of making us holy as He is holy. It is impossible to keep the Sabbath day holy, unless you, yourself, are holy. Therefore, in the rest of the Sabbath commandment, there is brought to view a finished work of holiness of heart, that enjoins our souls to the other nine commandments, ensuring perfect rest for our souls.
More than this, the sign of God’s sanctification is in obedience to His statutory commandments. “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.” (Lev. 20:7-8) There is only one statute commandment that deals with rest, and that is the rest found in the holy festivals which are appointed times for the early and latter rain, which speaks of the kind of “rest” which carries us into His perfect Sabbath rest, like a mother who places her child into her father’s arms. These also are to be written in the hand and forehead, as it is said in the keeping the feast of Unleavened Bread: “And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: …” (Exo. 13:9)
The Sabbath rest brings to view the perfect and finished work of creation, which reveals God’s creative power to complete what He has begun. The rest found in the feasts brings to view the outworking of the redemptive plan in Christ, and the rest that can be received only in Him, which reveals God’s redemptive power which brings us to that complete and perfect redemption that is consummated in the seventh-day Sabbath.
•AN OUTPOURING: THE LATTER RAIN OR PLAGUES•
The third angel’s message, when understood properly, brings clearly to view both the finished work of creation which God has wrought for us, and also the work of redemption, that are accomplished in part by the blessings of the latter rain poured out in large measures on the holy festivals to cleanse and fit us for that perfect holiness of heart required to worship God according to His Word.
The warning to those who don’t receive this rest is that they receive “the wine of the wrath of God”, which is poured out in the form of seven last plagues brought to view in the final verses of Revelation 15: “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.” (Rev. 15:7-8)
Those plagues are “poured out” upon those who do not heed the message of the third angel. Yet God is desiring to bless us, to “pour out” His Spirit upon His people. He says: “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Prov. 1:23) Yet as it was in Jeremiah’s day, there was no repentance at the message of the warning of God’s wrath, God declared He would pour out the judgments of His wrath: “Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place…” (Jeremiah 7:20) That the warning of God as given in the third angel is verifiably true can be attested to the fact that God did do exactly what He said He would do to the Temple and all of Jerusalem for their rebellion. God desires to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and will cause us to walk in His statutes and judgments (Ezekiel 36:27). Yet to those who would rather choose wilful rebellion after the knowledge of truth and His will is brought home to the conscience, the wrath of God in the form of plagues follow. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” (Rom. 1:18-19)
“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16-18) Here in Zechariah’s prophecy, we see two classes of people brought to view. Egypt, which received the plagues because they wouldn’t keep the word of God to worship the King, and Jerusalem, who honors God’s law, and worships Him in Spirit and in Truth. Jerusalem only is given the promise of rain, and this promise of rain is given in the time of the holy festivals. Zechariah says: “Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.” (Zech. 10:1)
Obedience to the statutes come with the promise of “rain in due season” in the Bible: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: … The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand” (Deu. 28:1-12) The sign of blessing is upon all those who keep God’s commandments.
That rain is His presence, which brings the refreshing element of life into our spiritual experience: “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hos. 6:3)
That being said, disobedience ultimately brings the plagues as it did upon Egypt. “And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them… The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed… Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” (Deut. 28:14-61)
Those who do not receive the warning as laid out before them in Scripture cannot partake of the joy in God’s presence; nor His holiness and sanctification. They reject the rest for their souls that God desires to give them and therefore, they “have no rest day, or night, who worship the beast and his image…”
•THE TIMES OF REFRESHING•
The promise of God’s presence is found in His rest. It is in those times that He communes with us, and pours out His richest gifts of grace from His temple in heaven. Ezekiel, speaking of the temple to come, in symolic figures for the Israel of heaven, declares: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened… And in the feasts and in the solemnities…” (Eze. 46:1,12)
Of Christ, on these times of special rest, it is said that He presents His own blood, the true sacrifice of the Prince of peace, to “make reconcilation” as represented in Ezekiel’s figurative language of the temple of Jehovah: “And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.” (Eze. 45:17)
Now, He brings special offerings from His heart at these times for His people, that His people, at these times, may receive special outpourings of His presence that will be a reconciling influence, for Christ is “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:17)
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:12-14)
The gates of heaven are opened, and we behold Christ, by faith, pleading His blood on the right hand of God the Father, to take away our sins and sanctify us in that perfect and complete rest.
