Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes to His lesson manuscript on Rev 12

This week lesson has undergone some significant changes. Some changes significantly altered the points that were underscored in the original manuscript.

In the introductory Sabbath Afternoon lesson, some editorials have improved the text, while some have not. The opening sentence in the original manuscript: “Revelation 12 begins the eschatological section of the book” was changed into “Revelation 12-14 prepares us for the last-day events section of the book” (Rev 15:1-22:21). This change was done for the purpose of harmonizing this with the change of the structure of Revelation that was made in the introduction of the Quarterly. Does this mean that Rev 13:12-18 and 14:1-20 are not the end-time events?

In the Sunday lesson, some changes, although not enormous, are significant. For instance, the last words in the first sentence in the original manuscript: “A woman in the Bible is used as a symbol for the church (2 Cor. 11:2): a chaste woman stands for God’s faithful people while a prostitute stands for the apostate” were changed into “for apostate Christians.” This is true about the NT. What about apostate Israelites in the OT? Also, the sentence that is inserted in the middle of the last paragraph: “Revelation also uses the dragon, described as “having seven heads and ten horns,” as a symbol of those agents in the world used by Satan—pagan Rome (Rev. 12:4) and spiritualism (Rev. 16:13)” can, in my view, hardly be justified by the evidence from Revelation. The same assertion is repeated in the last paragraph of the Sunday lesson.

The Monday lesson was significantly rewritten and changed. It is upon each one of us to determine if those changes are justifiable.

In the Wednesday lesson, the first two paragraphs from the original manuscript are omitted.

In the Thursday lesson, some changes were made in the first paragraph. So also, in the last paragraph, the most significant of which is the removal of the sentence: “This satanic triumvirate stands as the antithesis to the Trinity of the Godhead (Rev. 1:4-6)” from the original manuscript. The rest of the paragraphs has been rewritten. For better? Possibly.

Lesson 8 * February 16-22

Satan, a Defeated Enemy

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 12:1-17; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 14:12-15; John 12:31-32.
Memory Text: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11, NKJV).
Revelation 12 begins the eschatological section of the book. While the first half of the book describes the spiritual struggles of the church in a hostile world throughout the Christian era, the second half focuses on the events leading up to the Second Coming and the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom.
The purpose of chapter 12 is to give us the big picture behind the final crisis of this world’s history. It tells us that the end-time events are a part of the ongoing great cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan. They are a part of Satan’s unending and enduring attempt to overthrow God’s governance and set himself up as ruler over the earth.
In the book of Revelation Satan is the archenemy of God and His people. He is not an imaginary figure. His existence is real, and he stands behind all evil and rebellion in the world. He knows that his last chance to succeed against God is to win the final battle, which is in revelation referred to as the battle of Armageddon. So, he focuses all his efforts on preparing for that event.
The vision of Revelation 12 is intended to provide God’s people with an assurance that Satan is a defeated foe. The same Christ who defeated Satan during his earthly ministry, on the cross, and after His ascension at His enthronement in heaven, will also defeat him at the time of the end. Therefore, only hope for God’s end-time people is found in Christ.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 24.
Sunday February 17
The Woman and the Dragon
Read Revelation 12:1-4. John observed in vision two great symbolic signs, the first of which is a woman pregnant with a child. What are some things that are notable in the description of this remarkable woman?
A woman in the Bible is used as a symbol for the church (2 Cor. 11:2): a chaste woman stands for God’s faithful people while a prostitute stands for the apostate. In Revelation 12, the woman first symbolizes Old Testament Israel bringing the Messiah into the world (vs. 1-5); in verses 13-17, she stands for the Christian church.
The woman is portrayed as clothed with the sun and standing firmly on the moon. The sun in the Bible represents the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6). The moon, as a reflection of the sun, points to the Old Testament promises foreshadowing the gospel.
In Revelation 12:1, the church is presented as standing on the Old Testament. What does this text teach us of the importance of the Old Testament Christians?
The next symbolic sign John observed in the vision was a red monstrous dragon. The dragon is later on identified as the Devil and Satan, the serpent of old (v. 9). The text says that his tail dragged a third of the stars from heaven down to the earth. The tail is a symbolic instrument of deception (Isa. 9:14-15; Rev. 9:10). Having fallen from his exalted position in heaven (Isa. 14:12-15), Satan was able to seduce a great number of the heavenly angels, who became evil spirits (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) and have also become his associates in opposing God and his work of salvation throughout the history of the great controversy.
Read Revelation 12:1-5. The dragon is identified as the “serpent of old” (see Rev. 12:9). What connection do you see between Genesis 3:15 and the scene of the ancient serpent waiting by the pregnant woman for the child to be born in order to destroy Him?
Satan was waiting for the Messiah-child to be born since Genesis 3:15 in order to destroy Him. The whole scene concludes with snapshot pictures: the Messiah child is finally born, the dragon was not able to destroy Him, and the child was “caught up to God and His throne.”
According to Revelation 12:11, how are God’s people able to overcome Satan in their lives? How does the victory of Jesus over Satan provide you with comfort in your spiritual struggles with sin?

