Category Archives: Biblical

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 10, March 2-9 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Revelation 14

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were much less than average in this lesson. In fact the lesson is almost untouched. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

There were a couple small, helpful edits in the Overview and Main Themes I-III of the Commentary were completely untouched. The major changes for this week were mainly in Main Themes IV and V, read on.

In Main Themes IV a sentence was removed after the reference to John 12 and Rev 5. I had written, “The whole human race was judged in the Person of its representative, Jesus Christ.” I believe that is the significance of the cross when it is viewed from a legal perspective (a very common approach to salvation in the Bible). Jesus Christ experienced the blessings and curses of Israel’s covenant in our place. The issue of the gospel, then, becomes whether or not we accept the new history He has provided in our place (see my book Meet God Again, chapters 6-8 and 10 for further detail). The one sentence summarizing all that is gone. Later in the same paragraph, I note that the judgment at the end “ratifies the judgments we passed on ourselves in response to the hearing of the gospel (John 12:48).” The first eight words of the previous quote were changed to “examines our response. . . ,” which is true, but seems to leave us in more jeopardy. Fear of judgment was a major issue in my upbringing and it does not have positive spiritual outcomes. I was always afraid that the judgment would somehow overturn my best choices and efforts. There is no need to be afraid of the judgment if it is simply ratifying the choices we have already made. My comment may have been too brief anyway, but I’m sorry it is gone. Also my last sentence was removed. “In Rev 14:7, the second and third phases of judgment outlined above occur together.” That insight was also designed to ease fear of judgment. The judgment of the living is not a second jeopardy, it is that time in history (close of probation) when the final decisions of people on earth are being made and being ratified in heaven. This explanation is probably too brief, but I hope it will be helpful for teachers to know what I originally wrote and why.

Several small changes in the first paragraph of Main Themes V improved what I had originally written, so go with the Teacher’s Edition and not my original here. 

Main Themes VI and Life Applications were untouched except for the addition of Matthew 10:42 in Life Application I, which I thought was helpful.
Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 14 (Week 10)

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.


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.

Ranko Stefavnovic on the Editorial Changes to His Lesson Manuscript on Rev 13

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

Sabbath Afternoon

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.
Discussion Questions:
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?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 9, February 23 – March 2 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Revelation 13

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were more frequent and significant than average this week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

It seems to me that the changes in this lesson are made to preserve a strong parallel between the historical portions of Rev 13 (13:1-7, 11) and the historical portions of Rev 12 (Rev 12:6, 13-16). I agree that these parts are parallel but traditional Adventism has assumed the parallel (largely on the basis of the 1260/42 months parallel) more than grounded it in the text of Rev 12 and 13. I have expanded our understanding by pointing out that 12:17 sets the time of Rev 13 (final battle of earth’s history) and that past tense portions of Rev 13 locate them at an earlier stage (parallel to Rev 12:13-16). This grounds the SDA position in exegesis of the text. But to the editors locating Rev 13 as an end-time passage seemed to deviate from traditional Adventism and they removed it. This is based in a misunderstanding of the text rather than a real danger to SDA theology. I believe that we are trending away from our biblical foundations to simply assert that which the church has earlier concluded. This is an understandable trend in a generation that is less biblically literate. But it is not likely to end well. I feel we need to increase our engagement with the text if we are to keep a younger generation engaged. Assertions tend to have a negative effect with them. The changes reflected in the above are largely found in the Overview: Study Focus and Introduction and the Main Themes I of the Commentary section. The changes were small in quantity and don’t change the outcome, but are significant in how one reads Rev 12 and 13.

In Main Themes I, as has occurred elsewhere in the series of lessons, my language of “historical reading” is changed to “historicist interpretation.” Also, where I say the “focus” of Rev 13 is on the final battle of earth’s history, the editors change “focus” to “climax.” I don’t disagree, but that undermines the exegetical consistency of Rev 12:17 and Rev 13, which weakens the basis for our position, in my opinion. Most, of course, would not be troubled either way. At the end of Main Themes I the following sentence, “So Rev 12:17 sets the time of Rev 13, but Rev 13 includes historical introductions, which fit very well the Adventist perspective,” is replaced with “(this grammatical analysis fits).” It does, but without the connection with the time of Rev 12:17, the exegetical path is less clear.

In Main Themes II my reference to a “satanic trinity” (drawn from the work of the Daniel and Revelation Committee in the late 1980s) is removed again and the word “Catholic” is added to the last sentence. I am not afraid to “name the beast” but obsession with that can distract from the deeper spiritual issues involved. As a pastor, I have been concerned with how our prophetic interpretations can become a distraction from deep spiritual engagement with our personal issues. I have sought to do both in my work through the years. As Martin Luther once said, “the pope I fear the most is Pope Self.” And that is the most important message readers should take away from Revelation (Rev 1:3).

I am delighted that Main Themes III-V were completely untouched. You can disagree with me if you want, but those are my words not someone else’s.
There was a small but perhaps significant alteration in Life Application 2. I wrote that the line between good and evil is not between “us” and “them;” rather , it runs right down the middle of each of our hearts.” This was changed to “the middle of our experience,” leaving the rest of the sentence intact. I don’t have a problem with that language, but it softens what I think is the key point: The battle between good and evil takes place within us not outside of us. That means that the battle of Rev 13 may be seen in the political and historical context of world events, but ultimately what matters for me is how I respond to that information in my own choices and actions. I’d hate for people to miss that point.

