Many years ago I read a book that was authored by a man that was supposedly one of the most successful sales trainers conducting seminars in large cities of the United States. During one of his seminars, he recognized a salesman who attended every year. Inquiring about the company he worked for and if any other of his colleagues were in attendance he discovered that this man was the top producer in his company. The younger salesmen that were invited felt that the course dealt with elements that were too fundamental and they did not have time to waste on things they had already studied. It was only the successful salesman that saw the necessity in reviewing the basics at least once a year.
Successful Bible workers must also review from time to time what they really understand and believe about the Bible. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 13:52. He said, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” There are some people who only want to study about new things, failing to realize the importance of understanding those things that are basic and fundamental so that they will have them indelibly imprinted in their mind.
In this article we will consider five Bible facts.
- It is in this life before you die that whether you are saved or lost is determined. When a person dies, their position never changes. This fact is clear in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31.
- All who are alive in the final generation will worship either Christ or anti-christ. Revelation 13:8 reveals how many will worship anti-christ: “… all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” All who are not saved will worship the anti-christ. Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
- There are three chapters in the Bible that identify the anti-christ power. The word anti-christ comes from two Greek words, “anti” and “christos.” The primitive meaning of the word anti is somebody or something that stands in the place of somebody else. Later on in history it came to mean against. Although most people today believe this later meaning, anti-christ is someone that stands in the place of Christ. Also, the Latin word that means the same as the word anti is the word vicar. So a vicar of Christ is anti-christ. The three chapters in the Bible that explain in detail who the anti-christ power is are Daniel 7, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation 13.
- In the last generation every person will be marked. However, not all receive the same mark. Some will be marked for destruction and others will be marked for everlasting life. Revelation 7:1–4 talks about God’s children receiving a mark of deliverance which is called the seal of God. However, many people will not receive this mark but a different seal or mark. The other mark is described in Revelation 13:16 and 17. It says, “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” In Revelation 14:9–12 the Lord says that if you receive this mark you will receive His wrath and suffer eternal separation from Him which is His judgment of condemnation.
- God raised up the second advent movement to prepare a people who would not receive the mark of the beast and who would live in a way that would prepare them to receive the seal of God.
To understand those last brief Bible points we first need to know who the beast is so we can avoid his mark. Then we need to understand what the seal of God is and how to receive it.
Who is this beast in Revelation 13 and 14? Revelation 13:1–10 gives a lengthy description of this beast. In fact, in just these 10 verses there are approximately 15 different descriptions or identifying marks of this beast or anti-christ. We know that it is an anti-christ because of what it says, “… then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:6). This is an anti-christ power.
At the close of Revelation 13:2 it says, “… the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” In the Greek language it says, “his throne.” In some English translations it says, “his seat,” which means his seat of government or his throne.
Revelation 12 tells us the dragon is the devil, but although the devil is the chief anti-christ, he works through appointed or selected human agencies just as God works in this world through appointed or selected agencies. You will see that it was the devil in Revelation 12:1–6 who used Herod, the Roman governor, in an attempt to destroy Jesus Christ when He was born. Herod sent forth his soldiers to go to the homes in Bethlehem and kill the children two years old and under. It is a most horrible story. This was not a work that God authorized. This was the work of the dragon using the pagan Roman Empire to do his dastardly work. So the pagan Roman Empire in a secondary sense is the dragon.
During the first 300 years of Christianity the pagan Roman Empire attempted to obliterate all Christians and it was a miracle that they did not succeed. The capital of the Roman Empire had moved to Constantinople and in A.D. 532, 533, Justinian, the Roman governor, appointed the bishop of Rome to be the head of all the churches and gave three months for all to submit to his authority or get out of the Empire and be stripped of all of their possessions.
There were Christians who refused to submit to the bishop of Rome and his religion. They fled, leaving all of their possessions behind so that they could practice their religion in the way they saw fit. Many Christians lost their lives attempting to flee. Their enemies called them Aryans.