Monday February 18
Satan’s Permanent Expulsion from Heaven
Read Revelation 12:7-9. Revelation 12:5 tells that following Jesus’ ascension to God’s throne—which refers to His enthronement—a war broke out in heaven. What was the nature of that war that resulted in Satan’s definite expulsion from heaven?
Satan was first time expelled from heaven at the beginning of the great controversy, when rebelled against God’s government. He wanted to seize the throne in heaven and to be “like the Most High” (Isa. 14:12-15). He stood in open revolt against God, but was defeated and subsequently cast down to earth. By deceiving the first human couple, he usurped the rule over this world (Luke 4:6). As the ruler of this world (John 12:31), he had access to heaven to attend the heavenly council as a representative of the earth (Job 1:6-12).
However, the situation changed after the cross. By His death, Jesus redeemed what was lost and Satan’s true character was revealed before the universe. Revelation 5 shows that, after His ascension into heaven, Jesus was exalted to the heavenly throne. Before the whole universe, the rule over the earth was transferred from Satan to Him and He was proclaimed the legitimate ruler over the earth (Eph. 1:21-22; 1 Pet. 3:22).
The context of Jesus’ enthronement is the context in which the war in Revelation 12 takes place. Satan met the transfer of power and authority with great opposition. It was then that he and his associates were once again, but this time permanently, expelled from heaven. Jesus foretold this event saying: “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31).
Read Revelation 12:10-12, which describes the reaction of heaven to Satan’s expulsion. What significance does Satan’s expulsion have for God’s rule, Satan’s existence, and for the people on earth?
With Satan’s expulsion, “the salvation and strength and kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come” (Rev. 12:10). Since then, Satan and his fallen angels have been confined to the earth as a prison, until they receive their punishment (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). Satan no longer has access to the heavenly courts to bring accusation against God’s people. Yet, He still has limited power to harm God’s people on earth, but with a realization that “he has a short time left” (Rev. 12:12).
How to understand Satan’s realization that he had a short time left, in light of the fact that his expulsion from heaven occurred almost two thousands years ago?

