As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, a central tenet of our theology is the message of the three angels found in Revelation 14. In light of current world events, many Adventists are experiencing feelings of fear, doubt or discouragement toward the end times. Recognizing this, Ganoune Diop, director of public affairs and religious freedom for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, gave a special presentation at Wednesday’s Annual Council meeting, challenging church members to assess their own theological misconceptions and reframe Revelation as a message of hope, rather than weaponizing it as one of judgment or fear.
The Annual Council is a yearly meeting of the Adventist Church’s Executive Committee, the denomination's second highest governing body. This year were held both online and in person, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“God has raised the Seventh-day Adventist movement to bring a message of hope to the whole world before the second coming of Jesus Christ!” he encouraged.
He began his presentation by outlining the current global state of affairs, including the COVID health crisis, climate crisis, global economic and geopolitical crisis, the migration and displacement crisis, issues of racism, discrimination, and crimes against humanity, as well as food insecurity and water shortages. While this outline affirmed that it is natural for people to be afraid, he made it clear that fear is not necessary.
“These crises are something we can go through, confident that Jesus is with us,” he said, confidently. “This is why He says to the church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3:10, ‘I will keep you from the hour of trial.’”
“There is also another cosmic crisis . . . expressed in the book of Revelation through apocalyptic language, but in the New Testament through plain language,” he continued.
Focusing then on the “cosmic crisis” unfolding in Revelation chapter 5, Diop highlighted how Jesus—the Lion of Judah and the Lamb that was slain—is the only one worthy to open the scroll (verse 5). Further, symbolism of the Lamb having “seven horns and seven eyes” (verse 6) indicates Jesus’ omnipotence and omniscience. This truth should give us hope.
“Here we see there is worship and praises of celebration because the Lamb has conquered!” declared Diop. “Salvation includes the reversal of despair, resolution of the cosmic crisis, restoration of God’s kingdom, restitution of priestly dignity and function, the reinstatement of kings, and the reunion of our cosmic family.”
Diop says that understanding the hope embedded in chapter 5 should inform our understanding of chapter 14—what he describes as the “heart of Revelation”.
“Even a cursory assessment of its context reveals the following themes,” he began. “Creation, redemption, judgment, the defeat of Satan, the demise of persecutors and oppressors of God’s people, a blessing from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the protection and sealing of God’s people, the commandments of God . . . an eschatological exodus, judgment, a day of atonement, even the final feast of tabernacles. All this in Revelation 14 alone!”
Expanding on some of these themes, Diop explained how all of this is couched in a message of hope. “There is joy in this chapter! It’s the first vision of the 144,000 celebration! This proves that God’s mission will succeed, there will be redemption for all nations, tribes and peoples! We need not be afraid.”
He then warned viewers how adopting an attitude of fear can warp Adventist theology, eschatology and behavior, especially around hot topics like the mark of the beast or the seal of God, causing Adventists to become unloving and judgmental.
“Those who confuse future events with current reality dismiss relationships with other Christians, for example, as unnecessary and useless. They conflate other Christians with future enemies and act as if their destiny is already sealed, and further, that the mark of the beast is already fixed on those who don’t keep the Biblical Sabbath. This fundamental hermeneutical fallacy clouds their thinking as to faith, hope and love.”
Ellen White’s consistent teaching on the mark of the beast makes the situation very clear, when she says:
“No one has yet received the mark of the beast. The testing time has not yet come. There are true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion. None are condemned until they have had the light and have seen the obligation of the fourth commandment. But when the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit Sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast” (Evangelism, 234).
Furthermore, her teaching on the seal of God is as follows:
“Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven” (Testimonies for the Church 5:216).
By highlighting these passages, Diop emphasised that everything he was saying is “really deeply about the sovereignty and sufficiency, and the sealing and sanctifying activities of God”, and that attempting to earn our salvation or predict the future goes against this principle.
“When the angels cast from heaven invaded planet earth, they came here to sabotage and dehumanise people created in the image of God,” he said. “The Spirit of God does the opposite. In the end times, the demons will use any means to sever the bond between God and those created in God’s image.”
Satan’s motivation to sever this bond between Christ and his followers is so strong that in Revelation 12-13, “Satan determined to destroy Christ and thus prevent salvation from becoming a reality, to eradicate all signs from pointing to Christ,” said Diop.
He continued, “In Revelation 13, it describes how Satan pursues Christians through persecution and deception and even succeeds in defeating many—the martyrs of Revelation 13:7. In chapter 13, Satan uses political and religious entities to make them his allies, to persecute and alienate the saints, and produce counterfeit trinities and entities trying to mimic and usurp God’s authority.”
As Ellen White says in Testimonies to the Church 9:11:
“The agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.”
Despite these difficulties, Diop encouraged viewers that if the bond between Christ and his followers is strong, that Satan has no power. By developing a personal relationship with Christ and focussing on Him wholeheartedly, distractions—whether on a small scale or in the global, geopolitical arena—can be muted, and fear eradicated.
“Regardless of the circumstances, we can bring a message of hope, but not only that. We must also believe this message,” he urged. “There is more to Revelation 14 than meets the eye. May we all as Adventists go throughout all the world and share that hope is coming—and that Jesus is our hope.”