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Questions On Doctrine


Historic Concept of the Mark of the Beast



Why do Adventists differ from other Christians in connecting the mark of the beast with the Sabbath issue? And why do you put so much emphasis on this question?


Seventh-day Adventists believe that Bible prophecies predict a resurgence of papal power, with legal enforcement of its mark of authority, in the last days. That, we understand, is when the "mark of the beast" will be imposed—in connection with the last great religious crisis affecting all mankind (Rev. 13:16, 17). That is why Seventh-day Adventists have such deep convictions concerning the Sabbath as a coming test.

First, we are not alone in our deep convictions concerning the Sabbath. Numerous Baptist scholars, back in the seventeenth century, were so concerned over this question of the Sabbath that, after painstaking investigation, they founded the Seventh Day Baptist Church, not a few suffering imprisonment for their faith.

Nor are we either isolated or unique in connecting the mark with some form of subserviency to the Papacy, of submission to its powers, laws, pressures, and mandates. We find Christian scholars of various lands and


races who studied and wrote on the question. For centuries Christians pondered this coming mark, and had inklings of its intent. Note them:

From the time of Wycliffe's associate, John Purvey, onward, men have felt that the mark of the beast had to do with the Papacy, and pertained to papal power and decrees. Andreas Osiander (died 1552), Reformation pastor at Nurnberg, said that it was subserviency to the Papacy. Luther's associate, Nikolaus von Amsdorf (died 1565), of Magdeburg, thought it had to do with enforced papal ceremonies and decrees

Heinrich Bullinger (died 1575), Zwingli's successor at Zurich, took it to be the Papacy's excommunicating power. Bishop Nicholas Ridley, of England (martyred in 1555), declared it involved allegiance to the beast. Scottish mathematician Sir John Napier (died 1617) defined it as a profession of obedience to Rome. Pietist Johann Lucius (died 1686) believed it to be the confession of the Roman religion. And Sir Isaac Newton (died 1727) placed the mark of the beast and the seal of God in contrast.

In Colonial America, Puritan theocrat John Cotton (died 1652) believed that those who receive the mark of the beast are the ones who receive their orders from the Church of Rome. Congregationalist Edward Holyoke (died 1660) defined it as yielding to the pope's law. Back again in England, Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller (died 1815) placed the mark of the beast and the seal of God in opposition. And to American Presbyterian minister Robert Reid (died 1844) it was submission to Roman error. Such are samplings of the historic applications of scholars covering five hundred


years.. (All are discussed in LeRoy Edwin Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vols. 2 and 3.) None of these expositors, of the centuries past, applied the mark of the beast specifically to the Sabbath issue, but they did connect it with the Papacy.

Sabbatarian Adventists all recognize that the Sabbath was not a test in centuries past, but believe the restoration of the Sabbath to be part of the last great revival of neglected and forsaken apostolic truths—a part that will be given emphasis in connection with God's last message in preparation of a people to meet their returning Lord.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the prophecies of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, relating to the beast, refer particularly to the Papacy, and that the activities and future persecuting power will come into sharp focus just before the return of our Lord in glory. It is our understanding that the Sabbath will then become a worldwide test.

Thus it was that the Adventist heralds of Sabbath reform came to make a further logical application of the mark of the beast—holding it to be, in essence, the attempted change of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment of the Decalogue by the Papacy, its endeavor to impose this change on Christendom, and the acceptance of the Papacy's substitute by individuals. We believe that in the end of time, in the light of clear divine prohibition, all men will be brought face to face with a decision to accept or reject Sunday observance. (See Question 19, "When the Mark Will Be Received.")


That the Roman Catholic Church claims the change as a mark of her authority can be seen from the following excerpts from her catechisms. Thus Henry Tuberville, of Douay College, France, in An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine (1649), page 58, three centuries ago, stated the Catholic case:

Q. How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holydays?

A. By the very act of changing the sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church.

Stephen Keenan, in A Doctrinal Catechism (1865), page 174, approved by Archbishop John Hughes of New York, made a similar assertion: 

Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?

A. 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.

Peter Geiermann, in The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (1910 ed.), page 50, repeats the claim

Q. Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?

A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday.

Q. By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?

A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her.

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