*June 1 - 7
The Dragon Versus the Remnant Part 2
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Rev. 13:11-18.
MEMORY TEXT: "Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads" (Revelation 14:1, NIV).
IN REVELATION 13, A FALSE TRINITY IS FORMED between the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth. They oppose the Godheadthe Father, the Son, and the Holy Spiritand are ready to vent their wrath against the remnant. God reveals to His people the strategy that the enemy will use; He does this so we will not be surprised, discouraged, or deceived by the tumultuous events that unfold around us. God not only knows the future but controls it, a fact that should give us comfort amid situations that, from our limited, sinful perspective, can at times seem hopeless.
Revelation 13:11-18 describes future events that are in the process of fulfillment, with the United States in the forefront of these last-day events. However, we must always be careful not to speculate beyond what we know for sure. We must not create detailed scenarios of last-day events as though we know for certain every detail when, of course, we do not know those details. To think otherwise is to set ourselves up for disappointment, even deception.
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 8.)
Sunday June 2
"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon" (Rev. 13:11).
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so" (Gen. 1:24).
Characteristics of the second beast: 1. This new beast rises after the first beast was wounded. Because the wound was inflicted in 1798, we should be looking for a power that arises around that time.
2. The beast from the earth is involved in the healing of the beast from the sea. They coexist during the period of the healing and after the beast is healed.
3. The beast from the earth was brought into existence by God. The symbolism of the phrase "coming up out of the earth" (Rev. 13:11) is very important. This is the only apocalyptic beast that comes out of the earth and not out of the sea. Seventh-day Adventists have commonly taken "earth" to mean a scarcely settled area (see Prov. 21:19; Jer. 2:6), which is true. But if we examine the whole phrase "coming up out of the earth," the symbolism is enriched. This beast, like a plant, comes into existence from out of the ground. Only in the creation narrative do we find the same idea: "God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures.' And it was so" (Gen. 1:24, NIV). The symbolism of a beast coming up from the ground indicates that it arose from God's power.
4. The phrase "had two horns like a lamb" (Rev. 13:11, NIV) describes the initial appearance of the beast to emphasize a gentle system of government; later it will speak like a dragon.
The nation we are looking for appeared around 1798 (after the 1,260-year period), was blessed by God, and had a system of government that was initially gentle, like a lamb. Regarding the last characteristic, the United States, at least in certain areas (the context of the chapter), has certainly been lamblike. For these reasons, we interpret this prophecy as the United States.
|The second beast looks like a lamb but speaks as a dragon. In the Bible, whom does a lamb represent, and whom does a dragon represent? The Lamb never forces worship, though He alone is entitled to it; in contrast, the dragon seeks to force worship, though he deserves none. Discuss. Also, in what ways can individuals manifest the characteristics of either power?|
How would you define the relationship established between the beast from the sea and the one from the earth? Rev. 13:12.
The phrase "but he spoke like a dragon" (Rev. 13:11, NIV) is explained in 13:12. This verse is a summary of what is more fully described in the following verses. The second beast is one that has the power (political, military, economic) to force the world to worship the first beast. Obviously, this second beast possesses great might and authority.
In The Great Controversy, Ellen White unambiguously identifies that second beast as the United States. What is so amazing about that identification is that it was made more than a hundred years ago (1888), at a time when the United States was nowhere near as influential and powerful as it is today. What events, even over the past twenty years, have placed the United States in a unique position to fulfill its tragic prophetic role?
The first beast deputizes power to the second beast, who will act as its representative. Protestant America will exercise "all the power of the first beast." What power is this referring to? It is the power to blaspheme God and His sanctuary and to persecute God's people (Rev. 13:5-7). This prediction "plainly foretells a development of the spirit of intolerance and persecution [in Protestant America] that was manifested by the nations represented by the dragon and the leopardlike beast."Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 442.
The beast from the earth will be instrumental in persuading the whole world to worship the first beast. Apostate Protestantism will work throughout the world to heal the beast and to persuade all to acknowledge the authority of the first beast; that is, to worship the beast. John is describing a movement of apostasy of global proportions.
|Many sincere Christians of other faiths believe that there will be end-time persecution, but very few see it coming from within the church itself. In other words, they see some outside, blatantly anti-Christian power as the persecutor. How can you use Christian history to show people that, historically, persecution often has arisen from within the church itself? Make a list of historical examples that prove this specific point, that persecution has often come from within, as opposed to without.|
What is the purpose of the miracles performed by the beast from the earth? Rev. 13:13, 14.
