Sabbath School Lesson for June 10-16, 2023

See my new blog series here: Prophecy 101 and Prophecy 102

Overview of Lesson 12, The Seal of God and Mark of the Beast, Part 2

Memory Text: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” Revelation 13:10 NKJV

Topics studied this week include:

  • Sunday: The Deadly Wound–What is it, who will get it, and when…Revelation 13:12
  • Monday: The Falling Away–What is it, who will do it, and when…2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
  • Tuesday: Satan’s Final Strategy–What is it, who will it include, and when will he use it…Revelation 17:12-14
  • Wednesday: The Mark of the Beast–What is it, who will get it, and when…Revelation 14:9-12
  • Thursday: The Sabbath Test–What is it, who will have it, and when…Exodus 20:8-11

Religious persecution has existed from the very beginning of man’s history. The story of Cain and Abel was essentially a story involving choices in worship that went terribly wrong. We have seen other instances of Satan’s attempt to eradicate God’s followers in many large and small ways ever since. The Middle Ages stands out as a prolonged and predicted time of religious oppression and martyrdom.

Satan’s final strategy, we are told in the book of Revelation, is to put his mark on as many as he can, in order to prevent them from having God’s seal of protection. By worshiping the Creator, as so carefully outlined in the Ten Commandments, we can avoid having that mark. We can be Christ’s victorious saints and be sealed with Him by holding on to our loving Lord with faith and patient endurance.

Sunday: The Deadly Wound

The beastly powers of Revelation 13 and 14, one coming from the sea and later one from the earth, show us that there is a system of false worship that engulfs the world and threatens the existence of God’s saints.

In order to give us faith and hope in the end times, God has shown us how long one period of prolonged persecution would last. God highlighted a time of intense persecution that would last for 1,260 days or prophetic years. This time frame was mentioned seven different times in Scripture as: 42 months, 1,260 days, or “a time, times, and half a time”. All of them equal 1,260 years.

This amazing prophecy was fulfilled perfectly during the years 538-1798 A.D. These years, known as the Middle Ages, began when the pagan Roman emperor Justinian made the Roman bishop the defender of the faith in 538 A.D. And it lasted till 1798, when Napoleon’s general Berthier took the pope to France, where he died in captivity, making it a “deadly wound”.

This deadly wound to the papacy would later be healed though (Revelation 13:3). An image to the the beast (as this persecuting power would come to be known) would later be created and begin its deadly cycle of persecution all over again. Once again, earthly kings and governments would be enlisted to enforce false worship practices. This image of the beast is one idol we don’t want to find ourselves bowing down to.

Bible Verses:

Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6

  • Why are most of the time periods in Revelation thought to represent years?

Revelation 13:5

  • Using Hebrew time reckoning of thirty days for each month, how long would 42 months be (hint: 42 x 30 = 1,260)?

Revelation 12:14 and Daniel 7:25

  • With a time, representing a year, times representing 2 years, and half a time representing half a year, how long would 3 1/2 years be (hint: Hebrew years were 360 days long, so 360 + 720 + 180 = 1,260)?

Revelation 12:6 and 13:12

  • How do these time predictions that were fulfilled so precisely affect your faith in the future?
  • What was the first beast and its deadly wound? How have we seen that wound being healed?

Monday: The Falling Away

Paul described in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, a great apostasy that would infiltrate God’s church, causing many to fall away from the true word of God. The “man of sin”, who brings about this apostasy, is thought to be the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and the “beasts” found in Revelation 13 and 14. The power behind these entities is none other than Satan, who we are told exalts “himself above all that is called God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4 and Isaiah 14:13, 14).

In the 1500s, Protestants began to identify false doctrines that were being taught by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries, and many of them suffered for their attempts to correct these errors and establish new churches. The papacy had caused many by that time to fall away from the truths found in the Bible.

The apostate church had slowly and deceptively brought in false worship, even attempting to “change times and law” (Daniel 7:25), with the introduction of images that were revered to the point of being worshipped, and the establishment of another day for the seventh day Sabbath that God had blessed. Other doctrines, such as purgatory and indulgences, were also being questioned.

The first Christian church had indeed fallen away from the pure word of God taught in the first centuries after Christ. Using human agencies, the kings of the earth, it maintained a powerful hold on the people for many centuries.

