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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?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 12, March 16-23 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Revelation 17-18

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were probably the most substantial of the whole quarter, so this blog will be longer than most.

In the Introduction to the Overview (and elsewhere in this week’s lesson) the word “prostitute” was changed to “harlot” in reference to Rev 17:18. This at first made no sense to me as the word “harlot” is no longer in common use, at least with the younger generation. But in light of my discovery that the editor(s) are working with the New King James Version, it made sense. There is a strong lobby in the SDA Church to retain the King James Version or its updated equivalent, the NKJV, as the Bible of choice for the English-speaking church. Such a move is not helpful for the younger generation and it is not supported by solid scholarship. There is nothing wrong with either version but to compel others to limit themselves to dated language and an inferior source text is not appropriate. I am not suggesting that the editors are compelling anyone, but their preference is no doubt grounded in the backlash that would come if they showed a preference for other versions of the Bible.

In Lesson Theme I a substantial editorial change improved the outcome.

In Main Theme I of the Commentary section the concept of a worldwide alliance of secular, political power was retained, but the Euphrates River (Rev 16:12) and “many waters” (Rev 17:1) were removed as examples. I can live with that.

There was a major revision in Main Theme III. I had written “The seventh ‘king’ would be the medieval papacy and the ‘eighth’ (Rev. 17:11) king, who is one of the seven, would be the revived Babylon of chapter 17, an entity that in its fullness is still in our future.” The editors removed that sentence and added the following: “The seventh kingdom is the medieval Roman papacy, and the “eighth” kingdom (Rev. 17:11), which is one of the seven, would be the revived Roman papacy—the Babylon of Revelation 17, which includes the other two members of the satanic triad (the “dragon” of paganism/spiritualism and the “false prophet” of apostate Protestantism). This globalized form of Babylon riding on the scarlet beast of secular political power is still in the future.” The latter is based more on what Ellen White says in The Great Controversy than on direct exegesis of the text. From a scholarly perspective, that would be appropriate to a lesson on SDA Eschatology or Ellen White’s use of Revelation. In a lesson on the Book of Revelation, the text itself should be the primary source, in my view. But I’m not the one tasked to make that editorial decision.

Even larger changes occurred in Main Themes IV. I will share them in full, so the lesson teacher can be aware of the changes and their significance. I wrote about an alliance of “religious institutions in opposition to God, an alliance of secular political power, and an alliance of the saints. All three are precipitated by the final worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) and its evil counterpart (16:13-14). Through the counterfeit gospel of demonic angels (16:13-14), Babylon (demonic trinity—16:19). . .” This was removed and the following was added in its place: “the saints composed of an enlarged remnant church that includes those who have come out of Babylon to join them, an alliance of religious institutions, and an alliance of secular political powers. The last two alliances are precipitated by the final, worldwide proclamation of the gospel by the remnant (Rev. 14:6, 7; Rev. 18:1–4). Through the counterfeit gospel “inspired” by the demonic angels (Rev. 16:13, 14), Babylon (the satanic triad [Rev. 16:19]). . .” Again, this is a shift from exegetical language to language more familiar to traditional Adventists, which has a place in a diverse church. I am glad that at least my direct textual references were retained.

Later on in the same paragraph my statement “But when God intervenes (Rev 17:17), drying up Babylon’s support system (secular/political powers (Rev. 16:12), it turns. . .” was replaced with “But the drying up of the Euphrates (Rev. 16:12) symbolically portrays the time when the secular/political powers that supported the harlot Babylon turn. . .” This changes the wording but not the basic meaning of what I wrote. I will have a concluding comment on the challenges of editing in a theologically charged environment in the next and last blog in this series.

Editing the Sabbath School lessons and their Teacher’s Editions is a challenging task. One cannot simply utilize editorial skills and Bible knowledge, there is a whole world of expectations to satisfy both from central leadership and from the wider field of pastors and lay people. Today anyone can have a “bully pulpit” and attract a small or large segment of followers from around the church. Such groups exert pressure and sometimes affect editorial decisions. Although the results are sometimes (some would say often) disappointing from a scholarly perspective, I respect the process. As regards my own Teacher’s Edition, the outcome is probably the best that could have been expected.

