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Is There More to the Seal of God Than We Thought? — 24 Comments

  1. Thank you Phil for this wonderful article. When people give their lives, and die for some one else, I have figured they died with the seal of God, even without knowing about the Sabbath. The seal of God is God's law and character, which is others first. As you explained, there is more to the seal of God than just the Sabbath.

  2. The lesson's statement that “the Seal of God is a sign of God’s ownership" troubled me. The relationship of love is the voluntary giving of each to the other. Love is not about ownership of someone. One owns something by purchasing it, but the idea of purchasing someone's love is repugnant. Explicit in the idea of ownership is control and manipulation. However, “loving” relationships involving control and manipulation are considered by most to be dysfunctional.

    Satan does not care whether someone follows him willingly or not, just as long as they are doing what he wants. This is why it does not matter whether the Mark of Beast is in the forehead (willing obedience) or the right hand (coerced obedience)—Satan owns them and dictates how they should live—it is a coercive relationship. It is interesting the word used for “mark” in the Greek (χάραγμα) could be applied to the mark that a slave would receive as a badge of servitude.

    Whereas the seal of God is based on based on his self-sacrificing love and is demonstrated in the power of the cross: God lays down his life to save not just friends, but even his enemies. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:44-45. On the cross, God offers each one on earth a propitiation—a priceless gift of unfathomable love—his love. What can I do in the crucible of my cross experience when I look to the Man on his cross, but return that love as God molds me into the image of his Son Jesus, knowing he is with me through it all? Taking the imprint of his name (character) in my forehead is the Seal of the living God. Living a life that is willing to give up my will to obey God (see Philippians 2:5-11) is the testimony of Jesus.

  3. I believe this article is spot-on and should be required reading in every Seventh-day Adventist institution of learning. I note the following quotation from Tuesday's lesson:

    “Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth — these are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads”. — Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church , vol. 5, p. 216.

    In this statement, I do not see any mention of which day -- Saturday or Sunday -- a person is presently observing as a holy day. Obviously, the issue goes much deeper than that, and the dispute over which day is the Sabbath will sort itself out naturally as described in the article.

    • R.G. I agree. I have always thought it's more important to teach people to fall in love with Jesus, than just warning them about the mark of the beast. If they fall in love with Jesus they will not take the mark regardless if they knew about it before or not.

      When I was a literature evangelist, many of the other literature evangelists thought The Great Controversy was the most important book to put in the homes, because it warned about the mark of the beast. I told them Desire of Ages was the most important book. If people fall in love with Jesus they will not accept the mark of the beast, not just because they were warned, but because they fell in love with Jesus.

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Phil. Too often the issue at the very end of earth's probationary time has been cast in terms of what we do rather than what we are in the core of our being. The emphasis on the Sabbath/Sunday issue as well as an emphasis on character perfection has tended to do that. The problem with that is that such an emphasis tends to make people focus more on doing than on Jesus who only can transform the heart.

    While doing right is important (after all, it's the definition of "righteousness") an emphasis on doing can actually get in the way of genuine character transformation (which is what God is looking for), as the Pharisees of Christ's time demonstrated. I'm sure many of them were letter-perfect in keeping the law, but their hearts were far from God. This was always Israel's problem (See Deut 5:29), and, according to Rev 3:20, it looks like it is the general problem of the last church - and that means us.

    If the seal of God is the imprint of His character in our lives, we know that we cannot do it. Only God can change us our hearts. Thus we need to give God the time and opportunity to do it - daily.

    Another thing occurs to me, and that is that we reflect the kind of God we serve. If we believe that God is primarily about obedience and law keeping, we will be legalistic in our approach to God and to others.

    If, on the other hand, we recognize that God's essential character is one of self-renouncing love, our relationship with Him and others should be totally different.

    Thank you for painting a verbal picture of what it would be like to live in a society where each person is motivated by self-renouncing love and thus dedicated to the welfare and happiness of others so that no one focuses on self - the society of heaven. May we all prepare to live in that society.

