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First Quarter 2019 • January, February, March
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Week 8: February 16–22
COMMENTARY ON "Satan, A Defeated Enemy"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Now the lesson turns to Revelation 12. This chapter is another interlude, inserted into the end-times narrative to describe things that have been done and are being done behind the scenes. It is given from heaven’s perspective.
Remember that everything from Chapter 6 onward is what takes place “after these things”, or the Church age. Only these interludes step out of the specific time-line to give an overview from Heaven’s perspective.
Chapter 12 is a general overview of the work of the devil from the beginning, the time of his rebellion in heaven, to the end of the Tribulation.
So, let’s proceed.
From the lesson:
Revelation 12–14 prepares us for the last-day events section of the book (Rev. 15:1–22:21).
As Revelation 4:1 states, however, that everything from that point on is the end-times. It isn’t just repeating the description of the Church age but rather it is after that age, what the lesson calls “last-day events”.
From the lesson:
The woman in Revelation 12 first symbolizes Israel, to whom the Messiah came (Rev. 12:1–5); in verses 13–17 she stands for the true church that gives birth to the remnant.
The woman is widely and uniformly understood to be Israel, and the Child is Jesus who was born in— came out of — Israel. To change the meaning starting in verse 13 is a blatant attempt to insert the Church, particularly the Adventist church, into Revelation; but this switch in meaning is total distortion and a grievous twisting of Scripture. Remember, to get the true meaning of the Bible, it must be taken literally unless the context clearly indicates symbolism.
In verse 13, it says “the woman who gave birth to the male child” (Jesus). There is no context in which to remove Israel as the woman and insert the Church, and to do so is, once again, a total distortion of the text. This kind of distortion gives rise to serious error in understanding what is said and in no way is it following the charge given in 2 Timothy 2:15:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
Monday and Tuesday
From the lesson:
Satan was cast out of heaven at the beginning of the great controversy, when he rebelled against God’s government. He wanted to seize God’s throne in heaven and be “like the most High” (Isa. 14:12–15). He stood in open revolt against God but was defeated and exiled on earth.
Here, not only is there an un-biblical idea, that of the supposed Great Controversy, inserted here to give it legitimacy, but the end of the quote is not what we are told in the Bible.
Here in the lesson, we have an excellent example of the twisting of Scripture that can happen when you use proof-texts and simply use selected verses to support a narrative while ignoring those that would contradict that narrative.
First, in Job 1:6 we read:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
Here, Satan is clearly presenting himself in heaven at the meeting, so he is not completely “exiled on earth”.
Then, continuing the narrative of Job, in Chapter 2:1,2 we read:
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
Obviously, at the time, long after the fall, Satan has at least limited access to heaven and can accuse us before God as seen in Revelation 12:10 where the devil is described as:
he who accuses them before our God day and night
Then, at approximately the middle of the Tribulation, in Revelation 12:7-12 we read:
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.
Once again, we see the devil accusing us before God and then being cast down to earth. This is a description of what happens just before the Great Tribulation, the last 1,260 days, also called 42 months and 3 1/2 years (a time, times and half a time).
Before this, the devil had at least limited access to God to accuse us before Him. But after this, he is thrown down, and we are told:
Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.
Now, he has only a short time while up until this time, there is no indication of any shortness of his time to accuse us before God.
Then, once he is thrown down and confined to earth, we see in verse 13:
And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
In verses 5 and 6 it is already clear that the “woman who gave birth to the male child” (Jesus), is Israel, not the church, the remnant. To suddenly change that from Israel to the Church is not even slightly suggested in the text as a possibility. This is apparently done to once again insert the Church into the text when it is talking about Satan’s wrath against Israel and his attempts to destroy them.
From the lesson:
By His death, Jesus redeemed what was lost, and Satan’s true character was revealed before the universe.
By Jesus’ death He paid the price for our sins, but it was by His resurrection that He conquered death and redeemed us from the power of death.
Also, the idea that Satan’s true character was revealed before the universe is simply an un-Biblical attempt to give authenticity to the supposed Great Controversy theme.
Satan’s “true character” was revealed by his wish to become just like God and was further revealed by his lies to Eve in the garden. There are only extra-Biblical sources to support the notion that the whole universe is watching.
From the lesson:
Think of how long the persecution here lasted: 1,260 years. What should this great duration tell us about how limited we are in understanding why things, such as the return of Christ, seem to be taking so long, at least from our perspective?
Going back to Tuesday in Lesson 7 we see this statement:
Since in Daniel and Revelation a prophetic “day” symbolizes a year (Num. 14:34, Ezek. 4:6), 360 “days” equal 360 years, and three and a half times (or “years”) equals 1,260 “days” or years
First, let’s look at those texts. Numbers 14:34:
According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition.
This is used to support the idea that prophetic days are always meant as years, but all this text tells us is that God was giving them one year of punishment for every day that they saw the land but didn’t believe God’s promises. This isn’t prophetic of anything but their punishment, and it does not indicate any supposed Biblical claim that prophetic days always mean years.
