Sunday, October 28, 2012

Only One Covenant

Twenty-five years ago I believed that the old covenant was a covenant of works and the new covenant was a covenant of grace. I prepared a booklet on that subject that I intended to include in my These Last Days Bible study series. Then I had the wonderful privilege of getting my lessons reviewed by Elder Frank Holbrook at the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference. He made some practical suggestions on how to improve my lessons. One of the things he said I needed to fix was my view of the two covenants. Click here to read what he said.

So I carefully studied it out, and concluded that he was right. God never offered man a covenant of works.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feast Days

The question of whether or not to observe the Old Testament festivals should not be a point of contention in the church. I appreciate the balanced viewpoint expressed by Dr. Jacques Doukhan in his two-part analysis entitled, "Should We Observe the Levitical Festivals?: A Seventh-day Adventist Perspective" published in Ministry magazine in April and June of 2010. Here are the links to those articles:   Part 1   Part 2

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mystery Babylon

"And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Revelation 14:8

The word Babylon is used six times in the book of Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). In each case the adjective "great" is used to describe it. Although usually referred to as a city, Babylon is also pictured as a harlot. Revelation touches mainly on its final condemnation and fall.

Because the ancient city of Babylon now lies in ruins, our usual approach to the concept of Babylon in Revelation is to treat it as a symbol. We speak of "spiritual Babylon" in contradistinction to "literal Babylon." We assume that the application of the term at the end of time requires Babylon to have a different identity than it had in the days of Daniel. But that's because we're only seeing Daniel's Babylon as a geopolitical kingdom that has long since passed away. But if we turn our attention to the religion of ancient Babylon, there we have something that can point today to the very thing that existed in Daniel's day. As a religious influence, the Babylon of Revelation is the direct continuation of the ancient Chaldean worship. It is one and the same.

Babylonian worship is characterized both in Scripture and in history by the term "mystery."

"And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT. . . ." Revelation 17:5

"I will tell thee the mystery of the woman. . . ." Revelation 17:7

According to Alexander Hislop in his book, The Two Babylons (page 4), the grand distinguishing feature of the ancient Babylonian system was the Chaldean "mysteries," that formed so essential a part of that system. All the Satanic religions of antiquity in fact participated in what we call the "ancient mysteries" that date back to the period of the tower of Babel.

The apostle Paul referred to these pagan doctrines and customs as the "mystery of iniquity," which even in his day began to creep into the church (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Of that, Ellen White writes:

"Little by little, at first in stealth and silence, and then more openly as it increased in strength and gained control of the minds of men, the mystery of iniquity carried forward its deceptive and blasphemous work. Almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church. The spirit of compromise and conformity was restrained for a time by the fierce persecutions which the church endured under paganism. But as persecution ceased, and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of kings, she laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ and His apostles for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers; and in place of the requirements of God, she substituted human theories and traditions. The nominal conversion of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, cloaked with a form of righteousness, walked into the church. Now, the work of corruption rapidly progressed. Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed followers of Christ." GC 49, 50.

So we find that the term "mystery of iniquity" refers to the heathen beliefs and practices that permeated the ancient world. What held back paganism's influence on Christianity for a time was the persecution of the church. Persecution kept the church relatively pure until the reign of Constantine. Then the mystery cult of Babylon penetrated and perverted the Christian religion.

The book of Revelation declares that the Babylonian mysteries, adopted into the imperial church in the fourth century, have ultimately spread to all nations (14:8; 18:3). Even the daughters of the great whore of Revelation 17 are described as harlots. With this information we are now prepared to identify the "three parts" (16:19) of Babylon as the "dragon," the "beast," and the "false prophet" (16:13).

The fundamental manifestation of Babylon is paganism, signified in Revelation 16:13 as "the dragon." This is the religion of Satan, the great dragon (12:9). When paganism was incorporated into the Roman church, "the beast" was formed. This is the second manifestation of Babylon. And to whatever extent the churches of Protestantism are influenced by the other two, they form the third manifestation of Babylon, "the false prophet."