First fact: One of the key identifying marks of the beast is to receive its power from the dragon. We have already identified that Justinian did the work of the dragon. The Bishop of Rome then received his throne, his seat of government, and great authority. Justinian put him over all Christendom, declaring that everybody had to do what he said.
Second fact: We know in Revelation 13 that this power was a religious power because to submit to it involved worship.
Third fact: It says, “… all the world worshiped this power” (verses 3, 4). In other words, it is a world-wide religion. There is not a country in the whole world where the Roman Catholic church is not present today including Moslem, Hindu, and atheist countries.
Fourth fact: This power would receive a deadly wound. This happened in 1798 when Napoleon captured the pope.
Fifth fact: Its deadly wound would be healed. That happened in the earlier part of the 20th century.
Sixth fact: This power would speak great things. Remember the word anti-christ means someone who stands in the place of Christ. This power has stated in public, official documents: “In this world we stand in the place of God Almighty.” “We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.” Pope Leo XIII Encyclical Letter, June 20, 1894.
Seventh fact: This power would continue for 42 months. It would make war with the saints and overcome them.
We will never know until the day of final judgment just how many people have been killed for religious reasons, not because they did anything wrong or transgressed any civil law, but simply because they refused to worship the way this power commanded them to worship God. The Society of Friends says that the number killed could be around 70 million, but it could have easily been many more. We do know of a few times when almost a million were killed, such as the massacre of Saint Bartholomew under Pope Innocent III. In one year the church was able to kill almost a million Waldenses.
Several years ago, it was my privilege to visit the headquarters of the Huguenots in southeastern France. The Huguenots were Protestants in the early days of the Protestant Reformation. There in the museum is recorded the history of the Huguenots and how they suffered at the hands of the church. In a 100-year period almost a million people were killed. That was just in France and did not include what happened in Italy, or England, and any other country. One Protestant historian made the statement: “The fact that the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a competent knowledge of history.” History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, Volume II, p. 32. Unfortunately, most people today do not have that knowledge of history.
The description of anti-christ continues in Revelation 13, stating that this power would receive authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation (verse 7), that all who dwell on the earth would worship him (verse 8), and that he who leads into captivity will go into captivity (verse 10). This latter event occurred in 1798 when the pope was led into captivity by the French. He died in Valence, France, in 1799.
There are a few other identifying marks in Revelation 13 not covered here, as a thorough reading of the chapter will reveal. However, it is not enough to know who the beast and anti-christ are; we must also know what constitutes the mark of the beast, mentioned in Revelation 13 and 14.
The basic principle of the Protestant was, “In religious matters we stick to the Bible and the Bible only.” One writer said, “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants.” William Chillingworth, 1602–1644.
This saying hit the papacy like a bomb. It was in a desperate situation because millions of people were leaving the Roman Catholic church. There were even some of their theologians who said, “We (the Catholic church) need to get back to the Bible and the Bible only.”
This caused a debate amongst the theologians, some of whom wanted to get back to the Bible and others who insisted that they hold on to their tradition. A council was convened to decide what to do about the Protestants, resulting in what is recorded in history as the Council of Trent. It was the lengthiest council ever held by the church. It did not meet continuously but lasted for 18 years, from 1545 to 1563. Protestantism at that time was a serious threat to the church.
A decision was finally made when, on the 18th of January, 1563, the Council of Trent ruled that tradition takes precedence over Scripture. A powerful speech was made by one of the arch-bishops in which he maintained that the fact that the church had changed the fourth commandment clearly proved that tradition was greater than Scripture. That was the argument: tradition was more important than God’s word.
