Here is my (Ranko) original manuscript of the Sabbath School Lesson 9 (February 23-March 1)
The Sabbath Afternoon lesson has not undergone some significant changes except some editorial improvements.
The Sunday lesson has some interesting alterations. The sentence in the first paragraph: “The sea symbolizes the stormy social and political conditions that followed the downfall of the Roman Empire (see Dan. 7:2-3, 23-24), is changed into: “The sea sym-bolizes the largely populated area of Europe out of which the sea beast rises to power after the downfall of the Roman Empire (see Rev. 17:15).”
The sentence: “The beast has seven heads and ten horns, the same as the dragon in Revelation 12:3 showing the connection between the two” has been amended with: “showing its close connection with pagan Rome.”
Then, the sentence: “The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority” was amended with: “The dragon (the pagan Roman Empire empowered by Satan . . .”
The last paragraph has been significantly enlarged to again show the validity of the 538-1798.
In the Monday lesson, I do not like the changes, but they do not cause some concerns. So also about the Tuesday lesson.
The Wednesday lesson (February 27) has undergone a complete alteration. The whole day original lesson has been replaced by a long quotation from The Great Controversy, pp. 442-445, thus depriving the members with the exegetical evidence for our SDA understanding of Rev 13:12-17.
In the Thursday lesson, some alterations were made in the second part, including the addition of the last paragraph about 666 (which is not mine).
Lesson 9 * February 23-March 1
Satan and His Two Allies
Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 13:1-18; Daniel 7:19-26; 2 Thess. 2:1-12.
Memory Text: “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17, NKJV).
Revelation 12 concludes with a picture of an angry Satan going away to prepare for the battle against those who have remained faithful to Christ. Chapter 13 portrays him as preparing for the final battle with the help of his two allies portrayed in terms of two savage beasts. These three form an unholy triad as the antithesis to the Trinity of the Godhead (see Rev. 1:4-6). Throughout the rest of the book, the members of this satanic triumvirate are inseparably united in opposing God’s salvific activities in the world and in trying to win the allegiance of the people of the world.
At this point, a word of caution is necessary. So far, we have dealt with prophecies that were already fulfilled in the past. However, from this point on we are dealing with prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Through them, God shows us what will happen at the time of the end so that we will not be surprised.
We must remember, however, that while these prophecies tell us what will happen at the time of the end, they do not tell us when and exactly how the final events will take place. Their full explication will ultimately be possible only at the time of their fulfillment, not before. 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 be prepared for the future.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 1.
Sunday February 24
The Beast from the Sea
John watches as the dragon stands on the seashore calling out of the sea a monstrous beast. While a beast represents a political power, the description of the sea beast points to a power that is both religious and political. The sea symbolizes the stormy social and political conditions that followed the downfall of the Roman Empire (see Dan. 7:2-3, 23-24).
Read Revelation 13:1-2. In your words, describe the characteristics of the sea beast?
John describes the beast as it emerges from the water. The beast has seven heads and ten horns, the same as the dragon in Revelation 12:3 showing the connection between the two. Upon the heads of the beast is a blasphemous name and upon the horns are royal crowns. The heads of the beast are the powers that Satan used to persecute God’s people throughout history (see Rev. 17:9-11). The blasphemous name points to the divine title the beast claims. The ten horns point to Daniel 7:24 symbolizing the nations that sprung out of the Roman Empire after its demise.
As the beast steps out of the water, its parts resemble a leopard, a bear, and a lion. In such a way, the beast combines the characteristics of the four beasts in Daniel 7:2-7 representing world kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (Dan. 7:17). However, John lists them in reverse order showing that the sea beast is related to the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and is the successor to the kingdoms that preceded it.
The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority. Just as the Father has given His throne and authority to Christ (Rev. 2:27), so the dragon invests the beast as his coregent and representative on earth. This affirms the fact that the sea beast is the second member of the satanic trinity endeavoring to take the place of Jesus Christ in the minds and hearts of the people.
Read Revelation 13:3-4 and 8 along with 17:8. What are the three phases of the beast’s existence? What idea does the statement, “Who is like the beast” engender?
Revelation 13:5 states that the period of the beast’s activities is the prophetic forty-two months, which adds to 1,260 days, meaning years. This phase ends when one of the beast’s heads is mortally wounded causing the death of the beast. With the healing of the wound, the beast comes back to life. This causes an admiration of the world, and they worship both the dragon and the beast.
Monday February 25
The Activities of the Sea Beast
Having described the sea beast in general terms, John now turns to describe its activities.