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

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 17-18 (Week 12)

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

LESSON 12
JUDGMENT ON BABYLON

Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 17:14.

Study Focus: Revelation seventeen and eighteen focus on the fall of end-time Babylon in the closing days of earth’s history.

Introduction: Rev. 17 describes the rise and fall of end-time Babylon as symbolized by a woman, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:18). Rev. 18 also describes the fall of Babylon, but this time in the image of the great city (Rev. 18:10, 16, 18, 19).

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

1. Three Worldwide End-Time Alliances. The multiple symbols of Revelation’s end-time coalesce into three great worldwide alliances: 1) religion, 2) secular/political power and 3) the “saints.”
2. The Difference Between Visions and Their Explanations. In a vision the prophet can be taken any time and any place, but explanations of the vision to the prophet, in order to make sense, must come in the time and place of the prophet.
3. The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10. In order to understand the identity of the seven kings of Rev. 17:10 one must determine the time of the sixth king.
4. The Narrative of Rev. 17. Summary of end-time events in light of Theme 1.

Life Application. The Life Application section explores how the presence of faithful people within “Babylon” to the very end should impact the way we treat Christians of other faiths. It also explores the similarities and differences between the women of Rev. 12 and 17, and readiness for the Second Coming.

Part II. Commentary

In Rev. 17 and 18 Babylon gains the support of the secular/political powers of the world for its war against the saints (Rev. 17:6), but eventually they turn on Babylon and destroy her (Rev. 17:16). Rev. 18 expresses their three-fold regret for having done so (Rev 18:9-19). While the fall of Babylon is mourned by the world, it brings rejoicing to the saints (Rev 18:20).

Main Themes of Lesson 12 Elaborated:
1. Three Worldwide End-Time Alliances. Rev. 16-18 contains a bewildering variety of images describing end-time powers and groupings. But upon careful analysis it becomes evident that many of these images are different ways of describing the same thing. For example, the seven heads of the beast are also described as seven mountains and seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10). Likewise, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:1) is clearly the same as the woman who rides the beast (17:3) and Babylon the Great (17:5). We have noticed earlier, in Lesson 11 (Theme 1), that God’s people are also named by many names in the book of Revelation.
The variety of images in these chapters can all be linked to three great, worldwide alliances that develop in the final period of earth’s history. 1) There is a great worldwide alliance of religious institutions that join together in opposition to God and His faithful people. This alliance is named by many names: Babylon, the great prostitute, the great city, and the woman that rides the beast.
2) There is a great worldwide alliance of secular, political and military power. This alliance is also named by many names in Revelation: the Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12), the kings of the whole inhabited world (16:14), the cities of the nations (16:19), the many waters (17:1), the kings of the earth, the earth dwellers (17:2), the beast (17:3), the seven heads, the seven mountains, the seven kings (17:9-10) and the ten horns (17:12-13). These secular powers are also represented by the kings (18:9), merchants (18:11) and sea-farers (18:17) of chapter eighteen.
3) There is also a worldwide, end-time alliance of the saints, which is named by many names: the sealed (Rev. 7:1-3), the 144,000 (7:4-8), the great multitude (7:9-12), the remnant (12:17), the saints (14:12; 17:6), the kings of the east (16:12), those who keep their garments (16:15) and the called, chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb (17:14). In Theme 4 we will briefly explore the narrative of these three alliances in the final days of earth’s history.

