FEARFUL is the issue to which the whole world is soon to be brought. Soon every man on the earth will face his most critical hour. To every person living will "come the moment to decide; in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side." Then it will be clear that there are only two momentous alternatives. Each will be forced to decide between the immediate wrath of men and the impending wrath of God. He must choose in that hour between the threat of economic boycott and death or the immediate judgments of Heaven.
On the one hand is heard the voice of the dragon:
He had power to . . . cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: . . . 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. 13:15-17).
On the other hand is heard the voice of the angel saying:
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 (chap. 14:0, 10).
I saw . . 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 (chap. 15:2).
I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God (verse 1).
The first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image (chap. 16:2).
There is no more solemn warning in all the Bible than the one the world is now confronted with in the foregoing Scripture. Surely the Lord has not left us without adequate clues to search out and find the meaning of this mysterious mark of which the world is both threatened to receive and warned to reject.
It is very obvious in the beginning of our search that this mark is a conflict over the commandments of God for, as God issues the warning that all should decisively reject the mark, He explains, "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (chap. 14:12, R.S.V.).
Though this final conflict is wider in extent and of greater intensity, it is not the first time a contest has arisen over the commandments of men and the commandments of God. In ancient Babylon the crisis focused upon the second commandment of the Decalogue. In the kingdom of the Medes and Persians it was a conflict over the first. During the supremacy of the Greeks it was over the third commandment.
To discover which of the Ten Commandments the last warfare shall center upon, we must focus our attention upon the setting of this final warning message given to the world, and this last call of endurance given to "the saints."
Our investigation reveals that the warning is part of a threefold message symbolized by three angels flying through the midst of heaven declaring, 'The hour of his [God's] judgment is come" (verse 7). Though it is a special modern message, it is not in the setting of a new or a modern or a social gospel. Based on the platform of eternal truth, "the everlasting gospel," this pertinent appeal, using every device of modern communication, is universally given to prepare "the harvest of the earth" for the return of the Son of man who shall gather His wheat in His garner while the gory grapes He shall cast away "into the great winepress of the wrath of God" (verse 19).
First Four Commandments
First we note that this special call of preparation for the hour of God's judgment focuses upon the first table of the law, the first four commandments that have to do with man's obligation to God, for it is a call to "worship." Since the first three commandments are negative, "Thou shalt not," and this call in Revelation is a positive command to "worship him," we may conclude that it applies to the fourth, which is the first positively initiated command of the ten, and the only one claiming allegiance to the Creator.
Next, we observe that the angel in sounding the call to worship, uses the exact language of the fourth commandment, "Worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea" (verse 7).
It is, therefore, impossible for us to escape the obvious conclusion that it is over this Sabbath commandment that the last great conflict is soon to be fought. A counterfeit Sabbath undeniably constitutes the mark of the beast's boasted authority to "change times and laws" (Dan. 7:25).
At the very time when God is calling men everywhere (Rev. 6:7; Isa. 58:12-14) to honor the memorial of His creative work (Ex. 31:17), the sign of His redemptive power (verse 13), the dragon is bent on exalting the mark of his rebellion against the kingdom of heaven. As God calls men to "remember" (chap. 20:8-11) that which the devil has led them to forget, the dragon begins to speak in legislative halls and judicial assemblies that they should force men to observe the mark of his apostasy.
Though this conflict over the day of worship reaches its climax in time's last hour, history testifies that Satan's subtle substitution of another day for the Creator's was first practiced in the pagan world and only gradually was brought into Christian circles in the early centuries of the church of Christ. Hutton Webster, pointing this out, says:
The early Christians had at first adopted the Jewish seven-day week with its numbered weekdays, but by the close of the third century (A.D. 4) this began to give way to the planetary week; and in the fourth and fifth centuries the pagan designations became generally accepted in the western half of Christendom. The use of planetary names by Christians attests the growing influence of astrological speculations introduced by converts from paganism. —Rest Days, p. 20. Copyright 1916, by the Macmillan Company, New York.
During these same centuries the spread of Oriental solar worship, especially that of Mithra, in the Roman world, had already led to the substitution by pagans of Dies Solis for Dies Saturni, as the first day of the planetary week. . . , Thus gradually a pagan institution was engrafted on Christianity.—Ibid., p. 221.
Franz Cumont, in his monumental work on Mithraism, records that these worshipers of Mithra held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the 25th day of December.—The Mysteries of Mithra, trans. by Thomas J. McCormack (reprint; New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1956), p. 191.
Each day in the week, the Planet to which the day was sacred was invoked in a fixed spot in the crypt; and Sunday, over which the Sun presided, was especially holy.—Ibid., p. 167.
