1. THE SEALING WORK
a. What must be done before the winds of contention are allowed to blow? Revelation 7:1, 3 (compare Daniel 7:2; Jeremiah 25:32). What will happen when these “winds” are released? 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.
“John sees the elements of nature—earthquake, tempest, and political strife—represented as being held by four angels. These winds are under control until God gives the word to let them go. . . . [The] mightiest of angels has in his hand the seal of the living God, or of Him who alone can give life, who can inscribe upon the foreheads the mark or inscription, to whom shall be granted immortality, eternal life.”—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 444, 445.
b. How do we know that the time of probation, in which sinners are invited to turn to the Lord, will not be extended forever? Luke 13:23–25; 17:28–30; Jeremiah 8:20. What evidence shows that the sealing work must be completed before the plagues begin to fall at the final close of probation? Revelation 22:11.
2. AN OPENED DOOR
a. When was the door of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary opened? Revelation 3:7, 8; 11:19; Daniel 8:14.
“The time for the commandments of God to shine out with all their importance, and for God’s people to be tried on the Sabbath truth, was when the door was opened in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary, where the ark is, in which are contained the ten commandments. This door was not opened until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the holy place of the sanctuary in 1844. Then Jesus rose up and shut the door of the holy place, and opened the door into the most holy, and passed within the second veil, where He now stands by the ark, and where the faith of Israel now reaches.”—Early Writings, p. 42.
b. Since the Sabbath has been revealed as a part of the law of God, and since the Day of Atonement clearly identifies obedience to that selfsame law, has the Sabbath been a test since 1844, or are we to wait for a future Sabbath test? Acts 17:30; John 15:22.
“The present test on the Sabbath could not come until the mediation of Jesus in the holy place was finished and He had passed within the second veil; therefore Christians who fell asleep before the door was opened into the most holy, when the midnight cry was finished, at the seventh month, 1844, and who had not kept the true Sabbath, now rest in hope; for they had not the light and the test on the Sabbath which we now have since that door was opened. I saw that Satan was tempting some of God’s people on this point. Because so many good Christians have fallen asleep in the triumphs of faith and have not kept the true Sabbath, [some] were doubting about its being a test for us now.”—Ibid., pp. 42, 43.
“Satan was trying his every art to hold [these] where they were, until the sealing was past, until the covering was drawn over God’s people, and they left without a shelter from the burning wrath of God, in the seven last plagues. God has begun to draw this covering over His people, and it will soon be drawn over all who are to have a shelter in the day of slaughter.”—Ibid., p. 44.
3. THE THIRD ANGEL’S MESSAGE
a. How does prophecy describe the restoration of the Lord’s Sabbath and the work of the sealing angel? Isaiah 56:1, 2, 6; 58:12, 13; Ezekiel 9:1–11; Revelation 14:9–12. Those who are preparing to receive the seal of God, what will be their attitude toward sin in the congregation?
“This sealing of the servants of God is the same that was shown to Ezekiel in vision.”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 445.
“Who are standing in the counsel of God at this time? Is it those who virtually excuse wrongs among the professed people of God and who murmur in their hearts, if not openly, against those who would reprove sin? Is it those who take their stand against them and sympathize with those who commit wrong? No, indeed! Unless they repent, and leave the work of Satan in oppressing those who have the burden of the work and in holding up the hands of sinners in Zion, they will never receive the mark of God’s sealing approval.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 267.
“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people.”—Ibid., p. 266.
b. Although many will be saved without the knowledge of the Sabbath truth, can believers in the third angel’s message be sealed without being tested on the commandments of God and the Sabbath? Ezekiel 20:12, 16, 19, 20; Revelation 12:17; 14:12.
“Those who would have the seal of God in their foreheads must keep the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. This is what distinguishes them from the disloyal, who have accepted a man-made institution in the place of the true Sabbath. The observance of God’s rest day is the mark of distinction between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 970.
4. THE FINAL ISSUE
a. Since the light of present truth began to shine, focusing the attention of God’s people on the heavenly sanctuary, the law of God, and the Sabbath (Revelation 11:19), can we as believers in the three angels’ message be saved without having the seal of God? James 4:17.
“Only those who receive the seal of the living God will have the passport through the gates of the Holy City.”—The SDA Bible Commentary, [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 970.