Presented under the two symbols of a "city" and a "woman," the term Babylon in Revelation is not just a symbol. It is exactly what it always has been, the religious apostasy of Babel.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Seven Trumpets in Context

The book of Revelation unfolds the story of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Significant confrontational episodes of that drama are told in the two segments of Revelation that flank the central chapter. These two corresponding sections outline God's initiatives in His war against error. The seven trumpets in Chapters 8-11 form one of those sections. Chapters 13-16 provide the sequel. Let me offer a suggested approach to understanding these passages.

The War Against Error:

Revelation 8 - When 4th-century Christianity is corrupted by imperial patronage and pagan influences, God sends Arian barbarians swarming into Roman territory, bringing down the western empire and checking the advancement of the state religion.

Revelation 9 - When the eastern emperor overthrows the barbarian hindrance and asserts the supremacy of the Roman bishop, God sends Arabs and Turks to overtake the eastern empire.

Revelation 10, 11, & 13 - When the beast from the sea blasphemes God and makes war with the saints, God's two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth until the beast receives a deadly wound and a remnant is raised up to exalt the truths of God's word.

Revelation 13-16 - When the beast from the earth makes an image of the first beast and enforces the mark of the beast, God's three angel's messages are proclaimed with power throughout the world until probation closes and the seven last plagues fall on all who have spurned God's merciful appeals.

The Outcome:

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." Revelation 11:15

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ten Horns of Revelation 17

"And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast." Revelation 17:12

Unlike those mentioned in Revelation 13:1, these horns have no crowns. These are powers that have received no kingdom as yet, so at this point at least they are not really kings. They will someday, however, be given power "as" kings for one hour with the beast. They will then exercise political influence.

These ten horns are not regular political heads of state. It looks instead like these are the leading evangelical churches which for a short time will enjoy king-like power. They will help to form the image of the beast, replicating the authority exercised by the papacy during the dark ages.

The word "hour" here is the same word used in Revelation 14:7 where it says, "the hour of his judgment is come." It indicates a limited but unspecified period of time.

"These have one mind...." Revelation 17:13

It has become increasingly popular for churches to ignore doctrinal differences and focus on common beliefs. Denominationalism is now considered outdated as believers flock to non-denominational worship centers. The "unity of the body of Christ" is the all-important concern.

Speaking of "the evangelical Protestant denominations," Charles Beecher in the nineteenth century said, "And what do we see just ahead? Another general council! A world convention! Evangelical alliance, and universal creed!"

"When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result." Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 445.

"...And shall give their power and strength unto the beast." Revelation 17:13

Just as the Roman ecclesiastical system received its medieval power by the support of the ten horns of Daniel 7, so its endtime rejuvenation is accomplished by the support of the ten horns of Revelation 17. As the barbarians changed the nature of the Roman Empire, so the Evangelicals will change the nature of America.

"These shall make war with the Lamb...." Revelation 17:14

When the evangelical churches abandon the principles of Protestantism to the extent that they seek the aid of the civil power for the enforcement of their dogmas, when they push for legislation that would ultimately compel people to violate a commandment of God, they are making war with the Lamb. This hasn't happened yet, but it is predicted in Revelation 13:16, 17. See commentary on those verses.

"These shall hate the whore...." Revelation 17:16

When the vials of God's wrath are poured out upon those who have rejected God's commandments in order to keep the laws of man, it will finally be seen that the great religious union was all a counterfeit. The true character of the symbolic "woman" will be unmasked. Those who supported her will turn from her in disgust, pouring out their contempt upon her.

"For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree...." Revelation 17:17

That is, among themselves. "There has been for years, in churches of the Protestant faith, a strong and growing sentiment in favor of a union based upon common points of doctrine. To secure such a union, the discussion of subjects upon which all were not agreed--however important they might be from a Bible standpoint--must necessarily be waived." The Great Controversy, p. 444.

