Adventist Identity and the Three Angels’ Messages: Part 1

Sabbath school commentary for discussion alongside the Adult Bible Study Guide for April 1, 2023.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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So I have an immediate question - since the accurate interpretation of Revelation depends on the allusions to the OT texts; and since Revelation was written in Greek, how is intertextuality possible? All languages have terminology that doesn’t translate directly to another, not to mention difference in cultures; and, when we then insert a third translation (in this case English), aren’t we still left with possible misinterpretations of the original.


Possible misinterpretation?!?!

The process is as absolutely certain to involve misunderstandings as a confusing, 2,000+ year old game of “Pass It On”?!?!

A game which is made “unfunny”-unholy even-because everyone knows that humor and vitality is invariably lost in translation.


I’m looking forward to Dr Tonstad’s insights. Thanks Spectrum!
Regarding this week’s lesson, I’d appreciate feedback from other Spectrum readers about 1. personification of evil and 2. the formula of “keep the commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus” from Rv 12:17.

How do we reconcile the Hebrew perspective that “there is no other God” with the New Testament that has frequent comments about Satan who competes with God for our allegiance?

Regarding 12:17, I find the SDA equation of remnant = Sabbath keepers + EGW followers to be idolatrous. Reading John’s other writings, “commandment” is most likely to point to Jesus’ command to love, cf. the decalogue. Likewise, “testimony” is a dominant part of John’s writing regarding Jesus’ justification of his preaching, and also referring to those who remembered Jesus’ life.


An atheist once asked me how I reconcile the OT god with the god of the NT.

I said I don’t because that would be like trying to reconcile the differences between Dumbledore and Merlin.

IOW, I’m fairly certain all four are literary constructs as opposed to tangible entities.

Same goes for Evil. It is can be personified in literature and “holy” books but, I suspect “people” like Satan only exist in fiction….oh, and in the personhood of this one boss I worked for back in my twenties!!!


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A couple of things I have found in preparation for teaching this week’s lesson might address some of your questions. First of all, notice Rev. 12:11 and 12:17. Verse 11 talks about the relationship the ones who triumph have with Jesus…it is their testimony regarding their relationship/experience which enables them to triumph. This is echoed in vs. 17, which in the NIV says, “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast THEIR testimony about Jesus” (emphasis mine). And I concur with your belief that ‘keeping the commandments’ is what Jesus emphasized…Love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself’.

But in a further note, it is interesting that the SDA interpretation (as shown on p. 10 of the standard quarterly) promotes the ‘woman’ as God’s post-resurrection church. However, this would imply that the early Christian church gave birth to the man child (vs.5), which is patently ridiculous. What is a given fact, is that Israel was the ‘woman’ who gave birth to Jesus. Further, the reference to ‘eagles wings’ in vs. 14 is used to describe the exodus from Egypt (Ex. 19:4).

This corresponds to Daniel 9:24 which describes the 1260 day prophecy in relation to ‘your people and your holy city.’, thus clearly referring to Israel. Sorry if this just muddies the water, but there are real questions about the traditional SDA interpretations regarding the book of Revelation. I sincerely hope Dr. Tonstad’s insights will help us out!


More muddy waters - “woman” in Revelation is said to stand for “church” - In Rev. 14, God’s people are described as having nothing to do with women, “following the Lamb wheresoever he goes.”

It’s difficult to separate “the church” from God’s will for us; so we give the church all the loyalty and adoration we should be giving God. Revelation seems to be saying, we need to follow “the Lamb” rather than the church out of false loyalty if there were a choice to be made.


Does anybody else see what seems to me to be obvious? The context of Revelation 12 depicts the Dragon being present when the women is about to give birth. The birth of the male child and his being caught up to God and to His throne is a reference to Jesus and His subsequent acension. It is THEN that the war in heaven breaks out between the Dragon and his angels and Michael and His angels. The resulting casting out of the Dragon which results in his being confined to earth (hence the woe to those who live on the earth) is directly tied to the salvation and triumph of the Lamb. NOW have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah. The accuser has nothing left credible to say. This war seems to be a literary device to show the decisive nature of the life/death/ressurection of Christ. To suddenly wrench it out of its context and put it back in pre-history seems abrupt and unnecessary and loses the punch that John was using it for.


