Sabbath School Lesson for June 16-22, 2018
Many interpretations have become popular concerning the time and place of the famed battle of Armageddon; its name mentioned only once in the entire Bible (in Revelation 16:16). Rightly determined to be the last great battle at the end of earth’s history, Christians and the secular world alike recognize its significance, and most of us dread its occurrence.
Just as our finite minds cannot grasp the original “war” fought in heaven with Jesus and Lucifer as the chief protagonists (Revelation 12:7), we will undoubtedly find it difficult to grasp what another spiritual showdown will look like in the final days of this planet.
Perhaps it would be best for us not to place too much faith in the way we now envision traditional warfare. This will no doubt be a totally different experience, which is why John uses so much symbolic language when describing many of these prophecies. Calling it a “battle” in a military sense is probably the closest he could come to prepare us for the serious agony of the event.
The word “Babylon” (the Greek name that is the equivalent of “Babel”), on the other hand, occurs six times in Revelation alone. Archaeologists continue to study the ruins of this city in Iraq and the possible location of the tower of Babel, so it’s logical to assume Revelation’s use of the name as representing something other than an actual city or building that still stands.
As a matter of fact, many Bible scholars have determined Babylon to be a symbol for a massive religious and political power that oppresses the people of God in the end times. Accepting Babylon’s symbolic nature seems to be a reasonable way to interpret these six passages in Revelation that mention Babylon.
Focus Text: “On her forehead a name was written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Revelation 17:5 NKJV
Fortunately, there are several times, such as in this verse, where John brings up this power structure, known as Babylon. We will explore his descriptions with more depth this week, as we try to discover how to prepare for the last days in which we are now living.
Sunday: The Wine of Her Wrath
There’s good reason to see the Bible as a tale of two cities, Jerusalem and Babylon: symbols of God’s covenant people (Jerusalem) and those who have rebelled against God (Babylon).
Even though the actual city of Jerusalem is still with us, we must keep in mind that the Jewish population broke their covenant with God by rejecting and crucifying the Messiah. The torn veil in God’s temple, which occurred at Christ’s death, indicated that they were no longer His chosen people.
The gospel has since been taken to the Gentiles and individual Jews (they have never lost their freedom to choose the true God). Let’s not forget that it was faithful Jewish believers who instigated and empowered the new Christian church. Paul could safely declare that “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29 KJV
Therefore, when considering the prophecies of Revelation, we must look to a symbolic Jerusalem, which includes anyone who accepts Christ as their Redeemer and follows and serves Him faithfully, as opposed to the literal city of Jerusalem and nation of Israel today.
Turning our eyes to the other city, Babylon, we see opposite tendencies of its inhabitants. The phrase “the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8) has puzzled many. Just what constitutes her “fornication”? Combining the many descriptions found of Babylon, not just in Revelation, but the literal city of Babylon and even the episode at the Tower of Babel (which may have been the site where the city of Babylon actually existed), we see her nature more clearly.
The power structure known as Babylon is and will continue to grow more…
- confusing (with many false doctrines being taught)
- corrupt (with many ungodly practices being evident)
- oppressive (with many acts of persecution being used)
Read Isaiah 52:9, 65:19 and Revelation 3:12, 21:2, 7. What has Jerusalem stood for in the past? Why must there be a “new Jerusalem” and who will be its inhabitants?
Read Revelation 18:2, 3. How has spiritualism and mysticism gained a foothold in the Christian church? What prevalent doctrines might be leading to this state? How does idolatry fit into the picture here? Who or what are we worshiping when we accept these false teachings, and why does God refer to it as fornication?
Read 1 Peter 5:13. Since history tells us that Peter was in Rome at the time he wrote this epistle (between 60-65 A.D.), why would he refer to the city of Rome as Babylon?
Monday: Babylon Is Fallen
The second angel’s message found in Revelation 14:8 is repeated in chapter 18:1-5, giving us a broader picture of what the message is trying to convey. God is calling His people out of this idolatrous power structure, because a judgment (also mentioned by the first angel) will soon determine the fate of all on our planet.
When that phase of the heavenly judgment work is completed (called “cleansing of the sanctuary” in Daniel 8:14), then Jesus will come again to claim His faithful ones and take them to be with Him. Daniel reveals that the saints will then be given a part in this judgment. Daniel 7:22 says, “Until the Ancient of days come, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” KJV
Our work of judgment, taking place in the heavenly sanctuary, is further described in Revelation 20:6, 7:
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.” KJV
What glorious reasons there are to make sure we are among those in the first resurrection, by coming out of Babylon and clinging to God’s holy truths as found in the Bible.
Read Revelation 18:4, 5 and John 10:16. Why is the call given that Babylon is fallen? Where are God’s people, even right up to the end, before the sealing of God and the mark of the beast are determined, and the death decree goes out?
Read Jeremiah 51:6-9 and Daniel 5:25-28, 30. What did Babylon’s fall, predicted by the “handwriting on the wall” during Daniel’s day, reveal to us about the fall of Babylon, predicted by John? What do they have in common?
Read Revelation 20:4, Daniel 7:22, and 1 Corinthians 6:3. What will God’s faithful ones be doing during their first thousand years in heaven? Who will there be left to judge?
