Another passaage that needed to be examined from my perspective as an Adventist was Revelation 12:17. This is the verse, along with other related passages in the Apocalypse I mentioned earlier, that has great eschatological significance for Seventh-day Adventists. It forms the basis for their identification of themselves as the one and only true church of the last days. The focus of their eschatological claim’s centers on Sabbath observance as the identifying mark of the “remnant” church. In the ancient near eastern covenants, the sign or seal of a covenant or agreement was found in the segment of the document that identified the ruling party or suzerain, their position of authority, and their rights as such. It also stated what was expected of the subject party and what would be the outward sign of obedience or loyalty to the suzerain. The Old Covenant, like other ancient near eastern documents, followed this format, and the Sabbath was clearly this sign or seal of the Ten Commandments. It stated that God as Creator was the authority figure, and the subjects were to remember this by keeping the Sabbath. Exodus 31:12-18 clearly states that the Sabbath was the sign of the Covenant, to ignore this sign was seen as disloyalty to God and punishable by death. See foot note #1

It is because of this Old Covenant Sabbath law that the Adventist Church declares that the “Seal of God” is still the seventh-day Sabbath in the New Covenant. No discontinuance of the Old Covenant is recognized. Their Old Covenant eyeglasses make this interpretation of Revelation particularly exclusive and behavioral in nature. Furthermore, they take the 1260-day prophecies of Revelation 12-13 (the passage that refers to the mark of the beast) to be literal years and attribute these years to the time period of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They believe that the Catholic Church attempted to change the Sabbath to Sunday. This “beast power” (interpreted to be the Catholic Church) along with all Protestants that insist on Sunday worship, will one day force all people to observe Sunday instead of Sabbath. See foot note #2

They view this to be in direct rebellion against the Covenant sign or Seal of God, the Sabbath. The resulting false worship will become the mark of the beast, and only Sabbath keepers will receive the “Seal of God.” Therefore, Adventists believe and teach in their Revelation Seminars and Prophecy Crusades, that Sabbath observance is the final test of loyalty to God for all mankind. They emphasize Revelation 12:17 as their identity test because it describes the remnant church as keeping the commandments of God (Sabbath observance) and having the testimony of Jesus (Ellen G. White’s prophecies). There are numerous problems with this conclusion. But we will just look at the two that truly opened my eyes as I studied with the New Covenant glasses on.

First, the New Testament does not anywhere call the Sabbath the Seal of God. In deciphering the meaning of Revelation, I needed to do so from a New Covenant perspective rather than the Old. It soon became clear that the Seal of God in the New Testament is not the Sabbath at all. In fact, the New Testament Scriptures are clear. The Seal of God is the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 1 we read,


Ephesians 1:13–14 (KJV) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 4:30-32 restates it this way:

Ephesians 4:30–32 (KJV) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 uses the same imagery:

2 Corinthians 1:20–22 (KJV) For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. 21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

To ignore these clear statements is to ignore what the New Testament plainly teaches. Revelation must be interpreted from the perspective of the Cross and the New Covenant. To insist on the Old Covenant definitions is to do injustice to the text.

Secondly, the word John uses for commandments (entolé in Greek) is never used in John’s writings to refer to the Ten Commandments. When John is speaking of the law in general, or the Ten Commandments in particular, he always uses the Greek word nomos for law. When John uses entolé he does so in conjunction with the instructions of Jesus for practical love of one another. He never breaks this pattern. See foot note below #3

So, Revelation 12:17 is not speaking about the Old Covenant Ten Commandments at all. We must be consistent in translating John’s writings if we wish to arrive at his intended meaning. It became apparent to me that the SDA position had not only ignored the context of the New Testament for the Seal of God, but had missed the consistent use of the Greek language by the writer John. With this pattern clearly in mind, Revelation 12:17 is properly translated into English (in harmony with John’s use of entolé) “those who truly love one another and are telling the world about Jesus.” To translate it to mean the observance of law, specifically Sabbath observance, is reading into the text preconceived ideas, rather than letting the text speak for itself. The Holy Spirit according to John 13-16 is another Comforter. He lives in us and guides us. He is the indwelling Jesus in our lives. The Seal of God in the last days represents those who have a daily personal walk with Jesus through the agency of the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be sealed. When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by receiving Jesus, we enter the daily rest experience of God’s amazing grace. This is the same message as found in Hebrews 3-4. When we are resting in Jesus today and every day, He is our Sabbath. The Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance! (Eph. 4:14) In short, the Seal of God is Jesus living in us through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

The “mark of the beast,” in contrast, would be for those who choose to not believe, or refuse to accept the gift of grace, refuse to rest in Jesus, and choose rather to depend on another way. Those who choose to depend on their own works instead of trusting in God’s only Son will receive the “mark of the beast.”

Foot note #1 Ibid. p. 27-28.

Foot note #2 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 605 See also Testimonies for the Church Vol. 8, p. 117.

Foot note #3 Dale Ratzlaff, Sabbath in Crisis (Glendale, AZ, 1990) pp 310-311.