Sabbath School Lesson for March 2-8, 2019
Revelation 14 presents the central issues of the great controversy. We examine three messages, delivered by three angels, in the last days (Sunday):
- the first angel–a call to fear God and give Him glory–and also to be aware that judgment/justice is on the way (Monday and Tuesday)
- In other words, God is for us!
- the second angel–a call to come out of apostate religions, or Babylon, which confuse and entrap us (Wednesday)
- In other words, Satan is against us!
- the third angel–a call to choose not to receive the mark of the beast (Thursday)
- the choice of whom to worship is ours!
Chapter 14 of Revelation wraps up this three-chapter section describing the great controversy between Christ and Satan. We saw…
- how the war began (ch.12),
- who Satan”s allies are (ch. 13), and finally,
- how God equips His remnant people to win the war (ch. 14).
Military forces similarly train their troops by…
- educating them on how the war started (their justification for fighting),
- showing them how to recognize the enemy, and finally,
- developing the skills they need to win the war.
The three angels’ messages (ch. 14:6-12), therefore, contain the everlasting gospel, which is just what we need to win the war with Satan.
The Holy Spirit propelled the church to action at Pentecost, right after Christ’s ascension, when He moved into the Holy Place in the sanctuary above to mediate our release from Satan’s rule.
The Spirit will once again invigorate His remnant church family in the last days, since 1844, when He moved into the Most Holy Place to begin the cleansing work of redemption there (Daniel 8:14).
This cleansing work, taking place now in the Most Holy Place, involves judgment, a recurrent theme of the chapter. That’s why the Israelites were careful to prepare themselves and the camp for the Day of Atonement in the days of the earthly sanctuary.
Once again, we too must prepare for that great Judgment Day of Atonement, when God will provide everlasting justice and cleansing restoration for the whole universe.
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
Trust and obedience are both seen in the life of God’s saints. Here is the secret of their survival: keeping His laws and having faith in Jesus. It’s as simple as that…the pure gospel truth.
Sunday: The Three Angels’ Messages
Although these warning messages are portrayed as three angels flying in the sky, they most likely represent the messages preached by God’s remnant people in the last days. The word for “angel” means “messenger”, pointing to the heavenly task they are given.
The message of the gospel has been preached continuously to mankind, in one form or another, but there is urgency in proclaiming it now, as earth’s history winds down. And the reason for that urgency is that the final judgment is fast approaching.
God’s people must not only be ready themselves, but they must warn others about the fate of remaining on Satan’s side when judgment falls. This is why these angels speak “with a loud voice”. It’s only fair that everyone in the world knows what is about to happen.
Read Matthew 24:14. Why does God insist that the whole world be warned before He returns?
Read Revelation 14:6 and Matthew 28:19, 20. What is the gospel, what makes it “everlasting”, and how does it pertain to the “kingdom” (as spoken of in Matthew 24:14)?
Read Revelation 14:7 and 16:13, 14. Why is the whole world involved in this effort, both those on God’s side and Satan’s?
Monday: The First Angel’s Message, Part 1
This first angel proclaims a familiar entreaty. It reminds us to “fear God and give glory to Him”, which are closely related (Psalm 22:23). If you respect someone, you show it by trying to be like them, which, in turn, honors that person.
- It points to the fact that we respect and praise God (what “fear” actually implies here) out of love for Him. In other words, we trust Him, have faith in what He says.
- Giving glory to Him is what happens when we serve Him through obedient actions that reflect His character, also out of love for Him. In other words, we trust Him enough to follow Him.
Both faith and obedience, activated by love, work together in building a healthy relationship with our Creator. The first angel mentions this relationship with God first, and rightly so. Without it, the other angel warnings will not be heeded. Our only hope to make it through the final hours is to be at one with God.
Read Job 1:8. What were some of the things that showed that Job had a good relationship with God? And what does that relationship have to do with the gospel message in the last days?
Read Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14. How does this verse describe what it means to give God glory? How does keeping the commandments bring God glory? What does the judgment have to do with the gospel?
Read Revelation 22:11, 12. How does this indicate that some form of judgment must take place before Jesus’ Second Coming? How does this impact the urgency of the first angel’s message?
Tuesday: The First Angel’s Message, Part 2
Since the main theme of the great controversy is whether to worship God or Satan, it’s important to examine carefully the first four of God’s Ten Commandments, which deal with worship of the Creator God.
It suddenly becomes clear that Satan tries to mimic that worship, as we see in how each commandment is present in Satan’s strategy to win over the world to his side…
- “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Satan, the dragon, demands that we worship him, through the beast powers, instead. Revelation 13:7, 8)
- “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…” (Satan deceives the people into creating and bowing down to an image of the first beast, which had both religious and secular authority. Revelation 13:14, 15)
- “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” (Satan repeatedly dishonors God, by speaking blasphemous words against Him. Revelation 13:5, 6)
- “Remember the Sabbath day…the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God…” (Satan has deceived the world into disregarding the seventh day Sabbath, by establishing another day to worship, causing people to eventually receive the mark of the beast, instead of the sign of God’s covenant. Revelation 13:16, 17, Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12)
Continuing with the first angel’s message to fear God and give glory to Him, we read that we are to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” Revelation 14:7 NKJV The wording here is almost identical to what it says in the fourth commandment: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” Exodus 20:11 NKJV
Obviously, there is a call for God’s people to proclaim the truth about the Sabbath and begin worshiping on the day that God made holy. Since worship is key to winning the great controversy, shouldn’t we be paying more attention to how God has proclaimed it to be done in the Ten Commandments?
