In Revelation 14 we find the last message of God’s mercy to this planet. Three angels present powerful warnings to prepare a people to meet Jesus in His imminent coming.
The prophet saw in vision “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 fountain of waters” (verses 6, 7).
The word angel means “messenger,” and this angel is a symbol of a group or people used by the Lord to warn the inhabitants of this planet about the soon coming of Jesus. This angel brings with him the everlasting gospel to preach to every creature, and, with the everlasting gospel, he announces with a powerful voice total submission to God in love for Him who first loved us.
Observe that he brings the everlasting gospel and announces the divine judgment. Preaching the gospel without judgment leads people to antinomianism (Anti=”against” and Nomos=”law”)—which literally means being against the law, causing lawlessness. On the other hand, preaching the judgment without the gospel leads people to legalism, which denies the benevolent character of Christ. Therefore, the first angel instead brings a complete and balanced message.
Christ hanging upon the cross was the gospel. With His perfect life and His death on the cross of Calvary Christ paid for the guilt of every sinner in this world. He satisfied the full demand of God’s holy law. He developed a perfect character—otherwise, He couldn’t be a perfect and acceptable sacrifice before the Father. Those who accept Christ’s immense sacrifice are prepared to face divine judgment. This is the reason why the first angel brings the everlasting gospel and then he preaches the “hour of His judgment.”
The preachers of the first angel’s message expected that Christ would return in March of 1844. Then the first disappointment happened. Re-examining their prophetic interpretation, they made a correction and a new date was set: October 22, 1844.
At the beginning of the work of William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher and his associates, the Protestant churches in the United States of America opened their doors for the Adventist messengers, and great revival happened. As the message became stronger and stronger, many churches started forbidding the Millerites to preach that message and forbade the people to listen to the Advent preachers and even disfellowshipped those who identified themselves with the message.
The messengers understood that those who rejected the first message were identified with the second: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (verse 8). Rejecting the everlasting gospel and the strong announcement of Jesus’ soon coming, the popular churches manifested their union with the world.
Before the fixed date for the second coming of Christ, more than 50,000 people left the popular churches and joined the Advent movement.
October 22, 1844, came, and Jesus didn’t come. That was indeed a terrible disappointment. Many people had left their properties, employment, business, and harvest with the hope to meet the Savior on the announced date. However, He did not come.
From that great multitude who professed to be ready to receive Jesus at His second coming, after the great disappointment, less than a dozen remained.
On the day after, Hiram Edson, a farmer and diligent student of the Bible, was walking in his field when he had a special vision. Instead of coming from heaven to this earth, Christ had gone from the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary to the Most Holy Place of the same sanctuary.
Together with other believers, that small group of sincere Bible searchers started studying the sanctuary message. In the Most Holy Place of the heavenly temple, they found the law of God, and the study of the sanctuary message became the key to understanding a chain of truths.
It was time to preach the third message: “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 forever 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” ().
Those who receive the wine of Babylon (false doctrines), and reject the light of present truth, will receive the wine of the wrath of God unmixed with mercy. The plagues of Revelation 16 are mentioned here.
Let us observe some very interesting points just presented. The first angel brings the everlasting gospel and announces the hour of judgment. Those who reject this message of hope, identify themselves with Babylon.
The third angel presents “the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, the law and the gospel together.
Satan loves to separate the gospel from the judgment because this separation hinders the preparation of the people to meet Jesus at His second coming.
The preachers of the three angels’ messages started their presentation exalting Christ and His judgment. And judgment includes the law because there is no judgment without the Law. The Adventist movement started their great work presenting Jesus and His commandments. It is true that the preachers of the first and second messages had no light regarding the seventh-day Sabbath. But when the pioneers of the third message entered by faith into the Most Holy Place, they saw God’s law in its entirety. A new phase of the everlasting gospel had just started. A progressive light came to the remnant Adventists.
Of a surety, the Seventh Day Adventist movement started with the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Through the Seventh Day Baptists, the Seventh Day Adventist pioneers received the message regarding the seventh-day Sabbath.
The non-immortality of the soul, the seventh-day Sabbath, and systematic benevolence were progressively introduced among the believers, and the church started spreading this new light.
Then something sad happened. With full Bible support in behalf of the doctrines recently accepted, the Seventh Day Adventist ministers became champions in defense of the Bible truth. Then somehow the Gospel of Christ was forgotten. Hot debates became frequent, and some prominent ministers were lost in those battles.
Soon the Spirit of Prophecy denounced the condition of the church as being in a Laodicean state. Why? Christ and His righteousness had been put aside.
Centuries before, Satan influenced the Jewish nation to exalt the letter of the Law and crucify Jesus Christ. Then later, the professed Christian church went in the opposite direction: to profess believing in Christ and yet reject His Law. With the Seventh Day Adventist Church, again professing to keep God’s commandments without the due emphasis on Christ became common ground.
The Message of 1888
Then “the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Savior, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.
“The uplifted Savior is to appear in His efficacious work as the Lamb slain, sitting upon the throne, to dispense the priceless covenant blessings, the benefits He died to purchase for every soul who should believe on Him. John could not express that love in words; it was too deep, too broad; he calls upon the human family to behold it. Christ is pleading for the church in the heavenly courts above, pleading for those for whom He paid the redemption price of His own lifeblood. Centuries, ages, can never diminish the efficacy of this atoning sacrifice. The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ.” Testimony for Ministers, pp. 91, 92. [Emphasis added.]
