Guests: Dr. Janice McKenzie and Dr. Doug Thomsen
Why does it seem so hard to find time for real rest these days?
The lesson this week links the judgment with human accountability for right actions, and then ties in the commandments of God and the Sabbath particularly. The theme appears to be obedience through actions, but little is said about the source of the power to live out the law. Phrases like “make decisions in light of eternity,” “adherence to the seventh-day Sabbath,” “faithfulness” and “obedient lives” suggests we pass through the judgment by simply knowing the right thing, and then doing it. Because the lesson shows us what is right (God as Creator, the perpetuity of His law), the job is now ours to prepare for the judgment by acting correctly. Simply knowing the truth of Him as Creator will make us do right. Something about this seems to miss the truth about the human sinful condition. More should be said about repentance, submission/surrender, and the power of God’s Spirit in transformation. But how does the Sabbath and Creation fit into Revelation’s drama? That’s a better topic for this quarter, and fortunately the lesson gives us much to consider.
The second half of the first angel’s message in Revelation 14:7 reminds us to worship the one who created the heaven, earth, the sea, and the fountains of water. The context for this message is the land-beast’s deceptions in Revelation 13. The false trinity—the Dragon, sea-beast, and land-beast—coerce worship from those who dwell on the earth. They make an image to a human institution (the sea-beast), and then require everyone to bow down before it. But they are not worthy. They have done nothing to deserve human adoration or praise.
In Rev. 4, God is seated on the throne and is worshipped by the 4 living creatures because He is holy. They never cease to cry their praise. Then the 24 elders join in, but their song praises God for His creation. He has made the world and sustains it. Because of that, He is worthy of all worship and praise. The Lamb, on the other hand, is worshipped in ch. 5 because He redeemed the earth; He “purchased people for God” with His precious and valuable blood—His very life!
It is not accidental that the 4th Commandment in Exodus 20 is worded differently from the second reading of the law found in Deuteronomy 5. Israel was reminded in both places to “remember the Sabbath,” but for different reasons. These reasons parallel the praises in Revelation 4-5. The Sabbath command in Exodus 20 reminds us about the Sabbath because God created the world and rested; Deuteronomy, on the other hand, recalls Israel’s slavery in Egypt and reminds Israel to treat their slaves well on the Sabbath because they were once slaves, but had been redeemed.
Revelation never once mentions the Sabbath specifically, yet hints and allusions to the 4th commandment and creation are found throughout the book. Why do you think the Sabbath is never directly mentioned, though “seven” and creation are everywhere?
If you’ve experienced God’s Sabbath-rest, how important is this to you personally? How is the day one of rest and rejuvenation for you rather than religious works, a day of joy and freedom rather than one of legalistic ritual?
Read Revelation 13:11-18. A time is predicted here when those who dwell on the earth will make an “image to the (first or sea-) beast.” Adventist interpreters have identified the sea-beast with the little horn power of Daniel 7 and Daniel 8, that of the church-state power of Rome. Daniel 7 notes the little horn’s brazen attempt to change the very times and laws of God, it’s persecution of the holy people, and attempts to take the very place of God. It is anti-Christ in essence. The land-beast makes an image to this first beast. Many Adventist interpreters have found in the descriptions of the land- or lamblike-beast a caricature of the United States who will eventually begin to speak like a dragon. Its coercion to worship gives people an identity with the beast; they receive a “mark,” a visible sign of their allegiance.
But God’s people receive His seal (see Revelation 7), and these sealed saints are mentioned again at the beginning of ch. 14. The Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast delineate the people of earth at the end. At this point in world history, it does not yet appear that the image to the beast has been established. However, many Christians find themselves struggling with their faith as a secular world pushes them to speak in specific ways and align or ally themselves with actions not supported by the Bible. Followers of Jesus are being tried and tested by secularism and humanism at this moment in history. However, a strong pendulum swing as a reaction to the secularism in the west can quickly put into power those wishing to return to the ways of “God.” Such a swing can happen quickly, and what more significant sign of a nation’s faithfulness to it’s God can be found than resting on “the Lord’s Day?” The problem for Bible-believing Christians is that should such a scenario play out, Sunday as a day of rest is never mentioned in the Bible.
Why would Satan find the Sabbath offensive and seek to change it? What is significant about this day according to Genesis 2:2-3? As you consider how Jesus viewed, taught, and lived out the Sabbath, how can our following Christ’s model be a meaningful indication of our faith and love in these last days? Hebrews 4:9 reminds us that there remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. If this remains, how can we truly enter into that rest? If as a sinner, I cannot keep the law at all, how does this change for me?
The Sabbath, like all other Biblical commands, are actually promises of God. When I ask Christ to come into my life, transform me by His grace and power, the Sabbath becomes a rest I will seek out and long for, a day I cannot wait to experience again because God has blessed it. My rest from daily labor becomes an act of homage and reverence to my maker; in fact, it is the opposite of legalism. It is evidence of total faith and trust in God for life, for salvation, and for re-creation.