The Three Angels Messages and the Triumph of the Gospel Over Babylon’s Legalism Part 2

And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Revelation 14:8 [1.Image © Pacific Press from]

Many say that Babylon means confusion. Well it may, but it is not so much confusion about certain doctrines as much as it is about the gospel itself. When legalism mixes our works with God’s grace, it gets confusing. In Galatians 2:20 Paul gives us the pure gospel when he says, “Not I but Christ.” So many of us want to make it a combination of me plus Christ. Problem is, any time I make “me” a part of the gospel I have a corrupt gospel because “me” is corrupt. Does this mean doing away with good works? Not at all! It just means realizing that it is God who is working in us and not us. Philippians 2:13

Seventh-day Adventists teach that Babylon is a religious system which it is, but it is more than that. It is an attitude – an attitude that can be found in any system. Babylon is the attitude that I can save myself by my own works. It began with the tower of Babel.

Babel meaning “gate” and El meaning “God.” At the tower of Babel man decided they could work and build their own way to heaven. They did not think they could trust God to save them from another flood so they decided to build a tower and by their works save themselves. Thus Babylon symbolizes salvation by our own works, or legalism. Cain had the attitude of Babylon when he brought the works of his field and offered his own system of worship. But God could only accept Abel’s sacrifice – a lamb which pointed to the Lamb of God who could only save. Since then man has been presenting his own system of worship and even day of worship thinking he can save himself by inventing his own religion instead of accepting the gospel.

Years later Daniel 1 tells us that God gave Jerusalem into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands, but in Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar says “is this not Babylon which I have made?” And God says, “No! I made it and gave it to you.” But here is the attitude of Babylon again – that it is my works that save me.

During the Dark Ages people were taught that their works would save them. They could buy and work their way to heaven. They were also given a work day to worship instead of the Sabbath day of rest. So they were like Cain, worshiping their works instead of our Creator and Redeemer. When the everlasting gospel is proclaimed in all its glory, Babylon will fall! Man will see that we are not saved by our own religious works and inventions but rather are saved by the grace of God alone!

The third angel’s message assures us of the victory of grace over the legalism of Babylon.

Ellen White comments:

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message, in verity.”– The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. {1SM 372.2}

If you are like me, your first glance at the third angel’s message does not make you think of justification by faith. As a matter of fact many people get wrapped up in works over this passage. Let’s take another look and see why it’s not about works but rather justification by faith.

Revelation 14:9-12 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 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 for ever 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.

The third angel’s message is justification by faith in verity because those who refuse the mark of the beast will not be allowed to buy or sell or do any business to provide for themselves or their families. They will be resting on the Sabbath and not working. Therefore they trust God to provide for them, and not their own works. This is justification by faith. Those who accept the mark so that they can buy and sell are not resting in Jesus or trusting Him to provide for them. Rather they are saying, “I do not trust Jesus to provide for me, so I am accepting the mark so that I can work and provide for myself.” This is salvation by works.

It is very important to notice that the ones who accept the mark and are trying to be saved by their works are rejecting the cross of Christ. The “cup of His indignation” is the cup that Jesus asked to be passed from Him, in Gethsemane. However, He drank that cup for us, at Calvary. Those who reject the seal of God, and the Sabbath are really rejecting the cross. They say, “I will accept the mark of the beast and provide my own salvation.” When they do this they reject the Salvation provided at Calvary, and instead of letting Jesus drink that cup for them, they must drink it themselves!

After all, if you do not trust Jesus enough to provide your daily bread, but rather accept the mark so that you can do business and put bread on the table yourself, how can you trust Him to provide for your eternal salvation? On the other hand, by rejecting the mark (works) and keeping the Sabbath and seal of God we are accepting the cross and justification by faith. Jesus drinks the cup mentioned in the third angel’s message so we don’t have to! We can all exclaim with Abraham at Moriah, “Jehovahjireh” My Lord Will provide!”

The third angel’s message is the climax of the battle between faith and works. For centuries man has been taught by tradition to save himself by worshiping a man made religion and even a man made Sabbath which is Sunday. Those who put their faith in Jesus triumph over the legalism of man made religions as they rest their faith in the One who gave all to save them. They cherish His Sabbath which is a sign that we are not saved by works but rather by His amazing grace!`



The Three Angels Messages and the Triumph of the Gospel Over Babylon’s Legalism Part 2 — 19 Comments

  1. I have been blessed. It made me realize that Jesus is sooner than we think. Most of us think the mark of the beast will be only when Sunday law shall be legally enforced. But on reading this article, I have been convinced that not keeping Sabbath right now is trusting in my own works for salvation!

