Introduction: Do you like signs or symbols showing that you belong to a certain group? I used to have a sticker on my car window for Andrews University, the school three generations of my family attended. I have Corvette hats, a shirt and a jacket. Of course, I have clothing with Regent University's logo, because it is the school where I teach. What about you, do you have symbols, signs or marks showing that you have an affinity to some group, product, or school? The Bible demands some signs and warns against others. Some of the signs seem to be relevant for a limited time and group. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!
Read Genesis 17:9-11. What is circumcision? ("The sign of the covenant between [God] and [Abraham and his descendants]."
What is that "covenant" (or contract)? (Read Genesis 17:7-8. These verses contain God's promise that He will be their God and give them land.)
Read Galatians 5:3. What do God's people promise? (Obedience. Genesis 17 is not clear on what the people are promising.)
Read Romans 4:11. How does this describe circumcision? (It calls it "a seal of the righteousness" by faith that Abraham had before he was circumcised.)
Read Colossians 2:11-12. From time to time companies change the "mark" under which they trade. Has the circumcision sign changed? (This text says that baptism is the new circumcision. In Acts 15 we find that the early church decided, based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and statements in the Old Testament, that circumcision was not required for Gentiles to be in a right relationship with God. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 7:18-19 says that "circumcision is nothing." What a change!)
Read Genesis 17:12-13. Could you be forgiven for thinking that circumcision would never end as a sign? (I think God is saying that His contract is forever with those who choose to be His people. However, that particular sign might not be forever.)
What does this teach us about signs? (They can change. They may be applicable for a limited time, group, or situation. The end of a sign might be difficult to determine.)
Read Exodus 31:17. Is the Sabbath limited to one meaning? (No. Here we are told it is a sign that God is our Creator. He created the heavens and earth in six days and rested on the seventh.)
Is this a sign only with "the Israelites?" Notice that both verses specifically refer to "Israelites." Is it like circumcision, something directed towards Abraham's descendants? (ReadRevelation 14:6-7. The call to worship our Creator God is still relevant to the very end of time. God may have said the Sabbath was a sign for the Israelites, but that does not mean it is only for them. The fact that Christians believe that the entire Ten Commandments is for all believers shows the universal applicability of the Sabbath.)
The Seal of God
Read Ephesians 1:13-14. What is the seal of God for Christians in the end times? (The Holy Spirit.)
Why is the Holy Spirit our seal? (He is called "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." That means the Holy Spirit is a sign that Jesus has given us eternal life and He is returning to take us home with Him to heaven.)
Read Revelation 7:1-4 and Revelation 7:9-10. What is this seal? Is it a sign only for "the tribes of Israel?" (The 144,000 are described as from the tribes, but there is also "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language." This shows the saved are not merely 144,000.)
What does the great multitude wear? ("White robes."
Do you think the white robes are a seal? (On the one hand, I don't wear my robe on my forehead. See Revelation 7:3. On the other, grace is a decision of the mind.)
As you contemplate Revelation 7:2-9, are both groups sealed on the forehead, or only the 144,000?
If they are not all sealed, should we conclude that not everyone who is saved is also sealed on the forehead? Some enter heaven only by wearing a white robe?
Read Romans 8:5-8. What does this teach us about the Holy Spirit and being in a right relationship with God? (Having the Holy Spirit (a seal) in our mind (forehead?), is essential to being in a right relationship with God and submitting to His law.)
Read Revelation 7:13-14. What do we learn about the great multitude who are wearing white robes? (They are saved by grace! They depend on the blood of the Lamb for their right relationship with God.)
We see that those in the greater multitude are saved by grace alone. They are sealed by the Holy Spirit which directs their minds and actions to live a life in accord with God's law. Are you a part of that group?
Read Genesis 1:31. What is the issue here? (That God created everything. It did not evolve, it is not the product of chance and natural selection.)
Read Genesis 2:2-3. What is the issue here? (The seventh day Sabbath memorial to the work of our Creator God.)
Are these issues all in play right now? (The world is conflicted, and the divide is serious. Humans generally fall on one side or the other in their views on these four issues that largely depend on what they believe about human origins.)
Look again at Revelation 14:9-10. Receiving the mark of the beast in either the forehead or hand is fatal. What do you think "forehead" or "hand" means? (Forehead suggests a freely made decision to be on the wrong side of the creation issues. Hand suggests reluctantly going along with the wrong side of the creation issues. Doing what you are told, although you do not agree.)
The week I am writing this lesson, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to use his artistic talent to promote a same sex wedding. Jack's refusal was based on his religious beliefs. Because Jack refused to compromise his religious beliefs, he got into a lot of trouble with the Colorado state government. Is Jack a Christian who refused to accept a creation issue mark on his hand? (I think so.)
Friend, these are serious times in which we live. There are outcome determinative decisions that you must make. Will you accept the seal of God, the Holy Spirit? Will you accept righteousness by faith alone? Will you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to be both intellectually and physically on the right side of the Creator God issues? Why not make your decision right now?