God's Seal or the Beast's Mark?

Reflections on the Seal and Image of God from the Adventist Pioneers

While researching the image of God in the writings of the Adventist pioneers, I came across many statements that I had never heard before. Some of these related directly to the seal of God, and by inference, to the mark of the beast. What thrilled, and to be honest, surprised me most, was how these ideas focused on the person of Jesus. Here are some of these quotations, particularly from A. T. Jones and W. W. Prescott which I hope will speak for themselves.

The Seal and the Image of God

In 1895, W. W. Prescott summarized some of the issues other Adventist writers had discussed concerning “the closing work”:

Now when we come to the closing work just before the second coming of Christ, the Father’s name is written in their foreheads, or they are sealed with the seal of the living God, or the character of God in Christ is fully reflected in them, or the law of God is written in their hearts, — all meaning this one thing, that the image of God is restored.1

Prescott seems to suggest that the restoration of the image of God is synonymous with the Father’s name, the seal of God, the character of Christ, and the law of God written in human hearts. So the seal of God is intimately associated with human restoration in the image of God.

The Seal and the Sabbath

The Sabbath has often been linked to the seal of God but within the context of law keeping. In other words, we should keep the Sabbath because it is part of the law of God that is still binding and should be obeyed, and this loyalty to God’s law is the sign of those who are sealed.

While this is not untrue, Ellen White puts the significance of the Sabbath in a different light when she describes how the Sabbath commandment is specifically a witness to the restoration of the divine image, “The Sabbath is a sign of creative and redeeming power; it points to God as the source of life and knowledge; it recalls man’s primeval glory, and thus witnesses to God’s purpose to re-create us in His own image.”2

Perhaps in an effort to ward off a potential drift to legalistic Sabbath keeping, and to keep the focus of the restoration process on the person of Jesus, A. T. Jones carefully asserted that “Saturday keeping is not the seal of God.” This must have come as a shock to his audience but he immediately continues, “Christ, as he is reflected in the Sabbath of the Lord, and in it, in the mind and heart of the believer, in the living image of God completed, — that is the seal of the living God.”3

Again, Jones highlights the person of Jesus as he is revealed in the Sabbath:

The Sabbath being the sign of what Christ is to the believer, will the believer know fully what the Sabbath is until he knows fully what Christ is? [Congregation: “No.”] So then when the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ has absorbed all of the mind itself, then the Sabbath will be also known fully to the mind itself. But the Sabbath is the sign of what God is in Christ, and when that is brought fully to the mind itself, what is that but the image of God, the name of God, in the mind of the believer, and that the seal of the living God, through the Sabbath of the Lord?4

Prescott then tackles the potential confusion between understanding the Sabbath as the seal and Christ as the seal, by showing the Sabbath and Christ in their true perspective:

But we have always been told that the Sabbath is the seal…You will remember in our talk some time since about the Sabbath, we tried to show that in the Sabbath, from every standpoint and on every side, Christ appeared: Christ the creator; Christ the one who makes holy; Christ the sanctifier; Christ the one who blesses us and in whom we are blessed. No one can really and truly keep the Sabbath in whom Christ does not dwell; and the Sabbath is the seal in so far as Christ is recognized in it. Just that far and no farther. It will not seal anyone simply to observe the Sabbath in a formal way, as an outward ceremony. To keep Saturday does not seal anyone any more than to keep Sunday or Monday, in that sense; but only in so far as Christ is seen in the Sabbath is the Sabbath a seal. But the Spirit is the agency by which we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, that Christ may be formed within. Now when the Sabbath is recognized as the institution of Christ, and that Christ is the very essence of the Sabbath, do you not see that when the Sabbath is properly and really kept in the spirit of it, that it is when Christ is received in his fullness. That is to say, you cannot keep the Sabbath without receiving the righteousness of Christ. The fact is, you cannot do anything without receiving it. You may view it on every side, but you will come back to that one point where everything centers, that you must have the righteousness of Christ; you must have Christ dwelling in you.5