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 13 (Week 9)

I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (February 24 – March 2) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. These comments are related to the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.


Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 12:17.

Study Focus: Revelation thirteen elaborates on the dragon’s side of the war with the remnant that was announced in Rev. 12:17.

Introduction: In Revelation thirteen, the dragon gains two allies for the final conflict, a beast that comes up out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10) and a beast that comes up out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-18). These three form a counterfeit of the true godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Both beasts are described and given a historical introduction (Rev. 13:1-7, 11) before their actions in the end-time are portrayed (Rev. 13:8-10, 12-18).

Lesson Themes: The lesson and the focus passage introduce the following themes:

1. Grounds for a Historical Reading of Rev. 13. This section explores the relationship of the two beasts in this chapter with the historical timeline of Rev. 12.
2. The Sea Beast as a Counterfeit of Christ. A number of features of the sea beast recall qualities and actions of Jesus.
3. The Symbolic Meaning of “Earth.” “Earth” is an ambiguous symbol in Rev., sometimes positive and sometimes negative.
4. The Identity of the Land Beast. Evidence that the land beast represents the United States of America in the final conflict.
5. Rev. 13:14-18 and Dan. 3. Summarizes evidence for a clear allusion.

Life Application. The Life Application section explores 1) the root issue behind all forms of distorted religion and 2) how believers should relate to those who believe and practice unbiblical forms of religion.

Part II. Commentary

The thirteenth chapter of Revelation introduces two new characters into the story of Rev. 12; a beast from the sea (13:1-7) and a beast from the earth (13:11). After their introductions, both beasts play a major role in the war that is introduced in 12:17.

Main Themes of Lesson 9 Elaborated:
1. Grounds for a Historical Reading of Rev. 13. In traditional Adventist reading of Revelation, the focus of Rev. 13 is on the Middle Ages (Papacy) and beyond (rise of the USA). But biblically Rev. 13 is an extension of the end-time war of Rev. 12:17. How to reconcile the two perspectives?
It is true that the focus of Rev. 13 is on the final battle of earth’s history, with its fiery deceptions, image of the beast, death decree and mark of the beast (Rev 13:13-17). But few have noticed the verb tenses throughout the chapter. The main sentences of Rev. 13:1-7 and 11 are all in past tenses. The main sentences of Rev. 13:8-10 and 12-18 are all present or future tenses. So the chapter itself contains evidence for sequences of history. Each of the two new beasts has an introduction, including a visual description followed by a summary of its previous history in past tenses (sea beast: 13:1-7, land beast: 13:11). See Lesson 8, Theme 1, for the literary principle behind this. So the description of the final battle (13:12-18) is preceded by the previous history of the two main characters in that battle.
Rev. 13, then, covers the last two of the historical periods listed in Rev. 12. The introductory, past-tense sections of Rev. 13 (verses 1-7, 11) parallel the middle period of Rev. 12 (12:13-16). The present and future-tense sections of Rev. 13 (verses 8-10, 12-18) parallel the final period of Rev. 12:17. So Rev. 12:17 sets the time of Rev. 13, but Rev. 13 includes historical introductions which fit the traditional Adventist perspective.

2. The Sea Beast as a Counterfeit of Christ. Sunday’s lesson suggests that the sea beast is the second member of the satanic trinity, a counterfeit of Jesus Christ. This is confirmed by the text of Rev. 13. 1) The sea beast looks like the dragon (seven heads and ten horns). Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). 2) The sea beast receives its authority from the dragon. Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). 3) The sea beast experiences a death and resurrection like that of Christ (Rev 13:3, compare 13:8). 4) The cry, “Who is like the beast,” recalls to the Hebrew mind the name of Christ in the previous chapter; Michael (Rev 12:7—means “who is like God?” in the Hebrew). 5) The 42 prophetic months (Rev. 13:5) echo the three and a half years of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The beast from the sea is a counterfeit of Jesus Christ. This was fulfilled in multiple ways by the medieval church.

3. The Symbolic Meaning of “Earth.” In Rev. 12:16 it is the “earth” that helps the woman by swallowing up the flood of water the serpent/dragon spews out of its mouth after her. In the book of Revelation “earth” is a somewhat ambiguous concept (1:5; 5:6; 6:4; 11:6, 18; 13:12; 14:15-19; 18:1-3; 19:2). When contrasted with heaven, it is negative (9:1; 14:3, except 21:1 of course). “Those who live in heaven” are always positive in Revelation (13:6; 19:1, 14), whereas “those who live on earth” refer to opponents of God and His people (6:10; 8:13; 13:8; 17:8).
On the other hand, when earth is contrasted with sea or flooding waters, the earth is a positive symbol rather than a negative one (13:11; 21:1), and that is the case here. The earth helps the woman, who represents the faithful people of God. The relatively positive history of the beast from the earth (Rev 13:11) may lie in its contrast with the beast from the sea (13:1-7). So 12:16 and perhaps 11:4 provide a positive setting for the reference to earth in 13:11.

