by Matt Slick
What is the eternal gospel spoken of in Revelation 14:6? There are two main interpretations possible from the context. The first is this the saving gospel message, and the second is that it is speaking of condemnation.
Revelation 14:6, "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;"
The context is dealing with judgment. There are three angels in the context of Scripture. In Revelation 14:6, the first angel has the eternal gospel to preach to those on the earth. What he speaks is, "fear God, and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come; worship him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of water," (14:7). The second angel speaks of the fall of Babylon and says, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality," (14:8). Then a third angel speaks of further judgment and says, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name," (Rev. 14:9-11).
So the question at hand is related to the first angel in 14:6. It says he preaches the gospel to those who live on the earth, but then he says in v. 7, "fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come..." So, is the eternal gospel the condemnation spoken of, or is it what we would typically think the gospel is, that salvation is found in Christ?
From the context, we can make the case either way. But, in my opinion, I believe that the eternal gospel is the saving gospel message. I also believe that the angel continued his message of condemnation. Furthermore, when we look at how the word "eternal, aionios" is used in the New Testament, we find some interesting information. Some of the usages are as follows
- Eternal Covenant, Heb. 13:20
- Eternal Destruction, 2 Thess. 1:9
- Eternal Dwellings, Luke 16:9
- Eternal Fire, Matt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7
- Eternal Glory, 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:10
- Eternal Judgment, Heb. 6:2
- Eternal Life, John 3:15-16; Acts 13:46, 48; Rom. 2:7, etc.
- Eternal Salvation, Heb. 5:9
- Eternal Spirit, Heb. 9:14
Heb. 13:20, "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord."
I draw a connection between the eternal covenant and the eternal gospel. I believe the eternal covenant is the agreement made between the members of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit before the foundation of the world. In this covenant, the Father would give the elector the Son (John 6:39). The Son would die for the sins of his people (1 John 2:2). And, the Holy Spirit would empower Jesus to do the will of the Father (Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:1,18) as well as apply the redemptive work of Christ to the believer ( John 14:6-17, 26; Acts 1:8; 2:17-18).
The covenant is eternal because it is made in the intra-Trinitarian communion. Since God is a Trinity, and God is Eternal in his duration of existence, then it would make sense to say the covenant would be eternal. Furthermore, if that covenant is eternal, it amounts to an everlasting gospel because it is the gospel of the sacrifice of Christ by which people can be saved. This is why I lean towards the idea that the eternal gospel spoken of by the first angel in Revelation 14:6 is the message of the saving work of Christ on the cross and that all who put their faith in him will be safe and righteous judgment to come.
Jesus said the gospel will be preached to the whole world
Finally, I would like to point your attention to something Jesus said.
- Matthew 24:14, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Notice that Jesus says after the gospel is preached to all the nations then the end will come. In Revelation 14:6 and the surrounding context it is discussing the end times. So perhaps there is a connection here and perhaps we could use Jesus' words to further support the idea that the eternal gospel spoken of in Revelation is the saving Gospel of Christ.
Commentaries on the eternal gospel
"John was then given a vision of an angel carrying a message called the eternal gospel. The angel was commissioned to bring his message to every group of people on the earth. Because of the word “gospel,” some have felt that this was a message of salvation or the good news of the coming kingdom. The context, however, seems to indicate otherwise, for the message is one of judgment and condemnation. The angel announced, Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. So the “eternal” message seems to be a message of God’s righteousness and judgment rather than a message of salvation."Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.
"The message is called the eternal gospel, since the eternal blessings of the good news still remain for those who will respond."Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.