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Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes to His Lesson Manuscript on Rev 17-18

Ranko Stefanovic just checked in from Sao Paulo Brazil. He has been traveling and unable to send before, please accept his apologies. Better late than never. From here on is his brief analysis of the editorial changes followed by the original lesson as it came from his own hand:

Except here and there some minor editorial changes, the Sabbath School Quarterly week 12 has retained the intention of the pre-edited version.

In the Monday lesson, the last paragraph was removed: “Both groups are equally deceived and have put themselves into the service of Babylon: the world leaders serve Babylon for personal benefit while the general populace serves Babylon as a result of seduction. Revelation tells us that, at the time of the end, the world will once again be dominated by a religious system similar to the one of the Middle Ages. Yet, the time will come when the people will realize the impotence of Babylon and will turn against it, however, too late (see Rev. 17:12-16). This concept is depicted as the drying up of the Euphrates River, when the disillusioned supporters of Babylon withdraw their support from this apostate religious system.”

Lesson 12 * March 16-22

Judgment on Babylon

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. chaps. 17-18; 2:20-23; 13:5-8.
Memory Text: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4-5, NKJV).
We saw that the sixth plague causes the symbolic drying up of the Euphrates, as the disillusioned people of the world withdraw their popular support from end-time Babylon. However, its fall will be followed by extensive demonic activities counterfeiting the work of God, doing miraculous signs, the most evident of which is bringing fire down from heaven (Rev. 13:13). The demonic activity is successful in uniting the whole world in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon against God’s faithful remnant.
At the outset of the final battle, a great earthquake occurs as part of the seventh plague. The earthquake shatters the unity of Babylon and splits it into three parts (Rev. 16:18-19). End-time Babylon is portrayed as a city, signifying the short-term union of the satanic trinity—the dragon, the sea beast, and the earth beast—in its alliance with the religious powers of the world in opposition to God’s people. This unity is shattered, causing the breakup of end-time Babylon.
We must keep in mind that Revelation 16:19 only pronounces the collapse of end-time Babylon. Chapters 17-18 tell us how this collapse will actually happen. Before describing the demise of end-time Babylon and the reasons for its fall (Rev. 17:12-18:24), Revelation 17 describes this end-time apostate religious system, this time in terms of a prostitute riding the beast who, in association with her daughters, seduces the world against God (vs. 1-11).
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 22.

Sunday March 17
The Prostitute Babylon
Read Revelation 17:1. Jeremiah 51:13 shows that the “many waters” upon which Babylon sits is the river Euphrates. According to Revelation 17:15, what do many waters symbolize?
A woman in the Bible is a symbol for God’s people. In Revelation, God’s faithful people are portrayed as a chaste woman (Rev. 12:1; 22:17). A harlot thus represents apostate and unfaithful people. In Revelation 17:5, this prostitute is identified as Babylon the Great. Just as ancient Babylon depended on the Euphrates River for its existence, so will end-time Babylon rely on the support of the governing world powers to enforce its plans.
Read Revelation 17:2 along with 14:8 and 18:2-3. What two groups of people are specified as involved in an illicit relationship with and being seduced by end-time Babylon?
The first group is the kings of the earth—these are the governing political powers. They are portrayed as being engaged in an adulterous relationship with the prostitute Babylon. In the Old Testament, the language of fornication is used frequently to describe how apostate Israel turned away from God to idolatry (Isa. 1:21; Jer. 3:1-10). The adulterous relationship between the kings of the earth and the harlot symbolizes an illicit union between end-time Babylon and the governing political powers in the final crisis.
The second group in an illicit relationship with the prostitute Babylon is the inhabitants of the earth. These are made spiritually drunk with the wine of Babylon’s fornication. In contrast to the governing political powers, the general populace is intoxicated by Babylon’s deceptive teachings and activities. When people are drunk, they do not think soberly, and are easily controlled (see Isa. 28:7). Only when they are sober will they come to realize their bad decisions and actions.
Both groups are equally deceived and have put themselves into the service of Babylon: the world leaders serve Babylon for personal benefit while the general populace serves Babylon as a result of seduction. Revelation tells us that, at the time of the end, the world will once again be dominated by a religious system similar to the one of the Middle Ages. Yet, the time will come when the people will realize the impotence of Babylon and will turn against it, however, too late (see Rev. 17:12-16). This concept is depicted as the drying up of the Euphrates River, when the disillusioned supporters of Babylon withdraw their support from this apostate religious system.
How does someone drink of the wine of Babylon? Must a person be in Babylon to drink of Babylon’s wine?

Monday March 18
The Prostitute Riding on the Beast
Read Revelation 17:3. While John was told that the prostitute sited on many waters, he sees her actually riding the beast. In what ways do the symbols water and beast suitably describe the supporters of Babylon?
As John is carried in vision into the wilderness, he sees a woman on a scarlet beast, not on waters. While the prostitute represents a religious entity, the beast symbolizes a political power. The picture of religion riding the secular and political powers points to two separate entities, something that was not the case in the past, when religion and politics were integrated. The prophecy shows, however, that these two will join together at the end-time. The concept of riding a beast denotes dominance; this shows that this end-time religious system will dominate the secular and political powers.
Which characteristics of the prostitute point to the sea beast of Revelation 13? Make a list of their common features.
The prostitute is pictured as extravagantly arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with ornaments of gold and precious stones and pearls; this was a practice of prostitutes in antiquity to enhance their power of seduction (Jer. 4:30). As the color of blood, scarlet corresponds to the oppressive character of this religious system.
The harlot’s dress also reminds one of the attire of the High Priest in the Old Testament, which included the colors purple, scarlet, and gold (Exod. 28:5-6). The inscription on her forehead also resembles the priestly inscription, “Holiness to the Lord” on the miter of the high priest (Exod. 28:36-38). The cup in her hand replicates the drink offering in the sanctuary (Exod. 30:9). With its historic religious appearance, this end-time religious system becomes Satan’s powerful tool in seducing the world away from God. However, regardless of its appearance, this religious system is a harlot and the mother of harlots. Babylon’s daughters are the world religious powers that will unite with the satanic trinity, forming an end-time religious confederacy.
The harlot Babylon is further described as drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus who died due to their witness to Christ. This links end-time Babylon to the medieval apostate Christianity of western Europe, which was led by the papacy and responsible for the deaths of millions of Christians who remained faithful to the gospel.
The description of the prostitute Babylon reflects the image of Jezebel in the church of Thyatira (see Rev. 2:20-23). How do the parallels between these two women elucidate the character of end-time Babylon?

Tuesday March 19
The Identification of the Beast
Read Revelation 17:6b-7. Why is John so astonished when he sees the prostitute? The angel promised to explain to him the mystery of the prostitute. Yet, he instead places all the focus on the scarlet beast. Why?
The likely reason for John’s astonishment at seeing the prostitute was that he recognized in her the woman that had fled into the wilderness in order to escape the persecution of the dragon during the prophetic 1260-day period of the Middle Ages (Rev. 12:13-14). This suggests that this end-time apostate religious system was once faithful to Christ. The church that in the past was faithful to God will, at the end time, turn into the opponent of God’s people and lead people away from God.
In response to John’s amazement, the angel explains to him the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her.
Read Revelation 17:8. Compare the wording of this verse with 13:8. How does Revelation 13:3 clarify the three phases of the existence and activities of the beast?
The scarlet beast is identified as the one that was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. This tripartite phrase is, first of all, a parody of the divine name Yahweh —“who is and who was, and who is to come” (Rev. 1:4; 4:8). It also further points to the three phases of existence through which the beast has passed:
(1) The beast “was,” as it existed in the past. This refers to the activities of the beast during the period of the prophetic 1260-days (see Rev. 13:5).
(2) “Is not.” With its deadly wound (see Rev. 13:3), the beast came into its non-existence phase; it vanished for some time from the world scene, yet it survived.
(3) Finally, with the healing of the deadly wound, the beast will come back to life again in full satanic rage against God’s faithful people.
Revelation 17 describes the beast of Revelation 13:1-8 at the time of the healing of its deadly wound. It is upon this resurrected beast that prostitute Babylon sits. Revelation thus tells us that once again there will be a short-lived union of religion and politics, as it existed during the Middle Ages. The revival of the medieval religious system will arouse the admiration of the inhabitants of the earth, all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. This reiterates verbatim Revelation 13:8, which clearly links the scarlet beast that carries the prostitute Babylon with the medieval apostate religious system.

Wednesday March 20
The Seven Heads of the Beast
Throughout history, the beast existed and functioned by its heads—one head at a time. The angel proceeds to explain the meaning of the beast’s heads.
Read Revelation 17:9-11 along with 13:18. The requirement for understanding the seven heads is a mind of wisdom. What kind of wisdom is in view here? How does one obtain this divinely imparted wisdom (see James 1:5)?
The angel explains that the seven heads are seven mountains. Some translators think that these are the seven hills upon which the city of Rome is situated, and this is why they translate the Greek word oroi [“mountains”) as “hills.” However, the angel makes clear that Rome was not meant because he immediately explains that these mountains symbolize seven kings. Also, these mountains are successive, not synchronic.
These mountains are not individual kings because Revelation does not deal with individual persons but systems. In the Bible, mountains often symbolize world powers or empires (Jer. 51:25; Ezek. 35:2-3). In biblical prophecy, “kings,” mean kingdoms (see Dan. 2:37-39; 7:17). Thus, the seven mountains represent seven great successive empires that dominated the world throughout history, through which Satan opposed God and harmed God’s people.
As the angel now identifies these seven kingdoms, he does it from John’s time perspective, rather than from the perspective of the future.
Five of these empires have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. The five that have fallen are the great kingdoms that in the Old Testament times dominated and harmed God’s people: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The “one is” kingdom was the Roman Empire of John’s time. The seventh kingdom that “has not yet come” is the beast of Revelation 13—the medieval church led by the papacy that dominated and harmed God’s people—that was to come after the time of John and after the fall of the Roman Empire.
John is further told that the scarlet beast is in the phase of the eighth head, although it is one of the seven. Which of the seven? Most likely the seventh head that received the deadly wound. It is at the time of this eighth head that the scarlet beast carries the prostitute Babylon. Today, we live at the time of the healing of the deadly wound. The eighth head will appear on the scene right before the end, and will go to perdition.
John was told that the seventh power “must continue a short time.” How does Revelation 12:12 explain that this “short time” does not refer to a length of time?

Thursday March 21
The Fall of Babylon
Read Revelation 17:12-15 along with 16:12-16. What do you learn from the text about the “ten kings”?
Different interpretations have been offered regarding the identity of the ten kings. However, Revelation does not tell us who they are; like any unfulfilled prophecy, only the future will reveal their full identity. All we can derive from the text is that they are a short-lived political confederacy appearing right before the end. Their number denotes the totality of the world powers that will render their allegiance to the beast. The beast will use them to enforce its plans and purposes, which will last only for a short time.
Now, Revelation 17:13-14 reiterates in a nutshell the Battle of Armageddon—introduced in Revelation 12:12-17. Induced by the satanic trinity, the worldwide political confederacy will make war with the Lamb. This shows that the final battle is not a military battle in the Middle East, but a battle between Satan and his confederacy and Christ and His faithful people. Babylon’s aim is to destroy God’s people. The battle will conclude with the triumph of Christ and the destruction of the worldwide confederacy that loyally supported Babylon (see Rev. 19:11-21).
Read Revelation 17:16-18. From what we saw in Revelation 16:2-12, what lies behind the ten kings’ change of attitude towards Babylon? Who is behind what happens to Babylon?
This whole scenario is another description of the drying up of the Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12). The ten horns, filled with hatred, suddenly turn against the harlot Babylon, making her desolate and naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. In describing this scene, John employs Old Testament language that depicts His judgments against adulterous Jerusalem (Jer. 4:30). Burning by fire was the punishment for a daughter of the high priest who was involved in prostitution (Lev. 21:9), which is a further indication that the prostitute Babylon denotes a religious system that was once true to God. As Revelation 16:10-12 indicates, the deceived political powers have become disillusioned because of the impotence of Babylon to protect them from the plagues. They feel deceived and in hostility attack her, bringing her to ruin. This end-time apostate religious system experiences the fullness of divine judgment together with all those who chose to identify themselves with it.
Read Revelation 18:1-3 and 7-19. Revelation states that Babylon is judged and charged on three grounds: religious, political, and economic. How do those who cooperated with Babylon and caused its destruction lament, realizing that Babylon’s destruction means their own loss of power and wealth?