As the Sabbath was so bound up with the work of Jesus in restoring the image of God in man, Adventists saw this as a critical issue in the time just before Jesus returns. Here Prescott explains how this is linked to the honoring of God, and a key element in the great controversy theme:

The Sabbath is the seal of God. What is the image that God wants to impress upon us? Why, the very purpose of all this time of probation has been that the image of God as manifested in Jesus Christ when he was here, shall be received by us. And just as when Christ was here and walked the earth he was to the world an interpretation of the character of God, so everyone of his followers is to be a living epistle, known and read of all men, and is to show forth the excellencies, the praises, of him who has called him out of darkness into his marvelous light; and the Christian walking the earth now is to show forth the character of God as Christ did of old when on the earth. That is the image of God restored, and that image is to be restored in humanity, just as that image was in Christ when he was here in humanity; for what Christ was in his perfect humanity, that we must be.6

Again, Prescott argues for the Sabbath as the sign of the image of God restored:

The Sabbath is the seal of God, because, when the Sabbath is accepted as the Sabbath of the true God, in the meaning that God intended it to be for us, and we really keep it that way, the image of God is being, and is, restored in the soul; so that when God looks upon his Sabbath-keeping children, who are indeed Sabbath-keepers, he sees in them the image of his own Son.7

Consequently, Prescott believed that when “the image of God [is] again restored in man, then the Sabbath idea comes in again as the sign of this work completed.”8

The Seal and the Holy Spirit

Sohow is this work of restoration accomplished? A. T. Jones answers this by linking the seal to the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart:

Then, I say, don’t you see that it is impossible to keep the righteousness of God and the Holy Spirit separate? So then, “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;” and when the image of God in Jesus Christ is found in us, what then? There is the impress, the seal of God…When by looking into the face of Jesus Christ, and there alone, having received the righteousness of God which is by faith in him; and looking ever into his glorious face, that reflects, the glory of God, the effect of that is to change us into the same image, to perfect the image of God, and restore it in us, by the working of the Spirit of God upon the soul. And when that is done, then the same Spirit of God is there to affix the seal of the living God, the eternal impress of his own image.9

W. W. Prescott emphasizes how the seal of God comes by the Holy Spirit who alone is responsible for enabling an individual to reflect Jesus:

Now someone places a piece of paper in a seal and presses down the lever, the paper is taken out and here is an impression. Now there is a certain agency that does that work. After it is done a certain impression remains. Now the Spirit is the agency in the sealing work. What is the impression that remains? It is the image of God restored in the soul. Who is that image of God? Christ. Then it will be Christ in you, the hope of glory. It all comes right back to that. And the work of the Spirit is to prepare us for, and impress that image upon us. On this point I will read a few words from the REVIEW of Nov. 1, 1892:— “As the wax takes the impression of the seal, so the soul is to take the impression of the Spirit of God and retain the moral Image of Christ.10

Seal vs. Mark

I think the contribution of Prescott particularly has been invaluable in maintaining a healthy perspective on the relationship between the seal of God, the Sabbath, and Jesus.

Of course, throughout these quotations, there has not been any reference to the mark of the beast which stands in contrast to the seal. However, if the core of the seal of God is the imaging of Christ, by inference, the core of the mark of the beast would be the imaging of Satan. It then becomes fairly clear that the mark of the beast can be seen as the inevitable and natural consequence of disconnection from the person of Christ, with the result that human lives, made in the image of God, become increasingly disfigured from their original design.

Historically, Seventh-day Adventists have viewed the seal of God as observing the Sabbath as the biblical day of worship, in contrast to the mark of the beast which is linked to observing Sunday as a counterfeit day of worship. While I believe this is still true, I also believe it is critical to maintain the Christocentric emphasis that these pioneers have demonstrated concerning the seal of God.

So as a transformational community in the last days, we wave the Sabbath flag clearly. As we do, we alert all those around us to the army of people under it who are devoted to restoring the image of God in broken human lives—to restore Christ to His rightful place in the hearts of His children. And so the seal of God is made visible.

