This past week has been a revelation of unspeakable evil as we continue to read and see the horrors committed by Islamic militants in northern Iraq chasing at least 300 000 Christians out of their homes in cities like Mosul. It has been reported on news broadcasters such as CNN that Christians were beheaded, and their heads displayed on sticks in a park in Mosul. Who and what is behind this ? At face value, these are evil men who do it , but who or what moves them to do it?
In the book of Revelation in chapters 11,12, 13 we get to know the real powers of evil. They are the ‘trinity of evil’, of Satan (the dragon- a fallen angel ) and his two associates, the first beast (the anti-christ) and the second beast (the false prophet). These are the instigators behind all the evil that happens in this world.
Thankfully, chapter 14 provides us with an encouraging perspective. Jesus reigns! Last week we considered the first 5 verses of chapter 14. The chapter begins with a majestic vision of the Lamb standing on Mt. Zion – the symbolic seat of His power and majesty. With Him we see a symbolic representative of 144 000 people , who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads. We saw that these represent the great multitude of all believers throughout the ages. All these are singing the new song before the throne, and the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders. It is a beautiful picture of the redeemed of the earth, as they are now all together in heaven. It is so good to know what the future holds for the believer. We are "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls." (1 Peter 1:8,9)
As we now consider verses 6 - 13, we continue on this triumphant note, as we now observe the judgment of God upon Satan and his evil allies and all who bear his mark. This is a very important section, for it answers one of the fundamental questions which all true Christians have – the question that is asked in 6:9 – 11 ( the opening of the 5th seal) : " O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" This is the question which many Christians are asking today in in the face of untold suffering and injustice, when they ask with tear blinded eyes, "Where is my God in all this terrible suffering? Does He hear me?"
Now remember, that the apostle John receives this vision at the end of the first century . The 7 churches to whom he writes (see Rev. 2 & 3) are all struggling under a number of violent persecutions. Already in Acts 8:1 , Stephen's martyrdom, had led to a widespread persecution of the Christian church. Historical records reveal at least three great waves of persecution of Christians under the Roman emperors Nero (AD 54 - 68), Vespasian (AD 69-79) and Domitian (AD 81-96). John and the early church were indeed asking : "How long until our Lord returns? We cannot bear this any longer!" Into this situation John is given perspective for the sake of the church. God will certainly bring judgment upon all evildoers. This is what the messages of the three angels in vv. 6-11 are all about - a reminder that God has not forgotten his people , and that is why the call to endurance follows in v. 12 , followed by a word of encouragement or a benediction in v. 13
1.Three angels and three messages for the nations of the world (Vv 6-11)
Note : These messages are intended to be heard by every nation ,tribe, language and people i.e. a universal message. It is an announcement to all the people (the ungodly and the godly) of the earth. The Bible which we hold in our hands is the most widely distributed book in all the earth today . In this Bible the judgement to come together with the gospel of Jesus Christ constitute a continued call to the people of the world to repent and turn from their sin and flee to Christ.
The first angel speaks (vv. 6 &7) : “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” This raises another question. Are we to conclude that an angel will proclaim the gospel of Christ to sound a last warning to the nations? Such a thing is indicated nowhere else in Scripture. The gospel is given to human messengers to proclaim and not to angels. But what we do find in Scripture is that angels do announce the gospel, but not by way of preaching. It is not by intense proclamation or through pleading/persuasion, as your preacher does with you. No, this is by way of an announcement. In that sense the angel Gabriel announced "good news" to Zechariah about John the Baptist (Lk 1:19) and to Mary (Lk 1:26-33) and Joseph (Matt.1:20) and to the shepherds (Lk 2:8-11). In the announcement of Christ’s coming is the Gospel . The angel says , "Fear God and give Him glory , because the hour of his judgement has come". It concerns the final aspect of the whole gospel – the second coming of Christ, which will also be the hour of His judgment.
This is good news to all who bear the name of Jesus and the name of His Father on their foreheads (14:1). This is the hour of their glorification. But it is bad news for those on earth who have not been yet reconciled by the gospel of Jesus. The "eternal gospel" will judge them. This then is a call to all mankind to fear God and worship Him alone, NOW ! Soon, He who has made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water will be here. Every idol worshipper (replacing God with people or things) and every agnostic ( who says : I don’t know whether there is a God and I don’t care) and no atheist (who says : there is no God), and no one who denies that God has made the heavens and the earth ( who says : I believe in the doctrine of evolution and I deny that God is the Creator and the rightful Owner of His creation) – all these will have a very fearful prospect before them. They will face the terrible wrath of God, which is described in verses 14 - 20. This is what the first angel announces: “Fear God and give Him glory for the hour of His judgment has come!”