Friday March 22
Further Thought: Right before the demise of Babylon, a voice from heaven urges God’s people still in Babylon to, “Come out of her, My people” (Rev. 18:4). There are many worshippers of God who are in Babylon for various reasons. To them, God sends His final appeal to disentangle themselves from this apostate religious system and not participate in its sins. They must come out of it in order to escape its fate. God does not want anyone in Babylon to perish. Revelation 19:1-10 shows that many God-fearing people in Babylon will respond to the call.
Discussion Questions:
As Revelation 18:4 shows, there are many God-fearing people in Babylon who God calls, “My people.” Reflect on the following statement: “This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf. Those who have had great privileges and opportunities, and who have failed to improve their physical, mental, and moral powers, . . . are in greater danger and in greater condemnation before God than those who are in error upon doctrinal points, yet who seek to live to do good to others”—Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 575.
At the time of Daniel, Babylon was an evil power opposing God (see Isa. 14:12-14) and the enemy of God’s people. However, there were many sincere people in Babylon, who God wanted through Daniel to win for Himself. Do you see God-fearing people in Babylon today? While Babylon is an evil apostate religious system, God still loves the Babylonians and wants to save them. The question that deserves serious consideration is: where are God’s Daniels of today?
Some spend much time in making detailed timetables and prophetic charts regarding the final events. Should our time be better used in analyzing geographical maps for the purpose of reaching others for Christ?
Revelation 17 describes a prostitute sitting on a scarlet beast. While the woman in chapter 12 symbolizes God’s faithful church, the one in 17 refers to an apostate church seducing the world away from God. In your view, are these two women related?

Ranko Stefanovic on Editorial Changes to His Lesson Manuscript on Rev 15-16

Except the Wednesday lesson that was completely rewritten and the meaning changed, the Sabbath School Quarterly week 11 has retained the intention of the pre-edited version, except some minor edits.

The Wednesday lesson has been completely altered. Here is the second paragraph of the original manuscript:

“The kings from the east in Revelation 16:12 are Christ and His army of saints. While Jesus will return accompanied by heavenly angels, Revelation 17:14 shows that the final battle will involve Christ and His faithful remnant against satanic forces. In Revelation 19:14, Jesus leads the armies of heaven “clothed in fine linen, white and clean (NKJV),” which is the dress of the bride of the Lamb in Revelation 19:8. In Revelation 7, the 144,000 are pictured as an army about to enter the final battle.”
This is the altered paragraph that appear in the current Quarterly:
“The kings from the east in Revelation 16:12 are Christ and His army of heavenly angels. At His second coming, Jesus will appear with His angelic host, “clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:14, NKJV), which is the dress of sinless angels (Rev. 15:6). Accompanied by the host of heaven, Christ will, as Revelation 17:14 shows, over¬come the satanic forces that oppress His people (compare Matt. 24:30, 31). This final conflict against Christ and His people leading up to the Second Coming is known as the battle of Armageddon.”
Then, the sentence: “The three demon spirits proceeding from ‘the mouth’ of the satanic trinity are the very breath of Satan in the final deception” is changed into: “The dragon (paganism and spiritualism), the sea beast (Roman Catholicism), and the false prophet (apostate Protestantism) unite under Satan’s command (see Rev. 13:11, 12).”
The following sentence: “Satan enables them to perform miraculous signs, which point to the activities of the lamblike beast (see Rev. 13:13-14)” has been changed into: “Satan enables the lamb¬like beast to perform miraculous signs (see Rev. 13:13–17) that include spiritualistic manifestations.”
The last paragraph of the lesson has been completely altered.
The Thursday lesson has also been edited without altering the intention of the original manuscript. The last paragraph, however, has been removed: “Revelation 16:12-16 portrays only the great gathering for Armageddon. The actual battle follows the sixth plague, (see Rev. 16:17-19:21) which will conclude with the total defeat of the beast and his forces (Rev. 19:20-21).”

Lesson 11 * March 9-15
The Seven Last Plagues

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 7:1-3, 13-17; chaps. 15-16.
Memory Text: “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify your name? For You alone are holy, for all nations shall come and worship before You, for your judgments have been manifested” (Revelation 15:4, NKJV).
Revelation 11:18 summarizes in a nutshell the preparation for the final war against the remnant in the statement: “the nations were angry.” In responding to this situation, God sends the three angel’s messages to warn people of the consequences of the decision they will have to make. The time has now come for God to respond to the anger of the nations by pouring out His wrath upon the unrepentant in terms of the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1).
Revelation 15 opens with the picture of seven angels with seven bowls filled with God’s wrath to pour on those who have rejected God’s message. Before this event is delineated, a picture of God’s faithful people is inserted (Rev. 15:1-4). They are described as victorious over the beast and its image, and standing on something resembling a sea of glass, and singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. This brings to mind the Israelites standing on the shores of the Red Sea and celebrating God’s victory over Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exod. 15).
These victorious saints are the same ones referred to as the 144,000 in Revelation 14:1-5. They are securely protected from the destroying effects of the seven last plagues. They are about to undergo the transformation of their mortal bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-54), and join the resurrected saints to be taken up to meet Jesus coming in power and glory (1 Thess. 4:17).
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 15.

Sunday March 10
The Meaning of the Seven Last Plagues
At the conclusion of the preaching of the gospel, people have knowingly and willingly made their choice either for God or Babylon. Christ is now ready to come. Before He comes, however, the destructive winds that have been restrained from blowing (Rev. 7:1-3) are now to be unleashed upon rebellious humanity.
Read Revelation 15:1 along with 7:1-3 and 14:9-10a. The plagues that were inflicted upon Egypt during the Exodus are the backdrop for the seven last plagues. How are the Egyptian plagues instructive regarding their purpose and meaning?
The seven last plagues are referred to as the “last” plagues because they come after the plagues of the seven trumpets. The trumpets cover the time period that includes the entire Christian age and are restricted in their scope. They are executed while the gospel is still being preached (Rev. 10:8-11:14) and intercession is taking place (Rev. 8:2-5). They are mixed with mercy and their purpose is to bring the enemies of God’s people to repentance.
On the other hand, the seven last plagues are poured out prior to the Second Coming and they obviously embrace the whole earth. They express the fullness of God’s wrath upon the worshippers of the beast—undiluted, without mercy (see Rev 14:10). Divine wrath is God’s reaction to the choices people make (see Rom 1:26-28). Until now, God’s wrath has always been mixed with mercy. However, the time has come for all those who have spurned God’s grace and the call to worship the true Creator God to experience the consequences of the choice they have made.
Read Revelation 15:5-8 along with Exodus 40:34-35 and 1 Kings 8:10-11. In light of these two Old Testament texts, what does the statement that “no man was able to enter the temple” suggest of the timing of the seven last plagues?
The expression “no one was able to enter the temple” (Rev. 15:8, NKJV) points to the close of probation. As Christ’s mediatory ministry in heaven comes to an end, the door of opportunity to repent ultimately closes. This shows that the last plagues are not intended to bring anyone to repentance, but rather to disclose the hardness of the hearts of those who chose to side with Babylon, prompting them to hate God even more.
On the basis of Revelation 7:1, do the seven last plagues represent God’s direct activities by which he torments people? How does the pouring of the seven last plagues express the fairness and justice of the divine judgments?

Monday March 11
The Outpouring of the Last Plagues
With the cessation of the intercession in the heavenly sanctuary, the destiny of each individual is irreversible. The time has come for those who have spurned the gospel to experience God’s wrath in its fullness.
The seven last plagues mirror the plagues poured out upon Egypt (Exodus 7-11). As the Egyptian plagues affected the Egyptians while the Israelites were spared, so the first four last plagues affect primarily the worshippers of the beast but pass over the worshippers of God. The plagues on Egypt disclosed the hardness of the heart of Pharaoh and showed the Egyptians the impotence of their gods to protect them. Similarly, the last plagues increasingly harden the hearts of the worshippers of the beast and reveal the powerlessness of Babylon to protect them from the divine judgments.
Read Revelation 16:1-9. Do the Egyptian plagues help determine whether the last plagues are literal or symbolic? How do people react as they are afflicted by the plagues?
The first four plagues strike the population on earth in general. The first inflicts painful and loathsome sores exclusively on the worshippers of the beast. The second and third plagues affect the sea and the rivers and the springs of water, which turn into blood. Without water to drink, rebellious humanity will not survive. The fourth plague affects the sun so that it scorches people, causing unbearable pain. God’s people are, to a certain degree, also affected by this plague (see Rev. 7:16).
The unbearable pain inflicted by the plagues does not soften peoples’ hearts so as to change their rebellious attitude. They have hardened their heart to such an extent that they cannot repent. Instead, they curse and blaspheme God, who executes these plagues.
Read Revelation 16:10-11 along with Exodus 10:21-23. What is the significance of the fifth plague, which strikes the throne of the beast?
The fifth plague strikes the very throne of the beast. It was Satan who delegated the throne of the beast (Rev. 13:2). Now, even the very seat of Satan’s authority cannot withstand the force of these plagues. As people suffer in pain, they begin to realize the impotence of Babylon to protect them. However, they have set their minds against God, and even the terror of the plagues cannot change their hearts, but rather increasingly hardens them.
How does the hardness of the rebellious at the time of the last plagues show the inadequacy of the popular concept known as “the second chance” given to sinners to repent before the Second Coming?

Tuesday March 12
Drying Up the Euphrates River
The sixth angel pours out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates, resulting in the drying up of its waters. In describing the sixth plague, John uses the Old Testament language as it describes the fall of ancient Babylon.
Read Revelation 16:12 along with Revelation 17:1 and 15. What does the symbol of the Euphrates stand for? What is the significance of the drying up of the Euphrates in the context of the seven last plagues?
In the Old Testament, the Euphrates marked the border between Israel and their enemies Babylon and Assyria (Isa. 7:20; Jer. 46:10). The river flowed through Babylon; it was important to the city as it nourished crops and provided water for people. Babylon could not survive without the Euphrates.
Revelation 17:1 describes end-time Babylon as dwelling upon many waters, namely the Euphrates (see Jer. 51:13). Revelation 17:15 explains that the waters upon which end-time Babylon dwells represent worldwide civil, secular, and political powers that will support this religious system. Just as ancient Babylon was sustained by the Euphrates, so end-time Babylon exists by the support of the worldwide powers. However, these powers will eventually retract their support for this religious system.
The scene of the sixth plague reflects the capture of ancient Babylon by Cyrus the Persian (see Dan. 5). On the night King Belshazzar and his officials had a feast, according to the ancient historian Herodotus, the Persians diverted the Euphrates and entered the city along the riverbed and took the city by surprise (History 1.191).
The symbolic drying up of the Euphrates in Revelation 16:12 results in the collapse of end-time Babylon as the enemy of God and His people. Since the Euphrates in Revelation represents the world civil, secular, and political powers giving their support to Babylon, the drying up of the Euphrates symbolizes the withdrawal of their support and subsequent attack against Babylon, thereby causing its downfall.
Reflect again on Revelation 16:10-11. What will cause a sudden change in the world’s attitude toward Babylon?
As the people of the world witness the upheaval in nature, they turn to Babylon for protection. However, as the fifth plague strikes the very seat of Babylon’s authority, the disillusioned people realize the impotence of Babylon to protect them. Feeling deceived, they turn against Babylon causing its downfall (see Rev. 17:16). Yet, their hearts are hardened in their hostility against God and his people. As such, they become fertile soil for the final deception by which Satan will draw the world to the great battle against God.