Notes & References: 1. W. W. Prescott, General Conference Bulletin, March 5, 1895, 483. 2. Ellen G. White, Education, 250. 3. A. T. Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin March 2, 1893, 455. 4. A. T. Jones, General Conference Bulletin/General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 2, 1893, 455. 5. W. W. Prescott, General Conference Daily Bulletin February 24, 1893, 388. 6. W. W. Prescott, General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 11, 1893, p. 224. 7. W. W. Prescott, General Conference Daily Bulletin February 11, 1893, 224. 8. W. W. Prescott, General Conference Bulletin, March 5, 1895, 482. 9. A. T. Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin February 27, 1893, 415. 10. W. W. Prescott, General Conference Daily Bulletin February 24, 1893, 388.

Gavin Anthony's primary interest is looking at how we can inspire the development of transformational communities of disciple-makers who honour God by devoting themselves to restoring the image of God in broken people’s lives. He is British and lives in Reykjavik while serving as the president of the Iceland Conference.

Image credit: Flickr.com / Léa

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8817
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Great research Gavin!!

Ellen White herself hinted at these ideas when she wrote that

“Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold, and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth - these are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God.” 5 Testimonies for the Church, 216.

But you are correct! A T Jones and W W Prescott have developed these exciting ideas much more.

In the 1 June 2018 issue of Adventist Review there is an exciting extended section regarding the Mark of the Beast featuring a long interview with Mark Finley. Here he details how, over his 50 year preaching career, his presentations on the Mark of the Beast have developed to see the larger dynamic context that will transpire in the final moments of history.

Thanks again Gavin for featuring this expansive theology which has largely been neglected for the last one hundred years and more.

I love how you describe your primary interest as seeking ways to inspire the development of transformational communities of disciple-makers who honour God by devoting themselves to restoring the image of God in broken people’s lives.

It seems that it’s quite a leap to assign the keeping of a “day” as the seal of God. As Prescott writes:

This begs the question, if Christ is “seen” in all of our days, are any of them less holy?

We are sealed by the Holy Spirit; sealed by our faith in the finished work of Christ, the foundation upon which our faith is laid. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When we skip to the description of God’s people in Revelation, we quote “…these are they that keep the commandments of God…” as proof positive that this describes Sabbath keepers. That’s not enough. Keeping the commandments of God means we have learned to love as Christ loves; and as Paul declares in Rom.13: ‘’…love is the fulfillment of the law" - giving new meaning to Jesus’ words:

Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to FULFILL.-

This statement, alone, changes what it means to “keep the commandments” from a legalistic adherence to a love for others. That is how we honour God’s commandments - even the “fourth”.

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At Spectrum, I need at least ‘20 characters’ to simply say, “AMEN !” to this article !

However, from over a century ago, the Holy Spirit gave far more to Alonzo Jones to say regarding this same topic, and that ‘far more’ is now scientifically-sound ‘good news’ for people afraid of ‘LGT’ – we simply do ‘become changed’ by what we ‘behold’ with our eyes, or with our ‘imaginations’, our ‘characters’:

“The great difficulty from the beginning has been that men would not allow God the place in their hearts that belongs to him. God started man that way, and he turned away to everything else, and shut out God entirely. God set him free from that darkness, set him free to choose, and called him to choose, whether he would love God with all the heart, all the soul, all the mind, and all the strength. He was set free to choose to let God have his place again; but so many chose that the Lord should not have his own place, that the flood swept them off the face of the earth.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.2}

“Then the Lord started the race again. And the only thing that he asked of each was that he should love the Lord God with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind, and with all the strength, and his neighbor as himself. That is all he asked of the eight who went into the ark, and who came out of it. If the first man had loved God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength, no sin could ever have entered.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.3}

