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First Quarter 2019 • January, February, March
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Week 9: February 23–29
COMMENTARY ON "Satan and His Allies"
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.
Sabbath and Sunday
From the lesson:
We must always remember that while these prophecies tell us what will happen at the end, they do not tell us when and exactly how the final events will unfold. We must, therefore, be careful not to speculate beyond what prophecy tells us. Let us not forget that the prophecies of Revelation have practical purposes: to teach us how to live today and to be prepared for the future.
To reduce the Revelation prophecies to nothing more than instruction on how to “live today and to be prepared for the future” is to rob them of their meaning and impact. These prophecies are about actual events that will occur in the future as shown to John by Jesus Himself.
As far as not speculating beyond what prophecy tells us, much of the lesson’s interpretations are just that — speculation in an attempt to insert Adventist theology into endtimes and make the Adventist church and the United States the central focus of endtimes.
Again from the lesson:
The sea symbolizes the largely populated area of Europe out of which the sea beast rises to power after the downfall of the Roman Empire.
This can’t be limited to just Europe as the “sea” is symbolic of masses people, specifically the Gentile nations.
In the Bible, “the land” is used to indicate the land of Israel and “the nations” is used to indicate the Gentile nations.
The lesson points out that the 1,260 days/42 months/3 1/2 years are all the same time period. Beyond that, there is a confused and confusing jumble of assumption that pulls this prophetic period out of the times of the end and tries to shove it into the past in order to prove that it is all about persecution in the past.
While it is true there has always been persecution of God’s people — Israel and the Church — this is talking about the endtimes and as such is not a history lesson.
Today’s lesson is primarily an attempt to force the Roman Catholic Church into the mold of the beast by saying that it’s efforts to place priests between God and believers is what is meant by the blasphemous names on the beast.
While the lesson is correct in its definition of blasphemy, the author is once again trying to force this into history to support the Adventist theory of the 1,260 days in order to ‘prove’ that the Adventist Church is the remnant and that the beginning of the church in 1844 is the fulfillment of prophecy.
But the blasphemous names on the heads of the beast, although present all through history in the devil’s opposition to God and the Lord Jesus Christ, once again is still future for us and is one of the key characteristics of this future political/religious system and the beast who leads those systems.
There are different ways the beast will commit blasphemy:
Question at the end of Monday’s lesson:
When the United States was first identified as the second beast of Revelation 13, it had nowhere near the power and influence it has now. How does this fact help affirm the identification of the United States as the power depicted in this prophecy?
Identifying the United States as the beast is based on the very limited understanding of a relatively uneducated 19th and early 20th century group of people who were unable to admit their error of time-setting and were using the Bible to excuse their mistakes. And by placing themselves into the Bible as the focus of endtimes prophecy, they gave themselves a sense of purpose and importance in history.
So the last sentence of that quote: “How does this fact help affirm the identification of the United States as the power depicted in this prophecy?“ can properly be answered simply by saying — it doesn’t.
From the lesson:
What nation of the New World was in 1798 rising into power, giving promise of strength and greatness, and attracting the attention of the world? The application of the symbol admits of no question. One nation, and only one, meets the specifications of this prophecy; it points unmistakably to the United States of America.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 440.
This quote from Ellen White is the sole source of identifying the second beast as the United States. It is based on the assumption that the United States and the Adventist church are the focus of endtimes prophecy.
But this ignores the fact that in the Bible, everything is Israel-centered. Israel is God’s chosen people, and they and the land of Israel itself are the center of prophecy.
For instance, in Daniel 8:5, the male goat which comes from the west is coming from the west of Israel. And the Kings of the north and south in Daniel 11 were to be found to the north and south of Israel.
History shows that Daniel 11 is foretelling the wars between the King of the north — Syria — against the King of the south — Egypt. Every detail in the first part of that chapter happened exactly as described, but all relative to geographic Israel. The events foretold in the last half of the chapter are still in the future.
So to change the location to mean the United States is to once again ignore the plain words and meaning of Scripture in an effort to make America and the Adventist Church the center of it all. Which, of course, has to be done in order to avoid contradiction of the Adventist “prophet”.
By identifying the ‘lamb-like beast’ as the United States, there is the problem of the miracles and wonders performed by the beast as stated in verses 13 and 14:
He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.
According to these two verses, it is the beast from the earth himself who performs these wonders. But according to the lesson, the beast is a nation. And in verse 15, again it is ‘he’, the beast, who gives breath to the image and makes it seem to be alive. This is the action of a being, not a nation.
The rest of today’s lesson consists of Ellen White quotes to support the idea that the beast from the earth is the United States and that the ‘making of an image’ is the action of Protestant churches forcing people to be like Rome (the Catholic Church).