Wednesday March 13
Satan’s Last Great Deception
Revelation 16:12 tells us that the purpose of drying up the Euphrates is to prepare the way for “the kings from the east.” Who are these kings from the east?
In the Old Testament, “the kings from the east” were Cyrus and his forces coming from the east against Babylon (Isa 41:25). Their conquest of Babylon made the return of God’s people to their homeland possible (Isa. 44:27-28). In the same way, the symbolic drying up of the Euphrates prepares the way for the coming of the kings from the east to provide deliverance to God’s end-time people.
The kings from the east in Revelation 16:12 are Christ and His army of saints. While Jesus will return accompanied by heavenly angels, Revelation 17:14 shows that the final battle will involve Christ and His faithful remnant against satanic forces. In Revelation 19:14, Jesus leads the armies of heaven “clothed in fine linen, white and clean (NKJV),” which is the dress of the bride of the Lamb in Revelation 19:8. In Revelation 7, the 144,000 are pictured as an army about to enter the final battle.
Read Revelation 16:13-14. What is the role of the three froglike demons in the preparation for the final battle? How do they counterpart the three angels’ messages in Revelation 14?
The drying up of the Euphrates shakes the satanic triad. At this point, John sees coming out of their mouths three demonic spirits resembling frogs. In the Egyptian plagues, frogs were the last plague that Pharaoh’s magicians were able to duplicate (Exod. 8:1-15). The three froglike demons are Satan’s last attempt to counterfeit the work of God.
The three demon spirits proceeding from “the mouth” of the satanic trinity are the very breath of the satanic trinity in the final deception. Satan enables them to perform miraculous signs, which point to the activities of the lamblike beast (see Rev. 13:13-14). Miraculous signs are Satan’s end-time strategy to persuade the world to follow him rather than the true God (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
The froglike demonic spirits are sent with a false gospel to entice the world to join them for the battle against God’s people. Their activities result in great success. Although disillusioned, the leaders of the world are enticed again and they submit themselves to Satan against God’s people. At this point, the stage is now set for the final battle.
Read Revelation 22:18-19. In your view, could all of the varied, speculative, and fanciful ideas about the Battle of Armageddon be a part of Satan’s end-time deceptive strategy?

Thursday March 14
Gathering for the Final Battle
Although the governing leaders turn against Babylon, their hearts do not soften. They continue to curse God and are now ready to turn their anger against His people. In such a way, they become the susceptible to intense demonic activity, by which the entire world is drawn into the Battle of Armageddon.
Read Revelation 16:16. How successful will be Satan’s final deception in gathering the people of the world to the Battle of Armageddon?
The deceptive demonic miracles will achieve worldwide success. In spurning the true gospel, people will believe a lie that will be accompanied by deceptive miracles (see 2 Thess. 2:9-12). They will gather together to a symbolic place, which is in Hebrew called Armageddon, meaning “the Mountain of Megiddo.” Megiddo was a fortress-city located in the Valley of Jezreel (or the Plain of Esdraelon) at the foot of the Mount Carmel ridge, and was an important strategic site. The Plain of Esdraelon was known for many decisive battles in the history of Israel (see Judg. 5:19-21; 6:33; 2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 23:29-30).
Revelation uses this motif from Israel’s history to depict the final great conflict between God and the forces of evil. The people of the world are portrayed as a unified army under the leadership of the satanic league. Revelation 9 states their number is 200 million (Rev. 9:16), in contrast to the 144,000 saints.
The mount of Megiddo was Mount Carmel, which is near the city. It was the site of one of the most significant battles in Israel’s history, involving the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The issue revolved around the question of who was the true God. The fire that came from heaven demonstrated that the Lord was the only true God to be worshipped. Revelation 13:13-14 portrays the earth beast bringing fire down from heaven to counterfeit the work of God and deceive the whole world.
Armageddon is not a military battle to be fought somewhere in the Middle East, but rather a spiritual battle between Christ and the forces of darkness (see 2 Cor. 10:4). The issue to be resolved once and for all in the final battle is regarding who is the legitimate ruler of the universe. The outcome of the final battle will be like that at Carmel—God’s ultimate triumph over the forces of darkness.
Revelation 16:12-16 portrays only the great gathering for Armageddon. The actual battle follows the sixth plague, (see Rev. 16:17-19:21) which will conclude with the total defeat of the beast and his forces (Rev. 19:20-21).

Friday December 15
Further Thought: “Fearful sights of a supernatural character will soon be revealed in the heavens, in token of the power of miracle-working demons. The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of heaven. By these agencies, rulers and subjects will be alike deceived. . . .
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation (Rev. 1:13-15). The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: “Christ has come! Christ has come!” The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him. . . . In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 624.
Discussion Questions:
Read Jesus’ admonition in Revelation 16:15 inserted into the description of the preparation for the Battle of Armageddon. Note the similar wording in Christ’s earlier appeal to the church of Laodicea (Rev 3:18). How does this show the significance of the message to Laodicea to God’s people living at the time of the preparation for the final battle? In what way does this message apply to you personally?
White garments in Revelation symbolize uncompromising loyalty and faithfulness to Christ (Rev. 3:4-5; 19:7-9). Only those who clothe themselves with the robe of Christ’s righteousness will be able to stand firm in the final crisis. How does one make his/her robes white and clean in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14)?

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson 10 *March 2-8

God’s Everlasting Gospel

Sabbath Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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?

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 7)

From Ranko Stefanovic:

In SS Lesson #6, changes have been made to teach that Rev 7 portrays two different group of saved people.

The Tuesday lesson has been completely rewritten.

Also, in the Wednesday lesson, significant changes were made in the conclusion of the lesson: “The 144,000 are not a special small group of saints separated from the rest of the believers. They are the first fruits in the sense that they have been purchased by the blood of Christ and, as such, are the first fruits of the harvest of God (see Rev. 14:14-16).” The concluding statement was introduced stating that the 144,000 are “the firstfruits of the larger harvest of the saved through all the ages.”

In the Thursday lesson, the sentence “Abraham (Gen. 17:1) and Job (Job 1:1) were blameless, but not sinless,” “but not sinless” has be removed. And the fourth paragraph as a whole has been removed.

Here’s the original manuscript of this week’s lesson:

The Sealed People of God

Sabbath Afternoon
Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 7:1-17; 14:1-5; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Tim. 2:19; 2 Pet. 3:10-14.
Memory Verse: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14, NKJV).
The message of the opening of the seven seals shows that every person who claims to believe in Christ faces blessings for faithfulness to Christ or curses for unfaithfulness. Just as God used the curses of the covenant to bring the Israelites back to Himself, the first four seals describe God’s disciplinary means to wake His people up from their spiritual lethargy and make them victorious. Yet, God’s people suffer injustice and oppression in a world hostile to the gospel. At the opening of the sixth seal, God is ready to deal those who harmed his faithful people.
It is important to understand the place of chapter 7 in the structural arrangement of the book. It is inserted parenthetically between the sixth and seventh seals. The sixth seal brings us to the Second Coming of Christ. As the wicked face impending judgment, they run in a panic and call on the mountains and rocks to fall upon them and hide them from the wrath of God and the Lamb. They ask in terror: “Who is be able to stand?” (6:17, NKJV). Revelation 7 tells us that those who will be able to stand on the day of Christ’s coming are the sealed people of God.
Thus, Revelation 7 identifies God’s end-time people who will live at the time prior to the Second Coming. Their other characteristics are given in Revelation 14:1-5. On the other hand, there is another interlude inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets (Rev. 10:1-11:14). This interlude coincides with the same time period as the scene of chapter 7 and describes the experience and task of God’s end-time people at the time of the end.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 10.

Sunday February 3
Restraining the Winds
Read Revelation 7:1-3 along with 2 Peter 3:9-14. What does John see? How long are the angels supposed to restrain the winds? What will happen when the sealing is concluded?
In the Old Testament, winds stand for destructive forces by which God executes judgments upon the wicked (Jer. 23:19-20). The blowing of the winds correlates with God’s wrath in Revelation 6:17. It is another way of describing the seven last plagues to be poured upon the unrepentant humanity right before the Second Coming (Rev. 16). However, these destructive forces are being restrained by divine intervention while the sealing of God’s people takes place.
In ancient times, the primary meaning of sealing was ownership. The meaning of the symbolic sealing in the New Testament is that, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19, NKJV). God recognizes Him own people and seals them with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30). At the end-time, the seal on the forehead marks those who choose to be on God’s side (Rev. 14:1). The seal of God is not a visible mark put on one’s forehead, but as Ellen White states, it means, “settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved”—Ellen G. White, The Last Day Events, p. 220. Those who willingly and knowingly side with the beast receive the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16-17).
The faithfulness of God’s sealed people has been tested in every generation. However, the test of faithfulness in the final crisis will be the keeping of God’s commandments (see Rev. 12:17; 14:12). In particular, the fourth commandment will become the test of obedience to God (Rev. 14:7). As the Sabbath has been the sign of God’s people in biblical times (Exod. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20), so it will be the sign of loyalty to God in the final crisis.
Read Ezekiel 9:1-11. Ezekiel’s vision, which originally concerned the destruction of Jerusalem before the Exile, is the backdrop of the sealing in Revelation 7:1-3. In light of Ezekiel’s vision, what is the purpose of the sealing?
At the time of the end, the seal functions also as a sign of protection from the destructive forces of the seven last plagues—as in Ezekiel’s vision. Thus, the question raised in Revelation 6:17 receives the ultimate answer: those who will be able to stand protected on the day of God’s wrath are the sealed people of God.
Paul warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we have been sealed (Eph. 4:30). How does one grieve the Holy Spirit?

Monday February 4
The Sealed People of God
Read Revelation 7:4-8. What is the number of God’s sealed people? Do you see this number as literal or symbolic?
The announcement of the number of those who are sealed marks the completion of the sealing. John hears that their number is 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel. The reference is not here to a literal number but what it signifies. The number 144,000 consists of twelve times twelve times one thousand. Twelve is a symbol of God’s people: the tribes of Israel and the number of the church built upon the foundation of the 12 apostles (Eph. 2:20). Thus, the number 144,000 stands for the totality of God’s end-time people.
Compare the list of the twelve tribes in Revelation 7:4-8 with those in Genesis 49 and Numbers 1:5-15. What are the differences between these lists of the tribes and the one in Revelation?
The twelve tribes listed in Revelation 7 are not literal because the twelve tribes of Israel are not in existence today. The ten tribes were taken into captivity during the Assyrian conquest (2 Kings 17:6-23), where they became integrated with other nations. The twelve tribes do not constitute Judaism today.
Also, the list of the twelve tribes in Revelation 7 is not a regular list. Judah is listed as the first tribe instead of Ruben. Also, the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted, and Joseph and Levi are included instead. The obvious reason for the exclusion of Dan and Ephraim is because in the Old Testament these two tribes are apostate and idolatrous (Judg. 18:27-32; Hos. 4:17).
The list of the tribes in Revelation 7 is not historical but spiritual. It tells us that the unfaithfulness of the tribes of Dan and Ephraim does not have place among God’s sealed people. Also, the church in the New Testament is referred to as the twelve tribes of Israel (Jam. 1:1). The twelve tribes in Revelation 7 stand for the entire people of God.
The 144,000 are portrayed as an army modeled after ancient Israel going to war. In ancient Israel, there were 1,000 soldiers in a basic military unit (Num. 31:3-6). The symbolic number 144,000 denotes the church militant in terms of 144 military units of 1,000 ready to go to the final battle (Rev. 17:14) in contrast to the enemy army numbering 200 millions (Rev. 9:16).
Can you think of yourself as preparing for a war or battle? What preparation would you make? In what way would that preparation define your priorities in life?

