Ranko Stefanovic on Editorial Changes to His Lesson Manuscript on Rev 14

The Sabbath School Quarterly week 10 was heavily edited (except the Friday lesson). In many cases, the edits improved the text why retaining my intention in the pre-edited version.

I would point to the most significant changes that was made in rewriting the first paragraph in the Wednesday lesson and the removal of the sentence that define the end-time Babylon as: “The end-time Babylon in Revelation is the name for the satanic trinity in union with other false religions (Rev. 17:5).” Here is the original paragraph in its entirety:

“Babylon is here referred to as a great city. The reason for this is because the symbol of Babylon in Revelation is rooted in the historical Babylon as the ungodly power that opposed God and oppressed His people. Isaiah 14:12-15 equates Babylon with Satan and his attempt to make himself equal to God. The end-time Babylon in Revelation is the name for the satanic trinity in union with other false religions (Rev. 17:5). These will put themselves into the service to Satan against God’s people (see Rev. 13:11-18). This apostate religious union will manifest the arrogance of ancient Babylon in exalting itself above God and seek to take His place in this world. The message of the second angel assures God’s people that this wicked system will come to its end, just as did the Babylon of old.”

It is impossible for me to analyze all those numerous detailed edits, which were in many cases, in my view, unnecessary. Those who are interested may compare the original manuscript with the edited version.

Lesson 10 *March 2-8

God’s Everlasting Gospel

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 14:1-20; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 10:8-11; Eccl. 12:13-14; Exod. 20:11.
Memory Text: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12, NKJV).
Revelation shows that Satan’s end-time deception will be so successful that the whole world will choose to worship the beast and receive the mark of the beast. A question arises: will anyone remain loyal to God? Revelation 14:1-5 tells us that God will have His faithful people, the remnant, who will take their stand for God and will have the seal of God as a sign that they belong to Him.
We have to keep in mind that the choice the people in the world will have to make will not be whether to worship or not, but, rather, whom to worship. The worshippers of the beast will receive the mark on their foreheads or their right hands. Right hands stand for action and foreheads for the mind. People who choose the beast serve this apostate system with their minds and deeds.
As this world nears its end, Satan’s activities will intensify on earth. At the same time, the world will witness a great proclamation of the gospel, such as has not been witnessed since the day of Pentecost. Before the judgments of God are poured out upon rebellious humanity, God will send to the world his warning message. Since Satan’s activities are worldwide, the proclamation of the end-time gospel is worldwide in scope. God does not want anyone to perish but all to be saved. The end-time gospel will divide the people into two groups, some will respond by turning to God while the majority will choose to follow and worship the beast.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 1.
Sunday March 3
The Three Angels’ Messages
Just before the end, God sends to the inhabitants of the earth His warning messages symbolically portrayed in terms of three vocal angels flying in the sky. The Greek word for angel (angelos) means “messenger.” In the Bible, angels often represent persons in God’s service (Mal. 2:7; Matt. 11:10). Evidence from Revelation suggest that the three angels stand for God’s people who are entrusted with the end-time message to share with the world.
Read Revelation 14:6 along with Matthew 24:14. The first angel’s message is referred to as the “everlasting gospel.” What does this tell us about the content and purpose of the first angel’s message? Why is this message urgent?
The end-time message is the gospel. The gospel is good news about God, who saves human beings on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done for them. The first angel’s message is the “everlasting” gospel because it is a part of God’s continual effort to win back fallen humanity. The gospel includes both salvation and judgment. It is the good news of salvation for those who accept it, but it is a judgment warning for those who reject it.
The three angels’ messages is God’s call to the people of the world to make their choice. It concerns every person on earth. The three angels are described as proclaiming the messages with “a loud voice” (Rev. 14:7, 9). The message is urgent and important and must be heard by all because it concerns the eternal destiny of every person on earth. As such, it must be proclaimed to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. This is particularly significant in light of the fact that at the time of the end, the beast will exercise its Satan-delegated authority over “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 13:7). As Satan’s deceptive activities are worldwide in scope, so is the end-time proclamation of the gospel.
The three angels’ messages are proclaimed by God’s people to counter the three froglike demonic spirits coming out of the mouth of the satanic trinity (Rev. 16:13-14). Their messages counterfeit the three angels’ message. Thus, at the end of time, the world will be presented with two rival messages, each with the goal to win the allegiance of the people on earth.
The end-time gospel must be proclaimed to all the people of the world. How seriously does your church take the preaching of the gospel? What can you do to share the gospel with the people you come in contact every day?

