Sabbath School Lesson for June 2-8, 2018
Last week we saw some of Satan’s deceptions and how they have led to the call for us to leave Babylon (Revelation 14:8). Just what constitutes Babylon? This week we will see how this ancient kingdom is related to the beasts described in Revelation 13 and Daniel 7.
But, first of all, the meaning of the word “Babylon” must be examined. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word is used figuratively to represent a tyrannical government that typically involves rebellion, apostasy, and confusion.
- Babylon portrayed as a scarlet woman: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me saying, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Revelation 17:1-5 NKJV
A similar passage is in Revelation 18:2, 3. Together, they help us understand more fully the second angel’s message in chapter 14:8.
Focus Text: ” ‘At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.’ ” Daniel 12:1 NKJV
Daniel saw in vision a terrible time of trouble or persecution in store for God’s people at the end of time. This distressful situation would…
- be worldwide (Revelation 13:3 says, “…And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” NKJV)
- involve economics, hence a civil authority (Revelation 13:17 says, “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.” NKJV)
- include a death decree (Revelation 13:15 says, “…and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” NKJV)
Sunday: Deadly Wound Healed
As depicted in Revelation 13:3, one of the heads of a strange sea beast was mortally wounded, but mysteriously healed. The healing was followed by all the world being marveled, and following the beast. The next verse, v. 4, describes this as actual worship of the beast and the dragon (or Satan–Rev. 12:9), who gave it authority.
Notice that this beast rises up out of the sea (symbolizing a populated part of the world–Revelation 17:15 “…’The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’ “). There are many other identifying marks of this sea beast, which for centuries have pointed to papal Rome. This beast of Revelation 13…
- is worshiped by the world, v. 4
- arises out of the sea, or a populous part of the world (namely, Europe), v.1
- persecutes God’s saints, or followers, v. 7
- speaks blasphemies (claiming the attributes of God), v. 5 and 6
- was given authority for forty-two months (which in biblical time-reckoning would be the same time period as the 1,260 days and the “time, times, and dividing of times”, found elsewhere in the books of Daniel and Revelation)
But what about this deadly wound that was healed? Taking the “day for a year” principle (as seen in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 and often used as prophetic time-reckoning), this 1,260-year time period is likely the time that papal Rome held the most power. This matches the years 538 A.D.-1798 A.D., the Middle Ages, when the pope had supreme civil and religious power over virtually all the kingdoms of the world.
Not surprisingly, and right on time, we have seen the deadly wound of the papacy slowly healed since the 1800s, with papal influence continuing to gain more and more religious and political power on the world stage.
Read Revelation 13:1 and Daniel 7:2, 7. What are some similar features of these two beasts?
Read Revelation 13:2, 4, 12 and Exodus 15:11. Who gives power and authority to both beasts in this chapter? How is this worship similar to the worship we offer the true God?
Read Revelation 13:3. According to many of the Protestant Reformers and the many identifying marks in these passages, this sea beast appears to represents the papacy. Its control over the world ended then in 1798 A.D. when Napoleon ordered the capture of the pope. How have we seen the church in Rome resume control and exert more influence in the world since that time? What does this verse say about how we will know that the wound is healed?
Monday: The United States in Prophecy
There are many identifying marks for the sea beast being a symbol of papal Rome. But what about the beast coming up from the earth (Revelation 13:11-18)? If the sea, or waters, represents areas of great population (Revelation 17:15), then it would be easy to see that this second beast is a power that finds itself in a sparsely-populated part of the world.
It would obviously come into being after the first beast ended its supreme rule. This would then be after the forty-two month time period was over, in other words after 1798 A.D. In addition, it would have lamb-like features, but would speak like the dragon. It would be like the sea beast, and its influence would be felt worldwide.
It’s no wonder that the United States of America has been the obvious choice for fitting the qualifications of this second beast in Revelation 13. And as we get nearer to the Lord’s Second Coming, many are watching to see if this country will indeed play a major part in final events.