Tuesday February 5
The Great Multitude
John the Revelator heard that the number of God’s sealed people was 144,000. The apostle then expected to see them entering the tribulation of the seven last plagues.
Read Revelation 7:9-14. What group of saints does John see at this point? How are they described and where do they come from? What are they shouting before God’s throne?
John sees the Great Multitude as they come out of the great tribulation of the seven last plagues (Rev 7:14). Who is this incalculable multitude?
The key to their identification is found in a special literary feature, “I heard” and “I saw.” Many times, John hears about something in vision, but when he actually sees it, it appears to him in a different symbol (see Rev. 5:5-6). John had previously only heard that the number of the sealed people was 144,000. As the winds are to be unleashed, they are ready to enter the great tribulation of the seven last plagues. Yet, John did not see them as such because they are spread in every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.
When he actually sees them, they appear as a great, incalculable crowd coming out of the great tribulation. The war is over, and they are no longer on earth but before the throne of God. They appear as incalculable, not because of their uncountable number, but because they stand in contrast to the countable 144,000. They are no longer seen as an army, but as the church triumphant.
This shows that the 144,000 and the Great Multitude are the same group of God’s end-time people pictured in different times and circumstances.
Read Revelation 14:1-3 along with 15:2-4. In light of Revelation 5:9 and 7:10, what is the content of the new song sung by the 144,000? Why are the 144,000 the only ones able to learn that song?
Revelation 14:1-3 pictures the 144,000 as God’s triumphant people with the name of God on their foreheads; they are committed to God in their mind and character. While Revelation 7:9 pictures them as standing before God’s throne, in chapter 14 they are standing on Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the place of God’s rule (Mic. 4:7) and of deliverance for God’s people (Isa. 31:4; Joel 2:32). The 144,000 have passed through the final crisis and are now celebrating the great victory over the forces of darkness.
Read about the reward of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:15-17. How does their future relate to their past? How does one wash the robes making them white in the Lamb’s blood?

Wednesday February 6
Those Who Follow the Lamb
Revelation does not explain who exactly the 144,000 are, but rather what they are. All we can learn is that, as the last generation, they are the representatives of all God’s saved people who will have to go through the final crisis of this world’s history.
Read Revelation 14:4-5. What are the three chief characteristics of the 144,000 saints? How are these characteristics related to the description of the end-time saints in Revelation 14:12?
Revelation 14:4-5 builds upon the description of the 144,000 as the ones who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). Although they experienced the fullness of Satan’s wrath in the final crisis, they have remained firm because of their close relationship with Jesus.
In light of Revelation 17:5, in what sense have the 144,000 not been defiled with women? How is this related to the fact that they are redeemed from people as “the first fruits” to God?
That the 144,000 have not defiled themselves with women mirrors the practice among ancient Israelite soldiers of not having sexual relationships with women prior to battle (1 Sam. 21:4-5). Similarly, the 144,000 entering the final battle are symbolically portrayed as not spiritually defiling themselves with women.
Sexual immorality is a symbol of unfaithfulness to God. Revelation 17:5 talks about the end-time prostitute Babylon and her daughters, with whom all the people of the world will commit fornication (see Rev. 18:3). However, the 144,000 will remain loyal to Christ and resist the defiling relationships with Babylon and apostate religions. They “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
The 144,000 are further described as the ones who “have been redeemed from among men” as “first fruits to God and to the Lamb (NKJV).“ In ancient Israel, the first fruits were the best fruits of the harvest offered to God. The term “the first fruits” refers to God’s saved people in their totality as distinct from the people in the world (see Jer. 2:3; Jam. 1:18). The 144,000 are not a special small group of saints separated from the rest of the believers. They are the first fruits in the sense that they have been purchased by the blood of Christ and, as such, are the first fruits of the harvest of God (see Rev. 14:14-16).
To have the name of God on one’s forehead means to reflect His character. How is such a person recognized? As you think of the members in your congregation, does their behavior indicate that God’s character is engraved on their minds and characters?

Thursday February 7
Salvation to Our God and the Lamb
Read Revelation 14:5 along with 2 Peter 3:14. Revelation describes God’s end time people as “without fault.” How is this achievable?
The final characteristic of the 144,000 is that “in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God” (NKJV). The deceit spoken of here refers to Satan’s end-time deceptions (Rev. 13:14). While most of the people in the world choose to believe his lies, God’s end-time people will receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Thess. 2:10-11).
“Without fault” (Gr. amōmos, “blameless”) refers to the fidelity of the 144,000 to Christ, not their morally sinless status. In the Old Testament, Abraham (Gen. 17:1) and Job (Job 1:1) were blameless, but not sinless. Two thousand years ago, Christians were called to be holy and without blemish before God (Eph. 5:27; Phil. 2:15).
In the closing days of this world’s history, the 144,000 will reflect the true character of Christ. Their salvation will reflect what Christ has done for them, rather than their own holiness and works (see Eph. 2:8-9). The 144,000 have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14), and, as such, are found “spotless and blameless” before God (2 Pet. 3:14).
Revelation nowhere indicates that in God’s kingdom there will be two distinct groups of saved people: the final generation of saints who will reach a level of holiness that no generation before them was able to attain. The 144,000 are not a select group of super saints who will, at the Second Coming, be granted special privileges not available to the rest of the redeemed. The redeemed saints are all dressed in the white robes provided by Christ (see Rev. 19:8). These white robes are washed in the blood of the Lamb and make all the redeemed equal before God.
Meditate on the following statements: “We need to be refined, cleansed from all earthliness, till we reflect the image of our Savior, and become ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ . . . When the conflict of life is ended, when the armor is laid off at the feet of Jesus, when the saints of God are glorified, then and then only will it be safe to claim that we are saved and sinless.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 355. How can we live a life of sanctification in active preparation for eternity, and yet not suffer from the pitfalls of perfectionism and fanatical holiness?

Friday February 8
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Sinlessness and Salvation,” pp. 353-357, in Selected Message, book 3.
The identity of the 144,000 is a hotly debated issue. What seems evident in Revelation is that the 144,000 are the last generation of God’s people in the closing days of this earth’s history. We know that they will go through the time of the tribulation of the seven last plagues (see Rev. 7:15-17) and that their loyalty will be tested like no generation in the past.
Yet, who will be in that group is not revealed to us. This is one of the secrets that God has kept for Himself (Deut. 29:29). Only the future will reveal who will be a part of this group of saved saints. Regarding this, we have been given a warning:
“Christ says that there will be those in the church who will present fables and suppositions, when God has given grand, elevating, ennobling truths which should ever be kept in the treasure house of the mind. When men pick up this theory and that theory, when they are curious to know something it is not necessary for them to know, God is not leading them. It is not His plan that His people shall present something which they have to suppose, which is not taught in the Word. It is not His will that they shall get into controversy over questions which will not help them spiritually, such as, Who is to compose the hundred and forty-four thousand? This those who are the elect of God will in a short time know without question.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol.1, p. 174.

Discussion Questions:
Think of the following admonition: “Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand.”—Ellen G. White, in SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 970. How can you put these words into practice? How does this striving impact your daily decisions?
An important characteristic of the 144,000 end-time saints is the singing of the new song. As you think of your own life, does your present spiritual walk reflect a song of a fresh experience with God? Or, does your life reflect your past stale stories of God’s works in your life, lacking evidence of present commitment? How does your present life reflect a new song of your spiritual walk and experience with Christ? Do you know Christ working in your daily life, or do you just know about Him?

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 6)

Some editorial changes in Lesson #5 made the text looks better. The changes were not numerous.

Some devotional questions were changed.

In the Sunday lesson, the change is made from “This whole scene is symbolic” to “Although symbolic, Revelation 6:1,2 is about conquest too.” This implies that there is a literal conquest in view in the vision. I do not believe that this is what the editor wished to say.

In the Tuesday lesson, the second paragraph is unnecessarily taken out: “The fourth seal calls forth pestilence and death. The graphic portrayal of the scene conveys the perennial truth that spiritual famine of the Word of God as a result of rejecting the gospel inevitably leads to spiritual death.” So also, “Beside their general application, the scenes of the seven seals also apply historically.”

In the Wednesday lesson, two sentences are added to the first paragraph, which clarify the point. Not bad.

Here’s my original manuscript before the editorial changes.

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Lesson 5 * January 26-February 1

The Seven Seals

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 6.
Memory Verse: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us unto kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10, NKJV).
Revelation 6 continues the scene of chapters 4-5 describing Christ who, by taking the sealed scroll and sitting on the heavenly throne, regained what was lost through Adam. The destiny of all humanity was put into His hands. He is now ready to open the seals on the scroll and carry out the plan of salvation to its ultimate realization.
Pentecost marked the beginning of the spread of the gospel, by which Christ expands His kingdom by winning human hearts to himself. However, He has to rule in the midst of His enemies (1 Cor. 15:25). There are still many who do not accept his authority. Yet, He wants to bring them under his rule, for He does want anyone to perish but all to come to salvation.
Thus, the breaking of the seals refers to the preaching of the gospel, which started at Pentecost, and the consequences of rejecting it. The opening of the seventh and last seal brings us to the conclusion of this world’s history.
Revelation 3:21 gives us the key to the meaning of the of the seven seals: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne (NKJV).” Chapters 4-5 tell us of Christ’s overcoming and His exaltation to His Father’s throne, and chapter 7 of the overcomers before Christ’s throne. Thus, chapter 6 is about God’s people in the process of overcoming so that they might share Jesus’ throne.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 3.
Sunday January 27
The Opening of the First Seal
Read Revelation 6:1-8 along with Leviticus 26:21-26 and Matthew 24:1-14. Note the common key words in these texts? What do you learn about the meaning of the first four seals on the basis of these parallels?
The events of the seven seals must be understood in the context of the Old Testament covenant curses specified in terms of sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts (Lev. 26:21-26). Ezekiel calls them God’s “four severe judgements” (Ezek. 14:21). They were the disciplinary judgments by which God chastised His people when they became unfaithful to the covenant in order to awaken them from their condition. In a similar way, the four horsemen are the means God uses to keep His people awake as they await Jesus’ return.
There are also close parallels between the first four seals and Matthew 24:4-14 where Jesus explained what would happen in the world throughout history up until His return. The four horsemen are the means by which God keeps His people on the right track by reminding them that this world is not their home and of the reality of Christ’s return.
Read Revelation 6:1-2. The scene points to a conquest situation. On the basis of the color of the horse and the description of the horseman, what does this scene point to?
This whole scene is symbolic. It brings to mind Revelation 19:11-16, which portrays Christ as riding a white horse and leading the heavenly armies into the final battle of earth’s history. As a symbol of purity, the white color is regularly associated with Christ and His followers. The rider on the horse holds a bow and is given a crown, which evokes the image of God in the Old Testament riding a horse with a bow in His hand conquering His people’s enemies (Hab. 3:8-13; Ps. 45:4-5). The Greek word for the crown worn by the rider is stephanos, which is the crown of victory (Rev. 2:10; 3:11). This rider is a conqueror going forward conquering and to conquer.
The scene of the first seal describes the spreading of the gospel, which started powerfully at Pentecost, by which Christ began expanding His kingdom. There were many territories to conquer and many people to win. This conquest of the gospel will continue all until the ultimate conquest is realized with Christ’s coming in glory.
Prophetically, the scene of the first seal corresponds to the message to the church in Ephesus; it describes the apostolic period during which the gospel spread rapidly throughout the world (Col. 1:23).