"...And give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled." Revelation 17:17

"What is it that gives its kingdom to this power? Protestantism." 7BC 983.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Except Those Days Be Shortened

In my last post I pointed out that the predicted period of tribulation has already happened. Now I'd like to look at the statement Jesus made about those days being shortened.

"And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." Matthew 24:22.

By comparing scriptures we found out that "those days" were to last 42 prophetic months, or 1260 actual years. Documentation on the dating of the 1260 years is given in The Patmos Papers. That period extended from AD 538 to 1798.

By examining the accounts of Matthew and Mark, it seems clear that it was not the days that were shortened, but rather the tribulation of those days that was cut short.

Matthew's account says,

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened...." Verse 29.

Luke's account says,

"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened...." Verse 24.

So, evidently the tribulation of those days would not extend all the way to the end of the days. We should look for a relief from affliction prior to the end of the 1260 years. What would cause that relief?

Some people might suggest the Protestant Reformation as bringing relief from persecution. But it didn't really. The Zwinglians killed the Anabaptists. The Calvinists executed Michael Servetus. The Church of England persecuted the Puritans. The Puritans banished Roger Williams.

The Bible says that "the earth helped the woman" (Revelation 12:16). We understand that to mean that the relief to the church came from the establishment of the United States of America as a country of religious liberty for the individual. That was accomplished by the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

So, let's use 1776 as the end of the tribulation of those days. Jesus said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened." So we should look for the sun to be darkened shortly after 1776. Mark's account says, "In those days (538-1798), after that tribulation (after 1776), the sun shall be darkened." This gives us a short window of time, between 1776 and 1798, in which to have the sun darkened. And the word "immediately" would suggest such an event would occur closer to the beginning of that window. True to Jesus' prediction, in the very land where Bible prophecy was pointing, the sun was mysteriously darkened on May 19, 1780.

Historical Documentation on the Dark Day

Friday, October 5, 2012


Jesus' prophetic forecast, recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, may be divided into five chronological periods:

Early Signs (Mt 24:4-14; Mk 13:5-13; Lk 21:8-19)
The Destruction of Jerusalem (Mt 24:15-20; Mk 13:14-18; Lk 21:20-24a)
The Church Under Persecution (Mt 24:21-28; Mk 13:19-23; Lk 21:24b)
Signs of the End (Mt 14:29; Mk 13:24, 25; Lk 21:25, 26)
The Coming of Christ (Mt 14:30, 31; Mk 13:26, 27; Lk 21:27)

Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. The signs of the end came in 1780 and 1833. The part we are focusing on here is the period between those two points, a period I am calling "The Church Under Persecution."

The key expressions to look for in this section are "tribulation," "affliction," "those days," and "the times of the Gentiles." By comparing the three gospel accounts, we find that these expressions all refer to the same period.

Matthew's account:

"For then shall be great tribulation... And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."

Mark's Account:

"For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation... And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved."

Luke's Account:

"And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

Luke's wording differs from that of Matthew and Mark, but in context this is the only description he gives of the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs of the end. So we have to conclude that "the times of the Gentiles" is the same period as "those days" mentioned in Matthew and Mark.

Notice carefully that there is no predicted period of time called "The Tribulation." Jesus is simply saying that tribulation and affliction would come to the church during those days.

By comparing Luke 21:24 with Revelation 11:2 we learn that "the times of the Gentiles" is a particular period of time that lasts forty-two months.

So, now we've compared the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and we've learned that the period of tribulation or affliction happens during the times of the Gentiles, which lasts 42 months. Popular Dispensationalist theory places the tribulation after the times of the Gentiles, but the Bible is clear that the tribulation of the church that Jesus was talking about was to happen during the times of the Gentiles.

Revelation 11:2 says that for 42 months the Gentiles would tread the holy city under foot. Revelation 13:5-7 says that for 42 months the Beast would make war with the saints. So "Gentiles" in the prophecy must mean the same thing as "the Beast," whose war with the saints takes place during the same 42 months. And the "holy city" of Revelation 11:2 must equate with the "saints" of Revelation 13:7.

