When Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of the atonement, he committed to his servants the last message of mercy to be given to the world. Such is the warning of the third angel of Revelation 14. Immediately following its proclamation, the Son of man is seen by the prophet coming in glory to reap the harvest of the earth.
As foretold in the Scriptures, the ministration of Christ in the most holy place began at the termination of the prophetic days in 1844. To this time apply the words of the Revelator, "The temple of God was opened in Heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament." [REV. 11:19]. The ark of God's testament is in the second apartment of the sanctuary. As Christ entered there, to minister in the sinner's behalf, the inner temple was opened, and the ark of God was brought to view. To those who by faith beheld the Saviour in his work of intercession, God's majesty and power were revealed. As the train of his glory filled the temple, light from the holy of holies was shed upon his waiting people on the earth.
They had by faith followed their High Priest from the holy to the most holy, and they saw him pleading his blood before the ark of God. Within that sacred ark is the Father's law, the same that was spoken by God himself amid the thunders of Sinai, and written with his own finger on the tables of stone. Not one command has been annulled; not a jot or tittle has been changed. While God gave to Moses a copy of his law, he preserved the great original in the sanctuary above. Tracing down its holy precepts, the seekers for truth found, in the very bosom of the decalogue, the fourth commandment, as it was first proclaimed: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 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." [EX. 20:8-11.]
The Spirit of God impressed the hearts of these students of his word. The conviction was urged upon them, that they had ignorantly transgressed the fourth commandment by disregarding the Creator's rest-day. They began to examine the reasons for observing the first day of the week instead of the day which God had sanctified. They could find no evidence in the Scriptures that the fourth commandment had been abolished, or that the Sabbath had been changed; the blessing which first hallowed the seventh day had never been removed. They had been honestly seeking to know and do God's will, and now, as they saw themselves transgressors of his law, sorrow filled their hearts. They at once evinced their loyalty to God by keeping his Sabbath holy.
Many and earnest were the efforts made to overthrow their faith. None could fail to see that if the earthly sanctuary was a figure or pattern of the heavenly, the law deposited in the ark on earth was an exact transcript of the law in the ark in Heaven, and that an acceptance of the truth concerning the heavenly sanctuary involved an acknowledgment of the claims of God's law, and the obligation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Here was the secret of the bitter and determined opposition to the harmonious exposition of the Scriptures that brought to view the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. How hard men tried to close the door which God had opened, and to open the door which he had closed! But "He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth," had declared, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." [REV. 3:7, 8.]. Christ had opened the door, or ministration, of the most holy place, light was shining from that open door of the sanctuary in Heaven, and the fourth commandment was shown to be included in the law within the ark; what God had established, no man could overthrow.
Those who had accepted the light concerning the mediation of Christ and the perpetuity of the law of God, found that these were the truths brought to view in the third message. The angel declares, "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." This statement is preceded by a solemn and fearful warning: "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." [REV. 14:9, 10.]. An interpretation of the symbols employed was necessary to an understanding of this message. What was represented by the beast, the image, and the mark? Again those who were seeking for the truth returned to the study of the prophecies.
In the book of the Revelation, under the symbols of a great red dragon, a leopard-like beast, and a beast with lamb-like horns, [REV. 12; 13.] are brought to view those earthly governments which are especially engaged in trampling upon God's law and persecuting his people. Their war is carried forward to the close of time. The people of God, symbolized by a holy woman and her children, are greatly in the minority. In the last days only a remnant exists. John speaks of them as those that "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." [REV. 12:17.]
Through the great powers controlled by paganism and the papacy, symbolized by the dragon and the leopard-like beast, Satan for many centuries destroyed God's faithful witnesses. Under the dominion of Rome, they were tortured and slain for more than a thousand years; but the papacy was at last deprived of its strength, and forced to desist from persecution. [REV. 13:3, 10.]. At that time the prophet beheld a new power coming up, represented by the beast with lamb-like horns. The appearance of this beast and the manner of its rise seem to indicate that the power which it represents is unlike those brought to view under the preceding symbols. The great kingdoms that have ruled the world obtained their dominion by conquest and revolution, and they were presented to the prophet Daniel as beasts of prey, rising when the "four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea." [DAN. 7:2.]. But the beast with horns like a lamb is seen "coming up out of the earth;" [REV. 13:11.] signifying that instead of overthrowing other powers to establish itself, the nation thus represented arose in territory previously unoccupied, and grew up gradually and peacefully.