2. The Difference Between Visions and Their Explanations. In apocalyptic prophecy, there is an important distinction between visions and explanations. In a vision, the prophet can travel anywhere in the universe and to any point of time. The events of the vision are not necessarily located in the prophet’s time and place. But when the vision is explained to the prophet afterward, the explanation always comes in the time, place and circumstances of the visionary.
For example, in Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar is taken down to the end of time in his vision of the great image and the stone that became a great mountain that filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:31-36). The explanation of the vision by Daniel, however, is firmly grounded in the time and place of Nebuchadnezzar. It begins with a straightforward, unambiguous assertion, “You are that head of gold (Dan 2:38).” Nebuchadnezzar is then told that the series of kingdoms that follow are “after you” (2:39) in point of time.
As was the case with Daniel 2, the apocalyptic prophecy of Dan 7 is also divided into two parts; the vision (Dan 7:2-14 and 21-22), and explanations of the vision (Dan 7:15-20, 23-27). Even though Daniel experienced all elements of the vision, including the final events, the explanation clarifies that the vision is essentially about the future experience of Daniel’s people (Dan 7:17-18, 23-27). The same pattern can be seen in Daniel 8 and Zech 4:1-14.
Prophets don’t usually seem to understand a revelation from visions alone. An explanation is necessary for the revelation to be understood. Since that explanation is given for the benefit of the prophet, it is based on the time, place and circumstances in which the seer lives. This principle has profound implications for the interpretation of difficult apocalyptic texts like Rev 17:7-11, as we will see in Theme 3.

3. The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10. Theme 2 helps us solve one of the most vexing problems in the whole book of Revelation. Who are the seven kings of Rev. 17:10? They are clearly sequential, but where do they begin and when is the “one is” of the angel’s description? Is it a power in John’s day, one at the very end of time, or is it located somewhere else in the course of history? Various Seventh-day Adventist scholars have drawn each of these three conclusions.
One popular option is to see the seven kings as seven consecutive popes. The sequence usually begins with the year 1929, when Mussolini restored Vatican City to the sovereignty of the church, and ends with the very last pope of earth’s history. This view has frequently suggested that a current pope is either the last or the next to last. So this view has led people into date-setting.
A second view is quite popular among SDA scholars. It suggests that the time of the sixth king (the “one is” of 17:10) is the time from 1798 to 1929, when the papacy had no temporal power. The five fallen kings would then be Babylon Persia, Greece, Rome, and the medieval papacy. The “one that is” would be the time when the church has no temporal power. The seventh king would be today, the restored Vatican power.
But Theme 2 above would rule out both options if applied here. The passage about the seven kings is not in the vision (Rev. 17:3-6), it is in the explanation of the vision (17:7-18). So the “one is” king would have to be present at the time when John himself received the vision in order to make sense. If the “one is” kingdom is the pagan Rome of John’s day, the five who are “fallen” would be the super powers of the Old Testament world; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. The seventh “king” would be the medieval papacy and the “eighth” (Rev. 17:11) king, who is one of the seven, would be the revived Babylon of chapter 17, an entity that in its fullness is still in our future.

4. The Narrative of Rev. 17. As we saw in Theme 1, there are three worldwide alliances that develop in the end-time; an alliance of religious institutions in opposition to God, an alliance of secular political power, and an alliance of the saints. All three are precipitated by the final worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) and its evil counterpart (16:13-14). Through the counterfeit gospel of demonic angels (16:13-14), Babylon (demonic trinity—16:19) gathers the secular/political powers of the world to its cause (16:14, 16). She “rides” the beast (17:2-7). For a short time, united institutions of religion dominate the world’s governments, turning their fury against the saints (17:6; 13:15-17). But when God intervenes (17:17), drying up Babylon’s support system (secular/political powers—16:12), it turns on her and destroys her (17:16). By this means God saves His end-time remnant from destruction (17:14). After the fall of Babylon, the secular powers of the world meet their end at the Second coming (19:17-21).

Part III: Life Application

In a passage completely focused on the events of the end-time, life applications can be difficult to find. The following suggestions may be helpful.

1. What are the implications for today in the fact that God has His people in the midst of Babylon almost to the very end (Rev. 18:4)? The realization that end-time Babylon has a Christian face should not lead us to harsh and disparaging statements aimed at Catholics or others (see statement from Ellen White, Evangelism, 575, in Friday’s lesson). While the religious leaders and the Zealots both opposed the mission of Jesus, He nevertheless dealt graciously with individual representatives of those groups (Luke 6:15; Mark 12:28-24).

