I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (March 3-9) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases this week. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. These comments are made in relation to the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.
GOD’S EVERLASTING GOSPEL
Part I: Overview
Focus of the Lesson: Rev. 14:7.
Study Focus: Revelation fourteen elaborates on the remnant’s side of the war with the dragon as announced in Rev. 12:17.
Introduction: In Revelation fourteen, the remnant re-appears as the 144,000, who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:1-5). This is followed by the most famous of all Bible passages to Seventh-day Adventists, the Three Angel’s Messages (Rev. 14:6-13). The chapter concludes with a symbolic representation of the Second Coming of Jesus and the respective harvests of the saints and the wicked that accompany it (Rev. 14:14-20). The lesson for this week focuses primarily on the Three Angel’s Messages.
Lesson Themes: The lesson and the focus passage introduce the following themes:
1. The Remnant and the 144,000. These turn out to be two different names for the same group.
2. The “Fear” of God. It’s not what it sounds like.
3. The Central Issue of Rev. 13 and 14: Worship. The word worship appears eight times at crucial points of the narrative.
4. How Is Judgment Related to the Gospel (Rev 14:6-7)? The language of judgment is used in three different ways in the NT.
5. Rev. 13-14 and the First Table of the Ten Commandments. There are multiple references to the first four of the Ten Commandments in Rev. 13-14.
6. The First Angel and the Fourth Commandment.
Life Application. The Life Application section explores 1) the relevance of judgment and 2) the relevance of the seventh-day Sabbath in today’s world.
Part II. Commentary
The fourteenth chapter of Revelation elaborates on the remnant’s side of the final battle introduced in Rev. 12:17. The remnant is described (14:1-5), its message is presented (14:6-13) and the outcome of the battle is outlined in symbolic language (14:14-20).
Main Themes of Lesson 10 Elaborated:
1. The Remnant and the 144,000. God’s faithful ones are called “remnant” in 12:17 and “144,000” in 14:1. Are these two different groups or two different ways of describing the same group? Rev. 14:1 contains an allusion to Joel 2:32. In Joel, God’s faithful ones are those who call on the name of the Lord, reside in Mount Zion, and are called “remnant.” Rev. 14:1 mentions the name of the Lamb and the Father, Mount Zion, and calls these faithful ones the 144,000. The fact that Joel has “remnant” is John’s key to the perceptive reader that he is describing the remnant’s side of the final conflict with the dragon in chapter 14.
2. The “Fear” of God. The word “fear” in English is generally the word we use when we are terrified. As a result, many readers of the Bible think it is appropriate to serve God because we are afraid of Him. But when the word fear is associated with God in the Bible, it has a much softer meaning. In the Old Testament, for example, the fear of God means to have reverence or awe for Him: it includes things like knowing God personally (Proverbs 9:10); doing His commandments (Psalm 111:10; Eccl 12:13) and avoiding evil (Proverbs 3:7 and 16:6). In the New Testament, it can mean awe and respectful excitement (Luke 7:16; Acts 2:43). It provides motivation for godly behavior (2 Cor. 7:1). It is parallel to the honor one would give to a king (1 Pet. 2:17) and the respect one would show toward a superior (1 Pet. 2:18).
In modern terms, the fear of God means to take God seriously enough to enter into a relationship with Him, to follow His warnings to avoid evil, and to do His commandments, even the ones that may be inconvenient. It is a call to live and act as those who know that they will give account to God one day. According to this verse, such a serious calling will be a part of the experience of God’s end-time people.
3. The Central Issue of Rev. 13 and 14: Worship. The issue that arises over and over again in Revelation 13 and 14 is worship. Seven times in these two chapters there is a reference to worship of the dragon, the beast or the image to the beast (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11). The overall story is about a counterfeit trinity, which invites the worship of the entire world in the place of God. The focus is on a universal contest regarding the character of God and whether He is truly worthy of worship. It is the central theme of this part of the book.
Ironically, while there are seven references to worship of the dragon and his allies in Revelation 13 and 14, only one time in the same narrative is there a reference to worship of God, and that is the call to worship the Creator in Revelation 14:7. That makes this verse the central focus of the section. And since Revelation 13 and 14 is at the center of the book, the call to worship the creator states the central point of the entire book. Since this call to worship is in the context of the Sabbath commandment of the Decalogue (Rev. 14:7, cf. Exod. 20:11), the Sabbath is a crucial issue in the final crisis of earth’s history.
