Relevant Verses: Revelation 14:6-12
Leading Question: Is it possible for the Sabbath to be a gift and a test at the same time?
Modern Adventists face somewhat of a dilemma on how to present certain aspects of its heritage. Read directly from the page, each of the three angel’s messages in Revelation 14:6-12 appear to be very confrontational. The first calls for the worship of the creator God, but then adds that the hour of his judgment is come. The second angel declares that Babylon is fallen and when its message is linked with the message of the “other” angel of Revelation 18: 4, “Come out of her my people.” It becomes very confrontational indeed.
Among the early SDA pioneers, it was Charles Fitch who developed the most strident aspects of the second angel’s message, identifying Babylon as both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Balancing that early call for separation are some of the later writings of Ellen White, perhaps reflecting her own more gentle perspective as she discovered the full divinity of Christ and as she began to define the law in terms of internal rather than mere external factors.
These Ellen White quotations from her mature years are certainly ones that modern Adventists should take into account:
In laboring in a new field, do not think it your duty to say at once to the people, We are Seventh-day Adventists; we believe that the seventh day is the Sabbath; we believe in the non-immortality of the soul. This would often erect a formidable barrier between  you and those you wish to reach. Speak to them, as you have opportunity, upon points of doctrine on which you can agree. Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian, desiring peace, and that you love their souls. Let them see that you are conscientious. Thus you will gain their confidence; and there will be time enough for doctrines. Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus. – GW 119-120
The Lord wants His people to follow other methods than that of condemning wrong, even though the condemnation be just. He wants us to do something more than to hurl at our adversaries charges that only drive them further from the truth. The work which Christ came to do in our world was not to erect barriers and constantly thrust upon the people the fact that they were wrong. (121/122)
He who expects to enlighten a deceived people must come near to them and labor for them in love. He must become a center of holy influence. – 6T 121-122
There is need of a much closer study of the Word of God; especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work. We may have less to say in some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the papacy, but we should call attention to what the prophets and apostles have written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. . . . Christ Triumphant, 335, —Letter 57, 1896 (Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, pp. 333-335)
Question: In sharing the Sabbath as a gift and less as a test, will it lose some of its convicting power?
These passages seem to present a more gentle perspective on the Sabbath:
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation (NRSV).
Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy (NRSV).
Deut. 5: 12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day (NRSV)
Isaiah 58:13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (NRSV)
Mark 2: 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Question: Even when one selects the more positive and gentle Sabbath passages, the tough ones are still there in our Bibles, including the one where God commands Israel to stone a man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36) How should we use those tough passages today?
Note: In our modern age, secularization, not Sunday legislation. is the real threat to our Sabbath. To choose to relish the Sabbath in a world where frenzied activity continues to boil around us, may qualify us more to receive the seal of God that if we are confronted by the death penalty. And in that connection, two quotations from C. S. Lewis are worth remembering, one affirming the great value of a commitment to God at a time when he seems so very silent, the other a reminder (in counsel from Screwtape to Wormwood about the dangers of gradual capitulation:
When God is silent:
He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 8.4
The hazards of a gradual fall:
Like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. –C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 15