4. The Identity of the Land Beast. In the past, Adventists have consistently identified the land beast as the United States of America. It rose up as a benevolent power, emphasizing religious liberty, but would in the end-time speak like a dragon. Some suggest this America-centered reading is no longer appropriate when more than 90% of the Adventist Church is outside of North America. Let’s, therefore, review the textual evidence regarding the land beast.
First, the history of the land beast in the text (Rev. 13:11) is much shorter than the history of the sea beast (13:1-7), suggesting a relatively new arrival on the scene of history. 2) Coming out of the earth (13:11) recalls the positive actions of the “earth” in 12:16. 3) The land beast appears in the context of the captivity of the sea beast (13:10), which Adventist understand occurred in 1798 AD. 4) Unlike the sea beast, whose pedigree recalls the empires of Daniel 7, the land beast’s pedigree has no ancient roots. 5) The land beast arises from a different part of the world than the sea beast. 6) In ancient non-biblical mythology, the land beast (behemoth) lives in an arid, desert space far from people. 7) The land beast wears no crowns, suggesting it has no king and no pope, it offers political and religious liberty. 8) It speaks like a lamb, at first, wielding a gentler, more Christ-like authority. But that gentleness does not last. 9) The land beast eventually becomes dragon-like, like the power that attempted to kill the baby Jesus (Rev. 12:3-5). 10) The land beast is described more in religious terms than political ones (13:13-15). If the United States is in view, it is the religious side of the USA that is more in focus than the political side.
While the reference to the United States in this prophecy is not airtight, it is hard to see what other power in history so completely fulfills the specifications of this prophecy.

5. Rev. 13:14-18 and Dan. 3. This part of Rev. 13 contains one of the clearest allusions to the OT in Rev. There are multiple parallels to the story of the three Hebrew worthies and Nebuchadnezzar’s worship test on the plain of Dura. 1) People from all over the world are compelled to worship. 2) There is a death decree attached to the command to worship. 3) Both events are associated with the number six (dimensions of the image in Dan. 3 and the number 666 in Rev. 13). Rev. 13 indicates that in the final crisis of earth’s history, the scenario of the plain of Dura will be repeated. The experience of Dan. 3 will be visited upon earth’s final generation.

Part III: Life Application

1. The lesson on Monday asks: How can we stay faithful to prophecy about church history and yet, at the same time, be kind and cautious as we present these truths to others? The ultimate challenge with religious distortions is in the picture of God that they portray. What kind of God tortures and burns people for eternity? What kind of God plays fast and loose with the very rules He has made? What kind of God is portrayed by a church that burns people at the stake over doctrinal differences?
In confronting distorted religion it is very important that we not fall into the trap of portraying a God who is angry, judgmental and severe. We are told that when Jesus confronted the Pharisees there were “tears in His voice.” In other words, religious criticism is only appropriate when it comes from a heart of love that can see the value God sees in other people. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can gently invite people to consider the picture of God their religion portrays, making clear that we ourselves are capable of misrepresenting God as well. They need to know that God is already inclined in their favor, He does not need to be bought or persuaded by ritual acts.

2. Similarly, in Friday’s lesson it asks: As we await the end, what should be our attitude towards Christians in other denominations? It helps to recognize that many Catholics, Muslims and others love God deeply and seek to please Him in every way possible. We need to approach such people with the understanding that the line between good and evil is not between “us” and “them,” it runs right down the middle of each of our hearts (1 Tim. 1:15). When we take on an attitude of moral superiority, we may unwittingly convince them that God is not with us. On the other hand, people are drawn to those who are authentically aware of their own failings and shortcomings. It is from a position of love and humility that confrontation can most often succeed in winning another.

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?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 8, February 16-23 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Revelation 12

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were more significant than in the previous week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

In the Introduction to the Overview section a small change seems fairly substantive. In the middle of the paragraph I wrote about a “fresh picture” of the war in heaven in Rev 12:7-10. This was changed to “flashback to” the war in heaven. Is Rev 12:7-10 inserted into the narrative of chapter 12 as a flashback to something else or is it part of the context of chapter 12, referring primarily to events in the context of Jesus’ cross and ascension (Rev 12:5, 11)? Angel Rodriguez took the latter position in a quarterly series around the year 2002. The first position is traditional with Uriah Smith and others. I prefer the contextual approach since there is no indicator in the text itself of a flashback. In that case, the original war in heaven with its physical expulsion from heaven would be alluded to in Rev 12:4 and 13:8 (long before the birth of Christ in 12:5) and Rev 12:7-9 would primarily refer to Satan’s fall from influence in heaven (compare Job 1 and 2), although allusion to the original war may also be present.
I am very glad that Main Themes I and IV of the Commentary section survived intact. I think these exegetical observations are very helpful in supporting the Adventist understanding of Revelation in general and chapter 12 in particular.

In Main Themes V the following sentence was added, “Seventh-day Adventists see this gift fulfilled in the ministry of Ellen G. White.” I don’t at all disagree with that statement, but again for non-SDA readers that is a big leap. But if the editors are aware that the lessons are primarily used by SDA believers, then this addition is reassuring for them and appropriate.