2. What can we learn from the connections between the women of Rev. 12 and 17? There are startling similarities between the women of Rev. 12 and 17. Both women are located in the wilderness (Rev. 12:6,14; 17:3). Both are religious in nature (prostitute Babylon is dressed like the High Priest in 17:4). But the woman of 12 is the church as seen in the middle period of Christian history, the 1260 day/years (see Teacher’s Edition for Lesson 8). What causes John amazement (Rev. 17:6) is that the end-time opponent of God and His people wears a Christian face! This should sober all who follow Jesus. Our pride and stubbornness can lead us to destruction even when we think we are following God (John 16:2).

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)?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 11, March 9-16 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: The Seven Last Plagues (Rev 15-16)

The changes to this week’s Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were generally small and improved on my work. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

There were several small changes in the Introduction paragraph of the Overview. These improved on my original.

The editors added a sentence and removed a clause in Main Themes I. Once again, the final product was improved.

In Main Themes IV, the word trinity was replaced with “triad.” Interesting idea, I still think “trinity” has a nice impact, but triad isn’t bad. Later I had the three angels presenting the true gospel, it was modified to three angels “working through God’s remnant church” to present the gospel. I agree that the three angels represent the going forth of the gospel at the end of time through God’s people. But Revelation speaks of the remnant, never the “remnant church.” I prefer using biblical language wherever possible.

Several small changes in the first paragraph of Main Themes V improved on my original. In the next paragraph I had it that the end-time Cyrus (the “kings from the east”) “dries up the end-time River Euphrates.” That clause was removed. I agree that my comment goes beyond the text, but I was following the analogy that Cyrus actively dried up the river. Revelation doesn’t say that with regard to the kings from the east, but doesn’t rule it out either. If the end-time Cyrus is Jesus Christ, He would be quite capable of drying up the Euphrates, whatever that means (I tie it to Rev 17:15-16).

In Life Application 2 the editors removed “the military language of Rev is not to be taken in a military way. The battle of Armageddon is a battle for the mind. In the final battle of earth’s history. . .” and replaced it with “now is the time to heed the warning so as not to be on the wrong side then. I think my statement is based on solid evidence in the text (Rev 16:15), so I’m not sure why my sentence is changed. The final version says essentially the same thing I was saying, but not as clearly, it seems to me. On the whole, I can’t complain about how this week’s teacher’s material was handled.

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

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 15-16 (Week 11)

I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (March 10-16) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. These comments are related to the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.

LESSON 11
THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES

Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 15:4.

Study Focus: Revelation sixteen describes the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1) of earth’s history. Included in these plagues is the only mention of the exact title “Armageddon” in the Bible.

Introduction: This section begins with the end-time people of God standing by the sea of glass singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, an allusion to the Exodus (Rev. 15:1-4). Then the seven plagues are introduced with a vision of the heavenly temple emptied because of the glory of God, a reversal of the original inauguration of the Mosaic sanctuary (Rev. 15:5-8; Exod. 40:34-35). This is close of probation imagery. Seven angels were then told to pour out bowls of wrath upon the earth one by one (Rev. 16:1-21).

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

1. God’s People Named by Many Names. Evidence of the text is that names like remnant, 144,000 and saints all refer to the same end-time group.
2. Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result?
3. The Symbolic Meaning of the Euphrates River in Rev. 16:12.
4. Two Gospels in Revelation. The three angels (Rev. 14:6-12) and the three frogs (Rev. 16:13-14) are contrasting symbols of the gospel.
5. Cyrus the Persian and the Second Half of Revelation. A pagan king foreshadows the Messiah.
6. The Meaning of Armageddon.

Life Application. The Life Application section explores how the description of the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation promotes spiritual preparation for the End-Time.

Part II. Commentary

See Introduction of Part I for summary of Rev. 15-16.