Here is a striking figure of the rise and growth of our own nation. And the lamb-like horns, emblems of innocence and gentleness, well represent the character of our government, as expressed in its two fundamental principles, Republicanism and Protestantism. The Christian exiles who first fled to America, sought an asylum from royal oppression and priestly intolerance, and they determined to establish a government upon the broad foundation of civil and religious liberty. These principles are the secret of our power and prosperity as a nation. Millions from other lands have sought our shores, and the United States has risen to a place among the most powerful nations of the earth.
But the stern tracings of the prophetic pencil reveal a change in this peaceful scene. The beast with lamb-like horns speaks with the voice of a dragon, and "exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him." The spirit of persecution manifested by paganism and the papacy is again to be revealed. Prophecy declares that this power will say "to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast." [REV. 13:14.]. The image is made to the first or leopard-like beast, which is the one brought to view in the third angel's message. By this first beast is represented the Roman Church, an ecclesiastical body clothed with civil power, having authority to punish all dissenters. The image to the beast represents another religious body clothed with similar power. The formation of this image is the work of that beast whose peaceful rise and mild professions render it so striking a symbol of the United States. Here is to be found an image of the papacy. When the churches of our land, uniting upon such points of faith as are held by them in common, shall influence the State to enforce their decrees and sustain their institutions, then will Protestant America have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy. Then the true church will be assailed by persecution, as were God's ancient people. Almost every century furnishes examples of what bigotry and malice can do under a plea of serving God by protecting the rights of Church and State. Protestant churches that have followed in the steps of Rome by forming alliance with worldly powers have manifested a similar desire to restrict liberty of conscience. In the seventeenth century thousands of non-conformist ministers suffered under the rule of the Church of England. Persecution always follows religious favoritism on the part of secular governments.
The beast with lamb-like horns commands "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." [REV. 13:16, 17.]. This is the mark concerning which the third angel utters his warning. It is the mark of the first beast, or the papacy, and is therefore to be sought among the distinguishing characteristics of that power. The prophet Daniel declared that the Roman Church, symbolized by the little horn, was to think to change times and laws, [DAN. 7:25.] while Paul styled it the man of sin, [2 THESS. 2:3, 4.] who was to exalt himself above God. Only by changing God's law could the papacy exalt itself above God; whoever should understandingly keep the law as thus changed would be giving supreme honor to that power by which the change was made. Such an act of obedience to papal laws would be a mark of allegiance to the pope in the place of God.
The papacy has attempted to change the law of God. The second commandment, forbidding image worship, has been dropped from the law, and the fourth commandment has been so changed as to authorize the observance of the first instead of the seventh day as the Sabbath. But papists urge as a reason for omitting the second commandment, that it is unnecessary, being included in the first, and that they are giving the law exactly as God designed it to be understood. This cannot be the change foretold by the prophet. An intentional, deliberate change is brought to view: "He shall think to change times and laws." The change in the fourth commandment exactly fulfills the prophecy. For this change the only authority claimed is that of the church. Here the papal power openly sets itself above God.
The claim so often put forth, that Christ changed the Sabbath, is disproved by his own words. In his sermon on the mount he declared: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven." [MATT. 5:17-19.]
Roman Catholics acknowledge that the change of the Sabbath was made by their church; and they cite this change as evidence of the authority of the church to legislate in divine things, and declare that Protestants, by observing the Sabbath as thus changed, are recognizing her power. The Roman Church has not relinquished her claim to supremacy; and when the world and the Protestant churches accept a Sabbath of her creating, while they reject the Bible Sabbath, they virtually admit this assumption. They may claim the authority of apostles and Fathers for the change; but in so doing they ignore the very principle which separates them from Rome, -- that "the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants." The papist can see that they are deceiving themselves, willingly closing their eyes to the facts in the case. As the Sunday institution gains favor, he rejoices, feeling assured that it will eventually bring the whole Protestant world under the banner of Rome.
The fourth commandment, which Rome has endeavored to set aside, is the only precept of the decalogue that points to God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and thus distinguishes the true God from all false gods. The Sabbath was instituted to commemorate the work of creation, and thus to direct the minds of men to the true and living God. The fact of his creative power is cited throughout the Scriptures as proof that the God of Israel is superior to heathen deities. Had the Sabbath always been kept, man's thoughts and affections would have been led to his Maker as the object of reverence and worship, and there would never have been an idolater, an atheist, or an infidel.
