Sabbath School Lesson for June 3-9, 2023
Overview of Lesson 11, The Seal of God and Mark of the Beast: Part 1
Memory Text: “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’ ” Revelation 7:2, 3 NKJV
Topics studied this week include:
- Sunday: Steadfast Endurance–We need the faith OF Jesus, as well as faith IN Jesus. What’s the difference?
- Monday: The Cosmic Struggle–All the demons in the cosmos will try to shake our faith. How do we prepare for the coming trials?
- Tuesday: The Ungodly Chain–The persecution progresses from economic boycotts to death. How will we know who to worship?
- Wednesday: Those Who Follow the Lamb–One either follows the Lamb or the beast. What earthly powers does Satan work through?
- Thursday: Jesus: Our Only Mediator–Jesus alone stands between us and God, and is the only one who can forgive sin. What did Jesus do that caused Him to be accused of blasphemy?
The book of Revelation is a study of stark contrasts all the way through. The Lamb versus the beast. The pure church versus the unfaithful one. The truth versus lies and deception. The love of God versus the hatred of the enemy.
At the very end, that contrast will be quite apparent to the universe. The underlying issue will continue to be–who will we worship? Those who worship the Creator have His seal on their foreheads (as the memory text suggests), and those who worship Satan, God’s enemy, will have the mark of the beast on their forehead or on their hand (Revelation 14:9).
God’s faithful ones are defined as those who have the faith of Jesus and who keep God’s commandments (Revelation 14:12 and 12:17). The second angel’s message in Revelation 14, by reminding us to worship the Creator, points especially to the fourth commandment, which compels us to worship Him on the seventh-day, the day He rested from creating our world. This day is seen by many to be the seal of God, declaring who, why, and when we are to worship.
Sunday: Steadfast Endurance
Although the third angel in Revelation 14:9, 10 shows us the fate of those who follow the beast, we don’t want to keep our focus on those false worshipers. He quickly follows up his warning with a description of the saints, those who won’t receive the mark of the beast. They are steadfastly faithful and obedient to all God’s commands. In other words, they follow the example of the Lamb of God.
Those commandments we are to be keeping include the first four, which show us how we should worship God. Satan has been very successful in drawing us away from worshiping God, especially by substituting another day for the Sabbath. Many have been deceived about worshiping on the day God made holy for that purpose. Without realizing it, they are worshiping on a day founded on human thinking and tradition, instead of God’s word.
Having faith in Jesus must include having the kind of faith that enabled God’s Son to endure His fate on the cross. It was love that made Him do it, and it has to be God’s Spirit of love that enables us to keep the commandments, and have the faith of Jesus.
Revelation 14:12, 12:17, and John 14:15
- Why are both faith and obedience needed to worship God and be a saint?
Romans 8:1-4 and Colossians 1:29
- How do these verses help us follow God and be His saints?
- How does our faith grow stronger?
- Why do the little things in life matter?
Monday: The Cosmic Struggle
We’ve all experienced times when our life seemed broken beyond repair. Like Jesus on the cross, we may have felt abandoned by God–although He has promised never to leave us. He always cares and tries to hold us close, if we’ll let Him.
Only by clinging to our faith in God’s presence will we be able to endure the harsh trials at the end of time. The crisis ahead of us can surely be survived when we have a deep, committed relationship with the Father, just as Jesus did.
Jesus, too, felt forsaken by God as He hung on the cross. But, in reality, His Father was never far away. The sins of the world were separating them, but their bond with each other gave Jesus the victory. There is a resurrection awaiting each of us to which we must cling. No matter what we’re going through, a life of eternity with Jesus will be our reward for remaining faithful to the very end.
This is what it means to have the faith of Jesus. It’s a gift we receive by faith that will carry us through any crisis that comes.
Matthew 27:45-50 and Hebrews 5:7, 8
- In what way might Jesus’ declaration that God had forsaken Him, actually have been a prayer to His Father?
- Had God forsaken Him? Explain your answer.
Galatians 3:11 and Habakkuk 2:4
- Why were grace and faith the same in Old Testament times as it is now?
- How do we “live by faith”? In what way is obedience required?
Tuesday: The Ungodly Chain
Satan has an ungodly chain of events designed to erase God’s people from the earth, so there will be no one left to worship the true God. Along with his religious intolerance and persecution, he will step up his game at the end by enacting economic sanctions–“that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:17). Finally, a death decree goes forth which will “cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:15).
