Three Angels Messages Part 67

Welcome once more, and thanks again for joining us as we continue to explore the Three Angel’s Messages! The third angel’s message contains the most startling language in Scripture, highlighting a prophetic beast, its image and mark, and warning against receiving the mark on pain of death.

We’ve seen that, in harmony with the testimony of the Protestant Reformers, the beast of the third angel’s message is the system (not the people) of the Roman Catholic Church. We’ve seen that the word “image” means “copy,” and that the “image of the beast” will be the last-day reenactment of the harsh policies of the Middle Ages, when the Church compelled the conscience in matters of faith.

We’ve seen that the “mark” of her authority, by her own confession, is the attempt to change the day of worship from the one of divine direction, the seventh day of the week in commemoration of God’s Creation, to the first day of the week, a change for which there is no scriptural authority. Revelation’s twin signs, the mark of the beast and the seal of God, stand in opposition to each other, representing either rebellion against or submission to the government of God.

Because we recognize that the symbols and types in the book of Revelation find their roots in Old Testament material, in our last study, we looked at an Old Testament passage which serves as a backdrop to the concept of a mark or sign in the forehead or hand. It was the passage in Exodus 13 that describes the Passover service, declaring that it would be “as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in your mouth.” Exodus 13:9.

From the usage of the word “as” in the text, we see that it was not intended to be taken literally, but that the principles taught by the Passover service would be “between their eyes,” that is, in their thinking and their minds, and that this would translate to godly behavior, represented by the “hand.” This is the essence of lesson and meaning of the mark of the beast being in the “head” (the place of thinking and worship) and the “hand” (the token of actions and behavior). Likewise, the seal of God being in the “forehead” stands for God’s character and law being in our minds.

Two other passages in the Old Testament shed light on the concept of receiving a mark in “head and hand.” These come from the book of Deuteronomy, which contains Moses’ farewell speech before he ascended Mt. Nebo to lay his labors down. It’s important to see that each of these two texts occurs immediately following the recitation of the Ten Commandments, appearing in Deuteronomy 5 and 10. Following the giving of God’s law in these chapters, we find material in Deuteronomy 6 and 11 which bear on our discussion.
“And these words (the Ten Commandments) which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets (a decorative headband) between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 6:6-8. Notice again that God’s law will be as a sign on their hand, and as frontlets on their forehead.

Though the Jews later took this admonition literally and actually made small scripture boxes which were suspended above their foreheads, and wrote out broad phylacteries which were worn on their forearms, that this was not God’s intention is crystal clear. If it were, we would read that Jesus wore such, but no verse in the Bible tells us that He did. What we do read is that His testimony was, “Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the Book it is written of Me. I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart.’” Psalm 40:7, 8.

Did Jesus live out the principle expressed in Deuteronomy 6? Was the law, the Ten Commandments bound “as a sign on His hand” and “as a frontlet between His eyes”? Absolutely! But that was not done in an overly literalistic way, as was too often the mistake of the Jews. They exhibited the externals of religion, but God’s love was not in their hearts. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:8, 9.

Deuteronomy 11 repeats the admonition. “Therefore you shall lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 11:18. The key words are “as,” revealing the symbolic nature of the instruction, “bind,” emphasizing the close relationship between God’s law and His people (it’s the same word that describes Jonathan’s heart being “knit” to the heart of David. I Samuel 18:1), and “sign,” showing that obedience to God’s law will be a special “mark” or “flag” indicating one’s allegiance to the Creator. There are many scriptures which refer to the Sabbath as being God’s special sign between Him and His people. “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” Exodus 31:13. See also Ezekiel 20:12, 20.

We have also the prophetic picture given in Ezekiel 9, in which the prophet was shown that those who “sigh and cry” for all the abominations done in “it” (Jerusalem, the professed city of God) will receive a mark on their foreheads placed by an angel. This mark will result in their being “passed over” by the destroying angels who follow and go through the city with sword in hand. The obvious lesson here is that those whose hearts beat in sympathy with God’s; those who have developed a hatred of sin; those whose hearts are filled with sorrow for transgression, be it in the world, the church or their own lives, will be the ones who receive the saving mark. They will exhibit the same humility as Daniel, who prayed in contrition for his people in the prayer recorded in Daniel 9.

Before we give more attention to what the “seal” is, we need to distinguish between the seal that is placed on a believer when he or she begins the Christian journey and the seal that is mentioned in Revelation 7. They are two different things. When a person first gives their life to the Lord, there is a seal that is imparted to them. Paul spoke of this when he wrote to the church in Corinth. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit.” II Corinthians 1:21, 22. In a similar way, to the Ephesian church he wrote, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14.

It is clear from these passages that there is a seal that is conferred when one “believes” and begins his Christian walk. Paul spoke of this seal in the past tense. He said, God “has sealed us,” and “you were sealed.” We might think of this seal as the “early rain seal,” which confirms that a person has exercised their choice to receive Christ and start the journey toward the kingdom. Notice that the Holy Spirit is the active Agent in the placement of this seal.

However, the seal that is brought to view in Revelation 7 is different. We might think of it as being the “latter rain seal,” conferred just before the Second Coming of Jesus, preparing God’s people to receive the empowerment of the final outpouring of His Spirit. Revelation speaks of this as being a future happening. “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’” Revelation 7:2, 3. It is evident that this seal is yet to be placed, and therefore should be distinguished from the seal referred to earlier by the Apostle Paul.

In our next segment, we will take a look at the lessons contained in the seal. What was the function and purpose of a seal in ancient times, and how do those things help us understand what God wants to accomplish in our lives today, just before Jesus’ return? One thing is clear: we want to be among those who are accounted worthy to receive the seal of God, and heed the warning given by the third angel to avoid receiving the mark of the beast. By His grace, may that be your experience and mine.