Going back in time a half dozen centuries before the birth of Christ, a proud monarch named Nebuchadnezzar ordered a gigantic statue made all of gold to be erected on the plain of Dura in the kingdom of Babylon. It was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide! To the heathen idol worshippers this golden image was unequaled in its dazzling beauty and magnificence.

On the appointed day, a vast multitude of the most distinguished people of the empire were to assemble to worship this metallic idol. At the specific command of the king, when the band began to play, the vast assemblage of people were to fall down and worship the golden god. The penalty for refusing to do so was death in the fiery furnace. It was not surprising, then, that no one violated the government orders–no one, that is, except three young Hebrew men. They did not bow down, for they would not transgress the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” Exodus 20:4, 5.

As a consequence of their unwavering faithfulness to God, they were cast into the furnace that had been heated seven times hotter than usual. But what happened? A miracle! The king said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Daniel 3:25. What an amazing experience! God saved the young men from certain death. He was with them in the flames.

“Important are the lessons to be learned from the experience of the Hebrew youth on the plain of Dura. In this our day, many of God’s servants, though innocent of wrongdoing, will be given over to suffer humiliation and abuse at the hands of those who, inspired by Satan, are filled with envy and religious bigotry. Especially will the wrath of man be aroused against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and at last a universal decree will denounce these as deserving of death.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 512.

According to Bible prophecy, the greatest crisis in the history of this world is just ahead. A decree will be issued by the world’s governments threatening economic suspension and death to all who refuse to worship the image of the beast. The following prophetic words will soon become a reality: “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and 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: And 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.” Revelation 13:15-17.

There is no getting around it. Every person living during this earth’s last hours will have to decide whether to obey God or another power. Those who pay homage to the beast and his image will be judged by God and receive the seven last plagues. In Revelation 14:9, 10, we read: “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;…”

This is a matter of life and death. We must know exactly what this mark is and how to avoid it!

The mark of the beast is opposed to the seal of God. Revelation 7:2, 3, says that that the seal of God is placed in the forehead, just as the mark of the beast is set in the forehead or right hand. Now we ask, what is God’s seal? If we can define and establish this point, it will help us identify the mark.

In His word, God tells what His sign or seal is: “Moreover also I gave them My sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:12. Here the Sabbath is called God’s sign. Is that the same as His seal? Romans 4:11 reveals that “seal” and “sign” are often used synonymously in the Scripture: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet uncircumcised:…”

God said that the Sabbath is His sign or mark of authority. What does the beast say is the mark of its authority? Consider the words of C.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons, in answer to a letter regarding the change of the Sabbath. “Of course, the Catholic church claims that the change was her act. And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters.”

It is incredible that the majority of Christendom accepts and follows the tradition of a manmade institution! Does anyone today have the mark of the beast? No! But the mark of the beast will be enforced soon. Therefore, in mercy, God sends a final warning to prepare people for the coming crisis. The issue of the conflict will be whether to obey God or a manmade law. In Revelation 14:9-11 is the most solemn warning ever given to mankind: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 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 in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”

The mark of the beast will not be received until it is enforced by the two-horned beast of Revelation 13– America. The United States will become a persecuting power that will pass a national Sunday law. This act will incite other nations to follow suit. The Bible says, “… And all the world wondered after the beast.” Revelation 13:3. The whole world, with the exception of a tiny minority of faithful people, will observe Sunday, the child of the papacy. Those who refuse to obey the Sunday law will be accused of law breaking and of working against the state.

For this situation to develop, the Constitution of the United States must be altered or completely abandoned. How is this possible in a land of freedom? One way is to call for a Constitutional Convention. It takes 34 states to request such a convention. As of now, 33 states are in favor of it. In addition to the movement to bring about specific changes in the Constitution, there are groups such as the Moral Majority Coalition, the New Liberty Federation, and the Lord’s Day Alliance that have been advocating Sunday laws. The undercurrent of these voices is moving rapidly to achieve a desired goal–to get people into church on Sunday.

Such a law will be seen by many to be the solution to the moral problems facing the world. “It will be declared that the nation is offending God by the violation of the Sunday-Sabbath, that this sin has brought calamities which will not cease until Sunday observance shall be strictly enforced, and that those who present the claims of the fourth commandment, thus destroying reverence for Sunday, are troublers of the nation, preventing its restoration to divine favor and temporal prosperity.” –The Great Controversy, p. 408 (1844 ed.).

According to Revelation 13:11 -16, the Protestant churches of America will be instrumental in exalting the papal sabbath (Sunday) and waging war against those who keep holy the seventh-day Sabbath.

Yes, religious freedom will be taken away. Persecution will raise its ugly head again. “The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.” –The Great Controversy, p. 588.

The ecumenical movement is taking giant steps to achieve full unity among the churches. Consider for a moment the historic event that occurred in October 1986. “Carrying olive branches and offering prayers, Pope John Paul II and the representatives of the world’s religions, including a Crow Indian medicine man from Montana and an African animist witch doctor, pledged Monday to work for peace.

“As 60 religious leaders joined the Pope in this picturesque medieval hill town, where St. Francis preached 700 years ago, governments and rebels throughout the world put down their arms briefly in response to a papal call for a cease-fire and a day of prayer. Reflections were also offered at the retreat center by representatives of the Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Baha’i, Sikh, Christian and native American faiths, Mormon and Quaker leaders were also involved in the day’s events.” –Los Angeles Times, October 26, 1986.

Once again, we read the words of Revelation 13:3: “… And all the world wondered after the beast.” This unity of the churches will lead to persecution, the mark of the beast, and a stupendous crisis in the world.

Another article appeared in the New York Post on Monday, April 14, 1986. The headline read: “N.Y. Jews, Catholics, Hail Pope’s Synagogue Visit.” The article said that Cardinal John O’Connor called the Pope’s action “an historic move of indescribable importance.”

And Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the papal priority for a commitment to ecumenism that calls for “not only words but concrete gestures.” In the Italian city of Bari, celebrating Mass to close the 24th Eucharistic Congress before 200,000 faithful, the Pope defined Sunday as a necessary instrument to leave the desert of ‘frenetic consumerism, religious indifference and secularism which is closed to transcendence.’” –AsiaNews.it, May 29, 2005.

Should not these events open our eyes and alert us to what will soon come upon the world? No matter which way you look, a great crisis is building around the world. This global conflict will be like nothing anyone has ever experienced before.

According to Bible prophecy, the United States will be the primary force pushing for legislation that will cause everyone to worship the beast. Then the world will unite against all who refuse to comply with such laws.

The world is rapidly confederating under one of two masters. While ecumenism draws one bloc to Satan, the other group unites those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. With this in mind, let us determine to obey God and keep His holy Sabbath now and in the coming crisis!

By Henry Dering

Source: Sabbath Watchman