The Third Angel Proclaims . . .
"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mrk in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, shich is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation." --Revelation 14:9, 10
The third angel here points to a class, against whose errors a fearful warning is uttered. What is represented by the beast, the image, the mark?
The line of prophecy in which these symbols are found begins with Revelation 12, with the dragon that sought to destroy Christ at His birth. Satan is the dragon (Revelation 12:9). He strives to turn men from their allegiance to God. As men reject God, they will thereby accept “the mark of the beast.”
“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2). “And it was commanded them that they should... [hurt] only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4).
Just as Satan has a mark for those who choose to serve him, so God also marks those who are His loyal subjects. When the time comes, all will be divided into two great classes—those who worship God, and those who give allegiance to Satan. When men refuse the seal of God, they consent to receive the mark of the beast. Then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve him not. There can be only two classes. Each party is distinctly stamped, either with the seal of the living God, or with the mark of the beast or his image. The great decision now to be made by every one is, whether he will receive the mark of the beast and his image, or the seal of the living and true God.
The Seal of God
What is God’s seal?
The three essential components of a royal seal are: the name of the ruler, his official title, and the territory over which he governs. An example would be “Cyrus, King of Persia.” We find these three elements in the fourth commandment at the heart of God’s law. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is …” (Exodus 20:11).
Name — “Lord” (Yahweh)
Title — “Maker, or Creator”
Territory — “heaven and earth”—the whole universe (see Exodus 20:8-11; Psalm 33:6, 9; John 1:1-4).
God’s final message to mankind bids us to “worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:7).
Sabbath-keeping on new covenant terms:
“I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign (seal) between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord Who sanctifies them.... Hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign (seal) between Me and you, that you might know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezekiel 20:12, 20; see also 36:26-29).
Note: Sign and seal are used interchangeably in Scripture:
“He [Abraham] received a sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:11).
Referring to Himself, Jesus declared: “Him hath the Father sealed” (John 6:27). That seal betokened the Father’s full approval of Christ.
The word seal in the Bible signifies: authentication of a document before witnesses (see Jeremiah 32:10, 11; 44); validation of royal authority (see 1 Kings 21:8; Esther 8:8, 10); cherished possession (see Song of Solomon 8:6); royal approval and impress of divinely imparted qualities (see Isaiah 8:16); certification of completeness and unalterableness (see Jeremiah 32:14; Revelation 5:1); agreement and vindication (see John 3:34); a token of security, permanence and future significance (see Daniel 12:9).
The Spiritual elements of God’s seal:
1. The Holy Spirit is given to those who are born again (see Ephesians 1:12-14; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 5:5). Note: God’s Spirit is given to all who obey Him (see Acts 5:32). God’s Spirit can be grieved away by ungodly behavior (see Ephesians 4:30-32).
2. God’s law is placed in a regenerate heart (see Isaiah 8:16; Ezekiel 36:26-29; Psalm 51:6, 10).
3. God’s character is reproduced in His people (see Revelation 7:1-3; 14:1-5). His name signifies His character (see Exodus 34:5-7; Isaiah 9:6).
Why does God designate the keeping of the 7th day Sabbath as His seal?
1. Sabbath observance demonstrates our acceptance of the Bible truth that God is our Creator, and that we are not the products of evolution.
2. Sabbath observance places us in more intimate fellowship with God, because on that day we lay aside our earthly cares to enjoy undivided time with Him.
3. God pledges to make the Sabbath a sanctifying experience for those who sincerely observe that day (see Ezekiel 20:12, 20).
Why does God assign to the Sabbath such importance as to make it a sign (or seal) between Him and His people?
Because it is a reminder that He is our Creator (see Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:27, 28). We owe our existence to Him, an unchanging fact that places all under sacred obligation to worship Him who gave us life and provides for all our needs.
1. brings us into more intimate association with our Creator, and,
2. is interlinked with God’s regenerative and sanctifying work in responsive human hearts (see Hebrews 11:4-11; Matthew 11:20-30).
Under God’s blessing the Sabbath offers us rest from our legalistic striving after holiness (see Isaiah 56:1-8). Sabbath-keepers delight in the Lord, not merely in His holy day (see Isaiah 58:12-14).