Monday January 28
The Second and Third Seals
Read Revelation 6:3-4. On the basis of the description of the red horse and the rider, to what reality associated with the preaching of the gospel does it refer?
Red is the color of blood and corresponds to the mission of this horse. The rider has a great sword and is allowed to take peace from the earth, so that people may kill one another.
The second seal describes the consequences of the rejection of the gospel. As Christ is waging spiritual warfare through the preaching of the gospel, the forces of evil render strong resistance. Inevitably, persecution follows. The rider does not do the killing. Instead, he takes peace from the earth and inevitably, as a result, persecution follows. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth,” Jesus said. “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, NKJV).
Read Revelation 6:5-6 along with Lev. 26:26 and Ezek. 4:16. On the basis of the description of the black horse and the rider, what reality associated with the preaching of the gospel is referred to?
The rider on the black horse holds a scale for weighing food. An announcement is made: “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius (Rev. 6:6, NKJV).” In Palestine, grain, oil and wine were the basic necessities of life (Deut. 11:14). To eat bread by carefully weighing the grain denoted great scarcity or famine (Lev. 26:26; Ezek. 4:16). In John’s day, a denarius was a daily wage (Mat. 20:2). In normal circumstances, a daily wage would buy all the necessities for the family. However, a famine would enormously inflate the normal price. In the scene of the third seal, it would take a whole day’s work to buy just enough food for only one person. In order to feed a small family, a day’s wage would be used to buy three quarts of barley, a cheaper, coarser food for the poor.
The scene of the third seal points to the further consequences of rejecting the gospel. If the white horse represents the preaching of the gospel, the black horse denotes the absence of the gospel. Grain in the Bible symbolizes the word of God (Luke 8:11). The rejection of the gospel inevitably results in a famine of the word of God similar to the one prophesied by Amos (8:11-13).
What lessons does the scene of the third seal speak to you? Does merely possessing the Bible mean that a person is safe from the spiritual famine?

Tuesday January 29
The Scene of the Fourth Seal
Read Revelation 6:3-4. What scene is here portrayed? How is this scene related to the previous one?
The color of the horse in the fourth seal is expressed with the Greek word chloros, which is the ashen-grey color of a decomposing corpse. The rider’s name is Death and Hades, the place of the dead, accompanies him. These two are allowed to destroy people by sword, hunger, death, and wild beasts over one-fourth of the earth.
The fourth seal calls forth pestilence and death. The graphic portrayal of the scene conveys the perennial truth that spiritual famine of the Word of God as a result of rejecting the gospel inevitably leads to spiritual death.
The good news is that the power of Death and Hades is very limited; they are given authority only over a part (one-fourth) of the earth. Jesus assures us that he has the keys of Death and Hades (see Rev. 1:18). Death does not have power over those who accept the gospel.
Review once again the contents of the messages to the churches in Ephesus, Sardis, Pergamum, and Thyatira in Revelation 2. Compare the situation in those churches with the scenes of the opening of the first four seals. What parallels do you observe between them?
Beside their general application, the scenes of the seven seals also apply historically. As was the case with the seven churches, the seals also correlate to the different periods in Christian history. During the apostolic times, the gospel rapidly spread throughout the world. This was followed by the period of persecution in the Roman Empire from the end of the first to the beginning of the fourth century, as portrayed in the scene of the second seal. The third seal points to the period of compromise of the fourth and fifth centuries, which were characterized by a spiritual famine of the Bible, which led to the Dark Ages or the medieval period. The fourth seal aptly describes the spiritual death that characterized Christianity during the dark, Middle Ages when the Bible was unavailable to people and tradition replaced and overruled the teaching of the Bible.
Go overs again Revelation 6:6, which states that “the oil and the wine” will not be affected by the famine of the third seal’s plague. Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and wine salvation in Jesus Christ. Even when the word of God is scarce, the Holy Spirit is still at work and salvation is still available to all who want it. What lesson does this speak to you?

Wednesday January 30
The Opening of the Fifth Seal
Read Revelation 6:9-10. What two groups of people are in view in this scene? Why do the souls underneath the altar cry out to God? Why are they martyred? Who are those referred to as “those who dwell on the earth” (e.g., 8:13; 13:8; 17:2)?
The word “soul” in the Bible denotes the whole person (Gen. 2:7). The death of God’s faithful and persecuted people is here portrayed in terms of the sacrificial blood poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice of the earthly sanctuary (Exod. 29:12; Lev. 4:7). Here are God’s people suffering injustice for their faithfulness to the gospel. They are crying to God asking Him to step in and vindicate them.
Read Revelation 6:11 along with Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 79:10. What was heaven’s response to the prayers of God’s martyred people? How long were they told to wait until God vindicates them?
The martyred saints were given white robes representing Christ’s righteousness as Christ’s free gift to those who accept His offer of grace (Rev. 3:5; 19:8). Then, they were told that they would have to rest until their brothers who would go through a similar experience are made complete. It is important to notice that the Greek text does not have the word “number.” Revelation does not talk of a number of the martyred saints to be reached before Christ’s return, but of the completeness regarding their character. God’s people are made complete by the robe of Christ’s righteousness, not their own merit (Rev. 7:10). The martyred saints will not be resurrected and vindicated until the second coming of Christ and the beginning of the millennium (Rev. 20:4).
Although the scene of the fifth seal applied historically to the period of the Middle Ages during which millions were martyred because of their faithfulness to the teaching of the Bible, it also denotes the experience of God’s suffering people throughout history, from the time of Abel (Gen. 4:10) until the time when God will finally avenge “the blood of His servants” (Rev. 19:2). The day is coming when Christ will come in judgment against the enemies of His people and bring “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:9, NKJV).
“How long, O Lord?” has been the cry of God’s suffering people throughout history. Have you ever struggled with an apparent lack of God’s intervention as you suffered injustice in your life? What comfort do you find in the scene of the fifth seal?

Thursday January 31
The Opening of the Sixth Seal
In the fifth seal, we saw God’s people suffering injustice in a hostile world, crying for God’s intervention on their behalf. The time has come for God to intervene in answer to the prayers of His people.
Read Revelation 6:12-14 along with Matthew 24:29-30 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.
The cosmic signs of the sixth seal are those foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24:29-30 that were to occur at the conclusion of the tribulation of the Middle Ages as the harbingers of the Second Coming. The sun, the moon, the stars, and the sky are literal here. The use of the words “as” or “like” points to a symbolic analogy to an actual thing or event—the sun became black as sackcloth, and the moon became like blood, the stars fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its late figs, and the sky receded as a scroll. The Christians in the western world recognized in the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, the dark day of May 19, 1780 experienced in eastern New York and southern New England, and the spectacular meteor shower over the Atlantic Ocean on November 13, 1833 the fulfillment of the prophecy with reference to Christ’s coming. This in turn led to a series of revivals known as the Second Great Awakening.
Read Revelation 6:15-17 along with 19:11-21. Also read Isaiah 2:19; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30.
The scene portrays people of all walks of life in a panic trying to hide from the terror of the upheaval at the coming of Christ. They are asking rocks and mountains to cover them in order to protect them from the “face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (NKJV).” The time has arrived for justice to be dispersed as Christ comes “to be glorified in His saints” (2 Thess. 1:10). Their end is described in Revelation 19:17-21.
The scene concludes with the rhetorical question by the terror-stricken wicked: “The great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand? (NKJV)” (see also Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2). The answer to that question is given in Revelation 7; those who will be able to stand in that day are the sealed people of God.
Reflect on the scene of the opening of the sixth seal. Do you feel that you would be able to stand before God on the day of His wrath? If you knew that Jesus would come in a matter of days, what changes would you make in your life?

Friday February 1
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The World’s Need,” pp. 457-460, in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers.
The vision of the opening of the seven seals points symbolically to God’s care for His people on earth. As Kenneth A. Strand pointed out:
“In Scripture there is assurance that God has always cared for His people: that in history itself He is ever present to sustain them, and that in the great eschatological denouement He will give the full vindication and an incomprehensibly generous reward in life everlasting. The Book of Revelation picks up and expands beautifully this same theme, and thus Revelation is not by any means some sort of offbeat apocalypse that is out of tune with biblical literature in general; it conveys the very heart and substance of the biblical message. Indeed, as Revelation emphatically points out, the ‘Living One’—the One who conquered death and the grave (1:18)—will never forsake His faithful followers and that even when they suffer martyrdom they are victorious (12:11), with the ‘crown of life’ awaiting them (see 2:10; 21:1-4; and 22:4)”—Kenneth A. Strand, “The Seven Heads: Do They Represent Roman Emperors?” in Symposium on Revelation—Book 2, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series 7 (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 206.
Discussion Questions:
After studying this week’s lesson, what valuable lessons have you learned from the scene of the opening of the seven seals? How has it provided you with the assurance that God is in charge of the events in the world? Does this fill you with the assurance that you can trust him when you face trials in your life? How does it impact your attitude toward the surrounding world? What changes have you decided to make?
Reflect on the following statement: “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.” Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9. Think of your local church. Is it faithful in spreading the gospel in order to reach people with the gospel message? If it is not, what can be done to reach the surrounding world?

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 4-5)

Lesson 4 January 19-25

This week’s lesson has not undergone significant editorial changes. The most obvious change is that of the title. “The Enthronement of the Lamb” was changed into “Worthy is the Lamb,” which is drawn directly from the biblical text. I would suggest you pay close attention to the first paragraph in the Lesson on Thursday.

The Enthronement of the Lamb

Sabbath Afternoon
Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 4-5; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:22-36; Eph. 1:18-23; Heb. 8:1.

Memory Verse: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21, NKJV).
The previous vision described Christ ministering to His people on earth. Now, the vision shifts from earth to heaven and from John’s day to the future. As we interpret these two chapters, we must remember several things. First, Revelation 4 describes the ongoing worship in the heavenly temple, but chapter 5 points to an event that took place at a specific point in time.
Furthermore, the vision of chapters 4-5 functions as an introduction to the rest of the book and provides a panoramic survey of history from the time of John until Christ’s return. As such, the scene of chapters 4-5 does not fit chronologically into the sequence of the vision. Before future history is revealed, we are given a glimpse of Christ’s inauguration into his post-Calvary ministry in heaven. In such a way, chapters 4-5 provide heaven’s perspective on the meaning of future events recorded in the rest of the book.
One may also notice that while the messages to the seven churches were written in straightforward language, from now on, the book employs a symbolic language that is not always easy to interpret. This language is taken from the history of God’s people as recorded in the Old Testament. A correct interpretation of Revelation requires a proper understanding of its symbolic language in light of the Old Testament.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 27.
Sunday January 20
In the Heavenly Throne Room
In the previous vision, John witnessed the spiritual condition of the churches in his day. In Revelation 4:1, Jesus invites him to come up to heaven to be shown the panoramic survey of history from his time until Christ’s return.
Read Revelation 4:1-8 along with Ezekiel 1:26-28. Where does the vision take place? In light of 5:11-14, what can we learn about the grandeur of the heavenly throne room? What does John see and hear in the throne room?
As the apostle looked through the open door into the heavenly temple, the first thing that caught his attention was God’s magnificent throne. Paul tells us that God abides in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16). Since God is inexpressible in human language, John portrays the splendid glory surrounding Him in terms of the dazzling brilliance of precious stones.
At the center of the throne room is the throne of God. The throne symbolizes God’s rule and governing authority over creation, while the rainbow around the throne signifies His faithfulness to His people. However, Satan, his usurping adversary, has disputed His authority. The central issue in the great controversy between God and Satan is about who has the right to rule. The purpose of the heavenly council gathered in the heavenly throne room was to settle once and for the question of God’s rightful rule over the universe.
Read Revelation 4:8-11 along with 5:9-14. Compare the heavenly worship in John’s vision with those described in Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:4-24; Daniel 7:9-10. What can you learn about true worship in these passages? Why is God worthy of being worshipped in chapter 4 and why is Christ the Lamb worthy in 5:9-14?
Revelation 4 gives a general description of the throne room in the heavenly temple and of the worship that repeatedly takes place there. While the worship in chapter 4 praises God’s creative power, chapter 5 celebrates the redemption provided by the slain Lamb. This shows that true worship recounts and celebrates God’s mighty acts of creation and redemption. God, who created the world in the beginning, has the power and ability to also restore it to its original condition and to turn it into the eternal home for his faithful people.
As you read Revelation 4-5, imagine yourself with John watching the worship in the heavenly sanctuary. Does this experience give new meaning to the word “worship?” How would this impact your choice of worship style? What impact would it make upon your worshiping experience in your local church?