The second angel speaks (v. 8) : “ Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” The second angel announces and confirms the certainty of the destruction of that city ( symbolically called Babylon) which has tempted the nations to sin ! This announcement is the 'gospel' of Babylon's fall. Here we find echoes of Isa. 21:9 and Jer. 51:8… “ fallen, fallen is Babylon”.
"Babylon" must be thought of symbolically. It refers to the entire power of the anti-christ and of his anti-christian kingdom, just as Jerusalem and Mt. Zion symbolize the rule of God.
Now 'Babel' or ‘Babylon’ ( which would have been located in in today's southern Iraq ) was the city of the mighty king Nimrod . In Gen. 11 we read how people attempted to build a city and a massive tower. It was a classic expression of human arrogance and self- sufficiency. The high tower was a symbolic fist raised in defiance against the Creator and so we find that Babylon in the Scripture stands for that which is anti-God. It is the great opponent of the people of God.
Under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, the Jews were carried into exile in Babylonia and suffered there in captivity. Hence Psalm 137: 1 "By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion"  . But even there in exile the Israelites knew that the Lord would judge Babylon: Psalm 137:8,9 further says: "O daughter of Babylon doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us."
Many of the prophets had spoken about the fall of Babylon - both in the literal and symbolical sense. Thus we find that in the book of Revelation Babylon becomes a symbolic representation of Satan's kingdom – see Rev 16:19; 17:5 ; 18:2,10,21. In Chapter 18 in particular we shall consider this in more detail .
The announcement of this second angel is therefore good news for Christians. Satan's kingdom cannot stand. His capital city (symbolically called Babylon) has fallen. From our perspective this sounds as a future happening , yet the reality is that she has fallen. The word of God is true. It cannot be broken. This must happen, and if you are on the Lord's side. REJOICE - your redemption draws near!
The third angel speaks : (vv. 9 - 11): “ And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” The 3rd angel announces judgment upon the individual worshippers of the beast. Here on earth they seemed invincible. They lived like lords, prospering and knowing apparently no suffering, whilst the people of God were struggling (Psalm 73). Here then is a vision of the end of the wicked. Just as Asaph was given a glimpse into the future of the wicked (Psalm 73:18), so we are given a glimpse into their end. Here we have some of the most explicit language in the entire Scripture concerning the destiny of the wicked : They will have to bear the full extent and full strength of God's everlasting fury towards them : “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night”. This is the unquenchable fire spoken of in Matt. 3:12 and Lk. 3:17 - the fire of judgement which our Lord was to bring upon the earth - those who would not fear God and worship him. They abandoned themselves like wild, impulsive animals to the lusts of the flesh. Now their suffering will be a conscious suffering , it will be an eternal torment of having consciously rejected the truth .
2. A Call to Perseverance (v. 12)
 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. This is counsel which we have received once before 13:10.
Now thank God, that He has shown us what must be. For truly, we will not be exempted from trials and sufferings and from spiritual warfare. Some of us might well go into captivity; others may get killed. But we must keep this great perspective of our glorious future in mind. At all cost- do not compromise ! Do not like Esau, who for the sake of temporary gain forsakes his inheritance. Obey God's commands and remain faithful to Jesus. You must endure !
3. A Word of Encouragement (v. 13)
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
The voice from heaven comes to us as an encouragement as we persevere in our obedience to the commandment of God and of our faith in Jesus. And if you die for the Lord’s sake, you are blessed. John needed that assurance for Himself. He needed that assurance for his seven churches which were experiencing various forms of persecution. The Christians in Iraq, and in Syria need that assurance today. You and I need that assurance to persevere in our faith , lest we be tempted to give up and pursue another gospel which is no gospel at all ! Many are doing so already .
Persevere dear friend, and you will be blessed. And the Spirit of God says: "…you will rest from your labours, for your deeds will follow you."
This is direct assurance from heaven to you. These are not the words of a man . This is the voice of your heavenly friend. Take courage and stand firm.
Let’s conclude with the words of 1 Cor. 15:58:
"Therefore , my dear brothers, stand firm . Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." AMEN
 This is the only place in the revelation where the word "gospel" occurs. There is no definite article in the Greek here . The NIV translates incorrectly “the eternal gospel” , whereas the ESV translates correctly “ an eternal gospel”
 ( Gen 10: 8 - 12)
 [ Significantly we realise then , that there was a time in O.T. history when the children of God where almost as it were 'wiped' out à pointing to the 2 witnesses of Rev 11 who were lying slain in the street]