Sabbath School Lesson for May 5-11, 2018
The battles that Satan has perpetrated against the Most High, which we have studied so far, include…
- the war in heaven which resulted in Satan’s eviction to this earth
- the attempts upon the life of God’s prophets and people
- the misinterpretations of prophecies in Revelation that Satan has promoted
- the way our salvation has been misapplied and ignored through apostasy and false doctrines
- the inability to recognize and understand the entire plan of salvation and Christ’s role in it, as modeled in the earthly sanctuary
This week, the plot thickens as we witness perhaps one of the deadliest attacks Satan has instigated so far to foil God’s final glorious victory over sin and death. There is a deception that has been going on for centuries, and it involves the heart of God’s character, as expressed in His holy commandments–particularly the Ten Commandments, written by God’s own finger.
You may recall that a hint of this deception was exposed by Daniel. In Daniel 7:25, our focus text, a little horn power was said to try to “change times and law”. No where has this change been more prominently accomplished than with the only one of the Ten Commandment that deals with time…the Sabbath, which is said to be a sign of our covenant with God (Ezekiel 20:20). Satan has imperceptibly allowed God’s holy day of worship to be supplanted by another.
Focus Text: “He will speak against the Most High and oppress [H]is holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.” Daniel 7:25 NIV
In preparing for the end times, we want to know all we can about how God expects us to worship Him. After all, the issue at stake is none other than whom we will worship and serve–God or the beast. See Revelation 14:7, 9. It’s no wonder that Satan has expended so much energy in refuting the truth about the Sabbath. Without the Sabbath, our relationship with God will always be hindered, if not altogether obstructed. After all, it is our special time with our Creator–like a “date night” for married folks.
This is such a cleverly disguised deception that the number 666 is said to represent the beast who proclaims it (Revelation 13:18). That number seems very close to the holy SEVENTH day, the only day we know for sure that God has blessed. But how dangerous this substitution will be for people at Christ’s Second Coming. Will you be able to stand, when God’s final test of loyalty is fully revealed?
Sunday: The Promise
There are many ways Satan has thrown people off base, when it comes to keeping God’s law. We must remember that the law itself doesn’t save us. Only Jesus can do that. Many are driven away from God by attempting to keep the law in a way it was never meant to be kept–without a love relationship with our Creator.
But we have a precious promise in God’s word: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 NKJV Notice that we must become so close to Christ that we are said to be “IN Him”. When this happens we don’t follow our carnal inclinations any more, but will find ourselves naturally in step with the Holy Spirit’s promptings. It’s a progressive work for most of our lifetime.
This promise is even more refreshing and assuring when we see it in context with the preceding chapter. Chapter 7 talks quite extensively about someone who is struggling with his choices, wanting to do good, but doing just the opposite. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” v. 19 NKJV
Paul brings us then to the conclusion that it isn’t the law that saves us (as so many of his fellow Jews believed), but only the saving grace of God, through the power of His Son’s sacrifice.
Any study of the law, including that of a suspected change in the law, must keep this promise in mind. Keeping the correct day of worship never has nor never will save God’s people. Only our connection with the Messiah can lift us up enough to “stay out of the mud”, that is, out of the fleshly sins and desires of this world. But true Sabbath observance does enhance that connection.
The Holy Spirit lovingly guides us to this safe place with God. We don’t get there ourselves. The purpose of the Sabbath is to remind us of this. Just as the law reminds us not to do bad things, the Sabbath reminds us to do good.
Read Romans 7:15-21 and Galatians 5:17. Why can’t we blame sin for making us do the wrong things?
Read Romans 7:22-25 and 1 Corinthians 15:57. How many victories and how many defeats are there in a person’s lifetime? Are we ever “there” yet?
Read Romans 8:1. Does our condemnation or salvation hinge on one act of disobedience or obedience? How does our “walking according to the Spirit” fit in with our chances for salvation?
Monday: The Law and Sin
Many question why the law is needed at all. Especially since we are post-Calvary, certainly Christ’s love is enough to keep us on the path of righteousness, it is argued.
We have to admit that the law is powerless to save us, but is there no other value in the law? Even Paul in Romans 7: 12 declares that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” So what good is the law?