Next, Ezekiel, but we will back up to include verse 5 as well:
For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity, three hundred and ninety days; thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah; I have assigned it to you for forty days, a day for each year.”
Once again, God is announcing punishment for Israel’s apostasy and is telling the prophet Ezekiel to indicate to the people how long their punishment will last by having him lay down for one day for each year they will suffer.
Again, there is no statement or even hint that this is a formula that applies to every instance of “day” in prophecy.
As Adventists, we have all been familiar with the ‘year-for-a-day’ principle that is used to twist, stretch and re-write the Bible in order to prove that the Adventist Church is in the Bible and is the remnant that has God’s special blessing.
This idea is continued in the lesson by this:
However, the church finds divine protection in the desolate, wilderness places of the earth during the prophetic period of 1,260 days/years.
Both time periods refer to the duration of the little horn’s persecuting activity mentioned in Daniel 7:23–25. In the Bible, prophetic days symbolize years. The time in history that fits this prophetic period is a.d. 538–1798, during which time the Roman Catholic church, as a church-state power, dominated the Western world until 1798, when Napolean’s General Berthier brought Rome’s oppressive power to an end, at least temporarily.
Having thus re-written Scripture to insert the Church, (and conversely to remove Israel from its place of importance), we find this statement that quite neatly sums up the transposition of Israel and the Church by saying that it is the Church that is threatened by the dragon:
During this long period of persecution, the dragon spews flooding waters out of his mouth in order to destroy the woman. Waters represent peoples and nations (Rev. 17:15).
This is further explained by the next paragraph in the lesson which pulls Revelation 12:15-17 out of the time of the Great Tribulation and puts it into history, and also to insert the United States into the story:
Armies and nations were sent by Rome against God’s faithful people during this time. Near the end of this prophetic period, a friendly earth swallows the waters and saves the woman, providing a safe haven for her. This provision points to the refuge that America, with its religious freedom, supplied (Rev. 12:16).
Again, this is what happens with proof-texting and isolating texts from their context. Which is what usually happens when you start with your conclusion and work backwards to ‘prove’ that conclusion, ignoring anything that doesn’t fit.
From today’s lesson we see a continuation of the removal of Israel and the insertion of the Adventist Church — also designated as the remnant — into prophecy:
While the majority of people in the world side with Satan at the end of time, a group of people whom God raised up after 1798 will remain faithful to Christ in the face of Satan’s full fury.
Look back at Revelation 2-3 which is about the Church Age. Then look at the first verse of Chapter 4 which sets the rest of the book as happening “after these things”, i.e. the Church Age.
This is now about the time after the Church age; this is variously called:
In each and every reference, the terms are strictly Jewish and most of them name Judah and/or Israel by name. This is clearly not about the Church but rather, according to the Bible, it is the time after the Church Age when God turns His attention back to Israel to bring them back to Him.
From the lesson, these two statements:
What are the two characteristics of the remnant in Revelation 12:17? How can one be sure that he or she belongs to God’s end-time remnant?
The end-time remnant keeps God’s commandments.
There are several problems here with removing Israel and inserting the Church. First, the Bible refers to the ‘remnant’ in Jewish terms. For instance in Amos 5:14, 15
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; And thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you,
Just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
This leads to a problem with the question: “How can one be sure that he or she belongs to God’s end-time remnant?”
To be part of God’s ‘remnant’, one would have to be Jewish and living on the earth during the Tribulation. According to Revelation it’s coming, but it’s not here yet.
Not only is this question assuming things that don’t square with the Bible — specifically the identity of the remnant, it is also an example of the uncertainty built into Adventist theology about the assurance of salvation.
Revelation 12:17 identifies the remnant this way:
So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
We see here:
Adventist theology loves this phrase and claims that the ‘commandments’ are the 10 Commandments. This is shown by the statement in the lesson:
Revelation 13 shows that the first tablet of the Decalogue will be central to the end-time conflict.
The problem with that is that every time John refers to The Law (which includes the 10 Commandments) he uses the Greek word ‘nomos’.
When he refers to the commands of Jesus, he uses the word ‘entole’. They are not the same thing and don’t refer to the same thing.
In Revelation 12:17, he uses the word ‘entole’, not ‘nomos’ so clearly he is not referring to The Law (which, again for Adventists always means the 10 Commandments).
A much more serious error is stated in the lesson here:
Also, the end-time remnant’s second characteristic is that they “have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” which Revelation 19:10 (NKJV) explains is “ ‘the spirit of prophecy.’ ” By comparing this verse with Revelation 22:9, we see that John’s “brethren” who have the testimony of Jesus are prophets. Therefore, “the testimony of Jesus” refers to Jesus testifying to the truth through His prophets, just as He did through John (Rev. 1:2).
Revelation shows that at the time of the end, God’s people will have the “spirit of prophecy” in their midst to guide them through those difficult times, as Satan will make every effort to deceive and destroy them. As Adventists, we have been given that gift of prophetic insight in the ministry and writings of Ellen G. White.
