The Third Angel’s Message
Throughout history, the overall tendency of mankind, as a whole, has been a trajectory of downward degeneracy. Even God’s own people, participated in the downward slide. Stephen, condemned the very top hierarchy, for their refusal to heed the many exhortations, pleas, and warnings of this downward condition with these words:
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. Acts 7:51-53.
The same condition, that prevailed in the time of Jesus and Stephen, prevails again at the end of time (see Rev. 3:14-22). It is called the Laodicean condition. It is a condition of great deception and delusion. Therefore, there is one last warning given to mankind and it is the most severe and consequential warning of them all. It comes in the form of the third angel’s message:
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 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 the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Rev. 14:9-11.
The Mark of the Beast
Since this warning is so serious and severe (the punishment is the second death, see chapter 37). It is only fair and reasonable for us to assume, that it must be possible to discern what the mark of the beast is. God does not give us such a fearful warning, without giving us also the means to discover what it is, and how to avoid it.
In our efforts to know what the mark of the beast is, we already have the advantage of knowing who or what the beast is – we know that the beast is the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church must have a ‘mark’ – what is the ‘mark’ of the Roman Catholic Church?
During the Reformation period the Protestant slogan was, ‘The Bible alone, Grace alone and Faith alone.’ In other words, the platform and foundation of the Protestant Churches was built on these three pillars, the Bible, Grace and Faith. When the Protestant Reformers proclaimed these three pillars throughout the world, it was like throwing a bomb into the Vatican and it kept exploding to the Catholic Church’s detriment.
The problem the Catholic Church had, was that the Protestant position was a challenge to the Catholic Church’s authority. The stance the Protestants took was a claim to a superior authority than the Catholics. The Catholic authority rested on tradition, with the Bible playing a subordinate, supplementary, inferior role. This Catholic elevation, of tradition over Scripture, is not disputed by anyone:
Like two sacred rivers flowing from Paradise, the Bible and divine tradition contain the Word of God… Though these two divine streams are… of equal sacredness… still, of the two, tradition is to us more clear and safe. Catholic Belief, p. 45.
Tradition, not Scripture, is the rock on which the church of Jesus Christ is built.” Adrien Nampon, Catholic Doctrine as Defined by the Council of Trent, p. 157.
Deny the authority of the Church and you have no adequate or reasonable explanation or justification for the substitution of Sunday for Saturday in the Third – Protestant Fourth – Commandment of God… The Church is above the Bible… Catholic Record, September 1, 1923.
The Protestants had little respect or enthusiasm for tradition, because they knew, that Jesus condemned the reliance on tradition (see Mk. 7:7-9; Matt. 15:3). Therefore, they rejected tradition as a pathway to the truth. Instead they exalted the Bible above Catholic; bulls, edicts and laws. As a result, the Protestant cause was sweeping all before it. The Catholic Church was desperate to find countermeasures against the successful Protestant assault. They needed an argument, that they could use to prove that their authority was above and greater than that of the Bible. They needed an argument, that would bolster their claims, that tradition was superior to Scripture.
The Council of Trent
The Catholic Church called for a meeting, of all the high hierarchy of the Church to discuss the challenge they faced from Protestantism. They met together in the Council of Trent, in three separate sessions from 1545 to 1563. After, all those years they finally took the plunge and decided to implement a strategy to defeat Protestantism. That strategy was/is centered on the changing of the seventh-day Sabbath, to the first-day Sunday. The historical record tells us, that this corruption of the law of God, was the argument the Catholic Church was seeking to claim that their authority was greater than that of the Protestants. It occurred during the last session of the Council of Trent:
Finally, at the last opening on the eighteenth of January, 1562, all hesitation was set aside: the Archbishop of Reggio made a speech in which he openly declared that tradition stood above Scripture. The authority of the church therefore could not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the Church had changed… the Sabbath into Sunday, not by command of Christ, but by its own authority. Canon and Tradition, p. 263.