In order to accomplish their goal of universal dominion, the dragon and the two beasts use miracles (Rev. 16:13, 14). One particular miracle is mentioned, highlighting its importance: The beast causes fire to come down from heaven.
What does the phrase "so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth" (Rev. 13:13) mean?
In the book of Revelation, fire is a symbol of God's judgment (Rev. 8:5; 14:10) and of God's presence. The Spirit is represented by "seven torches of fire" (Rev. 4:5, RSV), and Christ Himself has "eyes . . . like a flame of fire" (1:14, NRSV) and legs "like pillars of fire" (10:1, NKJV). John's image recounts also the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. There the true God revealed Himself by making fire come down from heaven (1 Kings 18:20-39). Only the Lord, not Baal, could do it. Now, however, in this context, the dragon (using the second beast) will be able to do something similar enough to deceive the unwary.
In the New Testament, fire comes down from heaven on two particular occasions. The first one was at Pentecost, when the Spirit descended from heaven on the disciples in the form of fire (Acts 2:1-4). Revelation 13:13 could be referring to a false outpouring of the spirit that will result in a false revival of worldwide dimensions.
The second reference to fire descending from heaven is recorded in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8, "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire" (emphasis supplied). Fire from heaven is a symbol of the return of Christ. Could Revelation be predicting an imitation of the coming of Christ by demonic powers aided by Protestant America? (See The Great Controversy, p. 624.)
|Philip, an Adventist, has a friend Anthony, steeped in spiritualism. Each time Philip tries to warn Anthony about his beliefs and practices, Anthony rebuffs him by saying that he has witnessed "miracles" that affirmed his beliefs. What does today's lesson teach that should show anyone that miracles alone do not determine truth?|
What test of loyalty does the second beast, on behalf of the first beast, impose upon the world? Rev. 13:14, 15.
Whatever the exact details of how "the image to the beast" (Rev. 13:15) will be manifested, one thing is clear: The issue regarding this image will center on worship.
Read through Daniel 3, particularly verses 3, 5, 10, 14, 18, 28. What parallels exist between that chapter and that which is depicted here in Revelation 13? Notice, too, which commandment was the particular issue in Daniel 3, in contrast to which commandment will be the particular focus of the final events depicted in Revelation 13. What do these two commandments have in common? (Hint: see Dan. 7:25.)
In the ancient world, an image was considered a representative of the person it depicted. We have seen that the second beast "acts on behalf of the first beast" (Rev. 13:14, NIV), another way of saying that in a way it functions as its "image."
Revelation 13:15 says the second beast "was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast" (NKJV). What similar language and concepts are found in Genesis 2:7? In the context of the great controversy, as manifested in Revelation 13, what parallels exist between what is happening here and what happened in Genesis?
The symbolism of breathing life into the image of the beast goes back to Genesis 2:7, where God, after creating man, breathed life into him, making him able to function as His representative. The lamblike beast, who came into existence through the power of God, will claim power that belongs only to God: the power to give and take life. Refusal to worship the image or the beast, which means not submitting to its teachings and commands, will be considered an act of disloyalty worthy of death.
|It has been said that humanity cannot live without worshiping something. Ask yourself Who, or what, is the true object of my worship? Is it really the Lord? Or maybe it is wealth, power, or something else. How can you know for sure whom or what you worship, and why is it important that you know?|
What is John's purpose in mentioning the mark and number of the beast? Rev. 13:16-18.
The mark of the beast. This markequated with the name of the beastidentifies those loyal to the beast. Names in the Bible often designate the character of the individual. Those who receive the mark display the same spirit of rebellion characteristic of the beast, a spirit that reveals itself in their attitude toward the law of God (Dan. 7:25). In contrast, those who receive the seal of God keep the commandments, thus showing their loyalty to God (Rev. 12:17; 14:12). The beast is opposed to God's law and even modified it by changing Sabbath observance to Sunday. It was in that act that the authority of the beast manifested itself. Those who submit to its authority will show it by observing Sunday, the distinctive sign/mark of loyalty to the name of the beast and to what the beast stands for.