It is indeed, as it was in the beginning, an issue involving worship. Cain killed his brother Abel over the correct way to worship God. Abel chose to follow God’s instructions to sacrifice the firstborn of the flock as an offering, and Cain chose rather to offer his own works, the plant foods from the garden he had tilled.
This same struggle of how and who to worship has continued from generation to generation. It should be easy to identify which side to be on. We are told that those who do what God says are the ones God favors. But Satan has spent centuries obscuring what God says. The deceptions are real, at times progressively intense, and certainly ongoing.
- How was this incident actually an example of religious persecution?
- How harmful will this boycott be for the followers of God?
- What makes us believe this death decree will be worldwide?
- How does Jesus’ statement confirm that those who persecute us will consider themselves true worshipers, but in reality are deceived?
Wednesday: Those Who Follow the Lamb
According to John’s vision, there are two powers who have followers on our planet. There are those who follow the beast (Revelation 13:3) and those who follow the Lamb (Revelation 14:4). Other verses help us understand that these powers clearly represent Satan and Christ.
We know that the beast gets its power from the dragon (Revelation 13:2), and the dragon is Satan (Revelation 12:9). The Lamb of God, of course, is Jesus (John 1:29), our Creator (John 1:1, 14).
It helps to know how Satan has operated in the past. Using the priests and scribes, he influenced King Herod to kill all the male babies in Bethlehem. At the end of Jesus’ life, once again, religious authorities worked with Pilate, a Roman governor, to condemn Jesus to die on the cross.
Repeatedly, we have seen church and governing authorities enlisted to carry out Satan’s will. He will no doubt continue to encourage both church and governmental powers to work together to enforce his will in the last days.
God, on the other hand, does not use force to enlist His followers. He relies solely on the good witness of all His people to grow His kingdom and guide others to righteousness and truth.
Revelation 13:1, 2, 11, 12
- Who is behind both the first beast coming out of the sea, and the second beast (an image of the first one) that comes out of the earth?
Revelation 12:3-5 and Matthew 2:16
- Why does Satan use governmental powers to carry out his purposes?
Matthew 10:21, 22
- What kind of treatment can God’s followers expect?
Thursday: Jesus, Our Only Mediator
Besides using force, especially through church and governments uniting their powers, there is another way to identify Babylon, the apostate religion we are to avoid. In both Revelation and Daniel there are descriptions of a power that is blasphemous, that speaks pompous words (Revelation 13:5 and Daniel 7:8).
Jesus was accused of blasphemy by religious authorities while on earth. Such as when He forgave the sins of the paralytic, who was lowered to Him through the roof of a house (Luke 5:18-26). Another time they accused Him of blasphemy for making Himself God (John 10:33), and wanted to stone Him for it. Of course, the fact that He was God made Jesus’ words and actions totally acceptable (1 Timothy 2:5).
The Roman Church, that evolved in the first centuries after Christ, taught that the priest is a mediator between God and man–that he is even able to forgive the sins that are confessed to him. Moreover, the pope, the head of the Church, has been exalted to the point that he is thought to be God himself, or God on earth. These pompous, blasphemous words must not be overlooked when we are searching for God’s true church.
Individual believers should not be the focus of our disfavor, however, as we try to disentangle ourselves from any apostate religion or set of beliefs. It is the system or systems itself that is at fault, and not necessarily its followers.
Revelation 13:4, 5, Luke 5:20, 21, and John 10:33
- How would you define blasphemy, and why was Jesus accused of it?
1 Timothy 2:5, 6
- Why is Jesus alone our Mediator?
Friday: Final Thoughts
God has told us that all His commandments must be followed, if we would avoid Satan’s attempt to rule this earth. Breaking even one commandment can be as disastrous as breaking them all (Matthew 5:19 and James 2:10).
Satan knows this principle as well, and there is one commandment that is particularly bothersome to him. This is why the fourth commandment, which allows God and man to experience a special blessing of time together, has always been the enemy’s primary target of offense.
Satan has been highly successful in substituting another day, Sunday, the first day of the week, as a time to worship. It seems right to worship on the day Christ was resurrected, so many have been encouraged to forget God’s fourth commandment, which specifies the seventh day (Proverbs 14:12 and Exodus 20:9-11).
The Sabbath is important because it is an eternal reminder of our identity as created beings. It also reminds us of God’s identity–He’s the One who created us and deserves all the praise for our continued existence, no matter how long or short our time here on earth. No wonder Satan hates the Sabbath. Its observance takes away our allegiance to him. He wants us to forget it, as much as God wants us to remember it (Exodus 20:8).
Next Week: The Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast, Part 2
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