Cliff's Edge

The Same Old Whine (Of Babylon)

We can’t, without warning about the events that precede it, faithfully proclaim. . .

Clifford Goldstein

A recent spate of anti-Adventist eschatology has been infecting cyberspace. It’s the same old whine (of Babylon), only coming from among us: Rome is no longer an important player; Sunday persecution will never arise; our end-time scenario is from Ellen White, not the Bible; and we must stop scaring people.

Let’s take a look.

For starters, Rome—no longer a player?

In Daniel 2, right after the fall of ancient Greece (Dan. 2:39), the iron in the legs of the statue, and the iron and the clay in its feet and toes (verses 33, 34, 39-43), represent the last earthly empire, which remains until a stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” (verse 45) destroys the earth and God establishes His eternal kingdom (verse 44).

In Daniel 7, after the fall of ancient Greece (Dan. 7:6), the fourth beast with its little horn (verses 7, 8, 19-21) represents the final earthly empire, which remains until God establishes His eternal kingdom: “The saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (verse 18).

In Daniel 8, after the fall of ancient Greece (Dan. 8:8, 21, 22), the little horn represents the last earthly empire (verses 9-11, 22-25), which exists until, as in Daniel 2, it’s supernaturally destroyed “without hand” (verse 25, KJV) at “the time of the end” (verse 17).

What power, which also plays a major role in the New Testament, arises after ancient Greece and remains to our day (as it must if destroyed at the end)? This same power also persecuted God’s people (Dan. 7:21), was blasphemous (verse 20), exalted itself against “the Prince of the host” (Dan. 8:11), and would “think to change times and laws” (Dan. 7:25,KJV). So unless the critics can identify another major power that arises after ancient Greece, that persecuted God’s people, that thought “to change times and laws,” and that endures to our day—the Adventist position on Rome remains the only viable option.

We can’t, without warning about the events that precede it, faithfully proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus.

And that option becomes even more viable, thanks to Revelation 13, which references the same imagery that Daniel 7 used to represent the final earthly power, the one that arose after ancient Greece and remains until supernaturally destroyed at the end of the world. In other words, Rome—which now, in Revelation, is depicted as a major end-time player, a beast (Rev. 13:1-11), the same beast behind the infamous and apocalyptic “mark of the beast” (Rev. 16:2).

Of course, the Adventist “traditional” interpretation of the “mark of the beast” and end-time persecution is also derided.

Let’s see . . . .

Revelation depicts final events as centering on worship: worship either of the beast and its image (Rev. 14:9) or worship of God, the Creator, the One who “made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7, KJV)—language directly from the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:10). This is the one commandment that shows why we should worship God—because He is the Creator—and it’s the same commandment that Rome sought to change, replacing God’s decree (the seventh day) with humanity’s (the first). “We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.”*

Meanwhile, the Lord’s followers—who are depicted, twice, as keeping “the commandments of God” (Rev. 12:17; 14:12)—worship God because, as the Creator (and also our Redeemer), He alone is worthy of worship (Rev. 5:9). And no more foundational symbol of Him as our Creator exists than the seventh-day Sabbath, which (again) the beast power sought to change. For an earthly power to try to change, in a sense to usurp, the most basic sign of the most basic doctrine, creation, is to attempt to usurp the Lord’s authority at the most basic level possible: God as Creator. The only level more basic is God Himself, and because no entity, heavenly or earthly, can get to Him, it instead gets as close as possible: to the foundation sign of Him as Creator—the seventh-day Sabbath.

But persecution over the Sabbath?

In Matthew 12, after Jesus healed on the Sabbath the man with a withered hand (Matt. 12:9-13), how did the religious leaders respond?  “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus” (verse 14, NIV). Death because of the seventh-day Sabbath? In John 5:1-16, after another miraculous healing on the seventh day, the leaders “persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath” (John 5:16).

Death because of human tradition (nothing in the Bible forbade healing on Sabbath, just as nothing in the Bible has put Sunday in place of Sabbath) versus the seventh-day Sabbath? Though the specific issue here with Jesus isn’t the same as in final events, it’s close enough: human law versus God’s, and in both the contested law centers on the biblical Sabbath.

It’s hard, then, to see how the issue of worshipping either the Creator, or worshipping the beast and its image, won’t be over the one commandment that points to God as Creator and that reveals why we should worship Him—the exact commandment that the beast power usurped.

And, as far as using Ellen White to prove our position on the mark of the beast . . . Where did I quote her above?

Finally, what about our scaring people with those ferocious beasts and warnings about persecution and death decrees? Noah probably heard something similar. Maybe someone said to Malachi: Can’t you focus more on Yahweh’s love instead of giving such nasty warnings like: “Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it” (Mal. 2:3, KJV)? And what about the wars, rumors of wars, famine, pestilence, lawlessness, persecution, “the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:8)?

Excuse us—if you must—for preaching the mark of the beast. It’s an integral part of the three angels’ messages and the “everlasting gospel” to be proclaimed by God’s end-time people. After all, the one who gets it will only “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (Rev. 14:10). We can’t, without warning about the events that precede it, faithfully proclaim the second coming of Jesus.

It’s one thing for our end-time message to be attacked from without. But from within? We’d be naive to expect otherwise. Unfortunately.

* Peter Geiermann, The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (Rockford, Ill: Tan Books and Publishers, 1977), p. 50.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book is Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.

Clifford Goldstein