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Relevant Biblical Passages: Revelation 13:11-18

Another Beast. In Adventist interpretation, the second beast in Revelation 13 has traditionally been identified as the United States; the “mark of the beast,” described at the end of Revelation 13, has been interpreted by Adventists as referring to a national/international Sunday law with death penalty attached. Indeed, the fear of such a Sabbath/Sunday conflict may be the most deeply rooted imprint on the American Adventist soul.

Doug Morgan’s recent book, Adventism and the American Republic (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001), has laid out the history and the implications of Adventist teaching on church-state relations. It is a remarkable history and one with which Adventists will have to reckon. What is unsettling for many Adventists is the changing face of America and the changing face of both Catholicism and Protestantism in America. In short, American Catholicism has turned almost Protestant; and Protestants, who at one time eagerly joined Adventists in the effort to preserve the separation of church and state (e.g. Southern Baptists) have now joined with the Christian right in the attempt to turn America into a Christian nation. Meanwhile, sacred time has virtually disappeared from the American scene. The threat to Sabbath is no long from Sunday legislation, but from secularization. What does that mean for the interpretation of prophecy? Crucial questions to ask:

  1. What characterizes the second beast of Revelation?
  2. In what way is the second beast like the first? In what way(s) do they make common cause?
  3. If first-century readers were hearing this chapter, who would they think of as the “beast”? Could they have been correct?

Applications: In the early 1990s in the United States and Jamaica, vivid anti-Catholic billboards sprang up, sponsored by independent Adventists. Mainstream SDA may not have been ready to rethink their eschatology, but they were highly uncomfortable with a public attack on the papacy. The book The Great Controversy is pointed in its criticism of the papacy. Is that criticism something that is still warranted? If so, in what form? And what do we make of the content of the book? When it was first published, national Sunday laws were actually being discussed in Congress (1888 and 1889); Adventist eschatology could be preached from the front pages of the daily newspapers. Now the Sabbath/Sunday conflict can only make sense from within the pages of the book written from that era, namely, The Great Controversy. The items referenced below were a contemporary response to the “billboard” issue. One article was published in the independent Adventist journal, Adventist Today. The five-part series was published in two union conference papers (North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner and Columbia Union Visitor). The Visitor added two additional columns for questions and answers. These can be accessed on the web:

The Great Controversy Is Dated But True,” Adventist Today, Sept/Oct 1993, 14-15, 19.

Adventists and the Beast, 7-part series (1993)

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