Monday March 4
The First Angel’s Message (part 1)
Read Revelation 14:7 along with Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. What does it mean to fear God? How does the concept of fearing God relate to the gospel? What is the connection between fearing God and glorifying Him?
The first angel’s message is proclaimed with “a loud voice.” The call to “fear God and give glory to Him” is proclaimed in the context of the “everlasting gospel.” A realization of what Christ has done for our salvation results in a positive response to Him.
In Revelation, fearing God and giving glory to Him are conjoined (11:13; 15:4). While the former designates a right relationship with God (Job 1:8), the latter denotes obedience to Him.
To fear God does not mean be afraid of Him, but to take Him seriously and give Him His rightful place in our lives. God’s end-time people are the ones who fear God (see 11:18; 19:5). The person who fears God glorifies Him by his/her obedience to Him (Deut. 5:29; Eccl. 12:13) and by reflecting His character in his/her life (Gen. 22:12).
Read Revelation 14:7 along with Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. What is the reason that people are called to fear God and give glory to Him? What judgment is in view in the first angel’s message? In what way is the judgment a motivation for right living?
The motivation for fearing God and giving Him glory is that “the hour of His judgment has come.” The judgment in view here is the pre-advent judgment that takes place prior to the Second Coming. The purpose of the pre-advent judgment is to decide who is in a right relationship with God and who is not. Those decisions are made before Jesus comes. At the conclusion of this judgment, the destiny of every person is decided (Rev. 22:11) and Jesus will come to bring His reward to every person according to his or her deeds (Rev. 22:12).
Judgment in Revelation 14 is a part of the gospel. To those who are in a right relationship with God, judgment is good news; it means vindication, salvation, and freedom. However, it is bad news for the unfaithful. The message of the coming judgment is a call for them to turn to God and repent, for God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Why is important for Christians to understand the concept of the pre-advent judgment? If the judgment is good news, what does it tell us about God and salvation?

Tuesday March 5
The First Angel’s Message (Part II)
Revelation shows that the central issues in the last crisis of earth’s history will be worship and obedience to God in keeping his commandments. The people of the world will fall into two groups: those who fear and worship God and those who fear and worship the beast. The true worshippers of God are obedient to God in keeping his commandments (Rev. 14:12).
Review the first four commandments of the Decalogue (Exod. 20:2-11). Then go through Revelation 13. How do the beast’s demand for worship (13:15), setting up an image to the beast to be worshiped (13:14-15), blasphemy of God and His name (13:5-6), and the receiving of the mark of the beast (13:16-17) point to Satan’s attacks on the first four commandments of the Decalogue in the final crisis?
The central concept of the first four commandments of the Decalogue is related to worship. Revelation indicates these commandments will become the standard of loyalty to God in the final crisis. The final conflict between Christ and Satan will plainly evolve around worship and the first four commandments.
Read Revelation 14:7b along with Exodus 20:11. Why are people called to worship God the Creator? How significant are the verbal parallels between Revelation 14:7b and Exodus 20:11?
The key issue in the final crisis is emphasized in the second exhortation of the first angel’s message. The call to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” is a verbal allusion to the fourth of commandment of the Decalogue (Exod. 20:11). This shows that the call to worship God the Creator is given in the context of the Sabbath observance.
In the Decalogue, as in the rest of the Bible, true worship correlates with the correct day for worship. The seventh-day Sabbath is a special sign of our relationship with God (Exod. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12). The first angel’s message shows that at the time of the end, the people in the world will be called to return to worshipping the true Creator God and give Him His rightful place in their lives. This message counters Satan’s end-time deceptive activities to pull the world into false religion and to serve and worship the counterfeit god.
Read Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15. What two aspects of the Sabbath are expressed in these two versions of the Decalogue? What significance do these two aspects of the Sabbath have for today’s Christians?

