“And I saw
flying in midheaven,
— having an eternal gospel to preach
who live on the earth,
–and to every nation and tribe
And I still wonder…How would a child respond to this?
Midheaven according to my spell-check, which I rarely use–sorry, is not a word. But once again, I am lunging forward in the text. The scene of the Lamb and his followers should still be fresh in our minds. Of that vision John writes; “And I looked and behold the Lamb…” However, in this scene he simply states he saw an angel, why? Is it a lesser scene? Could it possibly be the same scene yet he sees something different? Possibly a little bit of both? Based on the context, I lean towards a little bit of both. However, although the Lamb is a superlative sight, the angel proclaiming the eternal gospel is also apex in importance. And while John is indeed seeing two different visions, the latter is intricately linked to the former. In fact, this vision corroborates the context of the former–it is all about Christ’s Gospel. This interlude, if you will, continues with two other angels and links the first vision with the last. We will see the comparing and contrasting unfold.
Throughout Revelation, the actions and descriptions are oft-interrupted, by innocuous interludes. When the audience is led like a lemming to the edge of the proverbial cliff, there is usually an interlude in the action to show, as best as I can explain it, God’s eternal, inner-workings. Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God brings the believers to the brink, then pauses with pictures and descriptions that spell out, in a non-literal sense, but rather in a masterful literary way, his presence and purpose, his righteousness and redemption. Be baptized into the imagery.
God pauses within the action to demonstrate that the action is a result of his love and justice. He interjects inspired information in the interludes in the way of imagery to remind the reader of Revelation that which he has declared from Genesis, and in Exodus and all in the law and prophets, and that for which the poets of Psalms and Proverbs pined, and that which is prominently proclaimed in Job, “I am the Lord!” Revelation mimics the mindset memorialized in the Old Testament. Not only in the wording and phrasing, but in the imagery. We mimic Israel as well, which is precisely why I produce the pen and pad (metaphorically speaking).
Israel, when they weren’t worshiping idols and living with other lands, took God’s figures of speech literally. While the Lord often used language in a figurative manner, Israel took it literally. When Moses declared, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates;” the people literally nailed the words to their doorposts and tied them in the form of phylacteries to their foreheads. In the same way the church builds bigger and better buildings, because after all, it is the Lord’s house; except that it isn’t. While Christ commands concern for the orphans and widows, we, at considerable expense, casually construct cathedrals to contain Christ, contravening our call to cultivate Christ in the cosmos. The angel in the air has an eternal gospel to preach. Buildings break-down, if they didn’t, I’d be out of work, but the gospel is eternal.
“Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. “But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck; He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood; He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, So I will choose their punishments, And I will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen.’” That is from Isaiah 66, to which we will be returning in the future. The physician Luke, records Stephen’s sermon where he sighted Isaiah 66 and exclaimed, “And David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. “But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?’ says the Lord; ‘OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE? ‘WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?’” In just a few moments, Stephen would sleep in a stack of stones. Oh the things people will do when they don’t like the message.
Consider the context; the 144,000, who formerly were described as 12,000 from every tribe are now described as the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. I guess the question is where is the Lamb going? Perhaps we can find the answer by looking at the angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to preach.
Eternal Gospel doesn’t mean that the gospel will last forever. It means that it has always existed and will never cease. While teaching the teenaged son of my pastor friend in a certain communist country in the Caribbean English, I give him difficult words to pronounce. One of them is, Supralapsinarianism; “the doctrine that God decreed both election and reprobation prior to creation and then allowed the fall of man as a means of carrying out his divine purposes.” I disagree, and I disagree with all the lapsinarian debate, because God and all his decision, decrees and his gospel are eternal. We cannot even begin to sound the depths of his determinations, for they exist in a place we cannot know. Revelation unveils much of this plane to us, but much is also left hidden. Text such as John hearing the seven thunders but being told not to record it reveals this to us. Those pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, who in their ivory tower debates over lapsinarian doctrine, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, neglect the weightier things, Such as, the eternal gospel. I can think of no grander waste of time than to debate doctrine of the order in which God declared the fall and redemption, while ignoring the eternal gospel. From eternity God declared the gospel, there is no longer need for debate–preach it.