Monday January 2
The Heavenly Assembly in the Throne Room
Revelation 4:4 mentions the twenty-four elders sitting on thrones that surround God’s throne. Look at the other places in the book where this group is mentioned. What do you learn about their activities?
The description of the elders shows that they are not angelic beings. The title “elders” in the Bible is always used for humans. In contrast to angels who always stand in God’s presence, these elders sit on thrones. The white robes they wear are the attire of God’s faithful people (Rev. 3:4-5). The victory crowns (Gr. stephanoi) on their heads are reserved exclusively for the victorious saints (Jam. 1:12). All of this suggests that the twenty-four elders are the glorified saints.
The number twenty-four is symbolic; it consists of two sets of twelve, twelve in the Bible being a symbol of God’s people. The twenty-four elders represent God’s people in their totality from both the Old and New Testament. The number twenty-four also mirrors the chiefs of the twenty-four divisions of priests who took turns serving in the earthly temple services (1 Chr. 24:1-19).
The fact that the twenty-four elders were never mentioned before in the Bible shows that they are a new group in the heavenly throne room. They must have been brought there shortly before the scene took place. They are most likely the ones who were raised from the dead at the time of Jesus’ death (Matt. 27:51-53). According to Ephesians 4:8, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He took a host of captives with Him.
The twenty-four elders ascended with Jesus to heaven as representatives of humanity, to witness the fairness in God’s actions in the realization of the plan of salvation. In Revelation 4, they were ushered into the heavenly throne room, together with the rest of the assembly, to welcome Jesus after His victorious death on the cross and to witness His exaltation to His heavenly position at his ascension.
Revelation 4:6-8 also mentions the four living beings. Compare their description with the four living beings in Ezekiel 1:5-14 and 10:20-22, and the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2-3.
The four living beings are the exalted angels who serve God as His agents and the guardians of His throne (Ps. 99:1). Their wings point symbolically to their swiftness in carrying out God’s orders and their eyes to their intelligence. Their appearances as a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle represent the entire order of creation. With their presence, God’s whole creation is represented in the throne room.

Tuesday January 22
The Sealed Scroll
Revelation 5 continues the throne room scene. The heavenly worship suddenly stops, and the focus of the whole assembly turns toward the heavenly throne and the scroll lying at the right hand of God.
Read Revelation 5:1. In light of Isaiah 29:11-12, what is the meaning of the sealing of the scroll?
The Greek text indicates that the scroll was lying on the throne at the right hand of the Father. It waited for the One who was worthy to take it and occupy his seat on the throne.
In the words of Ellen White, the sealed scroll contains “the history of God’s providences, the prophetic history of nations and the church. Herein was contained the divine utterances, His authority, His commandments, His laws, the whole symbolic counsel of the Eternal, and the history of all ruling powers in the nations. In symbolic language was contained in that roll the influence of every nation, tongue, and people from the beginning of earth’s history to its close.”—Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases 9, Letter 65, p, 7.
In short, the sealed scroll stands as a symbol of the plan of salvation. It contains the mystery of God regarding His plans to solve the sin problem and save fallen human beings. The full realization of that mystery will be realized at the second coming of Christ (see Rev. 10:7).
Read Revelation 5:2-7. What is the cause of the crisis in the throne room? Why is Christ the only One in the whole universe worthy to take the sealed scroll and unseal it? What do the symbols of the Lion and the slain Lamb represent?
The crisis in the throne room is related to Satan’s usurping rebellion against God. This planet, although created by God, has been under the dominion of the usurper Satan. The weeping of John expressed the tears of God’s people since Adam for salvation from the bondage of sin. The sealed scroll comprised God’s plan for the resolution to the sin problem. No doubt with His immeasurable power God Himself could realize that plan. However, the redemption of the fallen human race required two unique qualifications: someone who was divine and the blood of the Lamb. This is what has qualified Christ to assume the lordship over this earth and become our mediator in the heavenly sanctuary.
What encouragement and hope for the future do you find in the fact that the One who died on the cross of Calvary holds the destiny of the whole world in his hands?

Wednesday January 23
The Enthronement of the Lamb
Read Revelation 5:8-14 along with Ephesians 1:20-23 and Heb. 10:12. In your view, why is there so much emphasis on the taking of the scroll rather than on the reading of its content? Why did the heavenly throne-room assembly react ecstatically when the Lamb took the scroll from the throne?
As Christ the Lamb approached the throne, He took the scroll and presumably took His seat on the throne at the right hand of the Father. With this act, all authority and sovereignty was bestowed upon Him (see Eph. 1:20-22). At that moment, the whole universes acknowledged Christ’s rightful rule over earth. What was lost with Adam has been regained.
With taking the scroll, the destiny of all humanity is placed into Christ’s hands. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before Him and worship as they did in Revelation 4:9-10: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals for You were slain.” By this, the exalted angels and the representatives of redeemed humanity validate Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of humanity. With his blood, He has paid the ransom for fallen human beings and redeemed them for God and made them kings and priests to God; and they shall reign on the earth. While the former was accomplished on the cross, the latter will be realized at the second coming of Christ (Rev. 20:4-6).
The four living creatures and the elders are now joined by the countless number of the angelic host surrounding the throne directing praises to the newly-enthroned King: “Worthy is the slain Lamb who was slain to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” At this point all creation in heaven and on earth join together in offering royal adoration both to the Father and Christ: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Their praise is met with an Amen by the four living creatures and the prostration of the twenty-four elders, thus concluding this tumultuous celebration in the heavenly throne room.
Imagine that you are in the heavenly throne room and together with countless heavenly beings welcoming Jesus after his great victory on the cross? How would you feel watching Him as He approaches the throne, receives the scroll, and takes His seat on the throne? In what way would this scene impact your daily life and your view of the future?

Thursday January 24
The Significance of Pentecost
Revelation 5 describes one of the most decisive events in the history of the plan of salvation: the inauguration of Christ into His post-Calvary ministry as King and Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. By taking His seat on the heavenly throne at the right hand of the father (Hebr. 12:2), Christ is able to carry out the plan of salvation to its ultimate realization. He is also our mediator in the heavenly sanctuary and through Him fallen human beings have free access to God and find forgiveness from their sins.
Read Acts 2:32-36 along with John 7:39. What was the importance of the exaltation of Christ in heaven for the coming of the Holy Spirit? Why could not the Spirit come upon the disciples before Jesus was glorified?
The exaltation of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary was followed by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Revelation 5:6 mentions the seven Spirits that are “sent into all the earth.” The seven Spirits denote the fullness of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world. While previously the Holy Spirit is regularly before the throne (see Rev. 1:4; 4:5), at Christ’s enthronement, he is sent to the earth. This sending of the Holy Spirit is related to the inauguration of Christ into his post-Calvary ministry. This meant that Jesus had appeared before the Father and that his sacrifice had been accepted on behalf of humanity.
“Christ’s ascension to heaven was the signal that His followers were to receive the promised blessing. . . . When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven’s communication that the Redeemer’s inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 38.
Read Hebrews 4:16 and 8:1. What hope and encouragement do you find in the fact that Jesus sits on the heavenly throne as our King and Lord? What impact does it make on you in dealing with everyday situations in your life as well as the uncertainty of the future?

Friday January 2
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “To My Father and Your Father,” pp. 833-835, in The Desire of Ages; “The Gift of the Spirit,” pp. 47-56, in The Acts of the Apostles.
The message of Revelation 4-5 is particularly important to the people of God living at the close of earth’s history. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marked the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, the central message of which was about Jesus who had been exalted as King and Priest on the heavenly throne. This was the core of early Christian belief (Heb. 8:1) and the cornerstone of their preaching (Acts 2:32-36; 5:30-31). This truth was their motivation and the source of their faith and courage in the face of persecution and difficult life situations (Acts 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34). As a result, many people responded to their preaching. From that time on and through the presence of Jesus in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God manifested itself and keeps on manifesting itself.
As God’s people today, we must never forget that it is only the good news of salvation in Christ that can reach and transform human hearts and lead people to respond to the call of the eternal gospel to fear God, give him glory, and worship Him (Rev. 14:7). Our only hope is in our Savior who is our King and Priest on the throne of the universe. He is with His people and He will always be with them until the very end (Matt. 28:20), because He holds the future in His hands. Let us, therefore, never forget that keeping the essence of the gospel in mind will bring full success in preaching the final message to the lost and suffering humankind.
Discussion Questions:
What significance does the fact that with the symbolic sealed scroll the destiny of every human being on earth was put into Christ’s hands have for you personally? What comfort does it give to you today and what hope does this provide for the future? How does this impact your plans and decisions for both today and tomorrow?
The inauguration of Christ into his ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and the coming of the Holy Spirit are referred to as the early rain. The main content of the preaching of the early rain was the exaltation of Christ. What do you think, will the proclamation of the end-time gospel message be different?

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 2-3)

In Lesson #3 of January 12-19, some editorial changes were made. In particular, the person who implemented the late modifications was eager to specify the exact years marking the beginning and ending of different periods in the historical application of the churches. Also, some modifications were made in the lesson on Friday that diminished the application of the promises given to the overcomers.

God’s People in Cities

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:10-11; 2:8-3:22; 22:16-17.
Memory Verse: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3: 22, NKJV).
From the barren island of Patmos, Jesus sent via John a letter with seven messages to His people as a token of His care for them (Rev. 1:11). While those messages originally concerned the churches in Asia of John’s day, they were also written for all Christians throughout history, including our day.
A side-by-side comparison of these messages shows that they follow the same six-fold structure. Each message opens with an address in which Jesus addresses each church by name. The second part begins with the phrase: “These things says He who . . . ” in which Jesus introduces Himself to each church by mentioning some of the descriptive features found in chapter 1. Those descriptions of Jesus were suited to the specific situations and needs of those churches. In such a way, Jesus pointed to His ability to meet their different needs and situations. This brings to mind the four Gospels. The Gospels present four distinctive portraits of Jesus to four different groups of people.
Next, Jesus gives an appraisal of the church and then counsels the church how to get out of their situation. Finally, each message concludes with an appeal to hear the Spirit and with promises to the overcomers.
As we saw in last week’s lesson in our analysis of the message to the first church in Ephesus, and as we will see this week in our study of the remaining six messages. We invite you to list the features of Jesus mentioned in each of the seven messages. Then, locate those features in the description of Jesus in chapter 1. As we briefly analyze the message, we will try to see how the features of Jesus in each message suited the situation of the Christians of John’s day and what they mean for God’s people today.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 20.
Sunday January 13
Christ’s Messages to Smyrna and Philadelphia
Jesus’ second and sixth messages originally addressed the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia. These two churches did not receive rebukes from Jesus.
Smyrna was a beautiful and wealthy city, next to Ephesus in its importance. It was reputed for its science and medicine industries as well as for its famous stadium, library, and the largest public theater in the province. The city was a center of emperor worship, which was compulsory for all citizens. The immediate consequences for refusing to comply with this mandate were the loss of legal status, persecution, and martyrdom.
Read Revelation 2:8-11. How does the way Jesus presents Himself to this church relate to the church’s situation? What was the situation of the church? What warning does Jesus give to the church of what was coming in the future? What promise did He give to this church?
The message to the church in Smyrna also speaks to the church in the postapostolic era, when Christians were viciously persecuted by the Roman Empire. The “ten days” mentioned in 2:10 pointed to the severe imperial persecution that started in A.D. 303 by Diocletian and continued until A.D. 313, when Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan granting Christians religious freedom.
Can you think of Christians around the world who are suffering persecution? Would you keep them in your prayers?
The next church addressed by Jesus was located in Philadelphia (“brotherly love”). It was founded in the second century B.C. by the king of Pergamum, Attalus II Philadelphus, in honor of his brother. The city stood on the imperial trade road connecting all parts east with all parts west of the province. It was founded as a center for promoting the Greek language and culture in the area of Lydia and Phrygia.
Read Revelation 3:7-13. How does the way Jesus presents Himself in this message relate to the situation of this church? What does Jesus’ statement, “you have a little strength” say about the condition of the church? What promises does Jesus give to this church?
The message to this church aptly applies to the great revival of Protestantism during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The church of this period was driven by a genuine desire to carry the gospel to the whole world. As a result, there was a great explosion of the gospel that had not been experienced since the time of Pentecost.
Do you feel spiritually weak in your relationship with Christ? In what way does Christ’s promise to the Philadelphians apply to you?