In Life Application 2 editorial changes altered the words but not the meaning. Editors removed my comment that the casting out of Satan in Rev 12:9-10 “is more intellectual than physical” and added at the end of the sentence “he is not wanted (in heaven) there anymore.” Different words, same idea. Probably made my original better.

With the exception of the “flashback” language above, I feel the changes in this chapter left things the same or improved on them.

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes to the Seven Trumpets

The Sabbath School Lesson #7 has generally not undergone significant editorial changes that would cause some serious concern.

Here are the significant changes:

The second half of the Tuesday lesson has been rewritten.

In the first paragraph of the Thursday lesson, the following has been removed: “. . . but they also may represent God’s people as they bear witness to the Bible. The two cannot be separated because God’s people are called to proclaim the Bible to the world.”

Also, the first of the Friday discussion questions has completely changed.

Lesson 7 * February 9-15

The Seven Trumpets

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 8:2-11:18; Num. 10:8-10; Ezekiel 2:8-3:11.
Memory Verse: “But in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7, NKJV).
Many Christians have struggled with doubts, wondering if their prayers only ascend above the ceiling. In the scene of the fifth seal, we saw that the cry of God’s oppressed people represented the cry of the faithful of all ages. These were portrayed as souls under the altar crying to God for justice and vindication, saying: “How Long, O Lord?” (Rev. 6:10). The voice from heaven urged them to wait for a while because the day was coming when God would judge those who harmed them. Revelation 6:15-17 pictures Jesus returning to this earth and bringing judgment upon those who harmed His faithful followers.
“How long, O Lord?” has been the perennial cry of God’s oppressed and suffering people throughout history (Ps. 79:5; Hab. 1:2). The scene of the fifth seal represents the experience of God’s suffering people throughout history, from the time of Abel until the time when God will finally judge and avenge “the blood of His servants” (Rev. 19:2). God’s suffering people must remain firm and believe that God hears the prayers of His people.
The vision of the seven trumpets shows that, throughout history, God has already intervened on behalf of His oppressed people, and has judged those who harmed His people. The purpose of the seven trumpets is to assure God’s people that heaven is not indifferent to their suffering. He is already responding to their prayers. The trumpets’ plagues fall on the inhabitants of the earth in answer to the prayers of His people.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 17.

Sunday February 10
The Prayers of the Saints
Revelation 8 opens with a picture of seven angels standing before God ready to blow their trumpets. Before the trumpets are blown, another scene is inserted. Its purpose is to explain the theological meaning of the trumpets.
Read Revelation 8:3-4 along with the description of the daily services in the temple in Jerusalem given below:
The Mishnah explains that at the evening sacrifice the sacrificial lamb was placed upon the altar of burnt offering and the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. An appointed priest took the golden censer inside the temple and offered incense on the golden altar in the Holy Place. When the priest came out, he threw the censer down on the pavement, producing a loud noise. At that point, the seven priests blew their trumpets, marking the end of the temple services for that day.
One can see how the language of the evening service is used in Revelation 8:3-5. It is significant that the angel receives incense at the altar of burnt offering underneath which, in the fifth seal, the blood of the martyred saints prayed to God for intervention (Rev. 6:10). The incense represents the prayers of God’s people (Rev. 5:8). Thus, the prayers that the angel offers before God are the prayers of God’s persecuted people in the fifth seal. Their prayers are now heard by God.
Revelation 8:3-5 provides important information regarding the trumpets in Revelation:
a. The seven trumpets are God’s judgments on rebellious humanity in response to the prayers of His oppressed people.
b. The trumpets follow the death of Jesus as the Lamb and run consecutively throughout history until the Second of Coming (see Rev. 11:15-18).
Read Revelation 8:5 along with Ezekiel 10:2. What is the source of the fire that is thrown upon the enemies of God’s people? How does Ezekiel’s vision of hurling fire upon apostate Jerusalem elucidate the nature of the trumpets in Revelation?
The angel fills the censer with fire from the altar and hurls it down to the earth. Significantly, this fire comes from the very altar on which the prayers of the saints were offered. This shows that the seven trumpet judgments fall upon the inhabitants of the earth in answer to the prayers of God’s people. God’s people are not forgotten and God is going to intervene on their behalf. The hurling down of the fire may also be a warning that Christ’s intercession will not last forever.
Have you ever prayed to God because of harm done to you, but were not sure if your prayer went beyond the ceiling? What assurance does today’s lesson speak to you?