But building edifices to enshrine the living Christ is a close second. The Roman Catholic Church is the brobdingnagian builder of grandiose cathedrals and churches, yet they are also among the most charitable. The evangelical Protestant churches are generally more subdued but as of late, the size, scope and certainly the technology have been increasing in many churches. It is certainly not my intent to find fault with fixing the fitful and frequently flawed sound systems that seem to be devilishly derelict. However, does the upgrade of the sound system directly disperse the diaconate to preach the eternal gospel?
We’re creating gospel ghettos, preaching prisons, an environment where although the gospel is preached, it is to the congregation. Even our best attempts to reach our communities for Christ, usually end up with a group not in need, taking from another group not in need and both groups don’t realize that they are poor and naked and blind. We are not inclusive, we’ve circled the proverbial wagons to protect our own from a culture increasingly hostile towards the eternal gospel. We’re not thinking outwardly but inwardly. I may have no authority when it comes to theology, prophecy or the book of Revelation, but I do have some experience with building, and some of that is with churches. Physically, we help build, repair and restore church buildings in a certain communist country in the Caribbean. I also have done many projects at many churches here in the United States. I lost count of the wheelchair ramps we’ve worked on. But I have also been involved in projects that weren’t nearly as useful as a wheelchair ramp. I have come to question how they relate to the eternal gospel.
In the Caribbean, it is a different story. We build because the church constantly and consistently preaches the eternal gospel. We build walls, then the walls cannot contain Christ. We build more walls, purchase more property, expand the church, yet still, Christ cannot be contained by our construction. The church building is constantly in use, especially in early morning when those that follow the Lamb meet together, pray together and encourage one another before they go out into their culture and climate and cultivate Christ. Then they return in the evening and give God glory for the fruits of their labor. That’s church; that’s the mark of the Lamb; that’s preaching an eternal gospel. They don’t circle the wagons and create gospel ghettos. They fulfill the Great Commission by preaching as they go. The same eternal gospel God had in mind from before the beginning. A picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than circle the wagons to protect themselves from the atheist, communist government, they go and preach, and actually invite atheists to come. And the walls we built could not contain.
A Picture the Pastor Sent
The reason I write:
I truly believe that we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a Christian. My suspicions were confirmed around the time that I converted from a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial, dispensationalist to an ardent and absolute undecided. (I know what I believe but it doesn’t quite fit into one category or another.) When I saw and heard what dispensationalist were saying concerning America, it boggled my brain. To think we would be raptured soon because the Supreme Court ruled in favor of homosexual marriage is completely confusing the context of Revelation. Perhaps we will discuss this further in the future but it returns us to look at the eternal gospel. We look for the destruction of ungodly men–we do–and it is coming. But in the meantime, are we to sit and wait for the rapture, or are we to cultivate Christ and his eternal gospel? We are supposed to be marked by the Lamb, we are supposed to follow him wherever he goes. So the question becomes, where is he going?
“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue 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 the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
He’s going to the same place he’s always been going–to those that he has purchased by his own blood. Problem: For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!”
The angel in midheaven is a messanger with glad tidings. Midheaven is only used in the book of Revelation; literally meaning, mid-heaven. That is the place between heaven and Earth. The angel in flight represents the sovereignty and holiness of God and his dealings with men. We think of Isaiah, and Daniel and Mary and Joseph. The message brought is that of Jesus. After all, the first words of Revelation is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ…”
Our thoughts on angels are slightly skewed–Sunday-School slanted, yet culminated by cravings in our culture. Thoughts such as, guardian angels and little chubby baby angels like Cupid. We think of them as a choir singing during Christmas time. Rarely do we think of them as warriors, though the Biblical account presents them this way. But I believe the symbolism here is of the messenger. Not only that but as a worker or laborer. The context seems to portray this picture because he is between heaven and Earth, flying with an eternal message. Notice also, he declares: fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” while the message is of ultimate importance, the placement of this passage is also worth noting, to say the least. The surrounding context will confirm. In chapter 14, we have the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with his followers, then we see an angel with an eternal gospel to preach saying, fear God. We will see the next two angels next time.