Bible Verses:

2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 9-12

  • How does Paul describe the counterfeit gospel that would change the Christian church and cause many to fall away from truths in the Bible?
  • In what ways has the papacy done these things, and who is behind the deceptions?

Tuesday: Satan’s Final Strategy

Revelation 17:12-14 gives a startling picture of how the falling away began, and in chapter 13, how it will repeat itself at the end, calling it an image of the beast, meaning it will be similar to the first one.

The ten horns of the first beast are identified as ten kings, or political powerheads. These kings unite with each other and then unite with the beast to carry out Satan’s purposes. They war with the Lamb and His followers and are finally overcome, because Christ is the King of kings, and Lord of lords (a truly religious and earthly power, since He made the earth).

Satan has always done his best to mimic Christ, to be like Him, in order to win followers. That’s why he tries to make himself “King of kings and Lord of lords” by uniting his religious authority to earthly, governmental authorities. Uniting religious and political forces will enable God’s enemy to draw even more worship away from the Creator.

History has a tendency to repeat itself. That’s why God wants our attention drawn to the persecution of the Middle Ages, even pinpointing how long it would last, so we can look for more of the same thing from Satan in the last days.

We may not know precisely the details of what’s going to happen, but we can have a general idea of how it could happen. We should be prepared for whatever comes by staying as close to God as possible.

Bible Verses:

Revelation 17:12-14

  • Why does Satan try to unite religious and political powers like he does?

Wednesday: The Mark of the Beast

It seems that many Christians talk about not wanting the mark of the beast. They understand it to be something that seals our condemnation, preventing us from enjoying eternity with our Creator. However, there are few church denominations who seem interested in what the seal of God is. It’s seldom mentioned, even though it sounds like the only way not to have the mark of the beast is to have God’s seal of protection against it.

Since the book of Revelation is full of prophecies and symbols, pointing both to past and future events, we are probably safe to say that the mark of the beast is not a literal mark or tattoo on our bodies. Or even some kind of bar code or chip implanted under the skin, as some have imagined it could be.

Having this mark on our forehead or on our hand could instead indicate that it is something thought about and mentally accepted (the forehead). Or it could just be something we do without thinking–in other words, involving our hands. Revelation 14:9 says the mark of the beast could be either on the hand OR the forehead. We could be doing it knowingly, or just out of habit, because others are doing it.

One thing can be certain though. At some point, perhaps after some horrific international calamity, there will be laws passed that restrict our religious freedoms–our ability to worship God as He has clearly written in His Ten Commandment Law–the only part of our Bible written by God’s own hand.

Bible Verses:

Revelation 14:9, 12

  • How would you describe the difference between someone who has the mark of the beast, and someone who is a saint of God?
  • What is indicated by the forehand and the hand? Why is it possible to have this mark on one or the other and still be on the side of the beast?

Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18, and Revelation 7:3

  • Although it’s God’s desire for us to worship Him both physically and mentally, why is the seal placed on the forehead by the angel in Revelation?

Thursday: The Sabbath Test

Ancient seals, and other legal documents that claim to come from some authority, contain three elements: the name, title, and territory over which it rules. Isaiah 8:16 points us to the possibility of a seal in the law by saying “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”

In God’s law, a seal is found in the Fourth Commandment, where it contains God (His name), our Creator (His title), and the heavens, earth, and sea (His territory).

Some believe that the final test of worship will therefore involve God’s day of worship, the Sabbath. In fact, many believers were alarmed on June 6, 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI spoke in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, telling the huge crowd gathered there that Sunday must be a day of rest for everyone, so people can be free to be with their families and with God. He further claimed that “By defending Sunday, one defends human freedom.” Perhaps he forgot that others worship God on different days, such as the seventh day, the one God made holy after creating the earth.

Bible Verses:

Isaiah 8:16 and Ephesians 4:30

  • What do we learn about the seal of God from these verses?

Exodus 20:8-11 and Revelation 14:12

  • Why would the Sabbath commandment in the heart of God’s law need to be remembered, especially in the last days?

Friday: Final Thoughts

One author seems to grasp the issues facing our world today, involving God’s seal and Satan’s mark. Ellen White says: “When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power [the papacy], when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism [the belief that we enter a spirit world when we die], when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country [the United States] shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 451

Next Week: Ablaze With God’s Glory

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