I would suggest that earlier in chapter 12 it states the dragon sweeps out 1/3 of the stars (angels) as an allusion to an earlier conflict. Thus, two conflicts are compressed into this one chapter, but the critical decisive battle was the cross. After that the Dragon sets out to make war with the remnant who keep exposing the murderous entity that Satan is for which the cross proved. Satan is determined to stamp out all who reflect the truth nature of God as manifest in Christ; a God Who puts us ahead of Himself.

Regarding the “one God” and a personification of evil who competes for our allegiance, competition is not the same as equality. And, ultimately, evil loses. That said, it’s a good question to reflect upon and just might be the reason why the Jews could never quite go along with the true dualism of Zoroastrianism. Instead, it seems they came up with a modified dualism which could distance the good God from evil, which their prior monotheistic monism couldn’t do.

Whether, in fact, personification of evil is a real thing, some excellent books on various sides of this question include historian Jeffrey Burton Russell’s 4-part series (The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles), a more summarized version of the same by Charlene Burns (Christian Understandings of Evil) or Ryan Stokes (The Satan) or Archie Wright (Satan and the Problem of Evil). And there’s John Walton’s response to Greg Boyd’s type of conflict theology that takes maybe a more biased perspective because of his agenda (Demons and Spirits in Biblical Theology).

One should also consider what happens to their theodicy in the presence or absence of a personified evil. Many have written on theodicy with an absence of a personified evil. The only two people that I know of who have written on theodicy with a personified evil are John Peckham (Theodicy of Love) and Sigve Tonstad. This is Sigve’s space - pick any of his books that you like, but perhaps Saving God’s Reputation is best for this purpose.

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Our young and recently - well, maybe ten or some more years ago - baptizen SS teachers were quite helpless. next week they get as a loan ! - my four versions of CDs of Franz Schmidts " Buch mit sieben Siegel" - one for everybody - - , a late romatic style oratorio composed by a Catholic on Luther texts - - in 1938 ! - to have one impression of this phantastic last book of the Bible - - just as a help for finding an overall view - - -

The one latest version conducted by believing Catholic Haroncour, one of the last performnces in his career, is available again ! - it was out of stock .

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Well, Sirie, I suggest another access to Revelation. The president of EUD in the fifties, Marius Fridlin, once in a Sabath sermon said to the congregation also of delegtes for the Union conference, that of course we also have some quie od souls in our files finding new “truhts” out of the big toe of a prophetic beast - - no, please not such an interpretation ! - - - I suggest the loud reading of texts out of this fascinating book - and visualizing yout impressions : The dragons tail, sweeping away one third out of Heaven - - , “sixhundredandsixtysix” - this sound !!! - - - also in your translation - - be impressed !

this is interesting…this looks like it will be an engaging series…

From cornerstone bible. commentary: woman as God:
Since, in the Jewish pool of images utilized by John, the attributes of the woman can be clearly identified as attributes of God, it makes sense to identify the woman as God—with God bringing forth God’s own innermost being as the response to the dragon’s rebellion even before the rebellion arose. John was seeing that Satan’s rebellion had its ground in the desire to devour and thus to replace God. John was also seeing that God’s “response” to the coming rebellion was not a response at all—the cross is not something God “did” as a response or reaction to the Fall, but a revelation of who God is in the essence of his being.
In Christ we see God’s cruciform love plumbing the depths of the human rebellion, God giving God’s self to redeem humanity from the rebellion. God’s likeness is not something God exploits (Phil 2:6) but is a self-emptying love (God bringing forth God’s very being into the mouth of the dragon) for the sake of fallen humanity. It is for this reason that John introduces his image of God as the woman and God’s action toward the dragon as a “great sign” (see note on 12:1).

Ok. I don’t agree with that. Despite God making Adam in “His” image, and by extension, Eve, I can’t anthropomorphize God into either gender. The Hebrews, of course, had to have God as male. I find all that distracting and limiting.

My comment ws specific to Rev. 14 which depicts God’s people following the LAMB rather than man-made religions of various kinds.

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