Judgment on Babylon (2019, Quarter 1, Lesson 12)

by admin admin March 17, 2019

Judgment on Babylon (2019, Quarter 1, Lesson 12)

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Sabbath (March 16): The Counterfeit Atonement

God’s atonement for sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fact around which Biblical Christianity is built. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:11, “[W]e also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” The word atonement was created in the sixteenth century when William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. It literally means “at-one-ment” with God, and it captures the essence of the Bible’s fundamental message—that because God is love, He has provided a way whereby sinful human beings may be redeemed and be brought back into a right relationship with Himself, so that He can once again dwell with them (Exodus 25:8; Revelation 21:3).

Revelation reveals a “counterfeit atonement” at the end of time whereby the devil will seek to unite humanity with himself, instead of with God. Through deceptive signs, wonders, and miracles (Revelation 13:13,14; 16:14), most of humanity will be mislead into accepting and participating in this counterfeit spiritual movement which Revelation refers to as Babylon. Our lesson this week reveals the key players in this “counterfeit atonement” at the end of time. More importantly, we will also discover how to remain faithful to God even as God’s judgments fall on Babylon.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Revelation 16:12-16. What evidence do you find in this verse of the devil’s attempt to bring humanity into “at-one-ment” with himself? What is Christ’s counsel to those who would remain faithful to Him?

  • Read Revelation 18:2,3. How successful will the devil’s goal be to unite humanity with himself through Babylon’s deceptions? How would you describe the spiritual condition of those that participate in this false system?

The ancient tower of Babel built by rebellious descendants of Noah is a type of end-time spiritual Babylon. The book Patriarchs and Prophets reveals the motivating forces that led to the building of this tower.

The men of Babel had determined to establish a government that should be independent of God. There were some among them, however, who feared the Lord, but who had been deceived by the pretensions of the ungodly and drawn into their schemes. For the sake of these faithful ones the Lord delayed His judgments and gave the people time to reveal their true character. As this was developed, the sons of God labored to turn them from their purpose; but the people were fully united in their Heaven-daring undertaking. Had they gone on unchecked, they would have demoralized the world in its infancy. Their confederacy was founded in rebellion; a kingdom established for self-exaltation, but in which God was to have no rule or honor. Had this confederacy been permitted, a mighty power would have borne sway to banish righteousness—and with it peace, happiness, and security—from the earth. For the divine statutes, which are “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12), men were endeavoring to substitute laws to suit the purpose of their own selfish and cruel hearts. {PP 123.1}

Discussion Questions:

  • What similarities do you see between the goals of those who built the tower of Babel, and end-time Babylon?

  • Why did God delay judgment on ancient Babylon, and what might that tell us about why Christ has allowed sin to continue so long after the cross?

Sunday and Monday (March 17 and 18): The Harlot on the Scarlet Beast

God’s atonement for sin hinges on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the New Testament’s central messages is that after His ascension to heaven, Jesus became humanity’s High Priest in heaven’s temple (Hebrews 8:1,2; 4:14-16), where He has continued to serve as humanity’s Mediator and Intercessor. God’s atonement for sin, therefore, and His goal to reunite humanity with Himself, depends on the work of Jesus Christ as High Priest.

Just as Revelation reveals the existence of the devil’s strategy to create a “counterfeit atonement” and unite himself with humanity, it also uncovers the identity of a false “priest” that he uses to accomplish his deceptive purposes. In Revelation 17, this false “priest” is portrayed as a harlot riding on top of a scarlet beast.

Bible-believing Protestants have for centuries seen the harlot of Revelation 17 as a symbol of the Roman Catholic system, and the wine in her golden cup as pointing toward the strange blend of Scripture, paganism, and humanism that creates its doctrinal edifice. Significantly, this religious system also has a human priesthood that, according to its teachings, is absolutely necessary for Christ’s atonement to be experienced and applied to individual people. As the book The Protestant Reformation and Its Influence, 1517-1917 explains:

The priesthood claimed the right of deciding the eternal destiny of every mortal man. This right was exercised through the sacraments, declared to be the necessary channels of grace and eternal life. Apart from these sacraments, it was taught, there can be no forgiveness of sins and no entrance into the fellowship of Christ; the priest alone has authority to administer them; moreover, his administration invariably makes them efficient (Church in the U.S.A., The Protestant Reformation and Its Influence, 1517-1917 (BiblioLife, 2015) pp. 9-10, emphasis added).

In other words, this imposing religious system has set up a counterfeit atonement with a counterfeit priesthood that obfuscates and replaces Christ’s High Priestly ministry in heaven’s temple.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Revelation 17:1,2,4. What colors does the woman wear? (Purple and scarlet.) What kinds of jewels does she have on? (Gold and precious stones and pearls.)

  • Read Exodus 28:1-5. What colors were used for the garments of the high priest? (Gold, purple, scarlet, and blue.) What color is missing from the harlot’s counterfeit priestly attire? (Blue.)

  • Read Numbers 15:37-41. What does the color blue represent, and what does this signify about the harlot of Revelation 17? (Blue represented the law of God, something that the harlot has forgotten and/or ignored. The law of God will be not only ignored but attacked in the devil’s counterfeit atonement at the end of time.)

  • Read Revelation 17:4. What else is the harlot wearing? (Gold and precious stones and pearls.)

  • Read Exodus 28:15-28. What was the high priest’s breastplate made of? (Precious stones and gold.)