Read Revelation 13:11, 12. What kind of ties does this land beast have with the first one that came up from the sea?
Read Revelation 13:13, 1 Kings 18:38, 29, and 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 9. How is God’s fire different from the one Satan uses? What other examples in the Bible can you think of that portray fire, with both its destructive and its purifying capabilities?
Read Revelation 13:15-17, 14:9, 10, and Daniel 3:14,17, 18. Why was Daniel’s friends’ response to the king the only right one to make?
Tuesday: An Issue of Worship
The first angel’s message of Revelation 14 called for mankind to return to a worship of the true God, our Creator. In opposition to that worship, we see another kind of worship being promoted and even demanded by these symbolic beasts, whose authority is the dragon, or Satan himself.
No one denies that the issue of whom we worship, how we worship, and what we worship is already drawing international attention. We also see it locally: within a country, church denomination, or even individual churches. Worship of any kind is a pervasive concern.
Change is seen by the way wars are now conducted across the globe. Countries used to center their wars on differences between the direct nations involved. But our treaty system, which was intended to protect the peace, now is being used to destroy it. When one country goes to war, many others are dragged into the fray, making them global concerns.
It seems that another novelty is the current war on terrorism, as its been called, which is more of a war of conflicting ideas, many of them religious in nature.
Joshua encouraged the children of Israel to choose their gods. “…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NKJV We must make a commitment to choose the right god as well. We either choose the Creator God or the dragon, which represents Satan. There is no middle ground, either now or later. The only way to prevent being on Satan’s side is to choose Joshua’s God.
Read Matthew 4:8-10. What was Jesus’ final temptation in the wilderness, and how did it involve worship? Why did Satan save it for last, and why is it being earth’s final test as well? How did it compare with the first two temptations: to turn stones into bread and to throw himself over a cliff?
Read Revelation 16:2, 19:20, and 20:4. What underlying theme is found in these and other verses? Why is our worship going to be of such importance at the end of time? In what ways has it always been important though?
Read Genesis 11:4. Why was the Tower of Babel (“Babel” means “Babylon”) built? Who were they choosing to worship, the God who promised them there wouldn’t be another flood, or themselves? Why did the confusion of languages come upon them? Does this mean that God is the cause of confusion today, (or perhaps when false worship becomes too powerful, confusion just happens)?
Wednesday: “Babylon the Great”
Babylon is an appropriate term for false worship. The center of the Babylonian Empire was for many years the capitol city of a wide array of pagan religions and practices. It’s no surprise that it represents the many forms of false worship so prevalent in the end times.
As we saw in last week’s lesson, the beasts in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 have many similar features. This leads us to believe, of course, that the two prophecies are talking about the same events.
In addition, there are sharp differences in two women in the book of Revelation, one in chapter 12 (a pure woman) and chapter 17 (a harlot). Women are used consistently through Scripture to represent God’s church (even referring to it as the bride of Christ). Therefore, it is easy to see that the pure woman stands for God’s true church, and the corrupt woman is the apostate church.
Here are the striking comparisons of these two women:
- in heaven
- clothed with the sun
- crown of twelve stars
- attacked by the dragon
- mother of the remnant
- on the waters
- clothed in purple and scarlet
- adorned with gold, gems, pearls
- supported by the dragon
- mother of harlots
Just one more interesting note: some have seen the various Protestant faiths, that branched off from the Catholic church, as the daughters of the first apostate church.
Read Revelation 17:5, 6, 18:2, 3 and Jeremiah 51:7, 57. How is the behavior of an apostate church much like being in a drunken state?
Read Revelation 12:1-4, and 17:3-6. If these two women are so different, why are people confused about their identities and choosing to follow these beasts or powers, which represent the dragon?
Read Revelation 18:2-8 and 14:8. How does this additional passage about Babylon expand our concept of the second angel’s message of Revelation 14? How are God’s people to respond to the appeal to worship the true God?