Monday January 14
Christ’s Message to Pergamum
Pergamos or Pergamum was the center of intellectual life in the Hellenistic world. It was famous for it’s library of nearly 200,000 volumes. It was also famous for its magnificent temples, in particular, the grand altar of Zeus that dominated the city. The city was the center of the cult of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, who was called “the Savior” and represented by a serpent. People from all over the world were coming to the shrine of Asclepius to be healed. Pergamum had a leading role in promoting the cult of emperor worship, which was, as in Smyrna, compulsory. In such a way, the Christians in Pergamum lived in the city “where Satan dwelt” and where his throne was located.
Read Revelation 2:12-15. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? What was His appraisal of the spiritual condition of this church?
Surrounded by paganism and its grand temples, the Christians in Pergamum faced temptations from both outside and inside the church. While most of them remained unwavering in their faithfulness to Christ, there were some in the church who advocated compromise with paganism in order to avoid persecution and martyrdom. They were called Nicolaitans, most likely the followers of Nicolas, one of the seven deacons in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5) who later turned to heresy. They are linked to another heretical group named after Balaam who seduced the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land (Num. 31:16). These two groups advocated conformity to pagan practices in order to avoid the discomfort of persecution. While the church in Ephesus did not tolerate such teaching (Rev. 2:6), these heretical teachers were able to seduce some in the church in Pergamum.
Read Revelation 2:16-17. What does Jesus urge the church to do in order to help them improve their spiritual condition? What promises does Jesus give to this church?
The message to the church in Pergamum also aptly describes the situation of the church in the period after A.D. 313. As Christianity won its struggle with paganism, many in the church went the way of compromise. Although many remained unwavering and faithful to the gospel, the fourth and fifth centuries witnessed spiritual decline and apostasy, during which the church wrestled with the temptation of compromise.
How does the message to the church in Pergamum apply to the situation of the church today? Do you see any parallels between the spiritual condition of church that you are a part of and the church in Pergamum?

Tuesday January 15
Christ’s Message to Thyatira
In comparison with other cities, Thyatira had no political or cultural significance. It was rather known for trade. The population consisted mainly of laborers and tradesmen who belonged to different trade guilds. Lydia, the purple fabrics dealer in Philippi, was originally from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). In order to run a business or have a job, people had to belong to trade guilds. Members had to attend the guild festivals and participate in temple rituals that included eating meat sacrificed to the patron god and immoral activities. Those who did not comply experienced exclusion from the guilds and economic sanctions. The Christians in this city had to choose between compromise and remaining faithful to the gospel.
Read Revelation 2:18-23. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? What were the qualities that Jesus commended the church for? What was the problem that troubled the church?
Like the church in Pergamum, the threat to the church in Thyatira was compromise with the pagan environment. They tolerated in their midst a female member who claimed to be a prophetess. Jesus names her Jezebel, after the wife of King Ahab, who led Israel into apostasy (1 Kings 16:31-33). Jezebel in Thyatira taught that it was okay for Christians to compromise with pagan practices in order to avoid the hardships. Jesus portrays her as a spiritual harlot. Those who condoned her teaching were committing spiritual adultery with her.
Read Revelation 2:24-29. While many in the church turned to apostasy, there was a remnant of those who remained faithful. What do you think are “the deep things of Satan” that this remnant did not come to know? Deliberate on the counsel and promise that Jesus gave to this faithful remnant?
The situation in the church in Thyatira applies to the condition of the church at large during the period of the Middle Ages. The danger to the church did not come from outside but from those who claimed to receive their authority from God. During that period, tradition replaced the Bible, a human priesthood and sacred relics replaced Christ’s priesthood, and works were regarded as the means of salvation. Those who did not condone the corrupting influences of the institutional church experienced persecution and even death.
How does Jesus’ message to the church of Thyatira apply to the congregation you are a part of? What kind of compromise are you tempted with in your life? Do you feel that you are a part of the remnant that has chosen to remain faithful and obedient to God?

Wednesday January 16
Christ’s Message to Sardis
The city of Sardis had a glorious history. A few centuries prior to Revelation, it was one of the greatest cities in the ancient world and the capital of Lydia, ruled by the wealthy Croesus. By the Roman period, the city had lost its prestige. While still enjoying prosperity and wealth, its glory was rooted in its past history rather than in present reality. The city was built on top of a steep hill and, as such, inaccessible. The citizens felt so secure that the city walls were carelessly guarded. The city was twice captured by surprise by soldiers who climbed the cliff and found that the overconfident citizens failed to post a guard on the walls.
Read Revelation 3:1. How does Jesus present Himself to this church and how does it relate to the church’s needs? What was His appraisal of the spiritual condition of this church?
While Jesus recognizes a few Christians in the church in Sardis as faithful, most of them only have a name, but are in reality spiritually dead. The church is not charged for any open sin or apostasy like those in Pergamum and Thyatira but with spiritual lethargy.
Read Revelation 3:2-6 along with Matthew 24:42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8. What three things does Jesus urge the Christians in Sardis to do as a cure for their spiritual condition? What did the church have to remember? How did Jesus’ warning to “watch” correspond to the historical background of the city? What promise did Jesus give to those who remained faithful?
The message to the church in Sardis aptly applies also to the spiritual situation of the Protestants in the post-Reformation period, as the church gradually degenerated into lifeless formalism and a state of spiritual complacency. Under the impact of the rising tide of rationalism and secularism, focus on the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ waned, giving place to rationalism and theological arguments. The church at this period, although appearing to be alive, was in reality spiritually dead.
The letter also applies to every generation of Christians. There are Christians who always talk in glorious terms of their past faithfulness to Christ. Unfortunately, the same do not have much to share about their present experience with Christ. Their religion is nominal, lacking the true religion of the heart and genuine commitment to the gospel.
Do you see symptoms of complacency in your own life? How can Jesus’ counsel to the church in Sardis help you personally in curing such a spiritual situation?

Thursday January 17
Christians in Laodicea
The last church addressed by Jesus was located in Laodicea, a wealthy commercial, industrial, and financial city situated on the major trade road. It was famous for a woolen manufacturing industry, its banks, which held a vast quantity of gold, and a medical school producing eye salve. The prosperity filled the citizens with self-sufficiency. Around AD 60, when an earthquake destroyed the city, the citizens declined an offer of assistance from Rome, claiming to have all they needed. Since the city lacked water, it was supplied through an aqueduct from hot springs from Hierapolis, which, as it reached Laodicea, became lukewarm.
Read Revelation 3:14-17 along with Hosea 12:8. Draw parallels between the historical characteristics of the city and Christ’s appraisal of this church. How did the self-sufficient spirit of the city pervade the Laodicean Christians?
Jesus did not rebuke the Christians in Laodicea for some serious sin, heresy, or apostasy. Their problem was rather complacency leading to spiritual lethargy. Like the water that reached the city, they were neither refreshingly cold nor hot, but lukewarm. They claimed to be rich and in need of nothing; yet, they were extremely poor, naked, and blind to their spiritual condition.
The church in Laodicea aptly represents the spiritual condition of the church at the close of this earth’s history. This is shown by strong verbal links with Revelation 16:15 in connection with the preparation for the final crisis, which shows that the church in Laodicea was set to be the model for the end-time church. The last church will exist in times of great political, religious, and secular upheavals and will face challenges like no previous generation. Yet, this church is self-sufficient and struggling with its authenticity. Christ’s warning to her has a far-reaching implication for all who are a part of that church.
Jesus assures the Laodiceans that He loves them and he will not give up on them (3:19). He concludes His appeal by picturing Himself as the lover in Song of Songs 5:2-6 standing at the door and knocking and pleading to be let in (3:20). Everyone who opens the door and lets Him in is promised an intimate dinner with Him. This call is not to be missed.
Read Revelation 3:18-22. What counsel did Jesus give to the Laodiceans as a cure for their self-sufficiency? What do gold, white garment, and eye salve symbolize (see 1 Pet. 1:7; Isa. 61:10; Eph. 1:17-18)? Jesus offered the Laodiceans “to buy” from Him these things. What did they have to trade in exchange for these riches?

Friday October 18
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Revelation,” pp. 578-592, in The Acts of the Apostles.
The seven messages to the churches show spiritual decline in the seven churches. The church in Ephesus was still faithful, although it had lost its first love. The churches in Smyrna and Pergamum were faithful, only a small number of wayward members were unfaithful. Thyatira was a divided church with two phases of her faithfulness to Christ. The churches in Sardis and Philadelphia were in a very serious condition. The majority in these churches was out of harmony with the gospel, while the remnant represented the faithful few. The church in Laodicea was in such a condition that there was nothing good to be said about that church.
In concluding each message, Jesus makes promises to those who accept his counsel. One might observe, however, that along with the evident spiritual decline in the churches, there is a proportionate increase in promises given. Starting with Ephesus, which receives only one promise, as each church follows the downward spiritual trend, each receives more promises than the previous one. Finally, the church in Laodicea, while given only one promise, receives the greatest: to share Jesus’ throne (3:20). This promise encompasses all the other promises given to the churches.
Discussion Questions:
How does this increase in promises along with the spiritual decline in the churches reflect the statement that when sin increases, grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20)? Think of that in light of the statement that, “the church, enfeebled and defective though it be, is the only object on earth on which Christ bestows his supreme regard. He is constantly watching it with solicitude, and is strengthening it by his Holy Spirit.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, 2:396.
Often Christians say that it is hard to be a Christian in industrial, commercial, and metropolitan cities. What can be learned from the fact that in the prosperous cities in Asia there were Christians who remained loyal to the gospel and unswerving in the midst of all the pressure of the pagan environment?
Think of those Christians in Asia in light of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:15-19? How does the concept of being in the world but not of the world apply to Christians today, in particular those living in metropolitan cities?

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 1:9-20)

From Ranko: “In this lesson, some problematic changes have been introduced. The most problematic is introduced the last paragraph that was inserted stating that Rev 1:12-20 describe Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. This is opposite of what Revelation clearly shows. John is not taken in vision into the heavenly sanctuary until 4:1, where he is taken up to look through the door inside the heavenly throne room of the heavenly sanctuary.”