During that time there were a number of famous debates or disputes between the Protestants and the Catholics. Martin Luther was a powerful debater however, there was one debate with Dr. Ek that he lost. Dr. Ek said, “If … the church has had power to change the Sabbath of the Bible into Sunday and to command Sunday-keeping, why should it not also have this power concerning other days, many of which are based on the Scriptures—such as Christmas, circumcision of the heart, three kings, etc. If you omit the latter, and turn from the church to the Scriptures alone, then you must keep the Sabbath with the Jews, which has been kept from the beginning of the world.” Dr. Eck’s Enchiridion, 1533, pp. 78, 79.
Martin Luther lost the debate. He could not answer that question because he was not a Sabbath keeper. The church claims that it was by her own authority that Rome changed the Sabbath. Her argument is that Protestants who say they adhere to the Bible and the Bible only are in error when they observe Sunday. The Catholic Church alone is responsible for Sunday observance.
The Augsburg confession, a Lutheran document written about 1530, acknowledges the following: “They [Roman Catholics] refer to the Sabbath Day, as having been changed into the Lord’s Day, contrary to the Decalogue, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of Sabbath Day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments.” Augsburg Confession of Faith art. 28; written by Melanchthon, approved by Martin Luther, 1530; as published in The Book of Concord of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Many people do not understand the significance of the change of day but it is so important to the papacy that in the great hour of her crisis, the change of the Sabbath to Sunday was the deciding factor that determined which way the Catholic church would go. The Augsburg confession makes it clear that no example is held up so high by Catholics, so forcefully pointed to by them, as the change of the Sabbath. This fact has appeared in Roman Catholic publications over and over ever since that time. For example, in 1856, a Roman Catholic publication said, “The command to keep holy the seventh day is one of the Ten Commandments. You believe that the other nine are still binding. Who gave you (the Protestants) the authority to tamper with the fourth?” Library of Christian Doctrine: Why Don’t You Keep Holy the Sabbath-Day? (London: Burns and Oates, Ltd.), pp. 3, 4. Good question!
A Roman Catholic document in 1868 said, “It was the Catholic church which, by the authority of Jesus Christ, has transferred this rest to the Sunday. … Thus the observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] church.” Plain Talk About the Protestantism of Today, by Mgr. Louis Segur, 1868, p. 213.
A Roman Catholic spokesperson wrote the following in 1903: “It is well to remind the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and all other Christians that the Bible does not support them anywhere in their observance of Sunday. Sunday is an institution of the Roman Catholic church and those who observe the day observe a commandment of the Catholic church.” Priest Brady, in an address, reported in the Elizabeth, NJ ‘News’ on March 18, 1903.
The Catholic catechism, which is used for education, said the following in 1876:
Question – “Have you any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precept?”
Answer – “Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all other religionists agree with her. She could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.” Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism 3rd ed., p. 174.
Around the turn of the 19th century, Cardinal Gibbons, who was head of the Catholic church in the United States, had a chancellor who was responsible for answering letters on his behalf. In a letter sent in 1895, he was asked whether the act of changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday was recognized by Rome as a mark of power. On October 28, 1895, this was his reply:
“Of course the Catholic church claims that the change (from Sabbath to Sunday) was her act and is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters.”
The Bible agrees that this is the mark of her authority. Daniel 7:25 states that this would be the mark of authority of anti-christ. Under the symbol of the little horn it says, “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and laws. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”
Notice it says, “he shall intend.” He tries to change a law that actually cannot be changed. We are not talking about human laws. The papacy has changed human laws so many times that they probably could never be counted, but he intends to change a law that actually cannot be changed. In Revelation 13:15–17 you will see a great crisis is coming upon our world, where there will be an attempt to force everyone alive to accept this mark of authority. To accept it would be a mark of submission to the power that changed the day of worship—the papacy. To force everybody to accept that mark, a law must be made to worship on Sunday.
Revelation 13:16, last part, describes two places where this mark can be received—in the forehead or in the hand. In fulfillment of this prophecy, every nation in the world will pass a Sunday law. The only people who do not receive the mark will be those who receive the seal of God. Revelation 13:8 says that all whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are going to worship this power. Romans 6:16 tells us how people will be submitting to this power: It says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” When put into place, the Sunday law is going to divide the whole world into two classes—those who obey God and those who do not. Whom do you obey?