Paul stated in Romans 7:7 that “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ “ NKJV
So, if nothing but for the knowledge of sin that it provides, the law is worth something. But it seems to go beyond that. The reason why it points out sin to us so easily is that it is a reflection of God’s character. When we see God’s law, we are looking at His will, His character, His nature. What better way to know what God is like than to immerse ourselves and embrace something that is holy, just, and good?
Those who claim that God has nullified His law, or even part of His law, are not preaching the gospel. See Matthew 5:17-19. For…
- if you have no law, you would have no sin. You can’t break a law, if that law doesn’t exist.
- If there’s no sin, there is no need of a Savior to take away our sins (John 1:29).
Read Romans 7:1-6 and 2:29. What are the two ways to keep the law, spoken of here? How are we freed or “delivered from the law”?
Read Romans 7:7-12 and 1 John 2:3-6. Were the commandments given to bring us life or death? How do we know we are in Christ?
Read Romans 7:13, 14. What produces death? What produces sin? What does it mean to be “sold under sin”?
Tuesday: From Sabbath to Sunday?
So, the first argument that the law was done away with and we are now under grace has been refuted by Paul and others. But why do Christians still insist that the first day of the week, Sunday, is the one we should use for worship? Did a change occur in the New Testament era that would justify Sunday worship? Many Christians believe there is, but let’s look at some of their evidence.
In every instance that the first day is mentioned in these and other texts, there doesn’t seem to be any substantial indication that a change was made in the day to worship. A few of these verses are:
- (John 20:19-23) It’s obvious that the reason the disciples are in the upper room is “for fear of the Jews”, following His crucifixion. Jesus appears to them, blesses and forgives them, but doesn’t announce any change in His day of worship. Wouldn’t that have been important enough to mention at that time.
- (Acts 20:6, 7) There is a meal provided at this evening service, and a sermon by Paul, since he was about leave on a ship the next day. This gathering would have then been on Sunday evening actually, since the Jews began and ended their days at sunset. (It mentioned lamps burning, and a boy getting sleepy and falling out of a window.) Besides, if Sunday had now become the day of worship, Paul would most likely not have scheduled a voyage on that day.
- (1 Corinthians 16:1-4) Many see this as evidence that an offering was taken up on Sunday, therefore signifying that they were meeting on that day. But the verses seem to merely suggest that they should start storing up a collection for the Jews in Jerusalem right away. In other words, do their fundraising before he arrives, so he can have more quality time with them during their visit and possibly have a bigger collection to take back with him to a very needy population.
In these and every other passage where the first day of the week is mentioned in the Bible, we fail to find proof that we are now to observe Sunday as a day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Besides, we already have a ceremony (a remembrance) that represents that event. It’s called baptism.
Read John 20:19-23, Acts 20:6, 7, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. For what purpose were God’s people meeting on these days? Has it ever been confirmed in the Bible that it was because of Christ’s resurrection, and that God changed the day?
Read Revelation 1:10, Matthew 12:8, and 5:18. What day is the Lord’s?
Read Matthew 5:18, Malachi 3:6, and Romans 11:29. When will all things be fulfilled? How do these verses indicate that God is not likely to change His day of worship?
Wednesday: The Seventh Day in the New Testament
Sabbath worship does seem to be going on in the New Testament. Jesus notoriously was found in the synagogue on the Sabbath on several occasions, participating in the worship services there. And this was not a haphazard event. Luke 4:16 mentions that it was His custom. And this same practice continued on in Paul’s day. We repeatedly find Paul and the other apostles preaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath.
After Christ’s death, we recall that the women who tended to His burial suspended their efforts over the holy Sabbath hours, even referring to it as “the commandment”. See Luke 23:55, 56 and Mark 16:1. This must have been the saddest Sabbath of all for God’s followers though. How they must have struggled to keep from losing heart altogether with their Savior gone. But the women bravely kept up their loving care for their Master, waiting patiently for sunset, so they could continue their preparations. They would not dishonor their Lord by working on that day, even when it was something as important as preparing His body for the tomb.
If the Sabbath were to be replaced after Christ’s resurrection, it seems odd that these faithful ones were not told about the change right away. Most likely then the change came into effect much later. As a matter of fact, the apostate church in Rome has admitted to the deed, proclaiming unashamedly that their church began the tradition of Sunday worship.
Read Luke 4:14-16, Matthew 11:29, and Isaiah 58:13. In what ways would the Sabbath have been a delight for Jesus? Why was it important for Him to observe it?
