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THE GREAT DEBATE IN THE FINAL TIMES OF HUMAN HISTORY

What is the “seal of God” and what is its competing “mark of the beast”?

It is high time to “say it all” and express things with clarity. In the following text we explain in a concise manner what the Bible says about how the endtime events of human history will involve a question that affects everyone and will be at the center of the religious-political-philosophical-economic-ecological debate of the end times.

A LONG HISTORY we can see how a certain “agenda” of religious character is being fulfilled. But this “agenda” is not one of any Church or religious organization, rather it belongs to that being that always intended to deviate God’s people from genuine worship. How many times in Israel’s history the people, even their kings, were distanced from God through idolatry! Who was behind all that, but Satan? He even created a “queen of heaven” to whom the people burnt frankincense (Jer. 44:18). And don’t we have today a revised “queen of heaven”, with even campaigns to make her a “co-Redeemer”?!

Would the devil be less active today? Wouldn’t he exert even greater power to distance people from the genuine worship and, if possible, even diminish the glory of the Savior, as he always attempted to accomplish? Didn’t he resort to appealing to be worshipped, in place of God, by Christ Himself, in order to have the Savior worshipping him in the temptation desert? (see Matt. 4). 

A Final Message to Warn the Entire World

Other day I heard in a religious American TV station a preacher saying, based on Revelation 14:6-14, that in the endtime three angels will be crossing the skies, preaching the gospel to the Jews! When I heard that I thought in amazement: “This preacher seemed full of imagination.” My friends, brothers and sisters, the mission of preaching the gospel was assigned to MEN, not to angels. We, members of the Church of Jesus Christ, are the ones who have this task to accomplish (Matt. 28:19, 20), not supernatural beings.

Moreover, by this fantastic interpretation we have a God who discriminates Jew against Jew! For if He is going to send angels to preach the gospel to the last generation of Jews, why didn’t the previous generations have the same privilege? And who would resist to that preaching, knowing that it came from an angel? All would be converted forcefully, under the influence and impact of the supernatural aspect of this preaching itself.

These three angels of Revelation 14 just represent the human messengers with such a task to carry out. The meaning of the word ‘angel’ is exactly ‘messenger’.

False ideas emerge when one departs from the right course of understanding of what the “everlasting gospel” message means. It is to be proclaimed to every nation (not only to the Jews), as we read in Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 14:6-14. In this last passage we identify a final warning proclamation to be transmitted to the whole world. On the light of Chapter 13 of the same book we see once more that the final conflict will happen regarding genuine versus false worship.  

The Three Messages and What They Stand For 

What we find in the aforementioned chapter 14 of Revelation is a message that centers on the genuine worship to God as Creator of “heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” in contrast with the denunciation of the false worship.

Let’s compare now the language of Revelation 14:6 y 7 with Exodus 20:11 to come to an important discovery:

 “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the seas, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:6, 7).

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore  the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exo. 20:11).

Both texts are in undeniable parallel. Christianity Today mentioned a time ago that the precept of the day of rest was “the most neglected” among all the Decalogue’s principles. That is precisely where the “memorial of creation” is located. The Creator and His creation are emphasized in this final warning message.

Thus, the final preaching of the “everlasting gospel” is concerned with awakening the world regarding the genuine worship to God as Creator of memorable works, an aspect of the Christian message distorted by the dominant Church in the Medieval Era, which the Protestant Reformation failed to correct. The result of that can be seen today with so many Catholic and Protestant religious people, even ministers and priests, adhering to modernist notions of evolution of the species, which contradicts the basic teaching of the Scriptures on the so-called “basic trinomial of the Christian faith”—Creation-Fall-Redemption. 

The Contrast Between the Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast

The prophetic text of Revelation also highlights a denunciation of the false worship:

“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation” (Rev. 14:9, 10).

As in the context we read about a “seal of God” and a competing sign, or “mark of the beast”, and since in Romans 4:11 we see that “sign” and “seal” are synonyms, one has just to understand two things:

 a) What is the “seal of God”

 b) What would be the “mark of the beast”

In order to know what is the “seal” of God it suffices to see how God Himself clarifies that, in His Word:

“It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17).

The prophet Ezekiel confirms this centuries later:

 “And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezekiel 20:20).

But, don’t these texts indicate that this sign is between God and Israel? Yes, God established His pact with Israel, but why was that so? Why wasn’t the divine pact established with the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Libyans? Anyone who can answer this question will have half way through to understand the whole question.

The reference point of the Sabbath is very clearly the divine act of creating the heavens and the Earth, “in six days . . . and rested [God] in the seventh day . . . and hallowed it”. Did God, by any chance, create the world only for the Jews?

David, the inspired psalmist, declared in language that certainly has universal character:“The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psa. 111:2-4).