Now we have the problem of the beast being the United States while simultaneously being Protestant churches who then give life to the image.
So, which is it? A person? A nation? A group of churches?
Of course, this is just the build-up to Thursday’s lesson which, in Adventist theology, is the climax of this line of thought.
The texts given to read are Revelation 13:16, 17 and Deuteronomy 6:4–8 so let’s read them.
And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
Followed by this question:
What does putting the mark on the right hand or the forehead have to do with the commandments of God?
First of all, the two texts chosen aren’t related at all. The one in Deuteronomy is addressed specifically to Israel — but you don’t get that if you proof-text as the lesson author does here. So, go back to the beginning of Deuteronomy 6 and read verses 1-3:
Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
When you read verses 4-8 in context you see that:
The binding on the hand and the forehead, whether it is meant literally or figuratively, refer specifically to the entire body of Law and commands by God given to Israel.
The paragraph starting: “The mark of the beast is not a visible sign …” is pure fabrication and assumption. Because Ellen White said so, it must be true. There is no harm in wondering and speculation as to what the mark may be, but to state it emphatically as fact is to read into the Bible someone’s opinions rather than let the Bible speak for itself.
In the 19th century, no one could even imagine the technology that would allow this mark to be anything but symbolic. Now that we are familiar with biometric chips, computers, electronic banking and the internet, we are able to see the likelihood that this is a description of a literal mark or even a chip like those routinely used today in animals. Those chips not only allow for identification of the animal but can also include all of it’s medical information and history.
So it is no longer just imagination that one group or entity can control everyone’s access to all technology, including the ability to buy and sell. Particularly with the current efforts to move away from physical money and enter the virtual world of finance.
The lesson then goes on to talk about the “central issues in the final conflict” as being the Sabbath; and then refers you to Ezekiel 20:12, 20. If you take the time to read the entire chapter you see in that chapter numerous, specific references to Israel, not the Church. These references include things such as:
This was a message from God to Ezekiel spelling out the failings of the Children of Israel. All of it is specific to Israel, not anyone else. This is the kind of error you get when you replace Israel with the Church and claim all the promises to Israel as something promised to the Church. (By the way, if you claim all the promises to Israel and say they apply to the Church, you have to claim all the curses too. But I have never seen that done!)
All of this is summed up in the quote from the book Evangelism in which Ellen White specifies that the mark is the “papal sabbath”, otherwise known as worshipping on Sunday.
With this authority given as ‘proof’, the lesson author has no choice to go along with that assumption, if, indeed, he ever even thought about it. That same authority is the one who says that the ‘man of sin’ is the pope.
In the 1870’s it may have seemed possible, even likely, that it would all be about the day of worship centered in the United States; but now, in 2019, can you seriously look at the United States of America and the war against conservative, fundamentalist Christianity and seriously believe that this will suddenly change and become a war forcing Sunday worship?
And as far as Ellen White’s assertion that the final conflict will be Protestant America reaching out a hand to the Papal power, (Christian Service, p. 160; Great Controversy, p. 588; Last Day Events, p. 144 — just a few of the places where that claim is made) that reaching out was done in 1977 by the Adventist representative to the World Council of Churches, Bert Beach. He was the Council representative who personally presented a medal to the Pope as a sign of respect. To read about it go here: https://www.sdadefend.com/Defend-foundation/popemedl.htm
Mostly Ellen White quotes sum up the lesson and put the stamp of authenticity to the assumptions made this week.
Interestingly, the author is careful to say that Sunday/Sabbath worship is not yet the test of salvation. So, apparently, in the future, salvation will no longer be based on faith in Jesus but rather on what day a person attends church.
Questions at the end.
While there are clear signs in today’s world that the political system is leading up to a one-world power, the world at large, and the United States in particular, are moving farther and farther away from any supposed fight over a day of worship. Instead, we are getting farther and farther away from any freedom to worship at all. It isn’t here yet, but it is clearly on its way.
2. As we await the end, what should be our attitude toward Christians in other denominations?
If the Adventist Church had a loving attitude towards Christians in other denominations, would they be telling them they would be lost unless they become Adventists? That is a serious, personal attack on other faiths and does northing to get them to listen. Also, a loving attitude would lead to true evangelism — telling people about Jesus — rather than all the talk about beasts and numbers that is the main thrust of most ‘evangelistic’ efforts.
The final two questions:
can best be answered by John 13:34, 35:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Jesus Himself said that we will be known as His disciples by our love for one another. That love doesn’t risk compromising any belief and certainly doesn’t show a superior attitude toward anyone.