Wednesday March 6
The Second Angels’ Message
While the first angel’s messages call people to fear and worship the true God, the second announces the doom of end-time Babylon as a false religious system.
Read Revelation 14:8 along with 18:2 and Isaiah 21:9. The twofold repetition of the word “fallen, fallen” points to the certainty of Babylon’s end. Why is Babylon described as already fallen although its fall will take place in the future?
Babylon is here referred to as a great city. The reason for this is because the symbol of Babylon in Revelation is rooted in the historical Babylon as the ungodly power that opposed God and oppressed His people. Isaiah 14:12-15 equates Babylon with Satan and his attempt to make himself equal to God. The end-time Babylon in Revelation is the name for the satanic trinity in union with other false religions (Rev. 17:5). These will put themselves into the service to Satan against God’s people (see Rev. 13:11-18). This apostate religious union will manifest the arrogance of ancient Babylon in exalting itself above God and seek to take His place in this world. The message of the second angel assures God’s people that this wicked system will come to its end, just as did the Babylon of old.
Read again Revelation 14:8 along with 17:2 and 18:3. How does Babylon make the world drink of the wine of her fornication? What is this wine about?
Babylon is charged for making all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Jeremiah talks of Babylon intoxicating the nations of the earth (Jer. 51:7). Revelation 17 pictures end-time Babylon as a prostitute making people on earth drunk with her wine of immorality (see Rev. 17:2). This points to Revelation 13 where the satanic trinity seduces the people of the earth to worship the beast and its image (vs. 11-18).
The wine of Babylon refers to the false teachings and false gospel offered by this apostate religious system. Intoxicated people cannot think soberly. As the people become spiritually intoxicated by Babylon’s wine, Babylon will take control of their conscience and entice them to worship the beast and receive the mark of the beast. When the effects of their drunkenness are over, they will come to a realization of their decisions and actions, however, it will be too late (Rev. 17:15-17).
Does one have to live in Babylon in order to drink of the wine of Babylon? In what a way can a person drink of Babylon’s wine?

Thursday March 7
The Third Angel’s Message
While the second angel announces the doom of end-time Babylon, the third angel gives a serious warning to those who choose to side with this apostate religious system and receive the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:9-11). This message contains very drastic language describing the dreadful consequences for worshiping the beast and receiving the mark of the beast.
Read Revelation 14:9-10a along with 13:16-17. What is the first consequence of receiving the mark of the beast?
In the Old Testament, the outpouring of God’s wrath is described symbolically as drinking wine from a cup (Jer. 25:15-16). The severity of the judgment upon the worshippers of the beast is expressed as drinking the wine of the wrath of God that is mixed undiluted into the cup. Ancient people often diluted wine with water to reduce its intoxicating strength. To increase its intoxicating strength, undiluted wine was mixed with herbs and spices. The mixed undiluted wine represents pouring God’s wrath in its full capacity, not mixed with mercy (see Ps. 75:8). The symbolic drinking of the cup of God’s wrathful wine in Revelation is other expression for the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1).
Read Revelation 14:10b-11 along with 20:10-15. How do Isaiah 34:8-10 and Jude 7 shed light on the statement: “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” (NKJV)?
The statement of the torment with fire and brimstone refers to total destruction. Fire and brimstone is a symbol of judgment (Gen 19:24; Isa. 34:8-10). The ascending smoke of destruction is a well-known image in the Bible. Isaiah prophesied of the destruction of Edom by fire and brimstone; it will become a burning pitch; “it shall not be quenched night and day; its smoke shall ascend forever” (34:10, NKJV). Jude describes the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah as suffering the punishment of “eternal fire” (v. 7). These texts do not talk about endless burning, for none of these cities are burning today. The consequences are eternal, not burning. The “eternal fire” in Revelation refers to total annihilation; the burning will be long enough to make the consumption complete until nothing is left to burn.
Compare the threat in the third angel’s message with Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 10:28. Fear is dispelled by greater fear. Because the beast uses fear to compel the people to receive the mark of the beast, the third angel’s message uses a stronger fear to urge God’s people to stand firm in the face of Satan’s end-time deception.

Friday March 8
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Final Warning,” pp. 603-6012, in The Great Controversy.
Revelation shows that at the time of the end, God’s people are commissioned with the proclamation of the end-time gospel to world. At the present time, there are three groups of people in the world: those who are totally on God’s side, those who are totally on Satan’s side, and those who are undecided. God sends his end-time message to the last group to warn them and win them to Himself. The book of Revelation shows that many of these will respond to the call.
“The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. . . . The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 611-612.
The conclusion of the proclamation of God’s final message will result in a great separation dividing people in the world into two camps: those who have a relationship with God and those who choose to follow the beast. This separation is portrayed in terms of two harvests: the gathering of the wheat into the storehouses (14:14-16) and the grapes to be trampled in the winepress (14:17-20). This is the subject of Revelation 17-18.
Discussion Questions:
How different would be our attitude toward the preaching of the gospel to the people around us if we really understood our prophetic identity and role in the world? How urgently is the end-time message to be proclaimed?
Why do you think judgment is an unpopular concept among many Christians today causing anxiety? What relevance does the concept of the pre-advent judgment have for Christians today? How would you help your fellow believers better understand the true meaning of the pre-advent judgment?
Many Protestant Christians believe that unrepentant people will have a second chance after the Second Coming of Christ to repent and be saved. In what way does the concept of the pre-advent judgment negate the concept of a second chance?

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