God even invites the foreigners to participate of the promises of the covenant that He established with Israel, in accordance to His ideal that “my house shall be called an house of prayer to all people” (Isa. 56:2-7).   

In this context it would be worthwhile to highlight that the Baptists, in their “Doctrinal Declaration” of the National Baptist Convention, of Brazil, quote Exodus 31:14-18 in the footnotes of Topic XV, that deals with the day of observance, confirming the notion that the commandment related to the rest day, to be totally dedicated to God, is the “sign” between God and His people. That makes very good sense because Atheists, materialists and lax Christians are not characterized as those who dedicate a special period of time to God, as a whole day, or, in the case of the latter, that is done in a way to adjust to their convenience.

Before discussing the competing “mark of the beast”, it is important to know that thus far nobody is a bearer of it. Nowhere in the world people are impeded to buy or sell for not having such sign, or mark. But it is predicted that there will be this economic boycott against those who are not willing to participate in a global plan that will involve a decision as to being a bearer of either one of these mentioned signs (see Rev. 13:16, 17).

Characteristics of God’s Seal and the Identification of the “Mark of the Beast”

An imperial seal had three things: the name of the legislator, his function, and the territory of his jurisdiction. For example, Julius Caesar [name], Emperor [position he occupies] of Rome [territory on which he rules]. In the Sabbath commandment we find these three characteristics: the name of the Legislator—God, His position—Creator, and the territory on which He exerts dominion—the heavens, the Earth, the sea and the springs of waters:


       “. . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exo. 20:10 e 11).

Once it is clear what the “seal of God” is—the Sabbath commandment—it becomes easy to understand what would be the “mark of the beast”. It is certainly the false Sabbath, that institution that the Roman Catholic Church says clearly to have altered by its authority, changing the day of observance from the seventh to the first day of the week and that the Protestants render a homage to her as they dedicate that day to their main worship activities, or sanctify it (which has been rarer lately, since the majority has adhered to the more “user friendly” nodayism/anydayism/everydayism. . .)

That the Roman Catholic Church claims to have been the responsible for that alteration, can be exemplified by some official statements of that Church, such as:

 “The Catholic Church . . . by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday” – The Catholic Mirror, official organ of Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893.

 “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify”.—James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 ed.), pp. 72, 73.

Another Catholic document confirms it:

 “Ques. How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holydays?

“Ans. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church”. – Henry Tuberville, An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine (same in the Manual of Christian Doctrine, ed. By Daniel Ferris [1916 ed.], p. 67.

Significant Campaigns to Value the False Sabbath in Our Times

Nowadays we witness a very significant emphasis on Sunday sanctification, especially on the part of Pope Benedict XVI. In his apostolic trip to Austria, he recalled in a mass on the 9th of September (2007) that Sunday is “the weekly celebration of creation: celebration of gratitude and joy for God’s creation” (see: http://zenit.org/article-20574?l=english).

Among other things said to exalt the Sunday institution, the Pope repeated the words of a Catholic leader of the past, pleading: “Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul”. Establishing a connection between Sunday sanctification and nature’s preservation, unheard of before, Benedict XVI highlighted the threat that hovers upon the environment and Creation in general, stressing the necessity to pay greater attention to the “ecological dimension of Sunday”, the day when the Church thanks God for the Creation. He said: “At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too”.

This “ecological dimension” of Sunday is a new language by which the Pope tries to show the Vatican’s leadership in a global campaign to “save the planet” (see http://zenit.org/article-20450?l=english). Wouldn’t that be what some are calling “ECOmenism”?

But in a theological perspective, we see in the papal discourse a clear distortion of the real meaning of the Sabbath institution: he points to Sunday as a day to celebrate creation, which doesn’t match the biblical teaching, for that role is assigned to the seventh-day Sabbath as being the “memorial of creation”.

According to the Genesis creation record, on the first day God was acting in His work, as Creator, and only on the seventh-day He rested, blessed and sanctified the day (Gen. 2:2, 3). So, this twisting of meanings is certainly a subtle change of the Bible’s teaching and symbolism on the subject of what constitutes the institution to remember the Creator and His creation.

In the USA, on the other hand, campaigns stressing greater respect for Sunday and the 10 Commandments are under way. A “10 Commandments Commission” was formed to promote a “10 Commandments Day” (which is being set for the 1st Sunday of May) under the command of influential Evangelical leaders, such as James Dobson, Benny Hynn, Charles Colson, Pat Robertson, Don Wildmon and a good number of others (see: http://www.ldausa.org/index.cfm and http://www.tencommandmentsday.com/).

The promoters of these significant campaigns understand that the moral and spiritual decline of the great North-American nation (and all over the world) is due to the failure of society to consider seriously these divine principles, which seems a good thing, but that implies serious dangers for religious freedom. Such initiatives could lead to having religio-political systems influencing the government to dictate norms according to the expectations and interpretations of these leaders. History teaches us a sober lesson that when there is a mix of religion and politics, minorities are always hurt. . .