Tuesday February 19
The War on Earth
Read also Revelation 12:13-14. Having realized that he has been expelled from heaven, Satan continues his attack on the church during the prophetic 1,260 days? How was God involved with the church during that period?
“The casting down of Satan as an accuser of the brethren in heaven was accomplished by the great work of Christ in giving up His life. Notwithstanding Satan’s persistent opposition, the plan of redemption was being carried out. . . . Satan, knowing that the empire he had usurped would in the end be wrested from him, determined to spare no pains to destroy as many as possible of the creatures whom God had created in His image. He hated man because Christ had manifested for him such forgiving love and pity, and he now prepared to practice upon him every species of deception by which he might be lost; he pursued his course with more energy because of his own hopeless condition.”—Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, pp. 194-195.
With Christ’s ascension to heaven, Satan’s access to heaven ended. Yet, he continues his activities on earth by pouring his fury against the great object of Christ’s love on earth —the church. However, the church finds divine protection in the desert during the prophetic period of 1,260 days waiting for the return of Christ.
The period of Satan’s persecution is mentioned twice in Revelation 12 in terms of 1,260 days (v. 6) and “a time, times, and half a time” (v. 14 NKJV). They both refer to the period of the activities of the little horn mentioned in Daniel 7:23-25. In the Bible, prophetic days symbolize years. The time in history which best fits this prophetic period is A.D 538-1798 during which the church as an ecclesiastical power dominated the western world until the events of the French Revolution brought the church’s oppressive power to an end.
At the conclusion of the prophetic period of the woman in the wilderness, Satan makes a renewed attack to destroy the church. The dragon spews out of his mouth flooding waters in order to destroy the woman. A flood in the Bible is frequently a symbol for persecution (Isa. 59:19). At this point, a friendly earth swallows the waters and saves the woman and provides a safe haven for her.
The earth here appears a new player in the scene at the conclusion of the prophetic 1,260 days. What territory in modern history fits the characteristics of the earth in Revelation 12:13-16? How did the earth help the woman?

Wednesday February 20
Satan Prepares for War Against the Remnant
Revelation 12:7-12 explains the reason(s) for Satan’s rage at the time of the end: he has realized that (a) he was not strong enough against God; (b) he has lost his rule over this world; (c) he no longer has access to heaven, and (d) he has only a short time left. Now, he focuses on his last chance to overthrow God’s government.
Revelation 12:17 is a dual-directional text: it both concludes chapter 12 and introduces what comes next in the book. It tells us that the focus of the following chapters is on Satan’s preparation for the final war against the end-time remnant.
Read Revelation 12:17. At the end-time, why does Satan wage war against the remnant, not against the woman?
The term “rest’ or remanant” describes those who remain faithful to God while the majority apostatize (1 Kings 19:18; Rev. 2:24). At the end of time, as the majority of people in the world side with Satan, there will be a people who remain faithful to Christ and who will face Satan’s full fury.
In your words, what are the two characteristics of the remnant in Revelation 12:17? How can one be convinced that he/she belongs to God’s end-time remnant?
The end-time remnant keeps God’s commandments. Revelation 13 shows that the first tablet of the Decalogue will be central to the end-time conflict. The key component of the first four commandments is worship. The main issue in the final crisis is who should be worshipped. While the people in the world will choose to worship the image of the beast, the remnant will worship God the Creator (Rev. 14:7).
The end-time remnant’s second characteristic is that they “have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” which Revelation 19:10 explains as “the spirit of prophecy.” In John’s day, the expression “the spirit of prophecy” meant the gift of prophecy. The phrase “the testimony of Jesus” refers to Jesus bearing His witness through the gift of prophecy, just as He did through John (Rev. 1:2). Revelation shows that, at the time of the end, God’s people will have the prophetic gift in their midst, to guide them through those difficult times as Satan will make every effort to deceive and destroy them.
Revelation 12:17 states that the climax of the final events will be a war between the forces of evil and God and His faithful people. Can you imagine yourself in an outbreak of war? How would this impact your present life as well as your plans for the future?