By changing the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday, the Catholic Church, began to claim, that their authority was superior to that of the Protestants, because they have the power to change the Bible itself. In other words, their authority exceeded even the Word of God, because they had power over the Word of God. With this act they were not only fulfilling prophecy, but they were also creating the mark of the beast.
Fulfilment of Prophecy
The Bible tells the same stories in different ways. In the Book of Daniel, the beast from the sea, is called the little horn. The brazenly bold step taken at Trent, was a fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the little horn. In Daniel it is prophesied that the little horn would:
…speak great word against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws… Dan 7:25.
The Catholic Church is well aware of what they have done, evidenced by dent of numerous, on the record, official statements:
Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday. Rev. Peter Geiermann C.SS.R., The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, p. 50.
Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her;- she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority. S. Keenan A Doctrinal Catechism, (3rd US ed.), p 174.
Deny the authority of the Church and you have no adequate or reasonable explanation or justification for the substitution of Sunday for Saturday in the Third – Protestant Fourth – Commandment of God… The Church is above the Bible, and this transference of Sabbath observance is proof of that fact. Catholic Record, September 1, 1923.
Sunday is founded, not on Scripture, but on tradition, and is distinctly a Catholic institution. Catholic Record, Sept. 17, 1893.
For ages all Christian nations looked to the Catholic Church, and, as we have seen, the various states enforced by law her ordinances as to worship and cessation of Labor on Sunday. Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the church, has no good reason for its Sunday theory, and ought logically, to keep Saturday as the Sabbath
The Church, on the other hand, after changing the day of rest from the Jewish Sabbath, or seventh day of the week, to the first, made the Third Commandment refer to Sunday as the day to be kept holy as the Lord’s Day. The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. xix) condemns those who deny that the Ten Commandments are binding on Christians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Commandments of God, Volume IV, 1908 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition 1999 by Kevin Knight, Nihil Obstat Remy Lafort, Censor Imprimatur, John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York, page 153.
All of us believe many things in regard to religion that we do not find in the Bible. For example, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath Day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the Church outside the Bible. The Catholic Virginian, ‘To Tell You The Truth,’ Vol. 22, No. 49 (Oct. 3, 1947).
In addition, Catholics are quick to invoke the change of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, whenever they are in polemical conflict with Protestant critics about who has the greater authority. In fact, they use the change from Saturday to Sunday, in order to point out to Protestants, that they are still observing the power of popes, when they continue to worship on Sunday. In other words, by maintaining that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, Protestants are placing themselves under the authority and jurisdiction of the pope.
The State, in passing laws for the due Sanctification of Sunday, is unwittingly acknowledging the authority of the Catholic Church, and carrying out more or less faithfully its prescriptions.
The Sunday, as a day of the week set apart for the obligatory public worship of Almighty God, to be sanctified by a suspension of all servile labor, trade, and worldly avocations and by exercises of devotion is purely a creation of the Catholic Church. The American Catholic Quarterly Review, January, 1883, pp. 139,152.
Therefore, in view of the fact, that the change from Sabbath to Sunday, is so vital to prove, the superior authority of the Catholic Church, is it any wonder that the Catholic Church would also claim that this change is its ‘mark’ of authority:
Of course, the Catholic Church claims that the change [from Saturday to Sunday] was her act. And the act is a MARK of her ecclesiastical power and authority. C. F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons, in answer to a letter regarding the change of the Sabbath, Baltimore, Nov. 11, 1895.
Because the change from Sabbath to Sunday is so crucial to the identity and authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholics understand the issue and the principles at stake, more clearly than Protestants:
Reason and sense demand the acceptance of one or the other of these alternatives: either Protestantism and the keeping holy of Saturday, or Catholicity and the keeping holy of Sunday. Compromise is impossible.” John Cardinal Gibbons, The Catholic Mirror, December 23, 1893.