That the living waters, the latter rain, may flow to prepare the saints for the rest which is promised them as they come into the gates of the heavenly city to worship before the King at the throne of God by faith: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1)
Yet many do not realize that the Sabbath rest is a demonstration of God’s creative power, and was given to man from the beginning. And even less realize that the rest of the Festivals is joined to the outpouring of the latter rain, and is a demonstration of God’s redemptive power in Christ, and not anything at all to do with the blood of bulls and goats. His redemptive and creative power are essential for His creative process; it is His appointed means of bringing to view His presence as Creator and Redeemer of our souls. From the throne from where the living waters come, a great declaration is made “And He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new…” (Rev. 21:5 KJV)
Yet many are “fearful, and unbelieving” (v. 8) when these truths are presented to them, to which God pronounces a strong sentence with those who do not receive the third angel’s message. These “fearful and unbelieving” stumble because they see in those messages something that, in their blindness, is to be feared, and they brace themselves to resist it. Yet, they should not be afraid; these ones in darkness have the promise: “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light” (Psalm 119:130). The truth reveals perfect love, and perfect love creates a perfect confidence and trust in God that casts out all fear. If they will come to God as little children, and learn of His Word, He will show them great and beautiful things from the gospel of righteousness and the law of God which they have not known; if they are humble and teachable, He will lead them in the way they should go.
Let it be remembered that it was the Papal beast that made the changes to the Sabbath and the festivals, to appoint times of worship according to their own mind; but these remove the Creator’s power and authority, His sign of rest, and His redemptive blessings in Christ, that He desires to bestow upon His church. For this reason it is called the “mark” of the beast. The word in the Greek brings out the true intensity of the matter: it is an engraving, a characteristic, which distorts the restoration process and the finished work of the image of God in man.
Nevertheless, the majority will not be purified by obeying the truth when it is presented to them. A question is asked, and an answer is given, and the issue is set forth plainly as the very issue of the message of the loud cry of the third angel: “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.”
God desires us to “follow on to know” Him, for “He shall come to us as the rain”; to know when this coming is to prepare His people is essential. Yet many churches today, because they have inherited from their mother churches that teach for doctrines the traditions and commandments of men, must have its children weaned off their milk, that those children might receive the pure, untainted Scripture. Thus, the third angel calls for a definite separation. The prophecy continues to show how God will teach knowledge and doctrine to those who are weaned from the traditions of their churches: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isa 28:9-13)
We are told that the issue is rest and refreshing that is presented to the people from the Bible, yet many do not respond to the warnings and entreaties of God’s Spirit through His prophets. Rather than the Word of God being a wonderful steppingstone to usher in their entrance into heaven, many hear the Word, and instead stumble upon it, just as the chosen people did when Christ came to them, and those few who did receive the truth also gave the message to them, so they could be fitted for heavenly blessings. Said the apostle:
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Act 3:19)
Even so, that is the call to be given now, for we are in the “times of refreshing” which come from the open gates of heaven’s sanctuary, unveiling in clearest beauty “the presence of the Lord”. “And we all, with open face, beholding, like a mirror reflection, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 3:18)
As we behold the glory of the Lord as revealed in the Sabbath, and follow the pattern He has laid out, and the glory of the Lord in the feasts, and follow the pattern, we shall find both the glory of redemption and creation as becoming our very own experience with God and the Lamb: this is the refreshing, and this is the strength and victory.
“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and you would not.” (Isa. 30:15) But what do those who resist the clear Scriptural message of the loud cry do in their fearfulness? They run away because they have no good honest answer from God’s Word to respond to His messengers to sustain the soundness of their position. “But you said, “No; for we will flee upon horses”; therefore shall ye flee: and, “We will ride upon the swift;” therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.” (Isa. 30:16-17)
The fear that is declared from the curse of the law is the sure result if they will not receive His Word in their heart; and in the same curses found in the law, closely located to the the curse of the plagues, located in the same passages: “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:… thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways… And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:” (Deut. 28:15-66)
Yet the Word of God is spiritual, and why would the disobedient be so fearful of it? It testifies to it’s divine origin. When the Voice of God was walking through the garden after our first parents had disobeyed, rather than finding rest and refreshing from His presence, they found torment. Even so, when this word comes through His messengers, the results are similar to the undiscerning. Truly it may be said of them: “ye shall flee when none pursueth you.” (Leviticus 26:17) In a sense, none are pursuing them to destroy them, yet God does pursue them, but He pursues to save; for He sends His Word into the world, “not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved” (John 3:17). The message of the third angel’s loud voice is clear, and makes a broad distinction between them that will fear God and serve Him, or bow the knee to Baal, and not serve God.
For this reason, the third angel’s message is a clarion call to keep the commandments of God. We are therefore admonished as sons of God in Christ: “My son, keep My words, and lay up My commandments with you. Keep My commandments, and live; and My law as the apple of your eye. Bind them upon your fingers, write them upon the table of your heart.” (Proverbs 7:1-3)
It is abundantly evident in the Scripture that for those who receive the mark of the beast in their hand, it is a sign that they honor the laws of the beast above the laws of God; fearing the threats of death from the beast above the fearful claims of the third angel, that God is a God of justice, they have made their choice. It is clear that the saints are faithfully keeping God’s Word, and their works testify of this very fact, and the peace they have is above anything the world who continues in sin may know.
May you be among that number that receive the message, and make up those saints who “keep the commandments of God”, to worship Him eternally in beauty of holiness, and find true rest for your souls at the throne of God and His dear Son.