Thursday February 21
Satan’s End-Time Strategy
Revelation 12:17 marks a shift in Satan’s strategy as he tries to win the people of the world, and even to deceive Christ’s faithful followers. Throughout Christian history he has tried to prevent God’s work of salvation primarily by means of coercion and persecution. History shows that this strategy was not completely successful. However, in preparing for the final attack against the end-time remnant, Satan changes his main strategy from coercion to deception. This shift in Satan’s strategy corresponds to the transition from a historical to an end-time focus.
It is significant that the word “deceive” does not occur at all in the historical section of Revelation (chaps. 4-11). However, it is used regularly in the eschatological section (chaps. 12-20) describing Satan’s end-time activities in preparation for the final battle. The word “deceive” begins (12:9) and concludes (20:7-10) the description of Satan’s end-time activities in Revelation.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 along with Revelation 13:13-14 and 19:20. What is the nature of the end-time deception?
“In the great final conflict, Satan will employ the same policy, manifest the same spirit, and work for the same end, as in all preceding ages. That which has been, will be, except that the coming struggle will be marked with a terrible intensity such as the world has never witnessed. Satan’s deceptions will be more subtle, his assaults more determined. If it were possible, he would lead astray the elect. Mark 13:22, R.V.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. xi.
Revelation 13-20 portrays Satan who, in endeavoring to win the world’s allegiance, launches a great counterfeit of the true God and His salvific activities in the world. In Revelation 13, a triune league is formed between the dragon and his two allies: the sea beast (13:1-10) and the earth beast (13:11-18). This satanic triumvirate stands as the antithesis to the Trinity of the Godhead (Rev. 1:4-6). Throughout the rest of the book, the members of this satanic triad are inseparably united in opposing God’s activities in the world and deceiving people to turn them away from God to side with Satan in the final crisis (Rev. 16:13-14; 19:20; 20:10). Revelation shows that the end-time deception will be so great that most of the people in the world will be seduced.
Twice in Revelation a call is made for wisdom and spiritual discernment in order to discern and withstand the deceptive nature of Satan’s end time activities (13:18; 17:9). What kind of wisdom is in view here? According to James 1:5, how can we obtain that wisdom?

Friday February 22
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Snares of Satan,” pp. 518-530, in The Great Controversy.
The purpose of Revelation 12 is, first of all, to tell God’s people that the end-time events are a part of the great conflict between Christ and Satan and his demonic forces. The book warns them that they are facing today and are about to confront soon in the future an experienced and furious enemy. Paul warns us of the end-time activity “of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:9-10, NKJV).
The portrayal of the end-time events in Revelation is bizarre and frightening. Revelation urges us to take the future seriously and make our dependence on God our priority. On the other side, Revelation assures us that although Satan is strong and an experienced enemy, he is not strong enough to overcome Christ (12:8, as the Greek text indicates). For God’s people, hope can only be found in the One who has in the past victoriously defeated Satan and his demonic forces. And He has promised to be with his faithful followers “always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Discussion Questions:
Seventh-day Adventists claim to fulfill the characteristics of the end-time remnant? Should our self-understanding as the remnant give us the right to look down on other Christians? Does it imply that Adventists alone will be saved? Is salvation secured by the church membership?
Although God’s people face an experienced adversary, Revelation 12 assures them that Satan and his demonic forces are already defeated. What difference does it make to know that Satan is a defeated enemy?
Contemplate the following statement: “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 Savior, 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, Review and Herald, March 19, 1889. In what way do Christians magnify Satan’s power?

4 thoughts on “Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes to His lesson manuscript on Rev 12

  1. VIRGINIA DAVIDSON

    I’m fascinated to read your original manuscript, and learn of the editorial changes to your work. Having suffered an editor myself [particularly in the first version of “Proverbs: Wisdom to Live By” / 4Q1991], I resonate with the need to share what you *really* meant.

    Thank you so much! I’ll be hunting for more of the lessons from your “pen”!

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Greetings to a fellow sufferer! Actually, I have gotten away pretty light, the edits through the years have been fairly light on my material. But I thought that publishing these changes will be helpful and my relationship with Cliff and others at the GC means they won’t assume I am trying to make them look bad, just trying to be helpful. I talked Ranko into joining me in this, he was worried about it at first, but is now glad that people are able to know.

      Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      The role of the editor is to safeguard the doctrinal soundness of the text and make sure it is reasonably clear. As a further safeguard, the editor is guided by two committees, one of about 25 people and the other of about 260 people. In the process changes will happen, whether or not they are good! But in all the process is wise, even if it sometimes “dumbs things down” to the lowest common denominator. On this occasion, it seems that after the 25 and the 250 approved the lessons, someone “higher” stepped in at the last minute and made further changes. That was an object of concern as due process is extremely important in a 20 million member organization.

      Reply

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