Reading 4 – Tuesday, December 11, 2007
By Henry Dering, USA
The third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Revelation 14: 9–11.
Let us imagine someone walking into a grocery store to buy some food. The owner of the store has replaced the product-scanning machine with a body scanner. The scanner picks up the information stored in the microchip that was recently implanted in the customer’s right hand, following the passing of a new national law. The chip signals whether the customer will be allowed to purchase anything. Like the photograph on a driver’s license, the data on the chip provide information vital to national security: people’s names, addresses, dates of birth, medical histories, church affiliation and, last, whether they support the new world order.
Others speculate that the antichrist will engrave visible marks or tattoos in the foreheads or right hands to identify his subjects. Will social security numbers be used to track down supposed enemies and subject them to imprisonment or death? Could these things actually happen in the future? Is this really what the Bible says about the mark of the beast?
There is so much speculation about the beast, his image, and his mark. What is the truth about this subject? Let us try to unravel some things that appear to be mysteries in the book of Revelation.
Identifying the beast
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, provides sufficient identifying characteristics of the beast. It would:
Arise from the sea—“I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea.” Revelation 13:1. Beasts in prophecy represent nations and kingdoms (Daniel 7:23); and the sea, or water, represents multitudes of people (Revelation 17:15). Here is pictured the papal power that emerged in densely populated, old-world Europe.
Receive its power and authority from the dragon—“The beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” Revelation 13:2. The dragon represents Satan working through pagan Rome. It was pagan Rome that opened the way for papal Rome to rule the world. In 330 A.D. the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great abandoned his capital, the city of Rome, and moved to Byzantium, later named Constantinople. Thus, the Bishop of Rome was free to expand his authority.
Be a world-wide religious and political power—“All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8.
The Roman Catholic Church is a system with tremendous world-wide influence on governments and religious and secular organizations. Presently, the Vatican has 175 diplomatic ties to foreign nations. Its overt and covert efforts are aimed at regaining control of the world. At an accelerated rate, the pope is reaching out to both Protestants and non-Christians. Very soon the world will be united on the basis of commonly-held doctrines and beliefs.
Receive a deadly wound—“I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death.” Revelation 13:3. How was this fulfilled? The wound was inflicted when, in 1798, the pope was taken prisoner by Napoleon’s General Berthier, and the papal influence seemed for a time to have ended. Stripped of his power—both civil and ecclesiastical—the captive pope, Pius VI, died in exile in Valence, France, on August 29, 1799. Thus, the papacy for a time lost its influence and power in world affairs.
Be healed—“His deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” Revelation 13:3. Prophecy also pointed to the papacy’s revival and strengthening of power after its deadly wounding in 1798. In 1929 the independent Vatican reemerged. The “Supreme Pontiff” was restored to temporal power, signaling the rise of papal power—the healing of the deadly wound. On February 12, 1929, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article with the headline: “Mussolini and Gasparri Sign Roman Pact, … Heal Wound of Many Years.” Soon the whole world, except for a faithful remnant, will “wonder” after the beast.
Be guilty of blasphemy—“There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” Revelation 13: 5. Jesus was accused by the leaders of Israel of blasphemy because He forgave people’s sins. Did He have the authority to do this? Of course, because He is God. But when any other person or an organization claims the authority to forgive sins, it is blasphemous! The Roman Catholic Church admits and even boasts that it has the right to forgive sins.
Consider the following startling claim: “Seek where you will, through Heaven and earth, and you will find but one created being who can forgive the sinner.… That extraordinary being is the priest, the Catholic priest.” –The Catholic Priest, pp. 78, 79. Besides the counterfeit system of forgiveness by man, the Roman Catholic Church officially claims: “The Pope alone is deservedly called by the name ‘Most Holy’ because he is the Vicar of Christ, who is the fountain and source and fullness of all holiness.” –Bill Stringfellow, All in the Name of the Lord, p. 115. The following blasphemy is recorded in Extracts from Lucius Ferraris, “Papa II” (art.), Prompta Bibliotheca, vol. 6, pp. 25–29. “The Pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as it were God, and the vicar of God.”
Dear brothers and sisters around the world, I have some good news for you. Only God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, can—and is willing to—forgive any and all the sins we have committed. We are always welcome to go to our best and most loving friend, Jesus—today and every day in the coming New Year. He is our High Priest and Mediator. He pleads for us in the heavenly sanctuary. Let us go to Him with all our sins and in humility and contrition ask for forgiveness. His blood is all-sufficient. What a great God we serve!
Persecute God’s people—“It was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” Revelation 13:7. The war waged against the saints was terrible! At least 50 million people who believed in the Bible and did not follow church traditions perished at the hands of Rome during the Middle Ages. A faithful record is kept in heaven of the atrocities, too horrible to bear the light of day. The church has finally admitted to this persecution. “The Church has persecuted. Only a tyro
Reign for 1260 years—“Power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” Revelation 13:5. How do Bible students explain these forty-two months? It is a prophetic time period that can be unlocked with the key found in Ezekiel 4:6. There we find that one day in prophecy equals one literal year. It’s that simple! Therefore, forty-two months equals 1260 days, or years. The Roman Catholic Church reigned supreme from 538 A.D. to 1798 A.D. Then, in 538 A.D., by the decree of Emperor Justinian, the bishop of Rome was chosen to be the head of all churches, definer of doctrines, and corrector of heretics. This papal supremacy came to an end in 1798 when the pope was dethroned and arrested.
