A multi-part presentation on the last day of the annual business meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Executive Committee focused on what Adventists have historically called “the three angels’ messages” on October 14, 2020.
Representatives of world church departments, offices, and committees discussed before executive committee members what they are doing or plan to do to highlight the importance and timeliness of these messages found in the Bible in Revelation 14:6-12.
According to the biblical text, these special messages are three consecutive communications given by three messengers to every person in the world. A first message calls everyone to adore God because, he says, “the hour of his judgment has come”. A second message calls on people to leave “Babylon”. A third message is a call to choose not to worship “the beast and his image.”
Adventist prophetic understanding links symbols to specific historical movements, powers, and events. He also places these three messages at what is called “the time of the end,” close to Jesus’ glorious return to this earth.
Since Adventists believe they are, indeed, living in the time of the end, accepting the three angels’ messages could dramatically alter the life and experience of the church.
Unless it’s not.
The difference, I believe, depends on at least three things: What we share the messages of the three angels, How? ‘Or’ What we go there, and Why we are doing it.
While an in-depth answer to these questions may be beyond the scope of this commentary, I think considering some suggestions could frame the discussion and begin to provide a blueprint for the way forward.
Below, I present and briefly discuss these suggestions.
1. Never take doctrinal knowledge of the three angels’ messages for granted.
Seasoned church members may know well—or believe they know well—the three angels’ messages. In any case, seasoned church members are statistically a minority. With millions of Seventh-day Adventists baptized over the past five years, there are probably millions of church members who could not easily explain what the three angels’ messages mean and why they are essential in this time. . Although interests are expected to be baptized and become members of the church only after adequate doctrinal instruction, some leaders have recognized that this is not always the case.
This continuing need for instruction is undoubtedly the reason for some global initiatives of the world church. During the October 14 presentation, Elias Brasil de Souza, director of the Biblical Research Institute, announced that upcoming Week of Prayer readings and a Sabbath School Bible study guide will focus on messages of the three angels. Meanwhile, Dan Houghton, a member of Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries, mentioned the development of a North American Division children’s program that aims to help Adventist children as young as five years old understand the messages of the three angels.
The October 2020 issue of Adventist Review also focuses on the messages of the three angels. There is no doubt that this is a topic that has already been covered in the 171-year-old Adventist flagship publication. This time, however, a solid theological exposition and Adventist historical understanding of the subject is balanced with the voices of readers—church members of diverse ages, experiences, and backgrounds—who discuss what they are getting. , what they don’t grasp and where they stand against these biblical messages. This sample of opinions is much more than that: it is an informal survey that seems to suggest how successful Adventists have been, and are currently succeeding, in conveying the essential three angels’ messages to members.
Simultaneously, with new generations and greater diversity within Adventist ranks, it is natural that these messages need to be taught, re-taught, reviewed and repeated. Adventists should not assume that because the three angels’ messages were once taught, the core of the message has been grasped and assimilated for good. As is the case with other subjects and doctrines, only conscious and regular examination and repetition will suffice.
Some time ago I attended an Adventist event where the phrase “three angels’ messages” was consistently repeated dozens of times. Not once has the phrase been “translated” or explained to lay ears. Being an “insider”—growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist—I appreciated, even appreciated, the renewed emphasis on these messages. However, hand on heart, I must admit that if I had been invited to the meeting, I would have been completely lost as to what these people were talking about.
This mistake is all too common, I believe, but we cannot afford to continue making it.
2. The three angels in the three angels’ messages are, well… not real angels.
The Bible speaks of different kinds of angels, some of them by name. But in prophetic language, an angel is often not a supernatural being but a symbol representing a human messenger. In the context of Revelation 14, the three angels are not three angels, Babylon is not a city of bricks and mortar, and the beast is not of the animal kingdom. In fact, the three angels represent three groups of messengers living at the end of time, bound to proclaim the three messages set forth in the prophecy. So the message is heavenly, but the messengers are not.
The implications of this awareness are manifold. First, it shifts the responsibility of carrying the message from a vague, out-of-this-world realm to a specific task given to a group of human beings who happen to be living on earth at the prophetic end times.
Second, as human “vessels,” these men, women, and children have been ordered to share three special messages with other men, women, and children in a way that other men, women, and children can understand. However important the vital significance of these messages, they become ineffective when recipients cannot grasp their practical significance. The three messages are as timeless as the Bible and yet must be as contextualized as today’s newspaper.
In this context, the October 14 presentation to the Annual Council highlighted initiatives that seek to spread the three angels’ messages, so to speak, in the marketplace. Among them, Children Ministries department director Linda Koh explained that animated books are being made for children that will connect the three angels’ messages to creation and redemption. This new resource should be available in English, Spanish, German and French.
Separately, Adventist Church communications associate director Sam Neves shared that church communications officers connect with writers, artists, graphic designers, and other artistic talents across the globe. around the world to start designing innovative ways to deliver these messages.
These are laudable methods and initiatives, I believe, with the potential to bridge the generational gap and present these biblical messages in language that new generations can find relevant and meaningful.
3. The three angels’ messages are not a doctrinal island.
I believe that the delivery and explanation of the three angels’ messages are doomed to failure unless they are intentionally tied to whole biblical doctrine. Discuss the three angels messages in i
solation is as toothless as the Sabbath teaching without creation or the plan of salvation without the notion of sin.
The three angels’ messages do not occur in a vacuum; they are part of the continuum of the great controversy between good and evil and as such constitute the core of the gospel and should always be discussed and understood within those parameters.
During the October presentation, former director of the Biblical Research Institute, Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, presented a theological summary of the three angels’ messages explaining how these special messages from God are framed in the history of salvation. . Quoting Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White, he read, “The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. To be properly understood and appreciated, every truth of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that springs from the cross of Calvary.1
The three angels’ messages, Rodríguez said, “are all about the gospel, the Lamb of God being sacrificed for the redemption of the human race.” White would have accepted. In perhaps one of her most inspiring statements, she wrote: “Many have written to me asking if the message of justification by faith [in Christ] is the third angel’s message, and I said, ‘It is truly the third angel’s message.’2
Thus, as with all Bible-based doctrine, I believe that a renewed focus on the three angels’ messages will be as effective as the inspired ability of Adventist leaders, teachers, and instructors to relate these messages to the centrality of the gospel and salvation. found in Jesus.
At the same time, new generations will generally find more compelling arguments when backed by consistent experience with shared truth. Thus, the proclamation of the three angels’ messages will certainly be most effective when the recipients of Adventist evangelistic efforts see that the messengers live up to the lofty ideals set forth. For example, unless Seventh-day Adventists rediscover the blessing of the seventh-day Sabbath – the seal of God – each week, calling it “a delight, the holy day of the Lord, [and] honourable” (Isaiah 58:13), they may be doing a disservice to the biblical truth they are supposed to proclaim.
In short, can a new emphasis on the three angels’ messages be a game-changer for the life and experience of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Yes. With the help of God and the assistance of the Spirit, Adventists should do everything possible not to waste this unparalleled opportunity.
2. Advent Review and Sabbath HeraldApril 1, 1890.