Forty-two months of 30 days each is 1260 days. Applying the year-day principle (Num. 14:34; Eze. 4:6), we find that those days of affliction were to last for 1260 years. This period covered the major portion of church history.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


The word "antichrist" is found in only four verses of the Bible. Here they are:

"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." 1 John 2:18

"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." 1 John 2:22

"And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." 1 John 4:3

"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." 2 John 1:7

You have just read every reference to "antichrist" in the Bible. No mention is made of "the Antichrist" as a singular title. And to speak of "the Antichrist of Revelation" is incorrect, because the book of Revelation never uses the term. Notice that there are actually "many antichrists." What seems to distinguish "an antichrist" more than anything else is doctrinal error regarding the Father and the Son. The "spirit of antichrist" is identified with an erroneous teaching about Jesus.

If applied to anyone in particular, the word "antichrist" must describe Satan, for he is the great adversary of Jesus. The popular notion of the rise of an individual human in the last days identified as "the Antichrist" is an innovation not found in the Bible. The warning here is that we not be deceived by false doctrine.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Revelation Chapters 4 & 5

The seven seals in Revelation are introduced in chapters 4 and 5. In order to understand the scene there, it is helpful to compare it with Daniel 7:9-14.
  1. Central to both scenes is the throne of God.
  2. Both prophets mention additional thrones.
  3. Daniel 7:10 says, "A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him." Revelation 4:5 says, "Out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne."
  4. In both stories the participants have gathered for the opening of books.
  5. Jesus comes to the Father in both Daniel 7:13 and Revelation 5:7.
  6. The same number of heavenly attendants is mentioned in Revelation 5:11 as in Daniel 7:10.
  7. Christ receives glory at the end of both scenes. Daniel 7:14; Revelation 5:12.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ellen White's Writings in the Pulpit

Are the writings of a contemporary prophet intended for our own personal reading only, or do they have a public role in the church?

"And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Colossians 4:16.

Here's a lesson from the year 1855:

     "Recognizing the prejudice many of his peers had against visions and dreams, James White decided in 1851 not to publish any of his wife's visions in the Review. . . . Yet the failure of the Review over the next few years to publish more than a handful of Ellen White articles, and these of a general inspirational nature, did not free the emerging church from the criticism that it followed a prophet, not the Bible. In 1855 Elder White exploded. 'There is a class of persons who are determined to have it that the Review and its conductors make the views of Mrs. White a test of doctrine and Christian fellowship. . . . What has the Review to do with Mrs. White's views? The sentiments published in its columns are all drawn from the Holy Scriptures. No writer of the Review has ever referred to them as authority on any point.'
     "If failure to publish Ellen White's visions did not spare sabbatarian Adventists from criticism, it did seem to decrease their own interest in this supernatural method of God's leading. At the same time the visions became 'less and less frequent.' Ellen decided that her work was almost done. Not so. At a conference in Battle Creek in November 1855 the participants became convinced that the languishing condition prevailing in the infant church was due to a failure to properly appreciate divine leading through Mrs. White's visions." Richard Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, p. 180.

     "During the four-year period, 1851-55, there had appeared in the Review only four articles of general exhortation from Mrs. White's pen. No reference had been made to the visions. This was one of the items to be considered at the Battle Creek conference, for it was obvious to some that the progress of the work had suffered since little attention was being given to revelations from God. As a result of the conference a decided change was made in attitudes toward the visions and their publication in the paper." T. H. Jemison, A Prophet Among You, p. 317.

     "At our late Conference at Battle Creek, in Nov. God wrought for us. The minds of the servants of God were exercised as to the gifts of the Church, and if God's frown had been brought upon His people because the gifts had been slighted and neglected, there was a pleasing prospect that His smiles would again be upon us, and He would graciously and mercifully revive the gifts again, and they would live in the Church, to encourage the desponding and fainting soul, and to correct and reprove the erring." Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Jan. 10, 1856.