    • Inge, as I read your post, the thought occurred to me that if our focus is on our doing and our righteousness, it is on ourselves, which is exactly the objective of Satan. By doing so, we have his mark in our characters, that is, the mark of the beast.

      Our focus must be on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, so that we will bear the impress of his character in our lives, that is, his seal.

      • Thank you, Richard, for encouraging us to think a little deeper.

        Yes, indeed, a focus on becoming perfect or righteous is also a focus on self.

        Does that mean, we shouldn't try to become righteous? I don't think so. But we will never become righteous by focusing on our own works, good or bad. It is Satan's studied effort to get us to focus either on our "righteousness" or our sinfulness - as long as he gets us to focus on self. He knows that by focusing on self we will surely share his fate. And that's his goal.

        So let's think of a practical way to "focus on Jesus." Can you or other readers suggest how that is done?

  5. A commentary by an individual compared the book of Revelation to a jigsaw puzzle. While I am not as informed as some on this site, I am pretty good at doing jigsaw puzzles.

    • I reckon it is more like a kaleidoscope - the more you study it, the more you see. We just need to remember that it is not for boasting about our ability to predict/interpret history. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If we forget that, then the book of Revelation is just words!

    • Paul, I do think that seeking to understand Revelation is a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle in that we need to find the pieces that fit in the Old Testament to unlock the meaning.

      It is also like a kaleidoscope or perhaps a diamond in that there are many facets of truth to discover.

      However, all our efforts may lead only to misunderstanding, unless we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds. I'm sure that He will as gladly teach a brand-new Christian as a seasoned seminary professor.

    • Adding to these valuable suggestions above, like a jigsaw puzzle, it helps a lot when you have an awareness of what the overarching picture looks like. When you keep the 'big picture' in mind, the multifaceted, multidimensional details can be more accurately interpreted/understood. This applies to the whole of scripture - Revelation included.

      I haven't yet found a 'bigger picture' than the concept of a 'great controversy' that is a contrast between 2 ways of being: one that is based on self-renouncing love that actually promotes perpetual, abundant life for all concerned (the Kingdom of God) and one that is based on self-gratification that is ultimately characterised by misery, abuse and death (the Kingdom of Darkness).

    • Paul, read Revelation 1:1-3 to discover the keys to understanding this book: two promises with conditions. Rank, education, experience offer no advantage when it comes understanding. Only the wise will understand, for God "gives wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:"(Dan 2:21; 12:10).

  6. Maurice, I might compare this lesson to being a teacher or professor that is telling the class, "The lesson for today will be" and hearing moans, and groans. I am happier reading other books than Revelation to digest, however God gives us options. Notwithstanding Revelation 1:1-3.

    • While Jesus is the highlight and focus of all scripture, the Revelation seems a little brighter, and makes one feel that the Blessed Hope is very near.

  7. Dear Phil,

    Awesome post! Totally agree and I give similar sermons and we talk about these very things in Sabbath School.

    You Wrote on Love:

    What does self-sacrificing or self-renouncing love actually look like? If I relate to you with this kind of love, it means that in every facet of my relating to you, I only have your best interests at heart – I only want what is best for you. Imagine, for a moment, someone that only wants what is best for you and is completely devoted to making that a reality for you. Would you want to live with someone like that? Would you feel safe and secure with them?

    You Wrote on Sabbath:

    Sabbath was instituted as a weekly protective reminder of this vital necessity – that abundant life is only possible for those who live in dependence upon a self-renouncing, self-sacrificing Creator and who desire to likewise have a nature and character that is characterized by this same trait.

    And the Study Guide actually wrote this, page 93:

    ...resting on Sabbath, the Christian show that he has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. The Sabbath is a perfect symbol of the fact that we cannot save ourselves, that from start to finish it is Christ's work made possible through faith.