Main Themes of Lesson 11 Elaborated:
1. God’s People Named by Many Names. We saw in the previous lesson’s TE that God’s faithful end-time ones are called remnant in 12:17 and 144,000 in 14:1. The allusion to Joel 2:32 in Rev. 14:1 made it clear that John sees the two groups as the same. There is further evidence in Rev. that the multiple names for God’s people all refer to the same end-time group rather than multiple end-time groups.
The 144,000 and the Great Multitude appear to be opposites. But we saw in the Teacher’s Edition for Lesson Six (Theme 4) that these are also two ways of describing the same end-time group. God’s end-time people are called 144,000 in Rev. 14:1 and “saints” in Rev. 14:12 and 17:6. So God’s one end-time people are called by many names in Revelation: 144,000, Great Multitude, Remnant, and Saints. They stand by the sea of glass (Rev. 15:2), they are the ones who keep their garments (16:15) and are the called, chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb (17:14).

2. Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result?. What is the purpose of the seven bowl/plagues if no repentance will occur (after the close of probation)? First of all, Revelation makes clear that God is not the author of death, pain and destruction (Rev. 7:1-3), Satan is the destroyer (9:11). God allows Satan a certain freedom of action. Second, Satan’s actions can be used by God to fulfill His purposes (17:17). The deceptions and plagues of the final crisis expose the truth about Satan and those who follow him (2 Thess 10-12). It is not God’s fault that the wicked are unredeemed, neither the grace of God (Rom 2:4) nor the plagues of the End (Rev 16:9, 11, 21) bring about any repentance. They are hardened in the course they have chosen. Thus, even the destruction of the wicked glorifies the character of God in the end (Rev. 15:3-4). They have made themselves unsafe to save and God sadly lets them go (Hos 11:7-8). Even after the millennium and a clear perspective on God’s character, nothing in their character has changed (Rev. 20:7-10). The plagues expose their settled unfitness for eternity and vindicate God’s judgment in each case.

3. The Symbolic Meaning of the Euphrates River in Rev. 16:12. What is the meaning of the Euphrates River in Rev. 16:12? We need not remain in doubt when the text itself defines a symbol. Rev. 17:1 introduces an explanation of one of the bowl plagues, one that has something to do with water. It must be referring to the sixth plague, because the woman who sits on the water is called Babylon (Rev. 17:5) and the “many waters” of Babylon describe the Euphrates River (Jer 51:13). The meaning of the river is defined in Rev. 17:15. The waters of verse 1 represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (ESV), in other words, the civil and secular powers of the entire world. These powers give their allegiance to Babylon for a short time (Rev. 17:3, 12-13), creating a worldwide, end-time confederacy in opposition to God and His end-time people.

4. Two Gospels in Revelation. The three angels of Rev. 14:6-12 together proclaim the final gospel message to the world. What many readers of Revelation have missed is the counterfeit gospel also proclaimed to the world in Rev. 16:13-14. The dragon, the beast and the false prophet (the counterfeit trinity of Rev. 13) each produce an unclean spirit like a frog out of their mouths (16:13). According to verse 14 these frogs are the “spirits of demons” who go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world to gather them for the final battle of earth’s history, Armageddon (see also 16:16). Demons are evil angels, thus you have three angels presenting the gospel of God in chapter fourteen and three evil angels presenting a counterfeit gospel in chapter sixteen. Both “gospels” go out to the entire world (Rev. 14:6; 16:14). This counterfeit is described also in 1 Thess. 2:9-12 and Matt. 24:24-27. Those who do not rely on the words of Scripture will be deceived in the final crisis.