“After he had sinned, and the Lord had released him from that thralldom, if Adam and all his children had loved God with all the heart, soul, might, mind, and strength, what would have been the condition of the world?-They would have been keeping the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, and righteousness would have covered the earth as the waters cover the sea. Is it impossible that that thing can be fulfilled in man under the bondage of the curse, under the bondage of sinful flesh? Can God so deliver the sinner from the power of sin in the flesh that he can love God with all the heart, soul, might, mind, and strength?-Yes. Sin could not have cursed the earth, as it is, even with men under the bondage of the flesh which is sinful, if they had believed in God, and kept the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. That is the truth, for that is Christianity. So, then, you see that all the Lord ever wants in us, all he ever wanted in man since Adam sinned, was and is, that he should keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And the first of all the commandments is, Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.4}

“In Rom.1:21, it tells that at the beginning “they knew God.” Look at this: man in the starting out of his career knew God. Adam knew God to begin with, but did not retain this knowledge. When Adam sinned and was again started, he knew God. When the race again started after the flood, it knew God to begin with; so that mankind have departed from God all the time. The world was so sinful, is so sinful, and will be so sinful, because it knew God and rejects him, and not because it knew not God. So that the world is not in wickedness because of darkness; the world is in darkness because of wickedness.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.5}

“The world began with light; and that darkness has come in, is because of the choice of men; “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.””
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.6}

“Now notice; what first?-They knew God; but they did not glorify him as God; they did not give him the place in them that belongs to him. They did not glorify God,-did not reveal him to man, did not make him manifest on the earth; for Jesus said, I have glorified thee on the earth, and he was God manifest in the flesh. These men who knew God, would not allow God to be manifest in the flesh. They were not thankful. Then they became vain in their imaginations; then their foolish hearts were darkened; then in their darkness they professed to be wise. That wisdom was foolishness, and then they made images.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.7}

“Thus you see that the image that is set before men’s eyes, in his idolatry, is only the outward manifestation of idolatry, the outward representation of it. The idolatry is already away down in the heart, and has been working several steps of the way out. Think of it. Where does idolatry begin?-In the heart. Where in this course does idolatry begin?-When they knew God, they glorified him not as God; right there they all begin. Then where is there any middle ground between the knowledge of God, and idolatry?”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D282.8}

“Think carefully now. They knew God, and, “This is eternal life, that they might know thee.” The knowledge of God is eternal life; that is settled. They did know God; they had eternal life in the knowledge of God. That is written. But they went into idolatry. How many steps from the knowledge of God did they take to get into idolatry?-Only one. Then, how many steps from loving God with all the heart, might, mind, and strength, need to be taken to reach idolatry?-Just one. Then if I do not love God with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mind, and all my strength, what am I?-An idolater.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D283.1}

“It may be I have no graven image before me. These people did not in the beginning. But they did have an image, a conception, formed in the mind, and when they made their graven image, it was simply a representation to stand before the eyes, of what they already had in the mind. The first man who made an image had a conception of that in his mind before he made it. The first man who made an image had the conception that it should be his god, and that conception was there before he made the image out of wood or stone. Then that image of stone, that he set before his eyes, was only the outward form which he made to represent to him in that shape what the god was that he already had in his mind. Then did he not have a god before he made that graven image?-Yes. Where was it?-In his heart.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D283.2}

“They became vain in their imaginations. Whose imaginations?-Their own. Here is that man who is imagining something; he makes an image of his imagining, and sets it before his eyes outside of him. Imagining is simply mental image-ing. And the image in stone is but the tangible form of the image-ing in the heart. Where was the image first made?-In his mind; in his own imagining, in his own thinking. But who was there when he had separated from God?-None but Satan and himself? Then, whence can his thoughts come?-From himself and Satan only.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D283.3}

“So then, you see plainly enough that idolatry is in the heart; the conception, the image, is already there before the image can appear outside. Though his god be the sun, moon, or stars, this conception, his idea, his imagining, is there before he puts it into outward form in the sun, moon, and stars.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D283.4}

“All that appears in idolatry is simply the reflection of what is in the heart. And God must be in the heart, with all the heart, all the soul, all the mind, and all the strength, or else idolatry is there. There is no middle ground.”
{March 2, 1897 ATJ, GCDB D283.5}

. . . Years ago I saw a documentary on Zebras. It said that for some time after giving birth, the mother Zebra uses her body to block her new-born’s view of any other Zebra, until her unique pattern, character, seal, mark, image, . . . of stripes is settled into its brain. The new-born’s life depends on this, since no other mother Zebra will allow it to nurse if it loses its own mother.