Lesson 2 *January 6-12

Among the Lampstands

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:9-20; 2:1-7; Lev. 26:11-12; Ps. 73:2-28; Rom. 5:20.
Memory Verse: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21, NKJV).
Psalm 73 describes the Psalmist’s bewilderment as he observed the boastful pride of ungodly people. They lived in abundance and ease with their heads lifted toward heaven mocking, “How does God know?” Unfortunately, the prosperity of the ungodly is starkly juxtaposed with the suffering of the righteous. This injustice greatly distressed and troubled the Psalmist (Ps. 73:2—16). In his perplexity, he went to the sanctuary (73:16-17). There, in the presence of God, he acquired a deeper understanding of the matter. He left the place of his encounter with God with the determination: “It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works” (Ps. 73:28, NKJV).

Centuries later, an aged apostle found himself on a rocky prison island because of his faithful witness to the gospel. In his distress, he got news that the churches he was in charge of were suffering. It was at that critical moment that he had a visionary experience in a sanctuary setting where he had a special encounter with the resurrected Christ.
Similar to the experience of the Psalmist centuries earlier, this visionary experience revealed to John the mysteries of this life. This sanctuary scene provided him with the assurance of Christ’s presence and care for his people. This assurance he was to pass on to the churches in Asia as well as to the succeeding generations of Christians throughout the centuries until the end of this world’s history.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 13.

Sunday January 7

On Patmos
Read Revelation 1:9. What does John the Revelator tell us of the circumstances in which he received the visions of Revelation? Why was he on Patmos?

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Patmos (modern Patina) was a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea; it was ten miles long and six miles wide across its widest part. Romans used it together with some other surrounding islands as a penal colony for banished political offenders. Early Christian authors living relatively close to the time of Revelation state unanimously that Roman authorities banished John to Patmos because of his faithfulness to the gospel. The aged apostle endured on Patmos all the hardships of Roman imprisonment. He was treated as a criminal, chained in fetters, given insufficient food, and forced to perform hard labor under the lash of the whip of merciless Roman guards.
John’s exile to Patmos led to the writing of Revelation as did Daniel’s exile in Babylon led to the writing of the book of Daniel. Therefore, in what way do you think their experiences helped them to relate to the situations of God’s people to whom they communicate God’s message?
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“Patmos, a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, had been chosen by the Roman government as a place of banishment for criminals; but to the servant of God this gloomy abode became the gate of heaven. Here, shut away from the busy scenes of life, and from the active labors of former years, he had the companionship of God and Christ and the heavenly angels, and from them he received instruction for the church for all future time”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 570.
The followers of Christ should never forget that whenever they find themselves in circumstances similar to that of John, they are not left alone. The Patmos experience always results in a revelation of Christ. The same Jesus, who came to John with the words of hope and encouragement in the midst of his hardship on Patmos, is still present with His people to sustain and support them in their difficult life situations.

Monday January 8

On the Lord’s Day
Read Revelation 1:10 along with Exodus 31:13; Isaiah 58:13; Matthew 12:8. According to these texts, what day in the Bible is clearly specified as the Lord’s? How meaningful this day must have been for John in the midst of his hardships?
“It was on the Sabbath that the Lord of glory appeared to the exiled apostle. The Sabbath was as sacredly observed by John on Patmos as when he was preaching to the people in the towns and cities of Judea. He claimed as his own the precious promises that had been given regarding that day”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 581.
The expression “the Lord’s Day” brings also to mind another day in the Bible called the “day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6-13; 2 Pet. 3:10). This is the day of the Second Coming when God will bring the history of this world to its end and establish His kingdom. This suggests that the apostle John received the vision of Revelation on the seventh-day Sabbath in which he witnessed the future events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ (cf. 1:7). That is the reason why the Sabbath became for him a foretaste of a life free from suffering, which he and the faithful of all ages will experience at the Second Coming.
“The Sabbath, which God had instituted in Eden, was as precious to John on the lonely isle . . . What a Sabbath was that to the lonely exile, always precious in the sight of Christ, but now more than ever exalted! Never had he learned so much of Jesus. Never had he heard such exalted truth.”—Ellen G. White, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 955.
Compare the two versions of the fourth commandment of the Decalogue in Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15. These two texts point to the seventh-day Sabbath as a memorial of both creation and deliverance reminding us that God both made us and purchased us. What implication does this twofold aspect of the Sabbath have for you personally? What special meaning does the Sabbath have to you when you find yourself, like the apostle John, in the midst of perplexity and suffering?
The first angel in Revelation 14:7 urges the inhabitants of the earth at the time of the end to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water,” which is the language from Exodus 20:11. What does this tell us of the end-time significance of the Sabbath in Revelation?

Tuesday January 9

Encountering Christ on Patmos
Read Revelation 1:12-18. Compare John’s portrayal of Christ with the divine being in Daniel 10:5-6. How does Jesus appear in the vision? What is He doing?
John sees Jesus dressed in a priestly robe walking among the lampstands. The vision reflects the ancient Israelite temple in which the lampstands provided light (see 1 Kings 7:49).
The picture of Jesus walking among the lampstands points to God’s promise to ancient Israel to walk among them as their God (Lev. 26:12). In Revelation, the lampstands represented the seven churches in Asia to whom Revelation was originally sent (Rev. 1:20). In the symbolic walking among the lampstands, Jesus fulfills the covenant promise given to Israel; He will be continually with his people until he brings them to their eternal home.
Moreover, the picture of Jesus as a priest among the lampstands is drawn from the cultic practice in the Jerusalem temple. The daily task of an appointed priest was to keep the lamps in the Holy Place burning brightly. He would trim and refill the lamps that were waning, replace the wick on the lamps that had gone out and refill them with fresh oil and re-light them. In such a way, the priest became acquainted with the situation of each individual lamp. In the same way, Jesus is personally acquainted with the needs and circumstances of the seven churches.
Read Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19, etc. What does the statement, “I know” say about Jesus’ acquaintance with the situations and needs of God’s people in those churches?
Jesus came down to Patmos, first to provide encouragement to John. He identified Himself with the titles of God as ”the First and the Last” (see Isa. 44:6; 48:12). The Greek word for “last” is eschatos from which the word eschatology (“end-time”) comes. This shows that the focus of eschatology is on Jesus Christ who has the last word with regard to the final events. He is “the living one” and is in possession of “the keys of death and of Hades” (1:18). Keys are a symbol of power and authority. His faithful followers don’t need to fear because death and the abode of the dead are under his control. No matter what the future brings, He will always be with His people until the very end.
Do you sometimes find yourself on a “patmos,” surrounded by a sea of dire circumstances that cause fear in your life? What lesson does the scene of Jesus among the lampstands speak to you?

Wednesday January 10

Christ’s Messages for Then and Now
John lived the last part of his life in Ephesus. He was a pastor overseeing the churches in the province. While he was on Patmos, those churches started experiencing serious problems. However, the aged apostle could not provide them with guidance.
Read Revelation 1:11 and 19-20. Jesus also gave to John distinctive messages for the seven churches in Asia. What does the fact that there were more that seven churches in the province and that only seven were chosen suggest about the symbolic significance of these messages for Christians in general?
The messages that Jesus commissioned John to send to the seven churches are recorded in Revelation 2-3. Their meanings apply on three levels:
Historical application. Those messages were originally sent to the seven churches located in the prosperous city centers in Asia in the first century. The Christians there faced serious challenges from the pagan environment. Several cities set up emperor worship in their temples as a token of their loyalty to Rome. Emperor worship became compulsory for all citizens in those cities. Citizens were also expected to participate in the city’s public events and pagan religious ceremonies. Because Christians refused to participate in those events they faced losing their legal status, persecution, and even martyrdom. Commissioned by Christ, John wrote the seven messages to help them with the challenges of their pagan environment. An understanding of this historical context helps us understand the primary meaning of those messages.
Prophetic application. The fact that Revelation is a prophetic book and that only seven churches were chosen, points to the prophetic character of the seven messages. The spiritual conditions in the seven churches coincide with the spiritual conditions of Christianity in different periods of history. The seven messages are intended to provide, from heaven’s perspective, a panoramic survey of the spiritual condition of Christianity from the first century until the time of the end.
Universal application. While originally sent to the churches in Asia, the seven messages contain lessons that apply also to different Christians in every period in history. They were sent together as one letter and they had all to be read in every church (Rev 1:11). In such a way, they represent different types of Christians in any place and time. For instance, while the general characteristic of Christianity today is Laodicean, some Christians may, instead, have the characteristics of some other church. The good news is, God “meets fallen human beings where they are”—Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, p. 10.

Thursday January 11

Message to the Church in Ephesus
Read Acts 19. What do you learn here about the city of Ephesus and the beginning of the church there? What were some of the challenges of the pagan environment that Christians in Ephesus faced?
Ephesus was the capital and the largest city in the Roman province of Asia, located on the major trade routes. As the chief seaport of Asia, it was a very important commercial and religious center. The city was filled with public buildings such as temples, theaters, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and brothels. It was known also for magical practices and arts. The city was, however, notorious for immorality and superstition. Yet, the most influential Christian church in the province was located in Ephesus.
Read Revelation 2:1-4 along with Jeremiah 2:2. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? For what great qualities does Jesus commend the church? What concern does Jesus express about the members in the church?
In their early days, the Ephesians were known for their faithfulness and love (Eph. 1:15). Although experiencing pressure both from outside and inside the church, the Christians in Ephesus remained firm and faithful. They were hardworking and doctrinally sound. They could not tolerate false teachers in their midst. However, as the members emphasized sound doctrine and orthodox behavior, their love for Christ and their fellow members began to wane. Although firm and faithful, in the absence of love, their works became cold and legalistic.
Read Revelation 2:5-7. What three things does Jesus urge the church to do in order to revive their first love and devotion to Christ and their fellow believers? How are these three things sequentially related?
Prophetically, the situation in the church in Ephesus corresponds to the general situation and spiritual condition of the church in the first century. The early church was characterized by love and faithfulness to the gospel. But by the end of the first century, the church began losing the fire of its first love, thus departing from the simplicity and purity of the gospel.
Throughout history Christians have always found themselves torn between practicing sound doctrine and expressing love and compassion. Imagine yourself as part of a congregation whose love is waning? The members may not be rebuked of any open sin. They are doing what’s right, yet they suffer from formalism and coldness. How can Jesus’s counsel help such a church get out of such a situation?

Friday January 12

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Patmos,” pp. 567-576, in The Acts of the Apostles.
“The persecution of John became a means of grace. Patmos was made resplendent with the glory of a risen Saviour. John had seen Christ in human form, with the marks of the nails, which will ever be his glory, in his hands and his feet. Now he was permitted again to behold his risen Lord, clothed with as much glory as a human being could behold, and live. What a Sabbath was that to the lonely exile, always precious in the sight of Christ, but now more than ever exalted! Never had he learned so much of Jesus. Never had he heard such exalted truth.
“The appearance of Christ to John should be to all, believers and unbelievers, an evidence that we have a risen Christ. It should give living power to the church. At times dark clouds surround God’s people. It seems as if oppression and persecution would extinguish them. But at such times the most instructive lessons are given. Christ often enters prisons, and reveals himself to his chosen ones. He is in the fire with them at the stake. As in the darkest night the stars shine the brightest, so the most brilliant beams of God’s glory are revealed in the deepest gloom. The darker the sky, the more clear and impressive are the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, the risen Saviour.”—Ellen G. White, “John the Beloved,” in Youth Instructor, April 5, 1900.
“Looking down through long centuries of darkness and superstition, the aged exile saw multitudes suffering martyrdom because of their love for the truth. But he saw also that He who sustained His early witnesses would not forsake His faithful followers during the centuries of persecution that they must pass through before the close of time.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 588.

Discussion Questions:

John the Revelator shares with the readers what he saw and heard on Patmos. As you read Revelation 1:12-20, what do you see and hear? How does the vision of the glorified Christ impact your daily life today and your walk with Him?

Somebody said that religion is something people try in their life after they have tried everything else. As we have deliberated this week about John’s experience on Patmos, what impact has this made on your decision, after all you have tried in your life, to try Jesus Christ?