5. Cyrus the Persian and the Second Half of Revelation. In Rev. 16:12 it is kings from the east who dry up the Euphrates, Babylon’s political and military support system (Jer. 50:37-38; 51:35-36). This brief description recalls how the armies of Cyrus came from the east and camped north of Babylon. His engineers excavated a depression in the nearby landscape and diverted the flow of the Euphrates River into that depression, allowing Cyrus’ soldiers to march under the river gates into the city. Timing the diversion to take advantage of a feast day inside the city, Cyrus’ soldiers discovered that drunken guards had left open the gates along the river bank. They poured into the city, conquering it and killing its ruler, Belshazzar (as described in Daniel 5). In the months and years that followed Cyrus initiated a process in which the scattered remnant of Israel were encouraged to go back home and rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem.
Notice the total sequence once more: In Old Testament times, Cyrus, king of Persia, dried up the literal Euphrates River in order to conquer Babylon, to let Israel go free and to rebuild Jerusalem. This narrative clearly sets the foundation for the last portion of the Book of Revelation. In the Book of Revelation an end-time Cyrus (the “kings from the rising of the sun”) dries up the end-time River Euphrates, conquers end-time Babylon to deliver end-time Israel and build a New Jerusalem! The fundamental narrative substructure of the battle of Armageddon is grounded in the Old Testament story of Cyrus and Babylon’s fall.

6. The Meaning of Armageddon. The word “Armageddon” is really “Har-Magedon” in the Greek. Rev. 16:16 explains that the word is based on the Hebrew. In Hebrew “Har” means mountain. So the most natural meaning of Armageddon is “Mountain of Megiddo.” The problem is that there is no mountain in the whole world named Megiddo. There are waters of Megiddo (Jdg. 5:19), a valley of Megiddo (2 Chr. 35:22) and a city of Megiddo (1 Kgs. 9:15). Others suggest “mountain of slaughter” (based on Zech. 12:11) or Mount of Assembly (echoing Isa 14:12).
The Anchor Bible Dictionary concludes that the best explanation of “Har-Magedon” is to associate it with the mountain that looms over the waters, valley and city of Megiddo, Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is the place where Elijah called fire down from heaven to earth to demonstrate who the true God is (Rev. 13:13-14). In the last days of earth’s history there will be a showdown between the true God (Rev. 4-5) and the counterfeit trio (Rev. 16:13-14), between the three angels (Rev. 14:6-12) and the three frogs. In that final contest, the fire will fall on the wrong altar (Rev. 13:13-14), but the true God will be vindicated in the end (Rev. 15:3-4).

Part III: Life Application

1. In the midst of the Battle of Armageddon account (Rev. 16:13-16) is a blessing on the one who keeps watch and hangs onto his clothes (16:15). In Lesson 3, Theme 5, we saw that this is a clear allusion to Rev. 3:18, the warning of Christ to Laodicea. There is, therefore, a clear connection between the Laodicean church and God’s final call to the world in the context of Armageddon. The church that will pass through the final crisis of earth’s history will be seriously flawed, but very much the object of Jesus’ solicitude. This should be a source of both warning and encouragement to God’s people today.

2. In one single verse (Rev. 16:15) John brings together a variety of New Testament appeals in light of the end. Both “I come like a thief” and “Blessed is he who stays awake” echo statements of Jesus which are further echoed by Paul (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:37-39; 1 Thess. 5:1-6). All three of these texts are about readiness for the coming of Jesus. By echoing these concepts in the middle of the Battle of Armageddon, the Book of Revelation makes it clear that the military language of Revelation is not to be taken in a military way. The Battle of Armageddon is a battle for the mind. In the final battle of earth’s history, it is our spiritual task to keep watch over our attitudes, thoughts, and behavior, and to remain faithful no matter the deception or the coercion we may face. There is a need for both faithful endurance and discernment, fortified with the words of Jesus, of Paul and to Laodicea. When we choose to be faithful today in the midst of various temptations, we are being prepared for even greater battles at the end of time.

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?

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

Basic theme: Revelation 14

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

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

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

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

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

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 14 (Week 10)

I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (March 3-9) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases this week. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. These comments are made in relation to the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.

LESSON 10
GOD’S EVERLASTING GOSPEL

Part I: Overview

Focus of the Lesson: Rev. 14:7.

