Sabbath School Lesson for June 8-14, 2024

Overview of Lesson 11, The Impending Conflict

Memory Text: ” ‘Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.’ ” John 17:17 NKJV

When people hear thunder, they typically try to go inside, or someplace safe, from a coming storm. The thunder we hear tells us that rain, lightening, and hail is likely to happen soon. The word “impending” refers to anything dangerous or threatening that is about to happen.

When we see the stormy events that occur just before Christ’s Second Coming, we would also do well to seek cover from the impending conflict between Christ and Satan. We must arm ourselves with the truth of God’s word, and flee to that safety, when the winds of strife begin to blow.

That truth, found in God’s word, is what makes us sanctified, or holy. Only when we are covered with Christ’s holy righteousness and truth will we be safe from the dangerous events in the last days.

Bible truth informs us that the conflict will be about whom we choose to worship. Will it be our Creator or His adversary, Satan? It’s reasonable to think that the center of the conflict will involve the Sabbath, the seventh-day of the week that God set aside for us to worship Him. After all, the Sabbath is in the center of the Ten Commandments, declaring who our Creator and Redeemer is, including how and when we are to worship Him.

Read chapters 35 and 36 of The Great Controversy for more on this topic.

  • Sunday: Revelation’s Final Conflict–Those who survive the last conflict will be obedient and faithful.
  • Monday: The Coming Crisis–Persecution erupts when people are forced to comply with a false system of worship.
  • Tuesday: Identifying the Beast: Part 1–The beast is a religious organization that replaces God’s truth with human tradition.
  • Wednesday: Identifying the Beast: Part 2–The beast involves a recognized moral leader of the world, who attempts to bring people together in the end times.
  • Thursday: The Beast From the Earth–The United States may be the power that creates an image to the beast by forming a union of church and state, like the government of medieval times.

Sunday: Revelation’s Final Conflict

Revelation, chapter 14, includes three angels’ messages that go out to the world during the time of the end–namely, after 1844, when the 2,300-year prophecy ended, and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary began (Daniel 8:14). Worship is the theme of these messages, and God’s people will be identified by their obedience to the commandments of God and by the faith of Jesus that gives them strength to endure the final, severe persecution they will experience (Revelation 14:12).

The first angel’s message tells us clearly that a judgment has come. This will be a time of investigating who will be saved and lost when Jesus comes (Revelation 14:7 and 22:12). It also announces that we are to worship the One “who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water”–language found in the Sabbath commandment to worship the Lord who “made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11).

The Sabbath, properly kept, is a perpetual reminder to worship our Creator, who alone is worthy of our praise. Keeping the commandments, all of them, will be increasingly important as Satan unleashes his horrific acts of persecution just before the Lord returns in the clouds to take us home with Him. It will surely carry us through the impending, worldwide conflict.

Bible Verses:

  • Revelation 14:7, 9 and 4:11

Why is it important to be reminded to worship our Creator, and how might this include the Sabbath?

  • Revelation 14:12 and 12:17

Why is it important to have both faith and obedience? Why isn’t faith enough?

  • Revelation 13:5, 6 and Daniel 7:25

What does the first beast, who comes out of the sea, do that shows he is not on God’s side?

Monday: The Coming Crisis

Persecution has been experienced by God’s people from the very beginning. Abel, Adam and Eve’s son who was murdered by his brother Cain, was the first martyr for God’s cause. And, not surprisingly, worship was at the center of the conflict that grew between them. How and why we worship God has always been important. And often those closest to us, our Christian brothers and sisters, will do us the most harm.

Jesus and other New Testament writers repeatedly have warned us of persecution that we can expect just because we follow our Creator and Redeemer. Especially hard will be the final persecution that includes both economic sanctions–not being able to buy or sell– and a death penalty (Revelation 13:15, 17).

The first beast that came from the sea, that caused so much trouble for believers during medieval times, will be revived in the last days. “The first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” is how Revelation 13: 12 describes it. Many signs and wonders will be performed by Satan, under the guise of this false, religious system (Revelation 13:13). When his deceptive miracles aren’t accomplishing enough, he will resort to coercive force to achieve compliance.

Bible Verses:

  • John 16:2, Matthew 10:22, 2 Timothy 3:12, and 1 Peter 4:12

What kind of treatment can we expect from the world, when we follow Jesus?

Why does God allow persecution to happen in the first place? How might it affect us, positively or negatively?

  • Revelation 12:12 and 13:13, 15, 17

What will be Satan’s strategy close to the Second Coming, when his time is running out?