Here, Ellen White’s supposed prophetic gift is inserted directly into the Bible in complete, blasphemous contradiction to the Bible which says in Revelation 19:10 :
Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
And the first words of Revelation 1:1 identify the message of the entire book as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”.
To call the words of anyone else by the term describing Jesus is to equate those words, and that person, with the person of Jesus Himself.
This outrageous statement is followed by:
What do you see as some of the most incredible insights we have been given through “the spirit of prophecy”? What obligations does this gift put on us, individually and as a church?
I would describe many of those ‘incredible insights’ as things that change, re-write, twist, add to and take away from the Bible. Ironically, given this quarter’s study, those are the very things condemned in Revelation 18:18, 19:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
From the lesson:
This shift in Satan’s strategy corresponds to the transition from a historical to an end-time focus (see Matt. 24:24).
This neatly covers up the lesson’s gross distortion of the message of Revelation by arbitrarily inserting a supposed change in the timeline focus and sets the stage for explaining the rest of the book in its correct context — the future.
Much of the rest of today’s lesson deals with Satan’s end-time deception but once again inserts Ellen White’s identification of the beasts:
Throughout the rest of the book, the members of this satanic triad—paganism/spiritualism as symbolized by the dragon; Roman Catholicism, symbolized by the sea beast; and apostate Protestantism, symbolized by the lamblike, or earth beast—are inseparably united in opposing God’s activities in the world.
This inserts the United States into the scenario as the lamb-like beast, along with Roman Catholicism as the evil sea beast.
One problem with that is the description of the destination of the dragon, the false prophet and the beast:
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
Just as with salvation, so our eternal destination — whether eternal life or eternal punishment — are individual, not corporate. To use Ellen White’s definition of the “satanic triad” as groups, churches or demonic belief systems to is say that those groups will be thrown into the lake of fire, rather than individuals.
From the lesson:
For God’s people, hope can be found only in the One who in the past has victoriously defeated Satan and his demonic forces.
This is very true and a wonderful statement of our only Hope. But then it is followed by this:
And He has promised to be with His faithful followers “ ‘always, even to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:20, NKJV).
In the interest of consistency, how can you take hope in Jesus’ promise to be with us to the end while simultaneously believing in the Investigative Judgment — a time in which Jesus will supposedly stop advocating on our behalf and will leave us to stand before God without an intercessor? That would be the very definition of leaving us, not that of being with us to the end.
To finish, I want to address some of the questions at the end of the lesson.
1. As Seventh-day Adventists, we see ourselves as fulfilling the characteristics of the end-time remnant. What a privilege! Also, what a responsibility! (See Luke 12:48.) Why must we be careful, however, not to think that this role guarantees our own personal salvation?
To say that Adventists are that end-time remnant is to say that they are 1. Jews and 2. are already in the Great Tribulation, not still in the Church Age.
We talk altogether too much about the power of Satan. It is true that Satan is a powerful being; but I thank God for a mighty Saviour, who cast the evil one from heaven.
We talk of our adversary, we pray about him, we think of him; and he looms up greater and greater in our imagination. Now why not talk of Jesus? Why not think of his power and his love? Satan is pleased to have us magnify his power. Hold up Jesus, meditate upon him, and by beholding, you will become changed into his image.”—Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 19, 1889.
This quote from Ellen White is interesting in light of the fact that Adventists deny that there is an eternal Hell and ignore the fact that Jesus talked about hell much more than He ever talked about Heaven.
This obsession with Satan is a reflection of the lack of faith in the saving power of Jesus or the assurance the Bible repeatedly gives of our certainty of that salvation.
When you focus on the bad, you can’t be assured of the good. She is right, in the last sentence of that quote, that we are to focus on Him, but to say that that ‘beholding’ is what will change us into His image is a distortion of the truth. The clear implication in that is that by beholding, we are able to change ourselves.
But that change — sanctification — is the work of the Holy Spirit, not our work, and no amount of ‘beholding’ Jesus accomplishes that. It is our faith in Jesus and His promises that saves us and opens us up to the work of the Holy Spirit who is sealed in us from the moment we believe. The Spirit is then able to work in us to change us.
The visible results of that change are seen in the fruit of the Spirit — Galatians 5:22, 23. Notice that this fruit is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of our “beholding Jesus” and becoming more like Him.
This admonition to “behold” in order to be “changed into His image” is apparently a result of the Adventist belief that salvation is just a matter of mental assent to the gospel, rather than a matter of faith. And the Adventist belief that, according to Ellen White, we must be “without spot or wrinkle” (quoted from SDA Bible Commentary, vol 7, p 969 and RH April 19, 1870, par. 10 to list just a few).
Every time I think of it, I thank God again that He saved me and sealed me permanently from the moment I believed. I thank Him that He is the one making me more like Jesus as I know I don’t have that ability. I thank Him for His promise to be with me forever and never leave me to stand alone. I thank the Holy Spirit for keeping me hungry for His Word and for teaching me truth. Also for releasing me from bondage to non-Biblical heresy and the accompanying fear of losing Him if I don’t measure up.