Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Some thoughts on the angel flying through the midst of heaven in Revelation 14:6-7

6 And I saw 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,
7 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 fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:6-7)

This scripture has often been used by the Church to back up the idea of the angel Moroni coming to Joseph Smith to tell him the location of the golden plates and communicate the beginning of the great restoring work that Joseph was to do. Also, when we hear it, that is the associated interpretation that we give it.

However, if we were to seriously examine the context of Revelation 14, we would discover that interpretation doesn’t fit.  Consider the very first verse of Revelation 14:

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. (Rev. 14:1)

Oh, look!  According to this verse (which is before the angel flying through heaven), Zion has already been established, there are 144,000 sealed there, and the Lamb is there!  If Zion has already been established, then to say that verses 6-7 represents Moroni at the beginning of the dispensation is to get things completely confused and out of order.

Perhaps the rest of Christendom is confused by Revelation, but we should overcome these errors.  In reality, the order of events in Revelation is fairly straight forward. Except for one interlude-backtrack in Revelation 12 to give context as to the identity of the beast in Revelation 13 as the kingdom of the devil, events in Revelation are pretty linear—seven seals are opened, then seven angels sound trumpets, then six angelic messengers come, then seven plagues…  The counting of things helps add to the feeling of sequence and linearity. 

Why then does the Church use this scripture about an angel flying through the midst of heaven? It might be out of tradition. (Orson Pratt gives a pretty fair sample of how it has been used in Journal of Discourses 17:307.)  It might also use it because it has the advantage of expressing with clarity that the Bible anticipated a future full of angelic ministration of the gospel message. This was important to underline in a day that did not believe there would be any more miracles, spiritual gifts, angelic visits, etc.  (Of course, that unbelief continues today, but adds a secular form.)

But for us, we should not confuse this as the point in Revelation when the gospel is restored, since v1 shows that at that point it is already there.  But this leads us to the question: why then does an angel fly in the midst of heaven declaring the gospel at this part of Revelation?  I have two answers for that. 1) There will be angels when the Lord determines angels are needed to echo or prepare people for the gospel message. Many times angels are preparatory agents before the full message comes. They are a divine poke telling people to pay attention. 2) Also, the prophet and apostles are equipped with power and authority that makes them as angels from God to the rest of the world.  And overall, this tells me that missionary work continues on.

So where does the Restoration actually get represented in Revelation?  I think it happens in Revelation 7:2 as part of the sixth seal, before the 144,000 get sealed in their foreheads. I think it is represented by the angel ascending from the east with the seal of the living God. (I explain it in this post that also talks about Revelation 6-7.) This imagery of the ascending angel is not quite as plain, thus it is particularly difficult to use as part of missionary work. But since Revelation was written specifically for the Saints, we need not be surprised if many fail to comprehend it.

Just as an extra side-note, Joseph Smith gave D&C 133:36-37, which refers to the verses about the angel flying through the midst of heaven.

36 And now, verily saith the Lord, that these things might be known among you, O inhabitants of the earth, I have sent forth mine angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel, who hath appeared unto some and hath committed it unto man, who shall appear unto many that dwell on the earth.
37 And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.  (D&C 133:36-37)

This takes imagery from those verses and adapts it to the Lord’s purpose, which is to announce that the gospel is restored and all should listen, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is still the sequence in Revelation and verses about the Lamb standing with the 144,000 sealed in their foreheads that come before..  It seems the Lord can use well-known scriptures for whatever purpose He deems will get the message across, and even in multiple, similar, non-superseding ways.


sesshuswan said...

What is your reasoning for saying that Michael is Adam? You state it as if it is a foregone conclusion, but most interpretations attribute Michael as Jesus, which to me makes more sense, although I accept that it cannot be certain

Michaela Stephens said...

Hello, sesshuswan, I will refer you to Doctrine & Covenants 107:54-55, a modern revelation.

54 And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

55 And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

Hope this helps, although if you are from a Protestant tradition rather than Latter-day Saint, it will probably open another can of worms for you. Thanks for stopping by.