That institution which points to God as the Creator is a sign of his rightful authority over the beings he has made. The change of the Sabbath is the sign, or mark, of the authority of the Romish Church. Those who, understanding the claims of the fourth commandment, choose to observe the false in place of the true Sabbath, are thereby paying homage to that power by which alone it is commanded. The change in the fourth commandment is the change pointed out in the prophecy, and the keeping of the counterfeit Sabbath is the reception of the mark. But Christians of past generations observed the first day, supposing that they were keeping the Bible Sabbath, and there are in the churches of today many who honestly believe that Sunday is the Sabbath of divine appointment. None of these have received the mark of the beast. There are true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion. The test upon this question does not come until Sunday observance is enforced by law, and the world is enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath. Not until the issue is thus plainly set before the people, and they are brought to choose between the commandments of God and the commandments of men, will those who continue in transgression receive the mark of the beast.
The most fearful threatening ever addressed to mortals is contained in the third angel's message. That must be a terrible sin which calls down the wrath of God unmingled with mercy. Men are not to be left in darkness concerning this important matter; the warning against this sin is to be given to the world before the visitation of God's judgments, that all may know why they are to be inflicted, and have opportunity to escape them.
In the issue of the great contest, two distinct, opposite classes are developed. One class "worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark," and thus bring upon themselves the awful judgments threatened by the third angel. The other class, in marked contrast to the world, "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." [REV. 14:9, 12.]. Though the powers of earth summon their forces to compel "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond," to receive the mark of the beast, yet the people of God do not receive it. The prophet of Patmos beholds "them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God," [REV. 15:2.] and singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
Such were the momentous truths that opened before those who received the third angel's message. As they reviewed their experience from the first proclamation of the second advent to the passing of the time in 1844, they saw their disappointment explained, and hope and joy again animated their hearts. Light from the sanctuary illuminated the past, the present, and the future, and they knew that God had led them by his unerring providence. Now with new courage and firmer faith, they joined in giving the warning of the third angel.
The work of Sabbath reform to be accomplished in the last days is clearly brought to view in the prophecy of Isaiah: "Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil." "The sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer." [ISA. 56:1, 2, 6, 7.]
These words apply in the Christian age, as is shown by the context: "The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him." [ISA. 56:8.]. Here is foreshadowed the gathering in of the Gentiles by the gospel. And upon those who then honor the Sabbath, a blessing is pronounced. Thus the obligation of the fourth commandment extends past the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, to the time when his servants should preach to all nations the message of glad tidings.
The Lord commands by the same prophet, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." [ISA. 8:16.]. The seal of God's law is found in the fourth commandment. This only, of all the ten, brings to view both the name and the title of the Lawgiver. It declares him to be the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and thus shows his claim to reverence and worship above all others. Aside from this precept, there is nothing in the decalogue to show by whose authority the law is given. When the Sabbath was changed by the papal power, the seal was taken from the law. The disciples of Jesus are called upon to restore it, by exalting the Sabbath of the fourth commandment to its rightful position as the Creator's memorial and the sign of his authority.
"To the law and to the testimony." While conflicting doctrines and theories abound, the law of God is the one unerring standard to which all opinions, doctrines, and theories are to be brought. Says the prophet, "If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." [ISA. 8:20.]
Again, the command is given, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." It is not the wicked world, but those whom the Lord designates as "my people," that are to be reproved for their transgressions. He declares further, "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God." [ISA. 58:1, 2.]. Here is brought to view a class who think themselves righteous, and appear to manifest great interest in the service of God; but the stern and solemn rebuke of the Searcher of hearts proves them to be trampling upon the divine precepts.
The prophet thus points out the ordinance which has been forsaken: "Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord." [ISA. 58:12, 13.]. This prophecy also applies in our time. The breach was made in the law of God when the Sabbath was changed by the Romish power. But the time has come for that divine institution to be restored. The breach is to be repaired, and the foundation of many generations to be raised up.
With peculiar fitness may the Sabbath be called the foundation of many generations. Hallowed by the Creator's rest and blessing, it was kept by Adam in his innocence in holy Eden; by Adam, fallen yet repentant, when he was driven from his happy estate. It was kept by all the patriarchs, from Abel to righteous Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob. When the chosen people were in bondage in Egypt, many, in the midst of prevailing idolatry, lost their knowledge of God's law; but when the Lord delivered Israel, he proclaimed his law in awful grandeur to the assembled multitude, that they might know his will, and fear and obey him forever.
From that day to the present, the knowledge of God's law has been preserved in the earth, and the Sabbath of the fourth commandment has been kept. Though the man of sin succeeded in trampling the Sabbath under foot, yet even in the period of his supremacy there were, hidden in secret places, faithful souls who honored the Creator's rest-day.
Since the Reformation, there have been in every generation witnesses for God to uphold the standard of the ancient Sabbath. Though often in the midst of reproach and persecution, a constant testimony has been borne to this truth. Since 1844, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the third angel's message, the attention of the world has been called to the true Sabbath, and a constantly increasing number are returning to the observance of God's holy day.
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