Thursday: Come Out of Her, My People
As early as the mid-1800s, there were some Adventists who saw the land beast of Revelation 13 as the United States of America. Think of this country back then though. It was not a world power at that time. The main countries of Europe (France, England, Prussia, Austria-Hungary) still maintained empires around the world.
The United States did not seem to be at all war-like back then. Its army was very small, compared to the forces trained to protect other empires. In 1814, for example, the British burned down Washington, D.C., the new capital city. Even after the fierce Civil War was fought, the United States was not militarily equipped enough yet to effectively handle the internal challenges that Native-American tribes presented to our nation’s expansion.
Yet, by observing the call to prepare for the Lord’s Coming (seen by some as occurring in 1844), many Adventist believers left their Protestant faiths as a recognition of their apostate nature. These churches still held many of the same false worship practices of the Catholic church. Adventists saw a need to distance themselves from what’s been called the “mother” church, the church based in Rome and run by papal powers.
Many predictions have since proven valid about the identification of the land beast being the United States of America. Having two horns like a lamb and yet speaking like a dragon (Revelation 13:11) sounds more and more like the United States today. In addition, Catholic and Protestant churches are becoming more united and determined to become involved with the politics that lead our country.
These trends help us more easily envision the United States as a significant player that will enact and enforce a worldwide death decree that impacts our worship, as foretold in Revelation.
Read Revelation 13:11-13, Exodus 13:21, Malachi 3:2, and Acts 2:3, 4. Why does Satan use fire to deceive the world at the end of the world (remember also the burning bush that Moses saw)? Who is Satan trying to imitate, and how would it indicate his need to be worshiped?
Read Revelation 18:4, 5, Genesis 4:9, 10, 6:5, and Revelation 21:2-5. How do we know that God is aware of all the sin in our world? What great event will finally eradicate all the sin from the universe?
Read Revelation 18:4 and John 10:16. Although there were many who came out of the apostate church in the early years of Adventism (the 1800s), when might we see another movement to come out of Babylon? Who are these sheep and what causes them to return to the fold?
Prophecies in the Bible point to Babylon, an ancient city which represents false worship, but also to another superpower in the world today, namely the United States. Comparing the beasts in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 this week, we can easily see why Bible scholars have reached that conclusion. Our Bible study leads us to…
- understand how and when the deadly wound of the first beast is healed (Sunday)
- review the identification marks of the land beast that point to its identity as America (Monday)
- remember that the issue of worship was, is, and will be the main factor in the great controversy (Tuesday)
- compare the two women described symbolically in Revelation as God’s true church and the apostate one (Wednesday)
- know that God’s church must prevail, and many are still coming out of false systems of worship today (Thursday)
People and countries seem so divided today. This lack of unity is not working very well for our world. How will Satan ever take this state of confusion that dominates our politics, our churches, and even our home life, and create a unity that will destroy everything God stands for?
It definitely won’t be the unity that Christ desires for His followers. But like everything else, it will be a counterfeit to God’s unity, and will deceive many into going along with his demonic schemes.
The Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ day were on opposite sides of the religious divide; one sect being legalistic and conservative, and the other more likely to be considered liberal, or non-traditional. Sadly, Jesus predicted for them similar fates. But, He made every effort to reach them both with the gospel.
Is it safe to just stand in the middle and try to stay out of the fray? Or perhaps God might expect us to think through the individual issues at stake and judge the merit or lack of it on both sides.
We aren’t expected to stay on one side or the other when it comes to human ideas. There are times when one side is indeed better and more reasonable than the other. And we must know where we stand, based on the Bible and on the Holy Spirit’s direction, as we pray for God’s guidance.
Try this week to study through both sides of the topics that confront you, and not place judgments based on artificial lines of division, but on their own individual merit.
Next Week’s Lesson: God’s Seal or the Beast’s Mark?
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/