Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. 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 ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.(Revelation 14:9-12)
The third angel’s message proclaims with a loud cry the last warning to an apostate world to escape the final wrath that God will pour out upon all the disobedient. It contains the most severe warning ever given to humanity against worshiping the beast and his image. It points to the outpouring of the seven last plagues that follow the close of probation, when there is no more mercy because Christ has completed His intercessory ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. God’s judgments upon the human race have always been mixed with mercy; the judgments under the last plagues follow the close of probation after which there is no more mercy.
In the seven last plagues, God’s wrath falls upon humanity without any mercy because of His indignation against a rebellious world that was willing to utterly annihilate His remnant. The angel said,
“You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” (Revelation 16:5,6).
In the context of historicist interpretation of Revelation 13, the first beast represents Roman Catholicism; the image of the beast, apostate Protestantism. The first power has enforced false worship on the world through most of the Christian era; apostate Protestantism will participate in this effort in the very near future, which will be seen in an enforcement of Sunday as the day to worship God on a worldwide scale.
When Sunday worship will be forced on people the final scenes of Revelation 13 will transpire. Those who bow to the pressure and worship according to the laws enacted through the influence of both of these powers will receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands. Consequently, they will be subject to the seven last plagues and will utterly perish.
Just before Christ’s return all non-Christian religions will unite with this apostate Christian coalition against the Remnant Church. At that time Babylon will be a three-fold union, composed of Catholicism, apostate Protestantism, and spiritualism that embraces all other religions, to influence humanity to accept Sunday worship. Under the seventh plague this three-fold apostate union of Babylon will fall apart and perish (Revelation 16:19).
However, before Christ has completed the investigative judgment, the Remnant will give one final invitation to accept God’s mercy—the loud cry of the third angel’s message (Revelation 18:1). It is this final and greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit—the latter rain, that brings about this cry. This is the last and greatest revival and reformation in the history of humanity and also the last invitation of mercy to the world. Those who join this remnant movement receive the seal of the living God from the sealing angel (Revelation 7:1-4) and will be saved from the coming full wrath of God manifested in the seven last plagues (Revelation 15,16).
Our success depends upon our unity. Our efficiency and the power of our influence depends upon our wise and unreserved cooperation with one another and with God. We are to advance the work in new territories, sustaining pure principles at every step. We are to cooperate with the angel that is flying in the midst of heaven [Revelation 14:9-11], who also is in harmony with the two former angels [Revelation 14:6-8] in forwarding the solemn event of the second appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Ellen G. White, Manuscript 177, 1899 in MR 311, 47)
Excerpt from a paper written by Prof. P. Gerard Damsteegt (Andrews University), presented at the 2nd International Bible Conference Izmir, Turkey, July 7-18, 2006