  2. Thank you William for this timely reminder of God's unconditional love for us and the price Jesus paid for us that anything that we try to do for our own salvation is worthless. It brings to mind what Paul said in Philippians 3:8:
    "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ",
    where he was saying everything that he represented, was but "dung", a galvanizing word!, to try to add to what Jesus did for us. Only Jesus, and what He did alone, can save us.

  3. Thanks so much for the clarity in your article. The meaning of the Sabbath is often lost. God created man to be God-dependent and when Adam sinned, he became self-dependent.
    We love to be independent of everyone. God is trying to get us to see that we need Him 100% for salvation and everything.

  4. Hi William, thank you for your message and posting. In your post you stated "Seventh-day Adventists teach that Babylon is a religious system which it is, but it is more than that. It is an attitude – an attitude that can be found in any system. Babylon is the attitude that I can save myself by my own works." I would agree that 'Babylon' is an attitude or mindset. This is why Paul emphasizes a 'renewing of the mind' in Romans is so easy for us human beings to be swept up into the worldly mindset..that of works. From my own observations within the church I have also seen the WORSHIP of the belly/body (i.e. UNDUE EMPHASIS on what to eat, not eat, when to eat, how to eat, etc); the WORSHIP of the Sabbath (i.e. UNDUE EMPHASIS on what activities to do and what not to do); and also the WORSHIP of lifestyle (i.e. UNDUE EMPHASIS on No: jewelry, makeup, tv, movies, video games, facebook, etc etc)...these have become additional tools of the legalist. Even the good things God had given us can be perverted when in the hands of man (e.g. Pharisitical legalistic attitudes). Have you had any of these types of encounters and what stance do you take?

  5. I want to agree with you William, may God bless the works of your hands as you are working in Lord's vine yard, yes John S, its a serious issue you have raised, we as Adventists I think we are now becoming more legalistic, honestly, personally, if someone can really explain to me whats really bad about puting on ear rings because even daughters of Israel used to put them on and remember these Isralites were the chosen children of God. I think this babylon issue, true, is all about the attitude as well, because even those who are keeping the Sabbath somehow well, lake love for their close relatives.

    • "if someone can really explain to me whats really bad about puting on ear rings because even daughters of Israel used to put them on and remember these Isralites were the chosen children of God"

      Hi Wilson,
      To answer your question the reason is found in the Bible in 1 Timothy 2:8-10 which states
      "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works." (1 Timothy 2:8-10)

      Christ has commanded His church to remove these things, its more than a display issue, its a heart issue. Will we be faithful to God in all things, or only in that which is convenient to our personal desires?
      In fact after the golden calf incident in the book of Exodus (which was made by the children of Israel's jewelry which had become a snare to them), the book of Exodus says...

      For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’” So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb. ~ Exodus 33:5-6

      It's important to remember that just because someone does something in the Bible, does not mean that God condones it. Even David had concubines, but that doesn't mean that is God's will for our lives. Before accepting any point of doctrine we must demand a plain thus saith the Lord.

      Let us therefore follow the commandments of Christ in taking off these items, and seek the inward adorning of a meek and humble spirit which is of great value in the sight of God. Unnecessary outward adornment is contradictory to the humility of Christ which He seeks to manifest in our lives. Let us therefore follow Christ the perfect pattern in all things, for true happiness will come when we follow the author and finisher of our faith! May the Lord bless you as you choose to follow Him.

  6. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I am glad to see people excited about the gospel. I know this prophecy will soon be fulfilled: And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.Revelation 18:1 The legalism of Babylon falls and we go from the Dark Ages to the entire earth being lightened with His glory!

    • Brother, have you ever considered this quote in light of the third angel's message?