Speaking of this demonstrated vigor and popularity of this cult as evidenced in its influence upon the pagan converts to Christianity to accept the day of the Sun as the day of worship, another scholar writes:
Concerning the power of the Mithras cult we still have evidence in the fact that it is not the Jewish Sabbath that is the sacred week-day, which Christianity, coming out of Judaism, had nearest at hand, but Sunday, dedicated to the Sun-god Mithras.H. LAMAR, "Mithras," Worterbuch der Antike (2d ed.; Leipzig: A. Kroner, 1933).
H. G. Wells, in his Outline of History, observing the syncretization that went on between paganism and Christianity, wrote:
During this indefinite time [the first and second centuries] a considerable amount of a sort of theocrasia seems to have gone on between the Christian cult and the almost equally popular and widely diffused Mithraic cult, and cult of Serapis-Isis-Horus. From the former it would seem the Christians adopted Sun-day as their chief day of worship instead of the Jewish Sabbath.—The Outline of History, pp. 512, 513. Copyright 1920 and 1921 by the Macmillan Company, New York and by H. G. Wells.
In Sunday School lesson helps for October, 1943, a Presbyterian writer, John C. Siler, acknowledging the influence of paganism in this gradual change from the Bible Sabbath to Sundaykeeping, says:
The change from the seventh to the first day of the week as a Christian Sabbath was a rather slow development. . . . It is very probable that the first Christians observed both days. However, there would seem to be indications that out in the Gentile world the converts to Christianity from among the Jews kept the Hebrew Sabbath, while those from paganism kept the first day of the week.—"Jesus and the Sabbath," The Earnest Worker, 74, October, 1943, pp. 609, 610.
It was in the year 321 that we find from paganism a new supporter of the church, Emperor Constantine, lending his influence to this growing practice of Sunday-keeping on the part of "converts" from heathenism, by passing the first Sunday law, which reads in part:
On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.—Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in PHILIP SCHAFF, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3 (5th ed.; New York, Scribner, 1902), p. 380, note 1.
A generation or so later the church herself begins to speak "as a dragon" on this matter at the Council of Laodicea as she threatens to persecute as judaizers those who would keep the seventh day:
Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord's day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.—Council of Laodicea, Can. 29, trans. in CHARLES JOSEPH HEFELE, A History of the Christian Councils, vol. 2, trans. and ed. by H. N. Oxenham (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1896), p. 316.
Thus it is demonstrated that—the keeping of the Sunday rest arose from the custom of the people and the constitution of the Church.—VINCENT J KELLEY, Forbidden Sunday and Feast-Day Occupations, p. 203. Copyright 1943, by the Catholic University Press, Washington.
According to the last prophet of the New Testament, that which came into the Christian church as pure tradition, unfounded in Scripture but in fulfillment of the prediction of Daniel 7:25, shall come into sharp focus in the closing hours of creature rebellion against the government of God.
"And he causeth all . . . to receive a mark . . . of the beast" (Rev. 13:16, 17). The issue between this day, "the acknowledged off-spring of the Catholic Church" (editorial in The Catholic Mirror, Sept. 23, 1893), and the day upon which Christ rested becomes a life-and-death struggle.
She boasts that this change of the day for worship from Saturday to Sunday is one of the most patent signs of her power. In a letter written for Cardinal Gibbons by his chancellor, November 11, 1895, we note:
Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act. It could not have been otherwise as- none in those days would have dreamed of doing anything in matters spiritual and ecclesiasical and religious without her. And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical authority in religious things—Quoted by Charles T. Everson, in The Last Warning Message and Other Bible Lectures, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, California, 1929, p. 102.
Louis Gaston de Segur, in Plain Talk About the Protestantism of Today said, "The observance of Sunday by Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] Church."—Page 225 (Boston: Patrick Donahoe, 1868).
Another Catholic writer, in answering the question as to how it could be proved that the church had power to change laws contrary to the Bible, said:
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.—STEPHEN KEENAN, A Doctrinal Catechism (3d American Ed., rev.; New York: T. W. Strong, late Edward Dunigan 8e Bro., 1867), p. 174.
The world shall be called to decide between these two authorities, the authority of the Bible and the authority of tradition. Every individual must decide whether to bow in submission to the claims of the beast or the claims of the Lord. Each must choose between the threats of Revelation 13 and the warnings of Revelation 14. Every official of government must decide between the spirit of the dragon and the spirit of the Lamb. He must either serve as an agent of Satan or become a target of his wrath.
We stand on the threshold of the fulfillment of these solemn prophecies. The present widespread agitation for the enforcement of Sunday observance by the state, though often disguised as a mere healthand-welfare measure, is but the forerunner of a great religious conflict between the dragon and the Lamb, between the commandments of God and the commandments of men that shall develop into violent persecution against those who refuse to receive the mark of the beast. This conflict will climax with the return of Christ for His own, "who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12, R.S.V.).
"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (chap. 22:20).