Monday February 11
The Meaning of the Trumpets
In portraying God’s interventions in history on behalf of His people, Revelation uses the imagery of trumpets in the Old Testament. Trumpets were an important part of the daily life of ancient Israel. Their sound reminded people of the worship in the temple; trumpets were also blown in battle, at harvest time, and during festivals.
Read Numbers 10:8-10 along with 2 Chronicles 13:14. What was the purpose of blowing trumpets in ancient Israel?
Trumpets were sacred instruments that were blown by priests. Blowing trumpets went hand in hand with prayer. It called on God to “remember” His people. During worship in the temple or during the festivals, the trumpets reminded God of His covenant with His people. During a battle, the trumpet sound, which was accompanied by prayers, called on God to save His people (see 2 Chr. 13:14). This concept is the backdrop for the trumpets in Revelation.
Read Revelation 8:13; 9:4, 20-21. Who are the objects of the judgments of the seven trumpets?
The events triggered by the trumpets in Revelation denote God’s intervention in history in response to the prayers of His people. While the seals concern primarily those who profess to be God’s people, the trumpets herald judgments against the inhabitants of the earth (Rev. 8:13). At the same time, they are warnings to the people to bring them to repentance before it is too late.
The seven trumpets cover the course of history from the cross until the conclusion of this earth’s history (Rev. 11:15-18). They are blown while intercession goes on in heaven (Rev. 8:3-6) and the gospel is being preached on earth (10:8-11:14). The judgments of the trumpets are partial as they affect only one third of creation. The seventh trumpet announces that the time has arrived for God to assume His rightful rule. The best way to apply the trumpets historically is:
(a) The first two trumpets herald judgments upon the nations that crucified Christ and persecuted the early church—rebellious Jerusalem and the Roman Empire.
(b) The third and fourth trumpets portray heaven’s reaction to the apostasy of the Medieval and post-Reformation eras.
(c) The fifth and sixth trumpets describe the situation in the secular world in the post medieval period in aftermath of the Age of Enlightenment, which is characterized by extensive demonic activity that draws the world into the Battle of Armageddon.
The seven trumpets bring a message of comfort to God’s people, showing them that heaven is not indifferent to what they experience in the world. What message does this bring to you?

Tuesday February 12
The Angel with an Open Book
The sixth trumpet brings us to the time of the end. What are God’s people called to do during this time? Before the seventh trumpet sounds, an interlude is inserted explaining the task and experience of God’s people at the end time.
Read Revelation 10:1-4. Describe in your own words what John sees in the vision. Why was John forbidden to write down what the seven thunders said?
This angel, who has the appearance of Christ, holds an open book. He places his feet on the sea and the land because what he is about to proclaim has worldwide significance. He shouts with the roar of a lion. A lion’s roar symbolizes God’s voice (see Hos. 11:10).
At that point, John hears the seven thunders speaking, which is another symbol of God’s voice (see Ps. 29:3-9). John is not allowed to write down what the thunders have said. There are things concerning the future that God has not revealed. In studying end-time prophecies, we must not venture beyond what God intended for us to know.

Read Revelation 10:5-7. Compare this passage with Daniel 12:6-7. Highlight all the words they have in common.
When the angel states that there will “be time no longer,” the Greek word chronos shows that he refers to a period of time. This points back to Daniel 12:6-7 where an angel states the persecution of the saints will last for a time, times, and a half time. After this prophetic time, the end would come.
The statement that time will be no longer refers to the time prophecies of Daniel, particularly a time, times, and a half a time or 1,260 years of the persecution by the Antichrist power (AD 538-1798). After this period, there will no longer be prophetic time periods. Ellen White states:
“This time, which the angel declares with a solemn oath, is . . . prophetic time, which should precede the advent of our Lord. That is, the people will not have another message upon definite time. After this period of time, reaching from 1842 to 1844, there can be no definite tracing of the prophetic time. The longest reckoning reaches to the autumn of 1844” (in SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 971).
Although the time of the end begins after Daniel’s time prophecies, the end is not yet. It is at the seventh trumpet’s sound that the mystery of God will be finished. This mystery encompasses the whole purpose of God to establish His eternal kingdom.

Wednesday February 13
Eating the Scroll
Read Revelation 10:8-11. What is John commanded to do in vision? What does the eating of the book symbolize?
Eating in the Bible is used to describe the acceptance of a message from God in order to proclaim it to the people (see Ezekiel 2:8-3:11; Jeremiah 15:16). When received, the message is good news; but when it is proclaimed, it sometimes results in bitterness as it is resisted and rejected by many.
John’s bittersweet experience in eating the scroll is related to the unsealing of Daniel’s end-time prophecies. John here represents the church that is commissioned to proclaim the gospel at the close of Daniel’s time prophecy of 1,260 days.
The context indicates that John’s visionary experience pointed to another bittersweet experience at the conclusion of the prophetic 1,260-day period. When, on the basis of Daniel’s prophecies, the Millerites thought that Christ would return in 1844, that message was sweet to them. However, when this did not happen they experienced the bitterness of the message they had proclaimed. Although disappointed and ridiculed, those who stayed firm found comfort in John’s visionary experience.
In John’s commission to “prophesy again” to the world, Adventists have seen themselves as the end-time prophetic movement delegated to proclaim the message of the Second Coming in connection with Daniel’s prophecies. When the gospel message is heard by the world, then the end will come.
Read Revelation 11:1-2. What is John ordered to do? What three things is he commanded to measure?
This passage continues the scene of Revelation 10. John was commanded to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshippers. The concept of measuring in the Bible refers figuratively to judgment (see Matt. 7:2). The temple that was to be measured is in heaven where Jesus ministers for us. The reference to the temple, the altar, and the worshippers points to the Day of Atonement (see Lev. 16:16-19). The Day of Atonement was a day of “measuring” as God judged the sins of His people. Thus, Revelation 11:1 refers to the judgment that takes place prior to the Second Coming. This judgment concerns exclusively God’s people—the worshippers in the temple. Its purpose is to determine who serves God and who does not.
Revelation 11:1 shows that the heavenly sanctuary message lies at the heart of the final gospel proclamation. It concerns the vindication of God’s character. As such, it gives the full dimension of the gospel message regarding the atoning work of Christ and His righteousness as the only means of salvation for human beings.