Have the mysterious number 666—“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Revelation 13:18. How can we make sense of this number? The beast is a religio-political system that bears the number of a man—666. What man do we think of when the papacy is mentioned? Its head is the pope—right? What official title does he carry? An inscription that once appeared on the papal triple crown reads VICARIUS FILII DEI. The Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor, of April 18, 1915, states: “What are the letters supposed to be in the Pope’s crown, and what do they signify, if anything? ‘The letters inscribed in the Pope’s miter are these: Vicarius Filii Dei, which is the Latin for Vicar of the Son of God.’”
The letters in this title, when used as Roman numerals, add up to 666.
V = 5 F =0 D = 500
I = 1 I = 1 E = 0
C = 100 L =50 I = 1
A = 0 I = 1
R = 0 I = 1
I = 1
U* = 5
S = 0
*formerly the same as V.
God’s mark, or seal—the Sabbath
A seal confirms legal matters and has three elements. For instance, the President of the U.S.A. uses his presidential seal to authenticate documents. On his official seal we find his name—George Bush; his title—President; and the territory over which he rules—the United States of America. Just as secular rulers have their seals of power, the God of heaven has His seal. It is found in the heart of the Decalogue. In the fourth commandment are all three elements found in a seal.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is [emphasis supplied], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20: 8–11. Here are the three elements in the fourth commandment:
1. Name: the Lord;
2. His title: thy God (the Creator);
3. His territory: heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.
“Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:12.
God gave the human race the Sabbath as the sign, or mark, of His creative power and authority. He wants to place His distinctive seal upon our hearts and minds.
It is very interesting to read from a noted authority of the Roman church that Saturday is the correct day on which to worship. “If the Bible is the only guide for the Christian, then the Seventh-day Adventist is right in observing the Saturday with the Jew.… Is it not strange that those who make the Bible their only teacher should inconsistently follow in this matter the tradition of the Church?” –Conway, Question Box, 1903, pp. 254, 255.
The Catholic Church also has its mark of authority, a counterfeit seal, or mark, in contrast to the genuine seal of God. Let us discover this man-made identification of the church’s authority.
The mark of the beast
In reply to a letter of October 28, 1895, to Cardinal Gibbons, asking if the church claimed the change of the Sabbath as her mark, C. F. Thomas, chancellor of the cardinal, wrote the following: “Of course the Catholic church claims that the change was her act…. And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters.”
“Sunday is our mark of authority.… The church is above the Bible, and this transference of sabbath observance is proof of that fact.” –The Catholic Record, London, Ontario, September 1, 1923.
Here is an explanation from the pen of inspiration that clearly reveals what it means to accept the mark of the beast: “But when Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. He is paying homage to Rome and to the power which enforces the institution ordained by Rome. He is worshipping the beast and his image. As men then reject the institution which God has declared to be the sign of His authority, and honor in its stead that which Rome has chosen as the token of her supremacy, they will thereby accept the sign of allegiance to Rome—‘the mark of the beast.’ And it is not until the issue is thus plainly set before the people, and they are brought to choose between the commandments of God and the commandments of men, that those who continue in transgression will receive ‘the mark of the beast.’” –The Great Controversy, p. 449.
“The change of the Sabbath is the sign or mark of the authority of the Romish church. Those who, understanding the claims of the fourth commandment, choose to observe the false sabbath in the place of the true, are thereby paying homage to that power by which alone it is commanded. The mark of the beast is the papal sabbath, which has been accepted by the world in the place of the day of God’s appointment.
“No one has yet received the mark of the beast… But when the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast.” –Evangelism, pp. 234, 235.
The great issue that will divide this world will be the commandments of God vs. the commandments of men. His people will not receive the mark of the beast, because they will be loyal to all the commandments, including true Sabbath worship. We are swiftly approaching the final contest that will decide our destiny.
Identifying the image of the beast
We have identified the beast as the Roman Catholic system. Another animal, with two horns like a lamb, will be instrumental in forcing the whole world to pay homage to the Roman hierarchy, as presented in Revelation 13:11–14.
This second beast represents the United States of America, which will pattern itself after the papal power. In other words, America will resemble the first beast in its antagonistic activities toward conscientious dissenters. Here are two statements found in the Spirit of Prophecy that clearly describe who the image of the beast is and how it will use persecution to accomplish its ends.
“The ‘image to the beast’ represents that form of apostate Protestantism which will be developed when the Protestant churches shall seek the aid of the civil power for the enforcement of their dogmas.” –The Great Controversy, p. 445.
“In order for the United States to form an image of the beast, the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends.” —Ibid., p. 443.