Why do we say that those who keep Sunday do not have the mark of the beast now? Why is it important that we make this point clear?
The number of the beast. The mark, the name, and the number of the beast are closely related (Rev. 13:17). Many suggestions have been made to explain the meaning of 666. Here we must be very careful. The Bible does not say that the number is the added numerical value of the letters of a name. Some see in the meaning of 666 a symbol of humanity separated from God. Humans were created on the sixth day, and the number can stand as a symbol for humanity without divine rest (the seventh day). Humans have claimed ultimate independence from God (the cause of their fall), and even now they do not want to find rest in Christ.
Over the years, numerous Bible students have come up with various explanations for the 666. Some found significance in the fact that if you added up the number of letters in the name of a former president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, it came to 666; others saw meaning in that, years ago, all the buses in Jerusalem had 666 on their license plates. This is futile speculation that adds nothing toward understanding truth. The important point is that God's Word has given us enough information to know what the key issues are and who the players will be in the last days, even if we do not know all the details for now, such as the precise meaning of 666.
FURTHER STUDY: Ellen G. White, "God's Law Immutable," The Great Controversy, pp. 438-450; C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2, pp. 330-349; 377-399; 413-416.
Please note the following points in conclusion to this week's study:
1. Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God). Since the Reformation, this papal title has been used to calculate the number 666. But there are several questions that should make us cautious. First, it is not clear that this title is an official one. Second, there is no clear indication in Revelation 13 that the number is based on the numerical value of the letters of a name. The phrase "it is the number of a man" (vs. 18, NIV) could be translated "it is the number of [humanity]"; that is, of humans separated from God. Third, those who insist in counting the numerical value of letters confront the problem of deciding which language will be used. Because the text does not identify any language, the selection of a particular one will be somewhat arbitrary. At the present time, the symbolism of intensified rebellion, six used three times, and total independence from God seem to be the best option. Time will reveal the full meaning of the symbol.
2. Sharing with others. When sharing with others the content of Revelation 13, we should give precedence to the gospel. Then, at the appropriate time, introduce them to the prophecies. We should not attack individuals or denominations but rather call the Christian church back to the Bible as a rule of beliefs and practices. This must be done in a spirit of humility, seeking to gain friends. The spirit of Christ should control what we do.
SUMMARY: Revelation 13:11-18 describes the role of Protestantism as it supports and mimics the apostasy of the Middle Ages and legislates and enforces the mark of the beast. It will be through the apparition of demonic powers, even in the form of Christ, that such things will take place around the world. But the remnant are invincible on Mount Zion in the company of the Lamb.
J. H. Zachary
Andrew is a literature evangelist in Vinnitsa, Ukraine. One day he was visiting from door to door. In response to his knock, the door opened violently, and a police officer stepped onto the porch.
It was obvious to Andrew that the police officer was angry. But before he could say anything, the officer attacked him, knocking him to the ground and injuring him. Andrew managed to get up and make his way out of the man's yard. But instead of going home, he walked to the next door and continued canvassing until it was time to quit.
As Andrew stood in the railway station waiting for the train that would take him home, a boy called to him. "Please come to my home. My father wants to talk with you."
Andrew followed the boy toward his home. He realized that they were heading straight toward the police officer's home. Andrew began to wonder what the police officer might be planning to do to him. What can I do? How will I escape jibe starts to beat me again? Andrew wondered.
As the boy led him to the door of the police officer's home, Andrew was praying earnestly for God's protection. He wondered what he would find inside the house. But he was not prepared for what he saw. The police officer sat weeping. When he saw Andrew at the door, he said, "I am so sorry that I attacked you. Please forgive me. I have many problems," he explained. "My wife recently left me, and I have only my son. My heart is filled with so much anger that when you knocked on my door I simply lost my temper."
Andrew tried to comfort the man. Then he offered to show the police officer the literature he had about family life.
"This is just what I need," the officer said. "I want God's help in my life. Thank you for being kind enough to return to my home even after I was so unkind to you."
That night Andrew signed the man up for the Bible correspondence course. Every day Andrew prays that as the police officer reads the literature left with him, he will let Jesus come into his life and make him his friend and Savior.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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