Thursday February 14
The Two Witnesses
The interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets shows what God’s people are called to do at the end time. The vision of the two witnesses describes their experience in the world as they bear witness to the Bible.
Read Revelation 11:3-6. In what way do the two witnesses reflect Zerubbabel and Joshua in their royal and priestly roles (see Zech. 4:2-3, 11-14) as well as the roles of Moses and Elijah?
The idea of two witnesses comes from the Jewish legal system that requires at least two witnesses to establish something to be true (John 8:17). The two witnesses represent the Bible; but they also may represent God’s people as they bear witness to the Bible. The two cannot be separated because God’s people are called to proclaim the Bible to the world.
The witnesses are pictured as prophesying in sackcloth during the prophetic period of 1,260 years (AD 538-1798). This points back to Revelation 10:11 where John was told that he has to prophesy. This shows that this call to prophesy extends to the church. Sackcloth is the garment of mourning (Gen. 37:34); this points to the difficult time through which God’s people must go as they proclaim the Bible to the world.
Read Revelation 11:7-10. In your words, describe what happened to the two witnesses at the end of the prophetic 1,260 days?
The beast that kills the two witnesses arises from the very abode of Satan. This killing of the witnesses applies historically to the atheistic attack on the Bible and the abolition of religion in connection with the events of the French Revolution. This anti-religious system possessed the moral degradation of Sodom, the atheistic arrogance of Egypt, and the rebelliousness of Jerusalem. What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem now happens to the Bible by this anti-religious system.
Read Revelation 11:11-13. What was the reaction of the world at the resurrection of the two witnesses?
The resurrection of the witnesses points to the great revival of interest in the Bible in the aftermath of the French Revolution, which resulted in the establishment of Bible societies and numerous missionary movements with the purpose of spreading the Bible. The word of God was triumphant.
Right before the end, the world will witness a worldwide preaching of the Bible like never before in history. This final proclamation will have a bittersweet effect, as it will provoke opposition empowered by the demonic activities working miracles to entice the world into to the final battle against God’s faithful witnesses (see Rev. 16:13-16).

Friday February 15
Further Thought: The seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15-18) signals the conclusion of this earth’s history. The time has come for God to reveal His power and reign. This rebellious planet, which has been under the dominion of Satan for thousands of years, is about to come back under God’s dominion and rule. It was after Christ’s death on the cross and His ascension to heaven that Satan, as the usurper, was finally expelled from heaven and Christ was proclaimed to be the legitimate ruler of the earth (Rev. 12:10). Yet, this rebellious world still remained under Satan’s dominion. Christ has to reign as co-ruler with the Father “until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). The seventh trumpet heralds that the usurping powers have been dealt with and this world has finally come under his rightful rule.
The seventh trumpet outlines the content of the second half of the book: (1) The nations were angry: Revelation 12-14 describes Satan as filled with anger, (12:17) who with his two allies—the sea beast and the earth beast—prepares the nations of the world to fight against God’s people. (2) Your wrath has come: God responds to the anger of the nations with the seven last plagues, which are referred to as God’s wrath (see Rev. 15:1). (3) The time for the dead to be judged is described in Revelation 20:11-15. (4) And to reward God’s servants is portrayed in Revelation 21-22. (5) To destroy those who destroy the earth: Revelation 19:2 states that end-time Babylon is judged because it destroyed the earth. The destruction of Satan, his hosts, and his two allies is the final act in the drama of the great controversy (Rev. 19:11-20:15).

Discussion Questions:
Why is it important to understand that after the conclusion of Daniel’s time prophecies there are no more prophetic time periods? Do you know people who are preoccupied with setting dates for the final events? How can you help them?
Reflect on the following statement: “Again and again have I been warned in regard to time setting. There will never again be a message for the people of God that will be based on time. We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol 1, p. 188. What problems do you see with drafting detailed prophetic charts of the final events? How can one safeguard against such pitfalls?

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 12 (Week 8)

I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (February 17-23) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. These comments are related to the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.


Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 12:11.

Study Focus: Revelation twelve covers the entire sweep of Christian history with glimpses of the universal war that lies behind the conflicts of earth.

Introduction: Revelation twelve portrays the history of both Old and New Testament Israel in four stages: 1) The period before the birth of Christ; with a glimpse of Israel represented by a woman (Rev. 12:1-2) and the original expulsion of Satan from heaven (Rev. 12:3-4). 2) The birth, ascension and enthronement of Christ with a fresh picture of the war in heaven as seen in the light of the cross (Rev. 12:5, 7-11). 3) The history of the Christian church between the two advents of Jesus, with a particular focus on the persecution of the church during the Middle Ages (Rev. 12:6, 13-16). 4) The experience of the end-time remnant in the final conflict of earth’s history (Rev. 12:17).