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

Introduction: In Revelation fourteen, the remnant re-appears as the 144,000, who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:1-5). This is followed by the most famous of all Bible passages to Seventh-day Adventists, the Three Angel’s Messages (Rev. 14:6-13). The chapter concludes with a symbolic representation of the Second Coming of Jesus and the respective harvests of the saints and the wicked that accompany it (Rev. 14:14-20). The lesson for this week focuses primarily on the Three Angel’s Messages.

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

1. The Remnant and the 144,000. These turn out to be two different names for the same group.
2. The “Fear” of God. It’s not what it sounds like.
3. The Central Issue of Rev. 13 and 14: Worship. The word worship appears eight times at crucial points of the narrative.
4. How Is Judgment Related to the Gospel (Rev 14:6-7)? The language of judgment is used in three different ways in the NT.
5. Rev. 13-14 and the First Table of the Ten Commandments. There are multiple references to the first four of the Ten Commandments in Rev. 13-14.
6. The First Angel and the Fourth Commandment.

Life Application. The Life Application section explores 1) the relevance of judgment and 2) the relevance of the seventh-day Sabbath in today’s world.

Part II. Commentary

The fourteenth chapter of Revelation elaborates on the remnant’s side of the final battle introduced in Rev. 12:17. The remnant is described (14:1-5), its message is presented (14:6-13) and the outcome of the battle is outlined in symbolic language (14:14-20).

Main Themes of Lesson 10 Elaborated:
1. The Remnant and the 144,000. God’s faithful ones are called “remnant” in 12:17 and “144,000” in 14:1. Are these two different groups or two different ways of describing the same group? Rev. 14:1 contains an allusion to Joel 2:32. In Joel, God’s faithful ones are those who call on the name of the Lord, reside in Mount Zion, and are called “remnant.” Rev. 14:1 mentions the name of the Lamb and the Father, Mount Zion, and calls these faithful ones the 144,000. The fact that Joel has “remnant” is John’s key to the perceptive reader that he is describing the remnant’s side of the final conflict with the dragon in chapter 14.

2. The “Fear” of God. The word “fear” in English is generally the word we use when we are terrified. As a result, many readers of the Bible think it is appropriate to serve God because we are afraid of Him. But when the word fear is associated with God in the Bible, it has a much softer meaning. In the Old Testament, for example, the fear of God means to have reverence or awe for Him: it includes things like knowing God personally (Proverbs 9:10); doing His commandments (Psalm 111:10; Eccl 12:13) and avoiding evil (Proverbs 3:7 and 16:6). In the New Testament, it can mean awe and respectful excitement (Luke 7:16; Acts 2:43). It provides motivation for godly behavior (2 Cor. 7:1). It is parallel to the honor one would give to a king (1 Pet. 2:17) and the respect one would show toward a superior (1 Pet. 2:18).
In modern terms, the fear of God means to take God seriously enough to enter into a relationship with Him, to follow His warnings to avoid evil, and to do His commandments, even the ones that may be inconvenient. It is a call to live and act as those who know that they will give account to God one day. According to this verse, such a serious calling will be a part of the experience of God’s end-time people.

3. The Central Issue of Rev. 13 and 14: Worship. The issue that arises over and over again in Revelation 13 and 14 is worship. Seven times in these two chapters there is a reference to worship of the dragon, the beast or the image to the beast (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11). The overall story is about a counterfeit trinity, which invites the worship of the entire world in the place of God. The focus is on a universal contest regarding the character of God and whether He is truly worthy of worship. It is the central theme of this part of the book.
Ironically, while there are seven references to worship of the dragon and his allies in Revelation 13 and 14, only one time in the same narrative is there a reference to worship of God, and that is the call to worship the Creator in Revelation 14:7. That makes this verse the central focus of the section. And since Revelation 13 and 14 is at the center of the book, the call to worship the creator states the central point of the entire book. Since this call to worship is in the context of the Sabbath commandment of the Decalogue (Rev. 14:7, cf. Exod. 20:11), the Sabbath is a crucial issue in the final crisis of earth’s history.