God never changes (Malachi 3:6), and we shouldn’t let Satan’s changes deter us from worshiping God, in spirit and in truth (including the Sabbath truth).
Read Revelation 13:5-8, 13-16. How do you see the Ten Commandments, the first four dealing with worship of God, in the strategy of Satan to deceive mankind into worshiping him?
Read Revelation 14:7 and Exodus 20:11. Why is the Sabbath an important part of our worship to God–important enough to be in the Ten Commandments?
Read Exodus 31:13 and Ezekiel 20:12 and Malachi 3:6. Why is it important for spiritual Israel to continue its worship of God on the seventh day Sabbath, the day that God made holy?
Wednesday: The Second Angel’s Message
Whereas the first angel’s message centered on why we need to worship God, helping us realize that He is a God who will see that justice prevails, the second angel’s message now brings up the subject of Satan. We must also be aware that an enemy exists. The second angel says…
“Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Revelation 14:8 NKJV
This enemy has manifested itself in the apostate teachings of a false religious system, that is called Babylon. The word babel means confusion, a reminder of those building the Tower of Babel, whose languages were confused, resulting in the discontinuation of the project. The sons of Babel are called Babylonians.
Other verses in Revelation mention Babylon. We find that she is the mother of harlots (Rev. 17:5), indicating that there are many “daughters”, who in some way reflect the mother’s characteristics. And wine is used to cause their drunkenness, which will cause many to be unable to escape the harmful teachings of the “mother church”.
This great city of Babylon, which many believe centers in the Roman Catholic Church and all the Protestant churches that sprouted from it, at some time will engage the nations of the world once again to spread her false teachings. Religion and governments will work together in attempting to enforce Satan’s false worship across the globe.
Read Revelation 14:8, 18:5, and Isaiah 28:7-10. How is this drunkenness from wine associated with the knowledge of Bible truth? How has spiritual inebriation affected God’s church down through history?
Read Revelation 17:2 and 18:3. What leads, even the nations of the world, into falling? What does this indicate about the scope of influence this religious power has?
Read Isaiah 21:9. What do carved images have to do with this false religion? How does the Roman Catholic church justify the creation of its system of worship by ignoring the second commandment in its catechism? Why does God warn us about graven images of any kind–what harm are they?
Thursday: The Third Angel’s Message
Perhaps the most chilling message in this passage comes from the third angel. The results of receiving the mark of the beast are just too horrific to dwell on, but it is something God’s people, and those they warn, must be aware of.
God’s justice will certainly include the annihilation of the wicked. How else can the universe be restored to its original, pristine condition?
Sadly, Satan has used these verses and some like them, to portray a harsh, unmerciful God, full of vengeance and hatred for our planet. Especially misunderstood is verse 11, which may sound as if this destruction goes on and on forever.
However, other prophets make it clear that the punishment of “fire and brimstone” destroys the wicked for eternity, making them stubble, in other words, they are all burned up. See Malachi 4:1. Revelation itself refers to this destruction of the wicked as “the second DEATH” (ch. 20:14 and 21:8). In addition, Jude 7 calls the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah an “eternal fire” (and it obviously isn’t still burning, but the effects of its destruction have lasted forever.)
We can safely say that a God of mercy AND justice would not cause, even the wicked, to continue being destroyed and tormented endlessly. Some may burn longer than others, depending on their deeds, but we can be sure that sin and sinners will be utterly wiped out from the universe at some point–Satan included. We will be eternally free from the enemy.
In mercy and love, God issues this final warning to those experiencing the great tribulation. The third angel’s message, as hard as it is to digest, must be delivered, in order for God to be who we know Him to be, which is: “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy” (Psalm 103:8 NKJV). Justice for the wicked can and will be served in a merciful way.
Read Revelation 14:9 and 13:15-17. What are the consequences on earth for not receiving the mark of the beast?
Read Revelation 14:8 and 10. What is different about the wine of Babylon and that of God? Discuss the symbolism of wine in the Bible, and how it might relate to these verses.
Read Revelation 14:11, Malachi 4:1, and Jude 7. How can this eternal fire be best understood in the light of God’s character? Why has the punishment of the wicked become a point of controversy and misunderstanding for so many Christians, and what has been the result of this false teaching in our world today?
The longer we are in a relationship with God, the more we are able to appreciate the deep unfolding of Bible truths that are found in the book of Revelation. But let’s not get bogged down in the details here. This week, we saw the impact of the simple gospel message and how that alone can bring others into a saving relationship with our Creator.
I was impressed with how the three angels’ messages was broken down and explained at a recent women’s retreat I attended. As I outlined at the beginning of this lesson, it amounted to…
- God is for us.
- Satan is against us.
- We have a choice.
That is the bare-bones gospel, and the main one we are required to deliver to thirsty souls. Let’s not be like the Jews in Jesus’ day, who got caught up in all the minute requirements of salvation, and forgot what God was really all about–which is love, and choosing to worship Him.
We have to keep going back to the everlasting gospel, because that’s what it is–it lasts forever and should be foremost in all our words and actions. Otherwise, we will not be His loving representatives on earth. And, we must live the gospel, as well as preach it.
Angels are there to support us in this. Just as they are there to protect us from the evil one, they will enable us to live and preach the gospel to those around us. Perhaps that’s why they are called angel messages.
Let’s continue to learn about the role of angels in our next verse to memorize from Psalm 91. Thanks to angels having charge over our safety…
“You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.” Psalm 91:13 NKJV
Next Week’s Lesson: The Seven Last Plagues
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/