4. How Is Judgment Related to the Gospel (Rev 14:6-7)? In the New Testament judgment is closely related to the gospel. First of all, judgment occurred at the cross (John 12:31; Rev. 5:5-10). The whole human race was judged in the person of its representative, Jesus Christ. Second, judgment language is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel in John 3:18-21 and 5:22-25. Whenever the gospel is preached people are called into judgment based on their response to what Christ did on the cross. This is the background to the four horsemen (Rev. 6:1-8), as we saw in Lesson Five. Third, the judgment at the end ratifies the judgments we passed on ourselves in response to the hearing of the gospel (John 12:48). The book of Revelation reserves the language of judgment for the end-time phase (Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 17:1; 20:4). In Rev. 14:7, the second and third phases of judgment outlined above occur together.
5. Rev. 13-14 and the First Table of the Ten Commandments. The beasts’ calls to worship (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 15) come in the context of a counterfeit of the First Table of the law. The first commandment forbids worship of any other God. The beast demands worship (13:4, 8). The second commandment forbids idolatry. The land beast sets up an image to be worshiped (13:15). The third commandment forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain. The beast excels in blasphemy (13:6). The fourth commandment is the seal of the covenant, containing the name, the territory and the basis for God’s rule (Exod. 20:8-11). In contrast, the world is offered the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17).
This section of Revelation is centered in the commandments of God (12:17; 14:12). In chapter 13 there is a particular focus on the first table of the ten, the four commandments that deal specifically with our relationship to God. The beast and his allies counterfeit each of the first four commandments. This sets the table for the decisive allusion to the fourth commandment in the first angel’s message (Rev. 14:7, cf. Exod. 20:11).
6. The First Angel and the Fourth Commandment. The message of the first angel contains a direct allusion to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. This is evident for three major reasons. 1) There is a strong verbal parallel between Rev. 14:7 and Exod. 20:11. Both passages contain the words “made,” “heaven,” “earth,” and “sea.” They also contain a reference to the one who created. 2) Rev. 14:6-7 contain references to salvation (14:6), judgment and creation (14:7). All three themes echo the First Table of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2, 5-6, 11). 3) There are multiple references to the Ten Commandments throughout this section of Revelation (Rev 12:17; 14:12, the counterfeits of the first four commandments in Rev. 13, the verbal parallels in 14:7). This makes up a strong structural parallel. The final call of God to the world is in the context of the fourth commandment.
Part III: Life Application
1. Why do you think judgment is an unpopular concept among many Christians today? Judgment today is often seen as cold and harshly legal. Courts are places you want to avoid, if possible. But in the biblical sense, judgment is something for God’s people to look forward to. It is a time when all the wrongs of earth will be made right. If there is no judgment at the end, there will never be any justice in this world.
Biblical justice is as much positive as it is negative. It is the basis of reward as well as negative consequences. Jesus said that even something as small as giving a cup of cold water to a child will be remembered in the judgment. It provides great meaning in this life to know that every good deed, every kindness shown, matters in the ultimate scheme of things.
2. Why does the Sabbath play such a central role in the final events of earth’s history? What difference could a day of the week possibly make in the ultimate scheme of things? God placed the Sabbath at the center of all His mighty acts as a remembrance of Him. When we keep the seventh-day Sabbath we are reminded of creation (Exod 20:8-11). God created us free, at great cost to Himself (we were free to rebel), so we could truly love Him back and also each other. Not only the Sabbath, but the whole of the Decalogue was designed to promote freedom (Jam. 1:25; 2:12). So the creation side of Sabbath reminds us of the loving, freedom-giving character of God.
The Sabbath also reminds us of the Exodus (Deut 5:15), God’s great act of salvation for His people. He is a gracious God who acts mightily in behalf of His people. The Sabbath also reminds us of the cross. Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath between His death and His resurrection. The cross is the greatest revelation of God’s character and the Sabbath is a reminder of that.
The Sabbath also looks forward to the future salvation at the End (Heb. 4:9-11). Those who truly trust God find in the Sabbath a down payment on the rest from sin that the whole universe will experience in eternity.