4. How Is Judgment Related to the Gospel (Rev 14:6-7)? In the New Testament judgment is closely related to the gospel. First of all, judgment occurred at the cross (John 12:31; Rev. 5:5-10). The whole human race was judged in the person of its representative, Jesus Christ. Second, judgment language is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel in John 3:18-21 and 5:22-25. Whenever the gospel is preached people are called into judgment based on their response to what Christ did on the cross. This is the background to the four horsemen (Rev. 6:1-8), as we saw in Lesson Five. Third, the judgment at the end ratifies the judgments we passed on ourselves in response to the hearing of the gospel (John 12:48). The book of Revelation reserves the language of judgment for the end-time phase (Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 17:1; 20:4). In Rev. 14:7, the second and third phases of judgment outlined above occur together.

5. Rev. 13-14 and the First Table of the Ten Commandments. The beasts’ calls to worship (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 15) come in the context of a counterfeit of the First Table of the law. The first commandment forbids worship of any other God. The beast demands worship (13:4, 8). The second commandment forbids idolatry. The land beast sets up an image to be worshiped (13:15). The third commandment forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain. The beast excels in blasphemy (13:6). The fourth commandment is the seal of the covenant, containing the name, the territory and the basis for God’s rule (Exod. 20:8-11). In contrast, the world is offered the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17).
This section of Revelation is centered in the commandments of God (12:17; 14:12). In chapter 13 there is a particular focus on the first table of the ten, the four commandments that deal specifically with our relationship to God. The beast and his allies counterfeit each of the first four commandments. This sets the table for the decisive allusion to the fourth commandment in the first angel’s message (Rev. 14:7, cf. Exod. 20:11).

6. The First Angel and the Fourth Commandment. The message of the first angel contains a direct allusion to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. This is evident for three major reasons. 1) There is a strong verbal parallel between Rev. 14:7 and Exod. 20:11. Both passages contain the words “made,” “heaven,” “earth,” and “sea.” They also contain a reference to the one who created. 2) Rev. 14:6-7 contain references to salvation (14:6), judgment and creation (14:7). All three themes echo the First Table of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2, 5-6, 11). 3) There are multiple references to the Ten Commandments throughout this section of Revelation (Rev 12:17; 14:12, the counterfeits of the first four commandments in Rev. 13, the verbal parallels in 14:7). This makes up a strong structural parallel. The final call of God to the world is in the context of the fourth commandment.

Part III: Life Application

1. Why do you think judgment is an unpopular concept among many Christians today? Judgment today is often seen as cold and harshly legal. Courts are places you want to avoid, if possible. But in the biblical sense, judgment is something for God’s people to look forward to. It is a time when all the wrongs of earth will be made right. If there is no judgment at the end, there will never be any justice in this world.
Biblical justice is as much positive as it is negative. It is the basis of reward as well as negative consequences. Jesus said that even something as small as giving a cup of cold water to a child will be remembered in the judgment. It provides great meaning in this life to know that every good deed, every kindness shown, matters in the ultimate scheme of things.

2. Why does the Sabbath play such a central role in the final events of earth’s history? What difference could a day of the week possibly make in the ultimate scheme of things? God placed the Sabbath at the center of all His mighty acts as a remembrance of Him. When we keep the seventh-day Sabbath we are reminded of creation (Exod 20:8-11). God created us free, at great cost to Himself (we were free to rebel), so we could truly love Him back and also each other. Not only the Sabbath, but the whole of the Decalogue was designed to promote freedom (Jam. 1:25; 2:12). So the creation side of Sabbath reminds us of the loving, freedom-giving character of God.
The Sabbath also reminds us of the Exodus (Deut 5:15), God’s great act of salvation for His people. He is a gracious God who acts mightily in behalf of His people. The Sabbath also reminds us of the cross. Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath between His death and His resurrection. The cross is the greatest revelation of God’s character and the Sabbath is a reminder of that.
The Sabbath also looks forward to the future salvation at the End (Heb. 4:9-11). Those who truly trust God find in the Sabbath a down payment on the rest from sin that the whole universe will experience in eternity.

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?