On this Sunday we observe the anniversary of the Reformation. And the texts are significantly different.
Instead of an Old Testament text, the First Reading is from the Book of Revelation [14:6-7]. It is an important text when it comes to the Reformation. When Bugenhagen was speaking at the funeral of Luther, he connected Luther to the angel within this text.
This angel is a very special angel. He is flying and 'gospeling' an eternal gospel. Or, if you want to say it a different way, he is evangelizing an 'eternal evangelism'. Either way, you can see some significant emphasis on this special word, EUAGGELION, usually translated as 'gospel'.
That this is a special angel can also be seen in the angel's location. In the ESV, the text says that the angel is flying 'directly overhead'. Literally (and you can see this in some translations), the angel is in 'mid-heaven'. Technically, this angel is not in heaven or on earth.
Why is that significant? I think it is important because the Lamb has just been described as standing on Mount Zion (see 14:1). I cannot think of any other place where one could be 'mid-heaven' than the temple. And on Mount Zion was the temple, and in the temple is where God and man came together. And Jesus had a special bond with that temple.
I mentioned above that this gospel has also been described in a special way in that text--eternal. That is certainly an unusual description; in no other place in the New Testament is it described in that way. I do not think it is a coincidence that the last time the word 'eternal' was used was in describing the length of the reign of Jesus (see 11:15).
When I hear that description of the word 'gospel', I find it distracting when people say that a certain gospel account is the Gospel OF Matthew, etc. This is much bigger than any one person, or even of four people! People die. These men died. And these four men basically wanted their writings to be anonymous. An account is better described as 'The Gospel ACCORDING to....' There is one gospel, and it is an amazing thing, and we get to have four different perspectives on it. It is better to connect that word to the Lord, and the Lord is certainly eternal.
Very few things are eternal. Sometimes people like to exaggerate and say that something is going to last 'forever'. But very few people say that things are going to last 'eternally'.
This may be a good time to reiterate that the word 'gospel' is also an Old Testament word. It is a word that was used when there was important news to be delivered. Usually it was put in place by a king or someone with great authority. The first time it is used is 1 Samuel 4:17. There is a man that brings the news of a defeat to Eli, the guy in charge, and the man is described as 'He who brought the news....'
Obviously that was NOT good news in 1 Samuel 4, but it certainly was important news. And a king wants to know the important news, and he sometimes has important news of his own.
The four parts of the message of the angel in Revelation could all be connected to the importance of a king. The angel said (with a loud voice): 'Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him....'
One should obviously fear a king. He has the power to get of the people that he wants to get rid of. You can see that happened in the Old Testament sometimes. And a king's throne was a symbol of his authority and glory. He obviously had a nice place to sit, and this thing he sat on would show his glory. The king may also serve as a judge. If you want to check out the wisdom of King Solomon as a judge sometime, read 1 Kings 3:16-28. And the word 'worship' literally means to bend the knee toward. That is what was usually done before a king.
The words of that angel do not sound like 'gospel' right away, but they do fit with the message of the most important King of all time. He is the King that is reigning eternally. And he has an eternal gospel, like he is eternal. And that Gospel is very important, like he is important.
It is also interesting that this special angel is evangelizing or 'gospelling' upon the ones SITTING on earth (the ESV says those who 'dwell' on earth). What a great reversal! God is certainly the King. He is eternal and has an eternal gospel. He deserves to be the one sitting. And yet, some people who are kings are the ones who are sitting.
An even greater reversal happened on the cross. We should be there, being punished for our sins. We end up doing a lot of sitting around, thinking that we are great, and we often pretend that we are the king of something. (The soldiers sat around while they guarded--literally 'kept'--Jesus; see Matthew 27:36). Jesus, the Lamb, was in his temple, on that cross, paying the price for us.
God certainly knows how to make his goodness overflow. That is an important message you do not hear from the world. That is the eternal God's eternal 'good news'.
Some of Luther's last words were, 'We are beggars.' This is most certainly true.