     "Of her experience at a meeting on the day following the close of the conference, Mrs. White wrote:  'November 20, 1855, while in prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came suddenly and powerfully upon me, and I was taken off in vision.' Testimonies, vol. I, p. 113. The matters seen in the vision were written out and read to the church at Battle Creek. . . .
     "While it was not known at the time that this was to be the first of many testimonies to be sent to the church and to individuals, and later published, in due time it came to be designated as Testimony Number One. With the eight pages of this testimony were bound eight additional pages of testimony matter, making a sixteen-page pamphlet." Jemison, p. 318.

     "No one among the men and women receiving those little pamphlets could have envisioned the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church that would eventually achieve such a wide circulation in the church as they enjoy today. . . .
     "In the spring of 1856 another annual conference was held at Battle Creek, and again important matters were revealed to Mrs. White in vision. Again she wrote out what had been shown her, and read it to the group. Once more those to whom it was read felt that it should be printed and distributed for the benefit of others. At the close of this second testimony for the church is this note of explanation by two local church leaders:
     " 'To the Saints Scattered Abroad
     " 'The foregoing testimony was given in the presence of about one hundred brethren and sisters assembled in the House of Prayer, on whose minds it apparently made a deep impression. It has since been read before the church at Battle Creek, who gave their unanimous vote in favor of its publication for the benefit of the Saints scattered abroad.' " Jemison, p. 319.

On March 1, 1898, Marian Davis, Ellen White's assistant, wrote:

     "I have been gathering out the precious things from those new manuscripts on the early life of Jesus. Sent a number of new pages to California by the Vancouver mail, and shall send more for later chapters by the next mail. Two of these articles on Christ's missionary work I let Brother James have to read in church. Last Sabbath he read the one which speaks of the Saviour's denying Himself of food to give to the poor. These things are unspeakably precious." Jemison, p. 348.

From these brief accounts we must conclude that it is acceptable for the testimonies of God's last-day prophet to be read in the church.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Making the Sabbath a Delight

Here are a few suggestions for making the Sabbath a special day:
  1. All week we look forward to the Sabbath and make plans for it, scheduling our week so that all secular activities will be completed before sundown on Friday.
  2. Friday is called the preparation day. We try to avoid extra activities on Friday that would hinder our Sabbath preparation. On that day we do our final housecleaning. We make sure all the food and clothing we will need on Sabbath is in readiness. The shoes are shined, the shirts are ironed, and the car is cleaned and filled with gas. As the children help in Sabbath preparation, the Sabbath becomes more special to them.
  3. At sundown on Friday the Sabbath begins. Before that time all secular papers and other matters have been laid aside in order to welcome God's happy day. The opening of the Sabbath finds the family, bathed and in clean clothes, gathered for worship and singing.
  4. In the winter, the longer Friday nights provide a special time for the family. Turn on some soft Sabbath music; or better yet, get out the instruments, or stand around the piano and sing. Gather by the fire and read stories of missionaries and our early church workers. Play a Bible game, or let each one recite his memory verses.
  5. Sabbath morning begins early with personal prayer, Bible study, and consecration to God. This is not a morning to sleep in. A special Sabbath breakfast has been prepared the day before. Sabbath music is playing as the family prepares for church.
  6. At Sabbath school and church, our dress and conversation and behavior show that we are there to worship God. We show reverence in God's house.
  7. Sabbath afternoons may be spent:
    • Walking in nature
    • Singing gospel hymns and playing instruments
    • Participating in church activities
    • Reading Sabbath books
    • Doing missionary work
    • Visiting the sick and elderly
    • Having a Bible study
    • Playing Bible games
    • Drawing or illustrating Bible stories
    • Finding and sharing spiritual object lessons
  8. At sunset, we close the Sabbath with worship. We praise God for the happy Sabbath we have enjoyed and ask for His blessing on the coming week.