What E. J. Waggoner and Alonzo T. Jones didn’t know was that they were used by the Lord to start the fulfillment of the prophecy found in.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
Incidentally, Ellen White declared in 1892:
“The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, p 362.
To those who asked Ellen White if the message of Justification by Faith was the third angel’s message, she wrote: “It is the third angel’s message in verity.”—The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
Opposition to the message
It was a very sad fact that those who occupied the highest positions in the General Conference were the strongest opposers to the message of justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ.
“Speaking of a meeting of minister-leaders in 1890, Ellen White revealed the pathetic picture of Jesus Christ being turned away as the bride-to-be in theturned her lover away: ‘Christ knocked for entrance but no room was made for Him, the door was not opened and the light of His glory, so nigh, was withdrawn’ (Letter 73, 1890).” Quoted by Robert Wieland in his 1888 Re-Examined.
George Butler, GC president, Uriah Smith, GC secretary, Louis Conradi, member of the GC Executive Committee, and president of the European Division, were among the bitter opposers to the message.
LeRoy Edwin Froom, in his book The Movement of Destiny, gives some information about what happened during the presentation of the message in Minneapolis, in October 1888.
“At the Minneapolis General Conference of 1888 Louis Richard Conradi was one of the most outspoken scoffers of Dr. E. J. Waggoner’s solemn message on Righteousness by Faith, according to the C. C. McReynolds statement of 1930.
“Because Waggoner’s studies were strongly backed by Ellen White, Conradi thenceforth sought increasingly to undermine, and at last bitterly to fight, the Spirit of Prophecy. That is attested by men to whom he made explicit declarations---such as to Pastor Wilhelm Mueller, later president of the Central European Division (1951-62).
“Notwithstanding, Conradi continued on in increasingly prominent ministry in the [SDA] Church---until he broke with us completely in 1932. But wherever he lived and labored and traveled he subtly scattered unsettling seeds of doubt as to the validity of the Spirit of Prophecy---and ultimately came to challenge the fundamental tenets of God’s message for these last days.” Le Roy Edwin Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 677.
“C. C. McReynolds, of the Kansas Conference---attending his first General Conference, and present throughout the entire Conference as a delegate, along with C. A. Hall, his Conference president---was lodged in a large house together with the delegation from Iowa, of which J. H. Morrison was president. A. T. Robinson of New England, and L. R. Conradi, of Central Europe---the latter, one of the most talkative and critical.” Ibid, p. 248. [Emphasis added.]
It was not mere coincidence that L. R. Conradi played a major role during the crisis of World War I, 1914-18, when the church became divided regarding the participation in military service and war as combatants, which brought the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement into existence.
What was God’s purpose through the messages brought to the General Conference Session in Minneapolis, in 1888? To re-introduce Christ in the message, because the spiritual condition of the church had become dry as the desert of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain.
To conclude, the first angel brought the everlasting gospel and the message of judgment. The third angel brought the same in other words—the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
The Faith of Jesus
“Elder E. J. Waggoner had the privilege granted him of speaking plainly and presenting his views upon justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law. This was no new light, but it was old light placed where it should be in the third angel’s message.... What is the burden of that message? John sees a people. He says, ‘Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus’ (). This people John beholds just before he sees the Son of man ‘having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle’ ( ).
“The faith of Jesus has been overlooked and treated in an indifferent, careless manner. It has not occupied the prominent position in which it was revealed to John. Faith in Christ as the sinner’s only hope has been largely left out, not only of the discourses given but of the religious experience of very many who claim to believe the third angel’s message.
“The third angel’s message is the proclamation of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. The commandments of God have been proclaimed, but the faith of Jesus Christ has not been proclaimed by Seventh-day Adventists as of equal importance, the law and the gospel going hand in hand. I cannot find language to express this subject in its fullness.
“’The faith of Jesus.’ It is talked of, but not understood. What constitutes the faith of Jesus, that belongs to the third angel’s message? Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that he might become our sin-pardoning Savior. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take his righteousness. And faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus.
“The only safety for the Israelites was blood upon the doorposts. God said, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you’ (). All other devices for safety would be without avail. Nothing but the blood on the doorposts would bar the way that the angel of death should not enter. There is salvation for the sinner in the blood of Jesus Christ alone, which cleanseth us from all sin. The man with a cultivated intellect may have vast stores of knowledge, he may engage in theological speculations, he may be great and honored of men and be considered the repository of knowledge, but unless he has a saving knowledge of Christ crucified for him, and by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, he is lost. Christ ’was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” ( ). ‘Saved by the blood of Jesus Christ,’ will be our only hope for time and our song throughout eternity.’” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 168, 172. [Emphasis added.]
What is the central message that must be preached by the Reform Movement? The same message presented by Jones and Waggoner with the full support of the Spirit of Prophecy – the law in the gospel, and the gospel in the Law: the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
But it is not enough to preach a theoretical message. We need to live it, by God’s wonderful grace.
“The only true knowledge of the message of the righteousness of Christ, the only true test, is personal acceptance of it.” —Letter 31a, 1894, p. 16. Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, p. 206.
“My dear brethren and sisters …, determine to reveal Christ’s righteousness more fully than you have revealed it in the past; determine to show that you are not of this world, but of the kingdom of heaven. You are in danger of losing a rich experience. Will you not cultivate the grace of Christ in your hearts? Let not selfishness, springing from self-love, separate you from one another and from God. Bind yourselves to one another by the cords of Christian benevolence. If faithful, you will hear from the Savior’s lips the words, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ ”—Letter 134, 1902, p. 8. Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, p. 206.