Sabbath School Lesson for February 22-March 1, 2019
More details about our enemy Satan are given, as we further read in this middle section of Revelation, chapters 12-14. His allies include…
- the beast from the sea (identified as the medieval church)–Sunday and Monday
- the beast arising from the earth (identified as Protestant America)–Tuesday and Wednesday
- how these forces, aided by Satan, will unite and develop the final, overpowering deception that causes people to receive the mark of the beast–Thursday
Chapter 12 of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the evil powers at work on our planet, but chapter 13 expands our understanding of how Satan works. He uses two religious systems (Catholicism and Protestantism) to create subtle deviations from God’s law that will deceive a vast majority of the world (when governmental powers get involved in the end), causing people to receive his mark, rather than God’s seal.
These allies of Satan, portrayed symbolically as beasts, unite with secular, political powers at the very end of our days on earth. This will make it a time of great tribulation for God’s people. As described in our key verse:
Memory Text: “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and he went to wage war with the remnant of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17 MEV
This was, no doubt, true during the Middle Ages, but even more so in the very last days, when the devil knows he has but a short time left on earth (Revelation 12:12).
Two cautions were presented in our lesson this week…
- When witnessing to those of other faiths, we must be kind and respectful when presenting Bible truth, without sacrificing prophetic integrity. It’s important not too sound harsh and critical, alienating individuals, rather than drawing them to Christ.
- Since we are now talking about prophecies still in the future, we must use caution when interpreting current events that may be happening around the world. The scriptures don’t reveal exactly how and when future prophecies unfold. They just give us a broad picture of general trends. Certainly, we can see and show others that the time is short and they need to be spiritually ready, without sharing overly-detailed human assumptions about how they are being fulfilled.
Let’s make our study of God’s word as spiritually uplifting as we can this quarter…for ALL who join us. I wrote an article on this subject Ground Rules for Sabbath School Discussions sparked by blogger Connie Nelson’s article I Kinda’ Want to Leave earlier. Ed Dickerson has now begun a series of articles that I think will also enrich our Sabbath School class experience. See them at The Study of Revelation-or any lesson and Teaching a Sabbath School Class
Sunday: The Beast From the Sea
The first ally of Satan is described as a beast that comes from the sea. This strange, scary-looking beast must develop from populated areas–from “peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues” (Revelation 17:15).
Its description sounds like a composite of the four beasts that Daniel saw in vision (a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a diverse beast with ten horns). These symbols of world empires (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and then Rome) are mentioned in reverse order in John’s vision (Revelation 13:1, 2), since John was observing them as past empires.
Identifying the beast from the sea is not difficult, when you consider the attributes of the little horn power, described by Daniel (Daniel 7:23-27). Even the time it would rule is clearly given as 1,260 days/years, the same as a time, times, and half a time, and 42 months. [See last week’s lesson for a breakdown of these numbers under Tuesday’s comments Lesson 8 Satan, a Defeated Enemy]
Read Revelation 12:13, 14 and Daniel 7:25. How do these verses reveal that papal Rome is the religious power which persecutes God’s people for “a time and times and half a time” (which is the same as 1,260 prophetic days or years–Rev. 12:6, and forty-two months–Rev. 11:2)?
Read Revelation 13:1, 2 and Daniel 7:2-8, 15-17, 23. How do we know that these beasts represent kingdoms? And why were the beasts described in reverse order by these two prophets? In what way is this beast different from the previous beasts or kingdoms on earth (Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome)?
Read Revelation 13:3, 4. How is worship an important feature of the great controversy that Satan began so long ago? How does God’s desire for worship differ from Satan’s?
Monday: The Activities of the Sea Beast
Besides the time period matching the number of years that the papacy ruled during the Middle Ages (from 538-1798 A.D.), there is other evidence, pointing to this religious system as the sea beast described in Revelation.
This is a persecuting power, but also one that speaks blaphemous, pompous words against the Most High. In doing so, he exalts himself as being equal with God. He blasphemes His name and His tabernacle. See Revelation 13:5, 6. Daniel even declares that he intends “to change times and law” See Daniel 7:25.
- The pope has falsely been named as Christ’s representative on earth, making him equal with the Son of God.
- The redemptive, mediatorial work, which occurs in the heavenly sanctuary, is circumvented by an earthly priesthood, which claims to forgive people for their sins.
- The change of the Sabbath to Sunday (which the church in Rome, not only encouraged, but rigidly enforced while in power) certainly qualifies as an attempt to change times and the law of God, His holy ten commandments.
Read Revelation 13:5, 6 and Daniel 7:25. How is the tabernacle blasphemed by this beast power? How does the change of the Sabbath affect time and the law? What might be Satan’s purpose for making this change?
Read Revelation 13:7, 8 and Daniel 7:21. How does this beast power from the sea “make war with the saints”? Why does God allow Satan to rule for such a lengthy time–1,260 years? How did the persecution affect the followers of God?
Read John 10:33 and Mark 2:7. What constitutes blasphemy in the Bible? How does the religious power, known as Catholicism, appear to commit blasphemy? How do you share this knowledge with devout Catholics without turning them away in anger, or making them feel inferior and unloved?