Therefore, Catholics like to accuse Protestants of hypocrisy, for claiming that their authority is derived solely from the Bible, when in fact they are observing Catholic tradition. They evenlike to advise Protestants that if they were true to their convictions, they should become Seventh-day Adventists:
The [Roman Catholic] Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her founder, Jesus Christ. The Protestant claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. In this matter the Seventh-day Adventist is the only consistent Protestant. The Catholic Universe Bulletin, August 14, 1942, p. 4.
In addition, they are quick to invoke the change of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, whenever they are in polemical conflict with Protestant critics about who has the greater authority. In fact, they use the change from Saturday to Sunday, in order to point out to Protestants, that they are still observing the power of popes, when they continue to worship on Sunday. In other words, by maintaining that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, Protestants are, whether they recognize it or not, placing themselves under the authority and jurisdiction of the Catholic pope.
The Seal of God versus the Mark of the Beast
Revelation presents us with a battle between two opposites. These opposites come in different forms, such as; the Lamb versus the dragon, the woman on the moon versus the woman on the beast, the 144,000 versus the synagogue of Satan, etc. etc. These opposites are all about the true and the false. The impetus of Revelation is all about the true religion versus false religion – true worship versus false worship.
We have already noticed that the Sabbath, in the past, has always been a crucial part of distinguishing true religion from the false. Therefore, one would expect its distinguishing role between true and false, would continue down to the present day, and apply also in the future. We see this distinguishing role, in the first angel’s message, where mankind is called upon to worship, the Creator. The people of the earth, are called to worship the Creator, because they have been deceived into worshipping the beast. The proof that they have been undeceived, is if they acknowledge the memorial of creation, which is the seventh-day Sabbath.
The woman riding the beast is actively engaged in this conflict. She is serving the ‘wine of her fornication’ to the nations of the earth. The ‘wine of her fornication’ is the propaganda arm of the beast. The opposite of the ‘wine of her fornication’ is the ‘everlasting gospel.’ Therefore, the battle of opposites is not just fought in different ways, it is fought on different levels. There is a physical level, and there is a an intellectual/mental level. This is why, the mark of the beast is received in the forehead or the hand. Those who receive ii in the forehead receive it intellectually/mentally – they believe that Sunday is the correct day of worship, they are enthusiastic worshippers of the beast. Those who receive it in their hands, are those who are not necessarily convinced, but they comply out of fear, of retribution (losing their jobs, peer pressure, etc.). Contrariwise, those who accept the three angel’s messages, receive the seal of God – in the forehead and not in the hand. Which means, they are intellectually, mentally and faithfully, grounded in the truth (especially the Sabbath truth), so that they cannot be shaken out of it:
Those who would have the seal of God in their foreheads must keep the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. This is what distinguishes them from the disloyal, who have accepted a man-made institution in the place of the true Sabbath. The observance of God’s rest day is the mark of distinction between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. Ellen White, MS 27, 1899, SDABC, vol. 7, p. 970.
The Adventist pioneers understood that their movement was birthed by the study of Bible prophecy. They believed they were the fulfillment of prophecy. They understood that they were called to ‘prophesy again.’ They knew that they had been called to preach ‘present truth’ one last time to a dying world. They preached the first and second angel’s messages before the ‘great disappointment’ in 1844. But they failed to recognize that there was a third angel’s message, that also needed to be a part of the commandment to prophesy again. The third angel’s message is now added to the other two, and soon these messages will swell to a roar, under the power of the fourth angel, that descends from heaven to ensure the whole world is compelled to choose Jesus or the dragon.
The third angel’s message is the ultimate last warning given to the world. As Noah stood on the gangway leading to the door of the Ark, and gave one last plea to the people to enter the Ark, so too, the message of the third angel, combined with the first two, will be the last plea, to enter another Ark – an Ark of faith, that cannot be shaken. An Ark that will survive the seven last plagues about to be unleased upon the world.