Behavioral sciences debate the importance of ‘nature v.s. nurture’.

By the evening-beginning of the ‘7th day’ of Creation – the Creators’ own Sabbath Rest – Adam and Eve, man and woman, could somewhat independently reproduce humankind after their own Creator-given flesh-natures. But, as this Sabbath began, the ‘Parents’ of humankind immediately began to ‘burn the blank discs’ – to nurture the relatively ‘blank’ hearts of Adam and Eve – to remember Their own unique pattern, character, seal, mark, image . . . because their lives depended on it, because a liar was on the loose, and It had no ‘milk’ for them.

Again, attached is the same Nova scienceNow link I will continue to attach to ‘replies’ to articles that match it, showing that Science is now far ahead of where the SDA Religion coulda, shoulda, would have been, after over a century of Jones’ and Prescott’s Biblical-Religious sermons drying out in our SDA ‘archives’, while the world we have claimed to be preaching the Gospel to, has thirsted and suffered needlessly, when the true Gospel was always there:

‘Look and Live’ at the Father, seen in His Son. ‘Do you like what you see ?’ If so, then you are imagining the true God in Their true character of ‘nurturing’ you with good things, and especially upon every 7th day Sabbath ‘made’ for nurturing the character-imagination of human hearts from the very first full day of Adam and Eve and forever . . . or, as Ellen said:

(Isaiah 45:21, 22; Matthew 16:24; John 1:29.) Look and Live.
Hanging upon the cross Christ was the gospel. Now we have a message, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” Will not our church members keep their eyes fixed on a crucified and risen Saviour, in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered? This is our message, our argument, our doctrine, our warning to the impenitent, our encouragement for the sorrowing, the hope for every believer. If we can awaken an interest in men’s minds that will cause them to fix their eyes on Christ, we may step aside, and ask them only to continue to fix their eyes upon the Lamb of God. They thus receive their lesson. Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. He whose eyes are fixed on Jesus will leave all. He will die to selfishness. He will believe in all the Word of God, which is so gloriously and wonderfully exalted in Christ.” {6BC 1113.1}

“As the sinner sees Jesus as He is, an all compassionate Saviour, hope and assurance take possession of his soul. The helpless soul is cast without any reservation upon Jesus. None can bear away from the vision of Christ Jesus crucified a lingering doubt. Unbelief is gone” (MS 49, 1898). {6BC 1113.2}

Anyone care to translate this religious lingo into a language that an unchurched person on the street could understand?

I don’t know who is currently in the spotlight in pop culture, but a few years back every little street kid wanted to sing and dance like Michael Jackson, or Madonna, or fight like Mohammed Ali . . . or, way back, look and sing like the Beatles. Some little girls still want to be their mommies and some little boys their daddies. Most everyone – even adult – has a hero who occupies their thoughts, worship and activities. Thousands of adults go to Star Trek conventions and pop concerts.

In 2 words, HERO WORSHIP.

We become like our obsessions, simply by beholding them, whether friend or enemy.

And, everyone on the street understands that, though they may not care to make a ‘loser’ in this world’s pop culture – like Jesus Christ – their hero.

Jesus Christ’s HERO was His ‘Daddy’, so He could truly say, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’

If we like Jesus – like how He acted, taught, defended sinners . . . – then we like the Father, and we automatically become like Them, or ‘reflect’ Their character. It’s not a ‘chore’, but an automatic response to our choice of Heroes.