“Those who reveal the meek and lowly spirit of Christ are tenderly regarded by God. They may be looked upon with scorn by the world, but they are of great value in His sight. Not only the wise, the great, the beneficent, will gain a passport to the heavenly courts; not only the busy worker, full of zeal and restless activity. No; the poor in spirit, who crave the presence of an abiding Christ, the humble in heart, whose highest ambition is to do God's will—these will gain an abundant entrance. They will be among that number who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 301, 302.
b. What question will become quite clear under the final conflict regarding the Sabbath issue? Malachi 3:18.
“The final issue on the Sabbath question has not yet come, and by imprudent actions we may bring on a crisis before the time. . . . We must work cautiously, presenting the truth by degrees, as the hearers can bear it, but keep close to the Word.”—The Southern Work, p. 71.
“The worshipers of God will be especially distinguished by their regard for the fourth commandment, since this is the sign of God’s creative power and the witness to His claim upon man’s reverence and homage.”—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 16.
“The world can only be warned by seeing those who believe the truth sanctified through the truth, acting upon high and holy principles, showing in a high, elevated sense, the line of demarcation between those who keep the commandments of God and those who trample them under their feet.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 980.
5. THE FINAL ISSUE (CONTINUED)
a. How many are to be sealed in the time of the end? Revelation 7:4; 14:1–3. Describe the details of their victory.
“The decree is to go forth that all who will not receive the mark of the beast shall neither buy nor sell, and, finally, that they shall be put to death. But the saints of God do not receive this mark. . . .
“To every soul will come the searching test, Shall I obey God rather than men? . . . Who are prepared to stand firmly under the banner on which is inscribed, ‘The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus’?”—The Signs of the Times, November 8, 1899.
b. Describe the troublous times that are coming upon the world, according to prophecy. Luke 21:26; Isaiah 24:1–6; 33:16.
“The time will come when men will not only forbid Sunday work, but they will try to force men to labor on the Sabbath.”—The Southern Work, p. 69.
“It requires moral courage to take a position to keep the commandments of the Lord. . . . It takes moral courage, firmness, decision, perseverance, and very much prayer to step out on the unpopular side. . . . You may have to suffer distress, you may go hungry sometimes; but God will not forsake you in your suffering. He will test your faith. We are not to live to please ourselves. We are here to manifest Christ to the world, to represent Him and His power to mankind.”—The Review and Herald, September 3, 1895.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
a. What are the four winds that are being held back, and why are they held in check?
b. What door was opened before the servants of God in 1844?
c. What is the work of the third angel of Revelation 14?
d. Why was the Lord’s Sabbath not a test for God’s people before 1844—and why has it been a test ever since?
e. What question will be clear to all under the final test?
THE SABBATH AS A TEST
“The Sabbath was not for Israel merely, but for the world. It had been made known to man in Eden, and, like the other precepts of the Decalogue, it is of imperishable obligation. Of that law of which the fourth commandment forms a part, Christ declares, ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law.’ So long as the heavens and the earth endure, the Sabbath will continue as a sign of the Creator’s power. And when Eden shall bloom on earth again, God’s holy rest day will be honored by all beneath the sun. ‘From one Sabbath to another’ the inhabitants of the glorified new earth shall go up ‘to worship before Me, saith the Lord’ (Matthew 5:18; Isaiah 66:23).
“No other institution which was committed to the Jews tended so fully to distinguish them from surrounding nations as did the Sabbath. God designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers. It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their connection with the true God. But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ. When the command was given to Israel, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,’ the Lord said also to them, ‘Ye shall be holy men unto Me’ (Exodus 20:8; 22:31). Only thus could the Sabbath distinguish Israel as the worshipers of God.
“As the Jews departed from God, and failed to make the righteousness of Christ their own by faith, the Sabbath lost its significance to them. Satan was seeking to exalt himself and to draw men away from Christ, and he worked to pervert the Sabbath, because it is the sign of the power of Christ. The Jewish leaders accomplished the will of Satan by surrounding God’s rest day with burdensome requirements. In the days of Christ the Sabbath had become so perverted that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the character of the loving heavenly Father. The rabbis virtually represented God as giving laws which it was impossible for men to obey. They led the people to look upon God as a tyrant, and to think that the observance of the Sabbath, as He required it, made men hard-hearted and cruel. It was the work of Christ to clear away these misconceptions. Although the rabbis followed Him with merciless hostility, He did not even appear to conform to their requirements, but went straight forward, keeping the Sabbath according to the law of God.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 283, 284.