  • Read Exodus 28:29,30. What did the breastplate represent? (The “judgment of the children of Israel.”) What do you think this means? (Answers will vary. The high priest was to have a deep regard and concern for the spiritual well being of Israel, and to serve as a mediator between them and God. In contrast, the harlot of Revelation 17 will be concerned only about herself [compare Revelation 18:7], and will even serve to help unite humanity with the dragon, or Satan [compare Revelation 18:2,3].)

  • Read Revelation 17:5. What is written on the harlot’s forehead?

  • Read Exodus 39:30. What was written on the mitre covering the forehead of the high priest? Comparing the writing on the high priest’s forehead with that on the harlot’s forehead, what should we understand about end-time Babylon and its goals?

  • Do you find any other points of similarity or contrast between the harlot of Revelation 17 and Israel’s priesthood as God set it up?

Tuesday and Wednesday (March 19 and 20): The Beast with Seven Heads

The beast of Revelation 17 shares a number of important characteristics with the sea beast of Revelation 13:

  • Both have seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 13:1; 17:3).

  • Both engage in blasphemy (Revelation 13:1,5,6; 17:3).

  • Both are involved in attacking God’s saints (Revelation 13:7; 17:6).

  • Both appear to die for a time, only to be “resurrected” (Revelation 13:3; 17:8).

  • The inhabitants of the earth wonder after both (Revelation 13:3; 17:8).

Because of these similarities, a number of commentators suggest that the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 represents especially the “revived” papal power at the end of time, after its recovery from its “deadly wound” in 1798 (Revelation 13:3). While every detail of this prophecy in Revelation 17 may not yet be clear—and it isn’t, as a variety of opinions exist as to its interpretation, even amongst Seventh-day Adventists—it is evident that the scarlet beast points in general to the same type of church-state union that dominated Europe during the middle ages. Only this time, at the end of time, this beast will exert global influence and control, at least for a short amount of time.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Revelation 17:12-13. What is implied in verse 13 where the 10 kings have “one mind” with the beast? Is this true unity being described, or something else? (Just as the enemies of Christ, though in some ways bitterly opposed to each other, united together to condemn the Savior, the same thing will occur at the end of time as the enemies of God unite temporarily to condemn His faithful saints.)

  • Read Revelation 17:14. What message of hope does this verse extend to those who will find themselves at odds with the beast and the 10 horns? (Their rebellion against God will be defeated by Jesus Christ.)

  • Read Revelation 17:17. What do you think it means that “God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will”? What would you identify as being the “words of God” that “shall be fulfilled”?

Thursday (March 21): The Judgment of Babylon

Revelation 18 describes the fall and destruction of Babylon. While God’s people can rejoice that this deadly system will eventually be destroyed, it is sobering to remember that its demise will bring with it the eternal ruin of many people. For this reason, Revelation 18 begins with an urgent message from heaven to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).

Discussion Questions:

  • What does it mean to “come out” of Babylon? What areas of our lives might be affected when we make a decision to obey God’s call?

  • Read Revelation 18:8. How suddenly does Babylon’s destruction come? (“In one day,” or very quickly.) What does this imply about the need to obey God’s call today?

  • Read Revelation 18:9. What do you think it means to “live deliciously” in Babylon?

  • Read Revelation 18:23. What does it mean that Babylon uses sorcery to deceive all nations?

  • Read Revelation 18:12-23. What evidence can you find in these verses that Babylon’s sorcery is aimed at people’s senses? (sight and touch—verse 12; taste and smell—verse 13; hearing—verse 22)

  • What should the warning about Babylon’s method of sorcery—deceptions aimed at the senses—mean for God’s people? (We must learn today to live by faith in the Word of God, not in reliance on what we can see or hear or in some other way experience.)

The book The Great Controversy contains an urgent warning for God’s people today:

Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all the testing time will come. By the sifting of temptation the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible and the Bible only? Satan will, if possible, prevent them from obtaining a preparation to stand in that day. He will so arrange affairs as to hedge up their way, entangle them with earthly treasures, cause them to carry a heavy, wearisome burden, that their hearts may be overcharged with the cares of this life and the day of trial may come upon them as a thief (GC 625.3, emphasis added).

Friday (March 22): God’s Prophetic Message

Revelation 18:4 contains God’s final message to a dying world, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

Discussion Questions:

  • What two reasons are given for coming out of Babylon? (Not participating in her sins and avoiding her plagues.) Which of these two reasons seems more important to you? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Revelation 10:7. What promise is given here regarding God’s end-time work for His people? (The “mystery of God” will be finished.)

  • Read Colossians 1:27. What is this mystery? (Christ in you, the hope of glory.) How is this connected with God’s call to come out of Babylon? (We can be filled either with the Spirit of Christ or with “devils” and “every foul spirit” [see Revelation 18:2], but not both.)

  • Read Revelation 10:7 again. Through whom has God declared this mysterious work? (His servants the prophets.)

  • Read several of the following passages by God’s Old Testament prophets: 1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11-17; Psalm 51:16,17; Amos 5:21,22; Micah 6:6-8; Malachi 2:1,8,9. What common theme do you see in these passages? (God’s purposes to break His people out of the sin-repentance cycle, and to give them victory over sin by enabling them to obey His commandments.) What is the difference, if there is any, between God’s purpose as expressed through these prophets, and as expressed in Revelation 18:4? (There is no real difference. God’s purpose in the plan of salvation has never changed.)

  • What evidence do you find in Revelation 18:1 that God’s end-time call to separate from sin will be heeded? (John sees the earth lightened with the glory of God as a mighty angel with great power comes down from heaven.) What hope does this give you in your life? (Answers will vary.)

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