Read Luke 23:55, 56 and Exodus 20:10. Which commandment were these women following? Do you think it just a Jewish practice for them, something they felt compelled to do? Why was this particular Sabbath more difficult than others though?
Read Acts 13:14, 42-44, and 16:12, 13. What may have been the reason(s) for these Christians to be meeting informally at the riverside? Why is it important to note these Sabbath observances by the early Christians? If they had believed that the Sabbath was changed, why would they be found still observing the day?
Thursday: The Attempted Change of the Sabbath
Ascribing the change of the Sabbath to the religious power in Rome, specifically the papacy, would seem to follow the prophetic descriptions of a beast power, as recorded by Daniel and John in Revelation. This beast was invested with both civil and religious attributes.
According to Daniel, it would seek to change times and law, but would also speak pompous words against the Most High and would persecute the saints for a period of 1260 days or prophetic years (“a time and times and half a time”). This was certainly the hallmarks of the papal church as it existed during the Middle Ages (from 538-1798 A.D.). See Daniel 7:23-25.
John further defines a mighty beast power in Revelation 13:1-17. Here is a ruling power who speaks blasphemies and makes war with the saints. Even though a deadly wound was given to this beast in 1798 A.D., in the end times that wound is healed, an image of the beast is created (Revelation 13:15), and once again God’s people are in danger of being engulfed and overcome by the overpowering deceptions of the dragon (or Satan–Revelation 12:9, 14:9, 10).
What’s more, there seems to be a call to once again worship the Creator, which is the main purpose for the Sabbath commandment. Revelation 14:7 tells of a message to “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” NKJV
Evidently, the world has almost forgotten about the fourth commandment. God, the prophetic genius He is, knew beforehand what Satan had up his sleeve. Thus, He began this commandment with one word: “Remember”. The language that follows sounds almost identical to that used in Revelation…
“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:11 NKJV
Yes, Satan has tried to change the times and law, and he has had much success from a human standpoint. But there’s one thing he can never do…actually make Sunday holy. No matter how hard Satan promotes his counterfeit, man will not be able to keep Sunday holy. Because it wasn’t made holy by God in the first place.
Read Daniel 7:23-25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. This power is called “the man of sin” (or lawlessness). How do you think he has acquired this title? How has Satan tried to change or nullify God’s law? And who has helped him with this attempt?
Read Revelation 13:15-18 and Psalms 124:8. How important is it to recognize the Creator as our Defender and only safety when Satan’s attacks seem to overwhelm us?
Read Mark 7:7, 9. How would this rejection of any of God’s commandments be like breaking the third commandment about taking the name of the Lord in vain? How does it affect our worship of God?
Satan continues his war against God, using many weapons. One of his most powerful ones, however, is one that pokes a hole in God’s Ten Commandments, which are a reflection of our Creator’s character and will.
- God promises to save us through a relationship with Him, not through “keeping the law”–the law itself was never meant to save. (Sunday)
- The law is important, however, because it does point out our sins, which helps lead to our repentance. (Monday)
- Nowhere in the Bible can support be found for keeping the first day of the week. (Tuesday)
- The Sabbath was kept all through the New Testament. (Wednesday)
- Daniel and Revelation reveal that a beast power will attempt to change God’s law, especially that law which deals with time. (Thursday)
Many fret over how not to receive the mark of the beast, as described in Revelation 14:9. As you recall, it was warned that they not receive this mark on their forehead or on their hand.
Instead, perhaps we should be more concerned with receiving God’s mark. Is there a sign or mark for God’s people as well? These two texts indicate there is…
“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 NKJV
” ‘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.’ “ Ezekiel 20:12 NKJV
Notice also where God’s people are to keep His laws and commandments. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 6:8 NKJV
Some have seen these two places as representing our thoughts (the forehead) and our actions (the hand). This is certainly a reasonable assumption. It should be noted that Satan’s mark may be on the forehead OR the hand, but God’s sign must include BOTH the hand and forehead. Only our total allegiance will allow us to enter the earth made new.
Will you vow yourself to follow the Lamb of God, and enjoy the reward of spending eternity with Him? It’s a choice we all must make, no matter how close we are to the Second Coming.
Next Week’s Lesson: Matthew 24 and 25
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/