Tuesday: The Beast Arising Out of the Earth
The second half of chapter 13 introduces us to another beast. This power system comes from the earth, rather than the sea–indicating its emergence from less populated areas. See Revelation 17:15. We are told that the time of this beast’s appearance is sometime after “the deadly wound [of the sea beast] was healed” (Revelation 13:12).
We’ve discovered this wound occurred in 1798, when the pope was taken captive by one of Napoleon’s generals, thus ending the 1,260 years when the pope had secular and religious power over the nations of the world. Of course, this was also about the time the United States was coming into power, making it the likely choice for this next beast spoken of in John’s vision.
Another reason for the identification of this earth beast as United States of America is the mention of it having two horns like a lamb. This signifies a peace-loving nation, one that has Christ (the Lamb)-like attributes. Christianity was, of course, the religion of choice in early America, as the country developed into an important world power.
Read Revelation 13:11 and Matthew 7:15. How is this beast particularly capable of vast deception?
Read John 1:36. In what ways might this earth beast be considered lamb-like?
Read Revelation 12:14-16. How did the “earth” help God’s remnant people during and after the persecution from the medieval church?
Wednesday: The Image of the Beast
Revelation 13 brings out some interesting facts about these allies of Satan. We notice that..,
- Through apostasy and corruption, the early church over the centuries lost the power and Spirit of God, making it the sea beast first spoken of in chapter 13. (verse 6)
- We are told that part of the miraculous displays of this image would involve fire coming down from heaven–imitating the power that was lost (verse 13). Although we aren’t sure what form or how this will take place, we are reminded that God has also used fire in the past to express His power and might. He used it in Elijah’s time when his offering was burned up with fire from above (1 Kings 18:38). And once again, when the tongues of fire came down upon the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:3).
- The emergence of the beast from the earth (thought to be the United States) came on the scene after the 1,260-year rule of the first beast power (after 1798). It was seen as lamb-like, or harmless in character, but the words it spoke sounded more like the dragon Satan. (verse 11).
- As the deadly wound of the papacy was healed, the second beast made an image that resembled the attributes of the first beast. In other words, it would rule with both religious and political powers. Just as the medieval church had control over kings and kingdoms across Europe, so would religion and governments across the globe begin to unite, causing it to be an image of the first beast (verse 12).
Satan, in his last effort to imitate the God of heaven, will deceive the world into thinking that he is God, causing many of them to worship him instead of Christ.
Read Revelation 13:3, 12. How do we know that the “deadly wound” of one of the heads is being healed?
Read Revelation 13:13, 14, 1 Kings 18:38, Acts 2:3, Hebrews 12, 29, and Exodus 24:17. What are some characteristics of fire that explain why it helps define who God is? How does God use fire?
Read Revelation 13:15. How is a combination of religious and political power an image of what it was like in the Middle Ages? Why are worldly governments needed for Satan to be able to achieve compliance among his followers? Why doesn’t God use force to make us obedient?
Thursday: The Mark of the Beast
As we’ve seen, the trend of religion and politics becoming more connected is most likely the first step in the creation of the image of the beast. When governments and the church cease to be separate and unite their efforts to enforce compliance of their laws, the world will once again become enslaved, just as it was under the papacy in the Middle Ages (Revelation 13:12).
In the very final hours of earth’s history, we are told that those following the beast will receive a mark (Revelation 13:16, 14:9, 10). Some significant deviation from God’s law will, no doubt, identify them as Satan worshipers. The saints, on the other hand, are said to keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12) and will receive the seal of God. Something that identifies them as followers of God (Ezekiel 20:12).
Sabbathkeepers around the world believe that the Sabbath is that seal. It’s the one commandment that Satan has been successful in circumventing by substituting Sunday worship for its observance. The Sabbath commandment contains who, when, how, and why we worship our Creator and Redeemer (Exodus 20:8-11).
Naturally, Satan has attacked the Sabbath in various ways over the years, and has been most successful in misconstruing the way it should be kept. Finally causing most of the Christian world to worship on a different day! It’s no surprise that God told Moses, when giving him the ten commandments, to REMEMBER the Sabbath.
Read Revelation 13:16, 17. What influence will economics play in receiving the mark of the beast and why? How does this indicate that civil governments across the globe will be involved?
Read Revelation 13:18. How does giving us the number 666 emphasize the need for us to identify the beast, so we will, in turn, know the image of the beast when it appears? How will the papacy, who for centuries, has been identified as the sea beast, be able to achieve great power again? What contributes to its renewed popularity today?
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and Daniel 7:8. How do these references to a “man” support the identification of the papacy as one of the beastly powers used by Satan? Why should we remember to clarify that the beast consists of the office of the papacy, not to individual popes themselves?
Sometimes we forget that these beasts we are studying in Daniel and Revelation are Satan’s attempt to create a counterfeit of Jesus. He strives to make these religious power systems resemble true worship of God, when in fact they constitute the false christ we are repeatedly warned about.
The only way to keep free of this overpowering deception is to remain immersed in the Word of God. As John told us…
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NKJV
Keep your eyes on the true Lamb of God, the One who lived a perfect life, died for our sins, and lives to make intercession for us before the throne of God. His grace and truth will shield you from deception.
Let’s continue with verses 11 and 12, in our memorization of Psalm 91…
“For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone.” NKJV
Yes, God’s angels are here to protect us, from persecution AND deception. What a promise to hang on to!
Next Week’s Lesson: God’s Everlasting Gospel
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/