The Adventists must be recognized for their contribution to theology in the area of Bible prophecy. Although I am not entirely in agreement with some of their prophecy positions, I can at least see a thread of consistency with the overall picture in prophetic word. In my attempt to arrive at a sound conclusion in Bible prophecy, I am always mindful of how it will affect the overall prophecy framework.
For instance, in Daniel chapter 2 you will see an overall picture of events from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the Second Coming. Whatever your conclusion in your analysis, it must be in harmony with that broad prophecy framework. Of all the views that I have heard and read on the mark of the beast issue I find the belief of the Seven-day Adventists to be more in keeping with this observation. That is not to say that I did not learn anything from other denominations.
Below I have outlined some of the points of convergence between what I have concluded in my research findings and the position of the Seven-day Adventist Church on Revelation 13. While these views are not the most popular in Christendom, I find it difficult to deny their validity in light of scriptural and historical evidences. They are as follows:
The papacy will rise again: This tenet of the Seven-day Adventist belief system on Bible prophecy is not difficult to accept. When we go to Daniel 7, for instance, we can plainly see a succession of world kingdoms leading up to the Second Coming. We see the reign of Babylon, followed by the Medes and Persians, succeeded by Greece, and then the final changeover is made to the kingdom of Rome. The kingdom of Rome is symbolized by what the Bible calls the great and terrible beast with ten horns.
The ten horns represent the ten kingdoms into which the fourth kingdom was divided. The little horn that came up afterwards represents the rule of the papacy. After the Roman Empire was fragmented into ten divisions, the city of Rome became the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome (the pope). The three horns that were plucked up by the little horn represent the three kingdoms that were ousted for their refusal to assent to papal dogmas.
The most conclusive evidence that the papacy will rise again in the last days is brought to the fore when the Bible predicted that this same little horn will be destroyed and given to the burning flames at the Second Coming of Christ. If this little horn is the papacy, then it must rise again in the latter days in order for it to face this fiery destruction.
The mark of the beast will involve the Sabbath/Sunday issue: When I consider a text like Revelation 13:8 where it is said that all that dwell upon the earth shall worship the beast who are not written in the book of life, it is difficult for me to envision such a scenario without seeing how it will significantly affect the worship issue. In other words, it can hardly be business as usual where the present religious order is concerned; for this prophecy to be fulfilled the way it is predicted a new worship scheme will have to be in place.
At the centre of the present religious arrangement are two major days of worship – Sabbath and Sunday. We don’t need to be an Adventist in order to at least see clearly that both Sabbath and Sunday keepers will not be aloof of the activities of the beast if they are to affect us on a global scale.
A worldwide Sunday Law will be enacted: Many would frown at this position on the basis that it is not mentioned in the scriptures. But while we will not see a mention of the phrase in the Bible, it does not mean that it is unscriptural. The question we need to ask ourselves is, do we have anything in the Bible to warrant such a deduction?
From my research on this end-time issue I have no choice but to conclude that there is at least the strong probability of it happening. We do not need to be in agreement with Adventist beliefs for us to see that if the man of sin will both oppose and exalt himself above all that is called god and all that is worshipped, and that all who refuse to worship the image of the beast will be killed, then it must be a case where the worship of the beast will be enforced by law.
Having established that the papacy is that little horn of Daniel 7, and hence the beast of Revelation 13, it is only reasonable for us to conclude that like they did during their medieval reign of the Middle Ages, the papacy will again enact a Sunday law in the future. And, by the way, did not the papacy claims Sunday observance to be the mark of their authority? Thus, we can conclude that whenever the worldwide authority of Papal Rome is re-established, it will, of necessity, be accompanied by the benchmark of their authority – Sunday sacredness.
The final warning against the mark of the beast will be preached by Sabbath keepers: Since it is declared in Revelation 12:17 that the Devil will make war with the saints that keep the commandments of God, it is not difficult to see the logic behind this Adventist idea. Only Sabbath keepers are associated with the commandment of God and if they are the ones that Satan will fight against, then it must be an indication that these are the people who are actively campaigning against him, exposing his conspiracy to introduce the mark of the beast system.
The three angels’ message of Revelation 14 is supposed to be the final message to be proclaimed to the world before the world ends. Interestingly, at the end of the third angel’s message the following statement is recorded: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Rev. 14:12
Just like how the disciples of Christ alone, and not the unbelieving Jews, could have preached the gospel in there time, on account of their belief in Christ, only Sabbath keepers will be able to warn people against taking the mark of the beast on account of their association with the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. However, to say that it will be done by a particular denomination is an overstatement.
I am currently engaged in an ongoing independent research on the mark of the beast issue. I believe that the Adventists must do the same and not yield to the temptation to sit on the high horse of doctrinal self-sufficiency, assuming that every tenet of their belief system is without fault.