The first angel has a message of good news even although the Day of Judgement is about to happen. This is a reminder that sinners will be saved even shortly before Jesus returns. Who is this message of hope designed for? We see from verse 6 that it is for everyone. Here is evidence that the Lord is not willing that any should perish.
The account focuses on the required response rather than on the contents of the message. All that is said about the message is that it is everlasting, which could mean that it is changeless or that it deals with eternal matters. We are also told how the angel announced it – he did so loudly, which is an obvious reminder that God wants everyone to hear the gospel.
What does the angel tell people to do? First, they must turn to God. They must reverence him, show him the honour that he requires, and praise him because he is a God who judges sinners. Second, they worship because of his greatness which is seen in the ways that he is the Creator of everything. This is similar to the messages that Paul preached at Lystra (Acts 14:15) and Athens (Acts 17:24-27).
The message of the second angel is that the earthly system, summarised here as Babylon the great, has fallen. Later chapters in the book go into the significance of Babylon in more detail. It is sufficient to recognise here that she symbolises what the people of the earth trust in. Babylon covers everything that takes people away from worshipping God – it is the city that is against him. We should note that it affects every nation, which means that it describes the alternatives to the gospel that is also declared to all nations. Sadly, what Babylon provides seems sweet (wine), but it stupefies people and prevents them from seeing the danger they are facing. Imagine the devastation that people will feel when what they trusted in turns out to be false.
The third angel refers to the image of the beast mentioned in the previous chapter. We noticed when looking at that chapter that the situation described illustrates how the political and the religious powers combine to attack the kingdom of Jesus. What will happen to those who chose to side with them rather than with Christ?
In these verses, we have an awful description of a lost eternity. It will involve drinking the full amount of divine anger, of experiencing indescribable torment, and of never having a moment’s rest in eternity. We should note where Jesus is here – he will administer the judgement. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians that Jesus will take vengeance on them that know not God. The intensity and extent of the judgement shows to us the seriousness of sinning against God.
John then applies the three messages to the believers he knew as well as to believers in subsequent times. His application includes an exhortation to and a description of true believers. The exhortation is to keep going, because whatever difficulties they might face as believers, there is a great reward for them.