Read Revelation 13:5-8. What is the time period of the beast’s activities?
The forty-two months of the beast’s activities is the same time period as the 1,260 days of the persecution of the woman/church in Revelation 12:14. Prophetic days stand as a symbol for years. The year AD 538 marks appropriately the beginning of this prophetic period as the church, with the pope as its head, established itself as an ecclesiastical power and dominated the western world throughout medieval times. The events of the French Revolution inflicted upon the beast the deadly wound in AD 1798, thus bringing the church’s oppressive rule and the state-instituted religion to its end.
Compare Revelation 13:5-8 with Daniel 7:24-25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12. In what way do the activities of the sea beast mirror the descriptions of the little horn and the man of lawlessness?
The beast’s activities during the prophetic 1,260-days period are stated in terms of blasphemies. In the New Testament, blasphemy denotes a claim of equality with God (John 10:33; Matt. 26:63-65) and of the prerogatives of God (Mark 2:7). The sea beast’s blasphemies are directed “against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6, NKJV). The dwelling of God is the sanctuary in heaven where Christ ministers on behalf of our salvation. The sea beast negates Christ’s mediatory work by substituting it with a human system that administers salvation and forgiveness of sins.
The second aspect of the activities of the sea beast is described in terms of making war with the saints with the purpose of totally defeating them.
Revelation 13 points to a time of major apostasy in the Christian Church, which was fulfilled when the state church of Western Europe claimed the position and prerogatives of God for the pope as its head. The atoning ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary was replaced by of the church’s priesthood to forgive sins. Those who insisted on living by the teachings of the Bible experienced persecution and martyrdom. History testifies to more than fifty million Christians who paid with their lives for their faithfulness to the Bible. Although today such statements are viewed as harsh and unfair, the present cannot erase history.
Read once again 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. How does an understanding of the prophecies fulfilled in the past give you confidence in prophecies yet to be fulfilled in the future?
Tuesday February 26
The Beast Arising out of the Earth
The first half of Revelation 13 describes the medieval ecclesiastical power active during the prophetic period of 1,260 days/years. With the events of the French Revolution, this religio-political system received a deadly wound causing the death of the beast. However, the mortal wound will eventually be healed, restoring this system to life. The second half of the chapter describes how this healing of the beast’s deadly wound will actually happen.
Read Revelation 13:11. What are the characteristics of the second beast? In light of Revelation 12:14-16, what is the significance of the fact that this beast emerges out of the earth?
John observes another beast arising out from the earth. The primary meaning of the Gr. word allos is “another of the same kind” (unlike heteros meaning “another of a different kind”). This points to the second beast as a power of the same kind as the previous one. However, in contrast to the first beast, which had a terrifying appearance, the earth beast has a harmless appearance. It has “two horns like a lamb.” The lamb in Revelation is an exclusive symbol for Christ. Thus, this end-time power has a Christ-like appearance.
This power, represented by the lamblike beast as friendly to the church, arises in territory that protected the woman/church from the dragon’s flooding waters at the conclusion of the prophetic 1,260 days (Rev. 12:14-16). This political power appears in territory friendly to the church. It is obviously a new player on the scene: it rises to world power after the sea beast received the deadly wound during the events of the French Revolution. Thus, the earth beast functions as an exclusively end-time power.
The text shows, however, that this lamblike power eventually will begin to display a satanic spirit as it starts speaking like the dragon. The dragon-like speech is a reference to the deceptive and seductive words of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-5). This end-time power will be instrumental in inducing the whole world to worship the first beast that received the deadly wound. This shows that the territory that in the post-medieval period provided protection and a safe haven for the church will play a key role in the last-day events.
Read once again the description of the lamblike beast in Revelation 13:11. In your view, what world power best fits the description of the lamblike beast? Support your answer with factual evidence.
Wednesday February 27
The Image of the Beast
Having described the lamblike beast, John goes on to describe its activities at the time of the end.
Read Revelation 13:12-13. How does 1 Kings 18:38 and Acts 2:3 help us understand the nature of the beast’s deceptive activities—the greatest of which is bringing fire down from heaven?
At the end-time, the lamblike beast begins to exercise the authority of the first beast, thus acting in the manner of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit exercises the authority of Christ, pointing people to Him (John 15:26), this earthly power exercises all the authority of the sea beast, pointing people to it.
In the rest of the book, the lamblike beast is called the false prophet acting on behalf of the sea beast (16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The true prophet represents and speaks on behalf of God. What does this indicate about the relationship between the two beasts?