Lesson Themes: The lesson and the focus passage introduce the following themes:

1. What Happens When New Characters Appear in Rev.
2. The Nature of the Cosmic Conflict.
3. Application of the Year-Day Principle.
4. The Biblical Concept of the Remnant.
5. Textual Issues in Rev. 12:17.
6. The Testimony of Jesus.

Life Application. 1) How does awareness of the cosmic conflict impact the way we look at the world and the way we find meaning and purpose in it? 2) What is the significance of the cosmic conflict on our understanding of the character of God?

Part II. Commentary

The twelfth chapter of Revelation portrays the history and experience of the church from the birth of Christ (Rev. 12:5) to the final crisis of earth’s history (12:17). As such it sets the stage for Revelation’s primary focus on end-time events from chapter thirteen on (see next week’s lesson for details on Rev. 13).

Main Themes of Lesson 8 Elaborated:
1. What Happens When New Characters Appear in Rev. There is an important literary pattern in the book of Revelation. Whenever a new character appears in the story, the author pauses the narrative and offers a visual description of that character and a bit of its previous history. This “freeze frame” often helps the reader identify the character. After this introduction, the character plays a role in the larger story.
In chapter one, Jesus appears as a character in the vision for the first time (Rev. 1:12-18— He is named earlier: 1:5,9). There is a visual description (1:12-16) and a bit of His previous history (1:17-18) followed by His actions in the subsequent vision (Rev. 2 and 3). In chapter eleven, the two witnesses are introduced similarly (11:3-6) followed by their actions in the context of the vision (11:7-13).
Two new characters appear at the beginning of chapter twelve (Rev. 12:1-4). First there is a visual description of a woman (12:1) and a bit of her previous history (12:2). Then a dragon appears and is similarly introduced (12:3-4). Only then do both characters begin to act in the context of the vision itself (Rev. 12:5ff.). The male child of verse five, on the other hand, is not introduced with a visual description, probably because He has already been introduced earlier in a different form (1:12-18).

2. The Nature of the Cosmic Conflict. The war in heaven is described in military language. There is the language of “war” (12:7– Greek: polemos), and “fighting” (Greek: polemêsai, epolemêsen). These Greek words normally describe armed conflict. But they can be used in figurative ways as well, to heighten the drama of quarrels and verbal disagreements (Jam 4:1). Upon closer examination, the war in heaven is more a war of words than a military event. There are four main evidences for this in chapter twelve.
First, the dragon sweeps a third of the stars down from heaven with his tail (Greek: oura). The tail is an Old Testament symbol for a prophet who teaches lies (Greek LXX: oura). Second, the dragon is defined in Rev. 12:9 as “that ancient serpent,” a clear reference to the lies about God spoken to Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). Third, the dragon/Satan is cast out of heaven as the “accuser of the brothers” in Rev. 12:10. It is his accusing words, rather than physical weapons, that cause his casting down. And finally, the dragon/Satan is overcome by “the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11). So the war of Revelation twelve is not a military battle, it is a war of words.

3. Application of the Year-Day Principle. The year-day principle is a crucial element of Adventist interpretation of apocalyptic prophecy. It goes something like this: “In Bible prophecy, whenever a period of time is listed in days, its fulfillment should be counted in years.” The principle as stated is not found anywhere in Scripture. But the Bible paves the way for it by highlighting year-day equivalencies. In Numbers 14:34, the forty years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness corresponds to forty days of disobedience. In Ezekiel 4:5-6 the prophet is ordered to lie down one day for each year of Israel and Judah’s disobedience. In Leviticus 25 the concept of a week and its Sabbath is extended from days to years. People would farm the land for six years and let the land “rest” during the seventh or sabbatical year. Daniel 9 contains seventy “weeks” of years. So the sabbatical concept highlights year-day thinking in biblical times.
But when should one apply prophetic days as years? There are several guiding principles to consider. 1) Since apocalyptic prophecies, like Daniel 7 and Revelation 12, are full of symbols, a symbolic meaning for any numbers in the prophecy should be considered. 2) Year-day numbers tend to be the kind one would not use in normal speech. No parent, for example, would say their child is 1260 days old, 42 months old, or even less, 2300 evenings and mornings! 3) In a sequence of prophetic events, if the prophecy makes more sense when counting the days as years, one should do so. For example, in Daniel 7, each of the four beasts rules for multiple decades, even hundreds of years. But when the chief opponent of God appears, it rules for only three and a half years. From the perspective of the end of history, it becomes evident that the unusual prophetic time period of Daniel 7 should be interpreted in years.