    The Study Guide finally gets the foundational, relational meaning of the Sabbath. This is what we can share with others. So many already believe about Creation being from God, and the Sabbath as a memorial of creation. Yet that idea doesn't take us to the point of surrender to God in our relationship with Him. The relational meaning of the Sabbath can do that.

    I've been in the SDA church for 38 years and have yet to see much of the love of God expressed as you explain it (and I have explained it the same way too). From the beginning of my Christian experience in this church, I have experienced abandonment, rejection, persecution, animosity, false accusations and more. 38 years ago I was a single, unwed mother and that was part of why people rejected me. Those days are gone, but the same attitudes have still happened. And no apologies from anyone, anywhere!! In the last few months, at least 2 letters and also text messages of false accusation came my way. It was almost the straw that broke the camel's back. Yet I stay because of Bible promises and I believe in our church. I just realized recently how most of my Christian life has been full of negative stress. It's what Jesus experienced so we can't expect any better. Indeed, as Christians, we need to count the cost. Being a Christian doesn't always mean prosperity, favor and good will. It hasn't even mattered that I have gone out of my way to love and care for the very people that have wounded me-both before and after the wounding. It's what I have always done it consciously since I was six years old.

    We have been living in a world of independent people. All my siblings and I grew up very independent of our parents because they were out to lunch emotionally and they were out on weekends and other days. They didn't pay any attention to some of us (I was one of the ignored, out of eight). So a child grows up with traits that are hard to dispel. Then when you look at the next two generations, the independence is even stronger. It will take a huge effort on God's part and a HUGE testimony of God's people to show the world what living with God means. He doesn't need to take away our independent tendencies but He can take them and will direct them His way, if we let Him.

    Thank you for this great post. I will print it out to share with Sabbath School members to show them I am not the only one with these ideas!

    • There have been times when the only reason I stayed in the church was because God brought me here. Jane please don’t leave because of the people. Remember that Satan was in the heavenly choir, so it’s not surprising that there is hatefulness in the church.
      I am amazed at those who think church members can do no wrong. Perhaps I should start paying more attention to what “they” are doing since they have chosen to ignore the obvious.

    • Dear Sister Jane,

      As I read your words, Norman Macleod's poem came to mind:

      Courage, sister, do not stumble,
      Though thy path be dark as night;
      There’s a star to guide the humble:
      Trust in God and do the right.
      Let the road be rough and dreary,
      And its end far out of sight,
      Foot it bravely; strong or weary,
      Trust in God and do the right.

      Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
      Some will flatter, some will slight;
      Cease from man, and look above thee:
      Trust in God and do the right.
      Simple rule, and safest guiding,
      Inward peace and inward might,
      Star upon our path abiding,
      Trust in God and do the right.

      This is my prayer for you.

      Richard Ferguson

      • I like that too, I believe that is aprepo to us men as we'll as them women. Courage brother... Thank-you.

    • We all love you and you know it, Jane, otherwise there would not be that Christ like smile you have. I have found some things I find best to put at the feet of Jesus and leave them there.

  8. Thank you Phil for addressing this powerful topic. It is absolutely the core of the Gospel. Self-sacrificing love is an impossible goal to achieve. Fortunately with God, all things are possible. We do not know what this kind of love even looks like. We don't have the power to perform it no matter what strength of willpower we may possess. And, if we look in the dark spots of our hearts, we don't even want it. Our Lord is in our lives to overcome these obstacles. This is exactly what Christ wants to do for us. This requires the Mystery of Godliness, "Christ in you, the hope of glory". The power of Christ in us comes from an abiding relationship. When we abide in Christ we begin to bear fruit. Part of this fruit is this self-sacrificing love that only he can put in us. This comes with his presence as we become one flesh with Jesus. It is a mystery. In order to abide in Christ we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. This is worship in spirit and Truth. We meet with him everyday and submit our bodies as living sacrifices. We submit ourselves as sacrifices to righteousness. Only in this way can he put his law into our broken and contrite hearts. This is the process where our stony hearts slowly become hearts of flesh. Love is the fulfillment of the law. The law of liberty cannot be kept without his love in our hearts. We must be fully in Christ and he in us as Christ is in the father and the father in him.(John 14:20) This is the image of God. dkennedy49@aol.com