After the law is passed, pressure will be put on the people to obey it. Revelation 13:16, 17 says that unless you submit, you will not be able to buy or sell. During the Second World War when rationing was in force, God’s people thought they understood a little of how the government could prevent a person from buying and selling, but that was nothing compared with what is possible today. Today, many things cannot be purchased without showing a card, whether it is a driver’s license, or a credit card for identification. Cards can be scanned instantly into a central computer and if your name is flagged you will not be able to buy a thing. Many people will fold from their commitment under such a test. They may not believe it at all but will compromise in order to be able to continue buying and selling.
But the Lord states in His word that by accepting this mark, you are living in violation of His Law. And if you do accept this mark, you are also going to accept something from Him. That is written in Revelation 14:9–12 where it says, if you receive this mark, you are going to receive of God’s wrath. People are not yet receiving the mark today because the law has not yet been passed. But the time is coming when religious laws will be made in America. Other countries will follow suit. When there is an attempt made to force people to accept this mark and they understand the truth about the third angel’s message, then all must decide whom they will serve.
Those who accept the third angel’s message are described in Revelation 14:12: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The one that you worship is the one to whom you submit and obey. By submitting to the beast power and receiving this mark, you cast a special dishonor upon your Creator.
The whole theme from Revelation 13 to the end of the book of Revelation is the seal of God versus the mark of the beast. What you receive determines your destiny. Will you receive the mark of the beast or the seal of God? This is important enough that it forms the major theme of the last half of the book of Revelation, which describes the end-time scenes of our world’s history. Those that accept the mark of the beast will be in the great majority.
Revelation 12:17 says, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the remnant (offspring) of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (literal translation). It continues in Revelation 13:1 where John saw the dragon, a symbol for the mass of the world’s population rising out of the sea. Those that keep the commandments of God are described as a remnant, or the rest of her offspring. Revelation 15:2, 3 describes the people who receive the seal of God. It says: “… I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. …” These are the people that are saved. They are protected and secure, acknowledged by all heaven that they do not belong to this world but the heavenly kingdom, part of the kingdom of Christ. When Jesus comes back they will be taken out of this world and be with Him.
In speaking of Abraham in Romans 4:11, it says: “… he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.” Notice, he received a sign, which is also called a seal. The words are interchangeable.
God also has a seal. The Sabbath is God’s sign or seal. This was told to God’s people clear back when the children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt. “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord Who sanctifies you.’ ” Exodus 31:13. This seal sets you apart and makes you holy.
Verse 17 says, “It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.” The Sabbath is called God’s sign. It identifies His people. Ezekiel 20:12 says, “Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord Who sanctifies them.” Verse 20 says, “Hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and You, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.”
There is a misunderstanding that God’s seal is the Holy Spirit. The New Testament teaches that you are sealed by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is not the seal. God’s seal or sign is the Sabbath. God’s people are those that keep His commandments and have the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12). Revelation 12:17 says the same thing. God’s people in the last days are the people that keep His commandments. They could not be thus described if they break one.
James says in James 2:10 that if you keep the whole law and offend in one you are guilty of all. The ten commandments are not ten laws but just one law with ten parts. If you break any one of them you are a commandment breaker. This is spelled out in James 2:10–12. People with a shallow understanding have interpreted James as saying if you keep the Sabbath you will receive the seal of God. Exodus 20:8 starts out by saying, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy …” Can you keep the Sabbath holy while living a wicked life contrary to the other commandments? No. You cannot keep the Sabbath holy unless you are holy.
The ten commandments are God’s definition of holiness and a holy person is one who is in harmony with the commandments.
Many people say it is just a day but it is a day that determines whose side of the great controversy you are on. All must come to a decision. Are you on God’s side?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.