Yearning over His people, God says,
“Oh that the had such a heart in them that they would fear me and always keep all my commandments, that it might be will with them and with their children forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29)! “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). God’s holy Sabbath can be kept only by a people who are themselves made holy through the power of the New Covenant. That new covenant, rooted in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, involves forgiveness of sin and liberation from its power, direct access to God through the Spirit, and the writing of God’s law in the heart and mind (see Matthew 26:26; Hebrews 8:10-12). For the born-again Christian, the observance of God’s law, including the Sabbath, is not a legalistic experience, but one of rich harmony with His character of love (see John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 5:3).
The Mark of the Beast
What is the mark of the beast?
The sign or seal of God is His Sabbath, and the mark of the beast is in direct opposition to it; it is a counterfeit sabbath.
In the fourth commandment, God is revealed as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and is thereby distinguished from all false gods. It was as a memorial of the work of creation that the seventh day was sanctified as a rest day for man. It was designed to keep the living God ever before the minds of men as the source of being and the object of reverence and worship. Satan strives to turn men from their allegiance to God, and from rendering obedience to His law; therefore he directs his efforts especially against that commandment which points to God as the Creator.
Satan, working through unconsecrated leaders of the church, essayed to set aside the ancient Sabbath, the day which God had blessed and sanctified (see Genesis 2:2, 3), and in its stead to exalt the festival observed by the heathen as “the venerable day of the sun.” This change was not at first attempted openly. In the first centuries the true Sabbath had been kept by all Christians. They were jealous for the honor of God, and, believing that His law is immutable, they zealously guarded the sacredness of its precepts. But with great subtlety Satan worked through his agents to bring about his object. Sunday was made a festival in honor of the resurrection of Christ. Religious services were held upon it; yet it was regarded as a day of recreation, the Sabbath being still sacredly observed.
To prepare the way for the work which he designed to accomplish, Satan had led the Jews, before the advent of Christ, to encumber the Sabbath with the most rigorous exactions, making its observance a burden. Now, taking advantage of the false light in which he had thus caused it to be regarded, he cast contempt upon it as a Jewish institution. Which Christians generally continued to observe the Sunday as a joyous festival, he led them, in order to show their hatred of Judaism, to make the Sabbath a fast, a day of sadness and gloom.
Through half-converted pagans and world-loving churchmen he accomplished his purpose. Councils were held from time to time, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, which Sunday was correspondingly exalted. Thus the pagan festival came finally to be honored as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and it observers were declared to be accursed.
Protestants now urge that the resurrection of Christ on Sunday made it the Christian Sabbath. But Scripture evidence is lacking. No such honor was given to the day by Christ or His apostles. What valid reason can be given for a change which the Scriptures do not sanction?
Satan’s Mark is the antithesis of God’s seal. The mark signifies participation in Satan’s rebellion against God’s law. In the end time, it specifically refers to accepting the counterfeit Sabbath, in effect exalting human authority above God’s (contra Acts 5:29).
This is not merely a dispute over a day of worship, but also a definitive conflict over a way of worship: God’s way versus Satan’s. It s an issue of loyalty to God’s law versus loyalty to a human law that rejects a specific commandment of the Creator God.
Jesus said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9); and “You have made the commandment of God of none effect by your own tradition” (Matthew 15:6).
Whatever power we obey in religious worship, we are the servants of that power (see Romans 6:16).
Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15; see also 15:10). This truth sharply contrasts with Christ’s warning, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
“Whoever says, I know God, and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him” (1 John. 2:4).
It is impossible to honor God while rejecting any of His commandments, or substituting another. This is a clear issue of loyalty to God, versus loyalty to a created being that falsely assumes the power and authority of God, by “changing times and laws” (Daniel 7:25).
The Mark of the Beast will be worldwide. All nations will accept the mark and enforce it with zealous persecution (see Revelation 13:13-17; 18:2, 3).
Only those who truly worship Christ, the Lamb, will refuse the mark of the beast. Their names are retained in the book of Life; they keep the commandments of God through the faith of Jesus (see Revelation 13:8; 14:12; Isaiah 48:17, 18).
The worshipers of the beast have no rest, day or night. Their counterfeit first-day sabbath offers no rest because there is no true peace in the practice of spiritual error (see Revelation 14:10, 11; Isaiah 48:22; 57:20, 21; versus Matthew 11:28-30).