In an interview on May 18, 2005 to the program “Fresh Air”, of the NPR network (National Public Radio), that covers practically the entire country, Dr. James D. Kennedy, influential minister and evangelist who had an intense radio and TV activity before passing away in September, 2007, said openly that the principle of separation of Church and State in the USA is an error that goes against the ideals of the Christian founders of the nation, and should be simply discarded. This is a very worrisome notion. His interview can be heard through the following link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4656600).

As aforementioned, the final events will have much to do with the Sabbath/Sunday question. It will be the definition of who will bear the seal of God, and who will receive the “mark of the beast”. And that the obligatory character of total suspension of activities on Sundays is not a new idea we can see just recalling the “rehearsal” of that during a very serious crisis in recent decades—the oil embargo of the 70’s. What day in the week was affected by those politico-economical developments of the time? The older ones remember the gas stations closing on Sundays in many countries throughout the world. 

The Increasing Ecological Link

In an entire last page article, journalist Nancy Gibbs writes to Time magazine (Aug 2, 2004 edition) suggesting that it would be a good idea to bring back the old “blue laws” of rigorous closing of shops, stores and other establishments on Sundays in the USA. The article had as title “And in the Seventh Day We Rested?”, and as subtitle, “Maybe those old blue laws weren’t so crazy after all”.

Voices have been raised in different places, asking that all commercial, industrial and recreational activities are suspended one day a week to save energy and to reduce the emission of pollutant gases, which seems to make good sense in the perspective of an ecological catastrophe scientists have been warning humankind about lately. Wouldn’t the Pope’s recent homilies linking respect for Sunday with respect for nature suit perfectly this type of vision?!

Once more, Sunday would, undoubtedly, be the day chosen, in a global campaign to “save the planet”, and if emergency situations arise—since nobody has any idea of how all this immense quantity of pollutants thrown into the air all over the world would effect nature—how much obligatory this measure couldn’t come to be?

If in a boat there are five passengers, each belonging to a different religious or philosophical orientation, all debating enthusiastically their ideas, individually defending their views, and one of them spots a hole in the bottom of the boat, which begins to fill with water, won’t they all forget their differences and see a way to fix the common and threatening problem? In the face of emergencies, the tendency is everybody to unite to look for immediate measures that help achieve a common route of escape.

To Unite is Necessary, But. . .

The union of humankind has been attempted through divers campaigns, but none seems more efficacious for that end than “ecumenism”—the global religious union. And the “supernatural factor” could be part of this final scenario. “Mary’s” message, when of her “apparitions” before millions of Christians and Muslims in Egypt some years ago, was—“Unite”, “Unite”, “Unite”! As we witness such a tremendous political, ethnical, social, economic and religious divisions among the inhabitants of this planet, doesn’t it make much sense to look for such union? Of course to unite is necessary, but the crucial question is—to unite under what leadership?!

Only those who are very well prepared will discern the truth from the error in these final stages of human history. We are pleased that, in several Christian forums we have participated of, the discussions involving the Sabbath/Sunday and the law of God’s validity questions are the ones that hit records of visitors and participation. This shows the great interest that exists in understanding the Sabbath/Sunday/nodayism-everydayism-anydayism and the validity of the Ten Commandments as God’s moral law issues once and for all.

This interest in defining clearly the question of the polemical 4th precept of the Decalogue is very timely, for in the near future we will actually have more and more debates on these themes. And such debates will prove foundational to define who will be on God’s side in the final crisis, and who will accept the imposition of an evil agenda by those who want to deviate God’s people from the genuine worship. In the crisis that soon all inhabitant of the Earth will face everyone will have to choose what side he/she will take.

As the three faithful Hebrews of old, who had to decide between the genuine worship to God and the worship to the false god of Babylon (Dan. 3), those who remain faithful to God are described as the ones who “keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). This is additional evidence that the final conflict will have to do with obedience to some aspect of God’s law.

In the past these deviations from God’s Word meant the most abject idolatry, which still occurs in the present, but in more subtle ways, notwithstanding no less deceitful. That involves the despising of one of God’s commandments, the Sabbath, and the valuation of its poor imitation—the false Sabbath enforced upon society, even the so-called Christian world, by religious powers that long ago departed from the correct view of the divine law.

On the other hand, in an evident revival to the genuine worship to God, more and more congregations and pastors all over the world have been accepting the Sabbath truth, becoming “repairers of breaches and restorers of paths” (see Isa. 58:12). This is said in the context of a divine appeal for a faithful observance of the Sabbath day (vs. 13, 14).

Finally, what do you think of this eschatological vision, which is being more and more confirmed before our eyes? Give us your opinion writing to atalaiadesiao@yahoo.com.br  

Azenilto G. Brito
Sola Scriptura Mini
stry
Bessemer, AL.


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