      "Now comes the word that I have declared that New York is to be swept away by a tidal wave. This I have never said. I have said, as I looked at the great buildings going up there, story after story: 'What terrible scenes will take place when the Lord shall arise to shake terribly the earth! Then the words of Revelation 18:1-3 will be fulfilled.' The whole of the eighteenth chapter of Revelation is a warning of what is coming on the earth. But I have no light in particular in regard to what is coming on New York, only I know that one day the great buildings there will be thrown down by the turning and overturning of God's power. From the light given me, I know that destruction is in the world. One word from the Lord, one touch of His mighty power, and these massive structures will fall. Scenes will take place the fearfulness of which we cannot imagine." {LS 411.5}

  7. William, I agree with you except I believe the concept of Babylon should be expanded a bit. Ellen White defines its use in scripture as, “It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion” {GC 381.1}. If we accept Atheism as a religion as I believe we should then Babylon isn’t necessarily involved in salvation theology. Atheists don’t believe in salvation. For them there is no Heaven or Hell for neither God nor Satan exists in their thinking.

    Furthermore, those who are into paganism usually have a whole raft of other gods that do things for them even though they usually have to appease those gods in some way in order to obtain those favors.

    So to me, then, the whole issue involves more of a concept of replacement. God is being usurped by something else and worship is taken away from Him (Dan 8:11). We can make an idol out of anything including ourselves which is the one thing that you home in on and make a very good point of.

  8. Interesting thoughts Tyler. I agree pretty much with what you have written, except that both EGW and the Bible are clear that Babylon is a religous system, which would not be athiest. However legalism does replace God which would be athiest in a sense. For example evolution is legalism where people think they have evolved themselves instead of being a creation of God.

  9. Thanks William you always enlighten us with new insights of the gospel.

    For Wilson, can you check 1 Cor 6:19.

  10. Dear William,

    I feel that your teaching is (all glory to God, of course) right on! It strikes me that, if these ideas were applied in our approach toward Sabbath keeping, the Samoan (and Tongan) dilemma would be very quickly solved. If anyone wishes to keep up with what is happening in regard to that matter, or to participate in any related discussion, I suggest going to the Sabbath Issues website.

  11. Dear William,
    Thank you very much for the great work of spreading the gospel of our load Jesus Christ. This is the kind of information that is needed especially these end times. Every body should have the chance to hear about the gospel before that time comes.

  12. I have read enough of English-language literature from before 1776 to be satisfied that the working definition of religion was the sum of those beliefs, practices and prohibitions that pertain to a person's concept of the highest powers of the universe.

    The first amendment of the United States constitution specified, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."

    I don't see the reference in my 3-vol. Ellen White index but I think I remember her referring to the minority who opposed the constitutional protection of religious (or / and other) liberty as "conservative".

    After the Bill of Rights was adopted, the conservatives, wanting religious liberty for themselves but unwilling to extend the protection to others, set about defining religion more narrowly. Consult any American English thesaurus or dictionary and you will see religion equated with theism.

    The conservatives of the eighteenth century didn't realize they were shooting themselves in the foot. Their unwillingness to follow the Golden Rule has resulted in decisions that atheism (disguised as science) may be promoted in public (taxpayer-supported) schools and theism may not. To any who would like to obviate that sad state of affairs, I invite you to encourage a more inclusive definition of religion.

    The WAY the first angel's message has often been taught is so contrary to the gospel, it is no surprise to me that many members of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination (and even more of their children) have rejected it.

    I didn't start teaching the first angel's message until I was about 40 because it took me that long to study it for myself. Ever since then, I have taught that Jesus is expunging the records of the sins that have ALREADY BEEN confessed and forgiven--(to use Ellen White's language) sent BEFOREHAND to judgment. (Emphasis mine.) THAT is good news!

    My dad was raised in the Roman Church. When he decided he was a protestant at heart, it was primarily by he rejected the doctrine that the Bible must be interpreted by traditions and Church councils. To me, Babylon is the confusion that result from interpreting the Bible by traditions and Church councils. Some people don't like that way of explaining it because they prefer to interpret the Bible by "Adventist traditions and Church councils".

    I understand the logic of the pioneers in thinking of the sabbath day as the seal of God and Sunday as the mark of the beast but I don't think I ever explained the third angel's message that way. The way I understood Ellen White's comments on the subject was that it is the ENFORCEMENT of a commandment of men that will constitute the mark of the beast. Accordingly, I have taught that it is coercion that constitutes the mark of the beast--whether with regard to religious beliefs, religious practices or religious prohibitions. (I don't usually discuss it but, when asked about it, I answer that I consider the Holy Spirit to be the seal of God.)
    Coercion is what identified the beast for protestants in the sixteenth century and it is the basic principle of Satan's government.

    Roger Metzger


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