  9. Phil I so much appreciate your article, I give it 3 thumbs up. What a great practical explination of self renunciation.  I believe that focusing on others best interest IS focusing on Jesus. If you have done it to the least of these my brothern ye are DOING it to ME. Matthew 25:40.  Doing  is not wrong. It is the context of which we are doing that makes doing right.  I have a wounderful wife who is always looking out for my best interest.  How can I not help but DO my best to look out for her best interest.  That is the way it is with our relationship with Christ.  He went to the Cross for our best interest, how could we not help but look out for His best interest?  What is Christ best interest.  "And the fruit of righteousness is sown(we DO) in peace of them that make peace."
    James 3:18 KJV
    I agree with RG White all those in pastoral training need to be taught this article.  I would say all church elders and deacons too. 

    Finally all members.  Also all need to be taught chapter 2 of, 'Thoughts From Mount of blessing'. It reiterates self renunciation, and focous on Christ.
    He who beholds(focus's on) Christ in His self-denial, His lowliness of heart, will be constrained to say, as did Daniel, when he beheld One like the sons of men, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” Daniel 10:8... Human nature is ever struggling for expression, ready for contest; but he/she who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place. We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour.  MB page 15.1. Reminds me of last verse of 'Sitting at the Feet of Jesus'. From memory Maurice. Dates us Paul. Bless us oh our Saviour bless us as we sit low at Thy feet, oh look down in love up on us as we see Thy face so sweet, give us Lord the mind of Jesus, make us Holy as He is, may we prove we've been with Jesus who is all our righteousness.  This is my prayer for each and every one of us.

  10. Gale M. - thank you for your spiritual advice, which I take to heart.
    Richard F. - thank you for the poem, which we can all be encouraged by.
    John H. Thank you for saying, "We love you...". Here I have been approving your comments for some time and now you have sent me a message that really encourages me.

    I am deeply touched by the care, concern and love that you all, and many other people, show on this site. That is what family does for one another and in these interactions, I do see the family of God.

    Thank you all for taking the time to write loving, inspiring comments that really have boosted me up. May God bless you all!

  11. When I first became a Christian my motivations were purely selfish. I wanted to be free from loneliness. Guilt. Depression. Condemnation. Habits and addictions that I knew were tearing me up. And of course a desire for eternal life. Love for self. Selfish, but God uses them to 'capture' us. Then He graciously changes those motives in a life-long battle over self which results in the selfless love spoken of above. We first learn to love those closest to us that we can expect response in kind. Like those in our families and churches. Hopefully. Doesn't always work that way. We discover there are exceptions. Some do not respond they way we expect. Some don't respond at all.
    Then we meet others whose motives are like our own before we were converted. We discover we are called to love those who care only for themselves. This is more difficult. Paul counselled us to love our wives as Christ loved the church, but Christ called us to love even our enemies. Those who seek only to do us harm. To gossip behind our backs. To lie and misrepresent who we are. Who judge us as children of Belial as the Pharisees judged Jesus. This challenge is where we are all being brought to. This is where we are being led.
    The love of Moses and Paul who were willing to give up even eternity for those who persecuted them. The love of the Son of God who was willing to give up His rightful throne as King of Kings, even forever, if it meant heaven was to be bereft of humanity.

    Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
    10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

    This is the love of those who will be sealed. This is the challenge facing the church today, and why it is such a very very narrow road that leads to eternal life. But praise God that the challenge we are faced with is not a battle we must take on alone. It is His battle, His responsibility and power by which we may overcome...all we must do is surrender, and be willing to be the kind of people that in these last days will glorify Him and Him only.


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