4. The Biblical Concept of the Remnant. The people of God in the final conflict are called the “remnant” (Greek: loipôn) in Rev. 12:17. The original meaning of “remnant” is “survivors of a disaster.” Due to flood, earthquake or conquest, a tribe or people could be totally destroyed. The survival of a remnant brought hope that the tribe or people could be restored to greatness in the future (see Gen. 7:23). Within the OT, a moral or spiritual meaning also came to be attached to “remnant.” The remnant was a “believing minority” through whom God could ultimately save the human race from extinction in spite of the presence of sin and evil in the world.
As a result, “remnant” was used in three different spiritual ways in the OT. 1) Historical Remnant. Any group that has experienced a mighty deliverance of God in the past, such as the descendants of Noah and the Israel of the Exodus. Such a group is visible, nameable and countable. It is a surviving witness to God’s prior salvation, whether or not it remains faithful to God (see 2 Chr. 30:6) 2) Faithful Remnant. This means those among a given historical remnant who remain faithful to the original message and mission of that historical movement. These are those God knows are faithful to Him (2 Tim. 2:19). They are, thus, less visible and countable to human eyes than the historical remnant (1 Kings 19:14-18). 3) Eschatological Remnant. The eschatological remnant is made up of all who are faithful during the apocalyptic woes of the end-time (Joel 2:31-32). This eschatological remnant will reach far beyond the borders of the historical or faithful remnants of the past (Isa. 66:19-20).
The book of Revelation contains all three types of remnant. The historical remnant in Rev. is the seed of the woman that appears at a particular point in history (Rev. 12:17). The church of Thyatira contains a faithful remnant in the midst of apostasy (Rev. 2:24). A surprising, expansive end-time remnant emerges just before the close of probation (Rev. 11:13). It is God’s purpose that the historical remnant faithfully prepare the way for the greater remnant to come.

5. The Testimony of Jesus. One of the marks of the remnant in Rev. 12:17 is that they are those who “have” or “hold to” (Greek: echontôn) the “testimony of Jesus” (Greek: tên marturion Iêsou). This means that John foresaw an end-time revival of the kind of visionary, prophetic gift he himself was given (Rev. 1:2). This meaning for “testimony of Jesus” is confirmed by a careful comparison of Rev 19:10 and 22:8-9. Those who hold to the testimony of Jesus in 19:10 are called “the prophets” in 22:9.

Part III: Life Application

1. Thought question: How do you see the world differently because of the cosmic conflict? What would it be like to live without that knowledge? The cosmic conflict powerfully answers the three great questions of philosophy; 1) where did I come from, 2) where am I going, and 3) why am I here? Knowledge of the cosmic conflict provides meaning and purpose to all that we do, connects us to something bigger than ourselves, and enables us to be relaxed about the future, knowing it is safely in God’s hands.

2. What is the significance of the heavenly “war of words” on our picture of what God is like? God’s side in the cosmic conflict places priority on love and self-sacrifice, respects the freedom of God’s creatures, and does not coerce but rather is patient, seeking to provide persuasive evidence. On the other hand, Satan seeks to win by persecution (force) and deception (telling lies). The casting out of Satan in Rev. 12:9-10 is more intellectual than physical. The hosts of heaven no longer take his lies seriously, his arguments have lost credibility.
Our picture of God to a large degree determines how we live and behave. If we think of God as severe and judgmental, we become more like that. If we think of God as gracious and self-sacrificing, we become more like that. We become like the God we worship.

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 7, February 9-16 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: The Seven Trumpets

The changes to this quarter’s Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) were fewer and less significant than in the previous week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

In Main Themes II of the Commentary section, the editors removed wording that alerted the readers to the fact that it is possible (but not likely) to read the trumpets as after the close of probation. Since quite a few Adventists read the trumpets that way I felt it was best to acknowledge that possibility and then show why it doesn’t likely work. The editors probably felt it was safer to act as if such views did not exist. That is a judgment call that editors have to make, like it or not. I’d prefer not to “make opponents disappear” but to deal honestly with their differences and seek to win them. But in practice my approach may not be as effective as I’d hope it would be.

In Main Themes III the editors removed my reference to Ezek 20: 47-48, which is critical to my interpretation of the first trumpet. But my interpretation was left intact. Do look at Ezekiel as you prepare to teach or participate. Regarding the second trumpet the editors added a reference to 1 Pet 5:13, which I think is helpful. I left it out because of space limitations. Regarding the fourth trumpet, the editors removed my suggestion (on the basis of comparison with the fifth trumpet) that the fourth could depict the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages. They prefer the interpretation of deepening apostasy in the church. I think that is less likely to be the case as we have there the imagery of eclipse rather than alteration (as in the third trumpet), but it may be correct. Regarding the fifth trumpet, the editors removed my references to Luke 8:31 in connection with the Abyss.

In Main Themes V I noted that the angel of Revelation 10 raised his “right” hand to heaven. The editors removed this, which puzzled me, since the word “right” (Greek: dexian) is clearly there in all manuscript traditions. But the NKJV, following the KJV, leaves that word out. Evidently the final editor, whoever that is, uses the NKJV almost solely and does not check the original.

In sum, I can only be delighted that most of my comments were accepted and published. The seven trumpets are extremely difficult and there is no SDA consensus on their interpretation. Have fun trying to work it through this week! I should mention that Uriah Smith’s interpretation (Fall of Rome) is not followed by most SDA scholars for a number of reasons. Among others, he did not study them himself (his comments are full of quotations from others), he got his views from non-SDA sources, the position is not based on analysis of the text itself, and Ellen White’s seeming endorsement is casual and her use of Rev 9 is peripheral to her intention for that chapter. For more on that see

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at