Only revealed this once in Revelation, chapter 16, we recognize the magnitude of the battle of Armageddon, being the sixth of the seven last plagues to fall on the earth, just prior to Christ’s return. It doesn’t appear to be just a local event, and we can’t help but sense, not only its global significance, but its impact on the whole universe.
With Satan unleashing all the forces he has developed over the centuries (v. 13 and 14)–the spirits of devils (the fallen angels), the beast and the false prophet (both religious and civil authorities on earth)–he now seems equipped for that final showdown with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although many Christians are looking for a literal war, involving the already-existing conflicts in the Middle East and perhaps a place called Megiddo, we must keep our focus on Christ, rather than actual events that tend to distract us from the real preparation it takes to survive whatever kind of battle ensues.
In other words, the location of the event is immaterial, if we don’t stay very close to God, who alone can enable us to stand during any of the last plagues. Jesus foresaw our negligence and interjected this warning in Revelation 16:15…
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” KJV
In other words, the way we watch for the Lord’s coming is by keeping ourselves covered by Christ’s robe of righteousness. The signs about us make us watchful, but they will never tell us the exact time of His appearing.
If the time is not revealed (Matthew 24:42), most likely the precise place and exact manner will likewise be up to God. It’s obviously beyond our imaginations to grasp it all. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “…Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” NKJV
Read Revelation 16:12-16 and 13:18. What significance, if any, is there between the sixth plague, involving Armageddon, and the number 666? Also, how might it be related to the sixth day of the week, Friday, known as the Preparation Day (Luke 23:54)?
Read Revelation 16:14. What false teachings and beliefs have made it easy for spiritualistic, mystic practices to be accepted by so many in the world? Why is man so drawn to miracles?
Read Revelation 16:15, Matthew 24:43, 44, and Isaiah 61:10. What did the reference to a thief mean, and how does the Lord cover our nakedness and shame?
Wednesday: Armageddon and Mount Carmel: Part 1
Bible scholars recognize an ancient city in Palestine, called Megiddo, which seems to be a reference point for the term “Armageddon”. Armageddon is translated “Hill (or Mountain) of Megiddo”. There seems to be no mountains of interest in the area, except for the supposed site of Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah had an impressive showdown with the false prophets of Baal.
Since there are so many similarities between these two events, we might find it helpful to explore what happened at Mount Carmel. We do know that fire was involved back then, and also at the end of time. What was Elijah’s purpose for this gathering and how were people affected by witnessing such an event?
1 Kings, chapter 18, covers the episode and allows us to see the issues and the results of this unusual worship service that occurred during King Ahab’s reign.
Read 1 Kings 18:20, 36-39. What elements of this story resemble what will happen during John’s battle of Armageddon found in Revelation 16?
Read 1 Kings 18:39 and Psalm 100:3-5. What is implied in the words “the Lord, He is the God” that were spoken by those convicted by Elijah’s answer to prayer?
Read 1 Kings 18:18. What were the people of Elijah’s day doing that was wrong in God’s eyes? How does breaking any of God’s commandments willingly show that we are following another god?
Thursday: Armageddon and Mount Carmel: Part 2
Without carrying the parallels too far, let’s see what some of the major points of Elijah’s experience are, and how they might inform us of the future Battle of Armageddon.
- Elijah was outnumbered by the false prophets of Baal 450 to 1.
- Elijah’s worship style was much simpler and faith-based than the elaborate, emotion-based exhibitions of the false prophets.
- Following God’s miraculous answer to Elijah’s prayer, the prophets of Baal were totally eradicated and destroyed.
Verses that indicate the accuracy of these points, when compared to our present situation and thinking about Armageddon…
- “Then saith he unto his disciples, ‘The harvest is plenteous, but the labourers are few;’ “ Matthew 9:37 KJV
- “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 KJV
- “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:14, 15 KJV
Read 1 Kings 18:27-29. Why were the false prophets, who had previously been able to do supernatural miracles, unable to do them at Mount Carmel? Was Elijah justified in mocking their efforts?
Read 1 Kings 18:40 and Exodus 22:20. Why is death the only recourse God at times must use against Satan-worshipers?
Read Revelation 19:20, 21 and and 20:14, 15. How is this second death different from the unmerciful torture of the unrighteous that some people envision as hell?
This week we took a closer look at Babylon and the resulting end of its regime that will take place at what’s been called the Battle of Armageddon. Some questions answered were…
- Sunday–What does “the wine of her wrath of her fornication” really mean?
- Monday–How is Babylon fallen?
- Tuesday–Where and why will there be a battle at Armageddon?
- Wednesday–What was the purpose of Elijah’s experience at Mount Carmel and how does it relate to Armageddon?
- Thursday–How does the conclusion reached from the showdown at Mount Carmel compare with the spiritual showdown at the close of earth’s history?
What spiritual weapons will be needed for us to survive the last great battle with Satan at Armageddon?
Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us the armor we must develop and wear:
- waistband = truth
- breastplate = righteousness
- shoes = gospel of peace
- shield = faith
- helmet = salvation
- sword = word of God
- PRAYER (which is the fuel that activates each piece of protective armor)
Have you armed yourself for this great battle, both the future one, and the little skirmishes that are ongoing in our daily lives now? “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NKJV Let’s polish up our armor every day!
Next Week’s Lesson: The Return of Our Lord Jesus
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/