Apostate Protestants are today joining hands with the government in tearing down the fragile wall of separation between church and state. Soon the final battle will begin.
“When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.” —Ibid., p. 445.
The two fundamental doctrines that unite mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church are the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness. Other divergent and controversial doctrines are lightly treated in ecumenical dialogues.
What current events point to the formation of a single world church body? Here is a portion of an article about the work of the World Council of Churches and its goal for the future:
“In the pews at St. John Chrysostom, usually a place of worship for Catholic parishioners, representatives of almost a dozen Christian denominations gathered to pray for unity among the Christian faiths. As part of the internationally held Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, [the] Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston and Rev. Diane Kessler of the Massachusetts Council of Churches led a diverse group of worshipers in the ecumenical prayer service on Jan. 24. Also represented were clergy from various religious organizations, including Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist and Armenian Orthodox.
“Organizers and participants hope events such as last week’s service will remind members of all faiths of the importance of working toward Christ’s will, which is to have one united Christian church. Organized by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, identical services were held throughout the week in churches around the world.
“‘When you hear Protestants, Catholics saying the same words, you think if everybody’s saying it, how are we so different?’ said Terry Curran, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Roslindale. ‘It is very different from how we were brought up.’ Ecumenical work between churches is done with the clear goal of one day uniting the diverse Christian denominations into one.” –Alyce Nicolo, “A Call for Unity,” Wednesday, January 31, 2007 (found on www.townonline.com/roslindale/homepage/8998966588161916927).
Not only is the World Council of Churches active in promoting unity among churches, but the Moral Majority and the Lord’s Day Alliance in America also have strong voices in legislative councils. The desire of these groups is to bring people back to God, back to prayer, and back to church. They realize that there needs to be a spiritual awakening among Americans. A strong appeal for Sunday worship is made by these organizations.
Other significant factors that help set the stage for a national Sunday law are the intensifying threat of terrorist attacks, the escalating crime rate, and the abortion crisis, and as well as political corruption and terrible calamities of nature.
Advocates of a Sunday law believe a weekly day of rest would help restore stability and order to families and society as a whole. It may sound like a good idea, but it will lead to the loss of civil and religious freedom. Are we ready to face the consequences of a Sunday law? It has been predicted by the Word of God, and it will surely come to pass.
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:15–17.
Imagine the day when the United States will turn away from its established principles of civil and religious liberty and become a dictatorship! Force will be used to coerce people to trample on the seventh-day Sabbath and honor a counterfeit day by worshiping on it. Soon you and I will not be able to buy food and other necessities for our families. Selling a car, a bicycle, and furniture will be impossible.
How will we fare when our little children say, “Daddy, Mommy, I’m hungry. I want something to eat!” Will we give up our faith so that we can continue to provide for our families? How will we react when we are forced to leave our tidy apartments or comfortable homes to seek refuge in the mountains or caves? Will we leave our home—or submit to the government? The need to decide will soon become a sober reality. The issue will be, whom will we worship—God or Satan? America will not only use economic pressure but will also ultimately pass a death decree. It will be the final test for every living person on earth.
“History will be repeated. False religion will be exalted. The first day of the week, a common working day, possessing no sanctity whatever, will be set up as was the image of Babylon. All nations and tongues and peoples will be commanded to worship this spurious sabbath.… The decree enforcing the worship of this day is to go forth to all the world.” –Last Day Events, pp. 134, 135.
“As America, the land of religious liberty, shall unite with the papacy in forcing the conscience and compelling men to honor the false sabbath, the people of every country on the globe will be led to follow her example.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 18.
The Sunday law will be enacted first in the U.S.A., then will sweep over the rest of the world, and will include all communist regimes, Islamic countries, and Buddhist, Hindu, and spiritualist communities. America will work jointly with the papacy to compel peoples’ consciences. This is definitely not God’s method of working. God uses LOVE, not force, to draw people to serve Him.
When the Sunday law is enforced, what activities should Adventists be engaged in? “The light given me by the Lord at a time when we were expecting just such a crisis as you seem to be approaching, was that when people were moved by a power from beneath to enforce Sunday observance, Seventh-day Adventists were to show their wisdom by refraining from their ordinary work on that day, devoting it to missionary effort.” –Last Day Events, pp.139, 140.
What will we receive—the seal of God or the mark of the beast?
In the very last days of earth’s history, the whole world will be divided into two classes—those who receive the mark of the beast and those who receive the seal of God. Everyone who is faithful to God will be with Jesus in His wonderful kingdom. Today is the time to take our stand on the side of truth and righteousness. By faith, let us accept Jesus into our hearts. He is waiting to be the Lord of our lives and to strengthen and uphold us in the final test. Only Jesus can help us to be faithful. Let us decide to go to Him today. Let us choose to serve God, as did Joshua:
“If it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15.
If we remain faithful to God and receive His seal, we will receive a glorious reward. “I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.” Revelation 15:2.
May the Lord be gracious to us and give us strength to be faithful in the final battle. Amen.