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)?

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

  1. Dan L. Kelly

    One of my class members asked regarding last weeks lesson, “Who are the angels in 14:17,18?” I suggested that they were representative of the angels who would “reap” the Wheat and the Grapes, recognizing the symbolism. That seemed to satisfy him. But, my question nor is, “Does it satisfy ME!!”

    Was I close?

    Thanks for what you do!

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      In early Judaism you had four archangels and seven archangels in different accounts. Revelation shares the grouping of four (living creatures) and seven (angels). In chapter 7 you have six angels and the son of man in between, so it may be a reflection of the seven archangel theme.

  2. Sven Ohman

    Please can someone clarify the following problems.

    Revelation 15:8 tells us that the glory of God filled the temple and no-one could enter until the seven last plagues were complete. Then we notice that in Revelation 16:1 and 17 a voice is heard from within the temple announcing the start of the first plague and then the completion of the last plague.
    Who is this one speaking from the temple? In “Early Writings” Page 279 EGW says that this voice is that of Jesus. But how can Jesus be in the temple when He has left? I have always understood Revelation 15:8 to mean that Christs mediatorial ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary was complete. Probation had ended and the destiny of all mankind was sealed; this was symbolized by the mark in the forehead (144,000). So how are we to understand this? Was Jesus in the temple or had he left?

    This is the first problem and the second one follows on from the first.

    If God is left in the temple on His own that seems to be inconsistent with Revelation. Since the inauguration of Jesus in Revelation 5 we see God the Father and Jesus (Lamb) as co-regents. In every reference through the rest of Revelation they are mentioned together, almost is if they are inseparable. To now say that they are separated is inconsistent with Revelation.

    So, who is in the temple? And what are they doing during the seven last plagues, if probation has now finished?

    Can someone please help? I’m really struggling. It does not help either having a few in the church who believe we have to be sinlessly perfect before the plagues are poured out and this verse in their favorite. Thanks.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      I would understand the “no one” as no creature. In the inauguration of the tabernacle and temple in the OT it was God’s glorious presence that caused the priests to flee. So the voice from the temple must be the voice of the triune God. EW’s naming Jesus is compatible with that. Jesus and the Father do not separate.

      The problem with sinless perfection is that anyone who achieve’s it would be the last to know they had (“the closer we come to Jesus the more clearly we see our defects”). So even if it were true, it would not be practical to pursue it. God desires more than robotic obedience, he desires whole-hearted love and trust. Obedience based on fear is no act of love. You can trust Him to save all who listen humbly and desire to be with Him (see thief on the cross).

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