Subservient to the first beast, the lamblike beast causes the people on earth to worship the first beast. The text shows that this correlates with the healing of the deadly wound of the beast. How will the lamblike beast cause the world to worship the sea beast? Initially, by using miraculous signs as a means of persuasion (Rev. 13:13-14), and, in the final stage, coercion (13:15-17).
Read Revelation 13:14-15. How does the language drawn from Genesis 2:7 explain the giving of breath to the image of the beast enabling it to function?
The healing of the deadly wound of the sea beast refers to the restoration of the medieval religious system. By means of miracles, the lamblike beast is able to persuade the inhabitants of the earth to make an image to the beast that received the deadly wound.
An image is a replica of some reality. The world will be led to create a religious system that will replicate that of the Middle Ages. The people will accept those deceptive miracles as the manifestation of divine power due to the beast’s lamblike appearance. When civil and political powers join the leading religious organizations to impose religion upon people, then an image to the beast will be formed.
However, images lack life (Ps. 135:15-17). By using the language of Genesis 2:7, the prophecy tells us that the lamblike beast will make the image of the beast function by using the same process that God used to vivify and create man. By means of coercive persuasion, the people of the world will be seduced to acknowledge and accept the authority of the first beast.
Thursday February 28
The Mark of the Beast
Revelation 13 indicates that the lamblike beast will have the leading role in the final crisis. This world power will establish a worldwide system that will mirror medieval Christianity for the purpose of controlling the beliefs of people. The impact of the lamblike beast will be worldwide.
Read Revelation 13:16-17 along with Deuteronomy 6:4-8. What does putting the mark on the forehead and the right hand has to do with the commandments of God?
People of all social classes will be pressured to receive the mark of the beast on their right hand or their foreheads. To receive this mark means to side with the beast. Just as the seal identifies those who belong to God (Rev. 14:1), so the mark of the beast identifies the worshippers of the beast.
The mark of the beast is not a visible sign of any kind. Its placement on the right hand or forehead is based on the instruction Moses gave to the Israelites to bind God’s law as a sign upon their hand or their forehead (Deut. 6:8). This suggests that the mark on the forehead and the right hand has to do with impressing God’s law upon the minds and behaviour of His people.
The central issues in the final crisis will be worship and obedience to God in keeping His commandments (Rev. 14:12). The Sabbath commandment in particular will be the test of faithfulness and obedience to God. As the Sabbath is the distinctive sign of obedience of God’s faithful people (Ezek. 20:12), so the mark of the beast is the sign of obedience to the beast.
The mark of the beast is a direct attack on the 4th commandment. It functions as the substitution of human commandments for God’s commandments. The greatest evidence of this is the humanly established institution of Sunday as the day of worship instead of the seventh-day Sabbath.
Compare the scenario in Revelation 13:14-18 with Daniel 3:1-7. How will the story of Daniel 3 be repeated on a worldwide scale at the end-time?
Revelation does not explain the mark of the beast. Ellen G. White cautions regarding the mark: “Not all in regard to this matter is yet understood nor will it be understood until the unrolling of the scroll.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 17. As with any unfulfilled prophecy, the full understanding of the mark of the beast will be revealed when it happens.
Friday March 1
Further Thought: Revelation shows that the Sabbath will be a sign of obedience at the end of history. We have to remember, however, that the observance of Sunday does not itself mean having the mark of the beast. Sunday-keeping will become “the mark of the beast” only when people, having clearly understood the issues involved in choosing a day of worship, knowingly and willingly make their choice either for or against God. However, that time still lies in the future.
“No one has yet received the mark of the beast. The testing time has not yet come. There are true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion. None are condemned until they have had the light and have seen the obligation of the fourth commandment. But when the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast”—Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 234.
Let us remember that Sunday observance today does not make any person lost as much as Sabbath observance does not make a person a genuine Christian. The time is coming, however, when “the mark of the beast” will become the central issue and when choosing a day of worship will be the test of faithfulness. Revelation appeals to God’s people to take the Bible and, with a heart-searching spirit, study the prophetic word for themselves and make every effort to reach those who are today unreached for Christ with the gospel.
As you observe the situation in the world today, do you feel that the events in both the religious and political spheres are leading towards the fulfillment of the prophecy of Revelation 13?
As we await the end, what should be our attitude towards Christians in other denominations? Think of the following counsel: “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 78.
In our attitude towards Christians in other denominations, how can we avoid manifesting Antichrist’s spirit? How are we to show respect for them and their personal faith, without compromising our beliefs?