The three angels' messages: An Adventist imperative

The year 1844 was an important one. The Millerites experienced the Great Disappointment, leading to a thorough restudy of the prophecies concerning the Second Advent. The increased understanding of the Scriptures that resulted from that study led to the establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist church. That same year, Charles Darwin completed a summary of his ideas on evolution by natural selection. He called it an abstract, but it was more like a small book. Darwin did not publish his "abstract" that year, however. Also in 1844, Robert Chambers anonymously published a book, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. This book boldly speculated about the possibility of evolutionary change over long ages of time. It has been said that this book had a greater impact on the public than Darwin's book had some 15 years later. The public reaction was so intense to Chambers' work that Darwin held off his for another 15 years.
The irony here is obvious: the birth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with its emphasis on the biblical six-day creation, coincided with the public presentation of evolutionary thinking. Was this a coincidence? I think not.

Seventh-day Adventists have seen themselves as commissioned to present a special message to the world, which we call "The Three Angels' Messages" of Revelation 14:6-12. Our purpose here is to explore the meaning of these messages and its relationship with the doctrine of Creation.
The First Angel
The context of Revelation 14 indicates an eschatological setting, sandwiched between the persecution presented in chapters 12 and 13 and the "harvest" of the end of chapter 14. Adventists understand the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 to represent the final movement preparing the world for Christ's second


A six day creation method
Recent New Testament research by Jon Paulien, professor of New Testament,2 shows that the language of the last part of Revelation 14:7, “ ‘worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea’ ” (NASB), alludes to the language of the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:11.3 In part, the Revelation passage accomplishes this significant allusion by listing, in the same order, four of the identical terms that appear in the Exodus text. Paulien offers the following conclusion regarding the certainty of the allusion: “The cumulative evidence is so strong that an interpreter could conclude that there is no direct allusion to the Old Testament in Revelation that is more certain than the allusion to the fourth commandment in Rev. 14:7. When the author of Revelation describes God’s final appeal to the human race in the context of the end-time deception, he does so in terms of a call to worship the creator in the context of the fourth commandment.” 4

Building on Paulien’s conclusion, the present essay offers the diagram on the facing page to illustrate how the allusion also seems to endorse a literal, historical six-day Creation.

The diagram illustrates that by alluding to the full cosmological wording of Exodus 20:11, the allusion endorses the concept of a six-day Creation. While not rewriting a portion of Scripture, the dotted line in the diagram indicates the biblical source for the bracketed insertion of the important concept implied by the first four words of the allusion in Revelation 14:7. The messenger could have said simply, “worship your maker,” but that would not signal a six-day method of Creation. The critical need in the end time for the allusion to suggest the six-day method of Creation is addressed in the application section of the essay. However, the complete allusion suggests more than a concept of six-day Creation.

The biblical Flood
The allusion in Revelation 14:7 to Exodus 20:11 ends with a phrase of remarkable focus, “fountains of waters.” Do these words have some special significance? The hermeneutical key that can unlock the importance of this phrase seems to be its placement in a context and setting of judgment: “ ‘Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made . . . springs [fountains] of waters’ ” (Rev. 14:7, NASB). The immediate connection of the phrase “fountains of waters” to a judgment setting needs to be borne in mind continually throughout the following discussion.

The special uniqueness of the phrase helps to raise questions that lead to a deeper understanding of its meaning. Because the allusion in the Revelation passage begins and continues as an exact verbal paralleling of the language in Exodus 20:11, the allusion can be said to end with an unparallel, thus unexpected and surprising, phrase, “fountains of waters,” not found in the Old Testament passage. A central question confronting the interpreter seems to be: If Revelation 14:7c is a clear verbal parallel allusion to the Exodus passage, why doesn’t the angel messenger complete the allusion by using the expected phrase “and all that is in them” (NASB) found in Exodus 20:11? Why does the messenger break his method of paralleling by inserting the unparallel and specifically focused phrase “fountains of waters”?

The importance of the unparallel phrase “fountains of waters” is further heightened by noting that its departure in Revelation 14:7 from the wording in Exodus 20:11 stands in sharp contrast with a biblical pattern established and illustrated elsewhere in Scripture when individuals refer at some length to Exodus 20:11. For example, in the context of describing the goodness of God as the one who sets the prisoner free, David (like the first angel in Revelation 14) articulates the following words precisely as found in Exodus 20:11, “Who made heaven and earth, the sea” (NASB), but ends by stating the expected “and all that is in them” of the Exodus passage (Ps. 146:6, NASB). In a similar context, New Testament believers who express thanksgiving for the loving kindness of God displayed by His healing of the lame beggar mention the same portion of Exodus 20:11 and add the expected phrase “and all that is in them” (Acts 4:24) in the same manner as David. Again, when the healing of a lame man of Lystra reveals the power of God, Barnabas and Paul cite the same words of Exodus 20:11 and complete their reference to the Exodus passage with the expected “and all that is in them” (Acts 14:8, 15). Thus we discern a typical pattern used by biblical individuals when referring to or quoting Exodus 20:11. Evidently, they did not feel at liberty to deviate from the wording of the fourth commandment.

Remarkably, the allusion in Revelation 14:7 takes a different pathway.

The typical biblical pattern illustrated above is broken only in Revelation 14:7. Any scriptural parallel allusion or reference to Exodus 20:11 that starts with the words “Who made” and reaches the word “sea” and then continues never strays after that from the exact wording of Exodus except in Revelation 14:7c. Why? Is something theologically important being communicated? Is God, through the angel, signaling some relevant, theological truth(s) by means of a somewhat fluid allusion that otherwise would be lost if Exodus 20:11 were to be fully, exactly paralleled?

Most importantly, why in this end-time passage might God select the “fountains of waters” for special mention and not some other created item among “all that is in them”? The independent research of several scholars can, when placed together, contribute to a theologically and geologically significant response to these questions.