Tuesday: Identifying the Beast, Part 1

The beast from the sea, found in Revelation 13, is not hard to identify. Several Protestant reformers believed the papacy was the religious power called the beast, or Antichrist. The fact that it was a blasphemous power, who made war with the saints for forty-two months (or 1,260 days/years–from 538-1798 A,D.), are indicators that can’t be denied.

Coming out of the sea shows that it was a power that came out of a populated area where there were “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). This describes the populous countries of Europe, which formed the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by this apostate Christian religion.

Jesus was accused of blasphemy. He was said to be a man claiming to be God, who forgave sin (John 10:33 and Luke 5:21). Of course,  Jesus really was God and had the ability to forgive us.

The pope, on the other hand, calls himself the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who also claims to forgive sins. The term vicar means representative or substitute for someone, which sounds like blasphemy to many people.

Bible Verses:

  • Revelation 13:1 and 17:15

How would you describe this beast from the sea?

What does the “sea” represent?

  • Revelation 13:6, John 10:33, and Luke 5:21

In what ways has the papacy committed the sin of blasphemy that Jesus was accused of?

Wednesday: Identifying the Beast, Part 2

Besides its blasphemy, its attempts to change times and laws, and the extensive persecution it executed against God’s people, we must consider the time element of that persecution that’s mentioned frequently in the books of Daniel and Revelation (Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 12:4, 13:5). Whether it’s a time, times, and half a time, 1,260 prophetic years, or forty-two months, they are all equal in length, and fit perfectly with the 1,260 years of 538-1798 A.D., when the papacy held the most power in Central and Western Europe.

Revelation 13:10, ending its description of the beast from the sea, throws out a tantalizing hint by stating that “he who leads into captivity shall go into captivity”. The year 1798 was the year that one of Napoleon’s generals brought the pope to Paris in captivity, which notably marked the beginning of the end for the pontiff’s power.

Revelation 13:12 declares that there will be a revival of the beast, however. “His deadly wound was healed”, we are told. We’ve seen an increasing popularity of the Roman Catholic religion, even among Protestants in the last few decades. The pope is being seen more and more as a global world leader, who promotes peace and well-being for everyone. Alarmingly, Pope Benedict XVI suggested in a speech on June 6, 2012, that Sunday, the first day of the week, should be observed as a day of rest and freedom for all families of the world.

Bible Verses:

  • Daniel 7:25, Revelation 12:4, and 13:5

Using biblical time reckoning of 30 days in a month, and 360 days in a year,  how can we show that these time periods are all the same?

  • Revelation 13:12

Assuming that the religion of the pope is the beast in Revelation, how has his wound been healed, and what does this mean?

Thursday: The Beast From the Earth

Here are some reasons why some Christians think the United States is the beast that comes from the earth, as described in Revelation 13…

  1. Since seas symbolize populous areas of the world (Revelation 17:15), we assume the earth must mean a sparsely-populated area, such as North America.
  2. The United States was recognized as a world power by the late nineteenth century, following 1798 A.D. when the first beast, the papacy, was wounded by being taken in captivity to France.
  3. This new beast, an image of the first one, had no crowns, suggesting that no monarchies ruled it.
  4. The United States has always strived for religious liberty and the separation of church and state, unlike the way the Roman papacy ruled in Europe during the Middle Ages.

This beast “had two horns like a lamb”, indicating that it had a peace-loving nature. The fact that there were two horns might represent its government, which included both political and religious freedoms.

But at some point, this new beast would begin to speak like a dragon, leaving its original goal of separation of church and state, which had protected the freedoms its citizens had enjoyed.

Bible Verses:

  • Revelation 13:11-18

How would you describe this beast from the earth?

In what ways does it change and become more like the beast from the sea?

What makes people think this beast may be talking about the United States?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Not being “conformed to this world” is particularly important at the end of time, when the whole world will be following the image of the beast, powered by Satan. Only by following God’s word, and becoming “a living sacrifice” to God through His Spirit, will we be safe in the last days. See Romans 12:1, 2.

The Christian writer, Ellen G. White, gave us this warning: “God never forces the will or the conscience…Through fear or force he [Satan] endeavors to rule the conscience and to secure homage to himself.” And later, she declares…”None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” ~The Great Controversy, p. 591, 593

We can be aware of the signs of the times without being fearful or alarmed by them. Our Lord will be with us to the very end (Matthew 28:20).

Next Week: Earth’s Closing Events (based on ch. 37 and 38 of “The Great Controversy”)

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