One day your life could be on the line for choosing to follow God’s original, unchanged Law.
by Betsy Mayer
The Roman Emperor Constantine had a problem—how to maintain unity across his far-flung empire. Despite centuries of persecution, Christianity was still growing. Admittedly, Christians were peaceable citizens who worked an honest day and paid their taxes. Who wouldn’t want an empire filled with such good people?
But the pagans feared that the growing Christian population might revolt and take over the Empire. So, they barred Christians from many occupations and opportunities for advancement. In defense, Christians developed their own communities where they could control their lives. Constantine believed this tension was fostering instability in his Empire.
Then the wily emperor hit upon an idea that changed the history of both Christianity and the Roman Empire. Why not combine the best features of both religions? In essence, form a new religion, one in which both pagans and Christians could find common ground.
Constantine’s idea won the day. The old pagan gods became Christian saints, pagan festivals were changed to religious holidays, pagan rituals were given Christian explanations, and pagan concepts were blended with Christian doctrines. In the process, Constantine’s catholic, or universal, church was born.
Because the new church was not established on strictly biblical principles, when differences arose in doctrine or practice, they could not be resolved by appealing to Scripture. Instead, Christians appealed to church councils. This eventually became a significant distinction between Constantine’s church and groups considered heretical. “Heretics” were always appealing to the Bible as the final authority in spiritual matters. A safer course lay in trusting a council of experts trained to oversee such matters.
In regards to the Ten Commandments, the church council felt it prudent to modify them. Because pagan temple statuary across the Empire was now representing Christian saints, the second commandment was a bit of an embarrassment, so it was omitted. Then, there was the obvious problem of the 4th commandment with its specific mention of the seventh-day Sabbath.
In AD 321, Constantine had decreed that all city dwellers should rest on the day dedicated to the worship of the Sun god. Although not specifically a command to worship, Constantine’s intent was to foster a spirit of harmony between his pagan and Christian subjects. Yet, the majority of Christians still observed the Bible Sabbath of the seventh day. But by AD 364, the Church Council of Laodicea forbade the observance of the Bible Sabbath: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday [Sabbath, original], but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day [Sunday], they shall especially honor, and, as being Christians, shall if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing [observing the seventh-day Sabbath], they shall be shut out from Christ.” Logically, the 4th commandment had to be modified to reflect this new Sabbath.
Having eliminated the 2nd, only nine commandments remained; the awkwardness of “a missing commandment” was resolved by splitting the last commandment into two parts, restoring the count to ten.
Compare the two versions of God’s law in the box below: one, as given by God; the other, as changed by man.
HUMAN AUTHORITY VS. DIVINE AUTHORITY
The Bible prophesied that a world power known as the “little horn” would “think to change times and laws.” Daniel 7:8, 24, 25. In a series of visions, the prophet Daniel was shown a succession of world powers. They were described differently in each vision; but each vision was merely a repetition and enlargement of the previous vision. Compare Daniel, chapters 2, 7 and 8. Three of the empires were specified. The one that followed the Grecian Empire was not. Out of this fourth beast came the “little horn.”
We know from world history that the Roman Empire conquered Greece. The little horn power that arose from the Roman Empire exercised both religious and political powers: this could only be Papal Rome. It was the popes of Rome who for more than a millennium claimed spiritual authority over the citizens of the old Roman Empire.
The Catholic Church honestly maintains and teaches that her authority supersedes the Bible in religious things. Speaking of the 4th commandment: “Sunday is a Catholic institution…. From beginning to end of Scripture there is not a single passage that warrants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week to the first.”1 Catholics also believe that any Christian who observes Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath” is accepting the authority of the Catholic Church over the authority of the Bible: “The Protestant says: How can I receive the teachings of an apostate Church? How, we ask, have you managed to receive her teaching all your life in direct opposition to your recognized teacher, the Bible, on the Sabbath question?”2
Catholics specifically refer to the change of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday as “the mark” of their authority to supersede Scripture: “Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act, …and the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical authority in religious things.”3
THE TWO MARKS OF REVELATION
Those alive when Jesus returns will possess one of two marks described in the book of Revelation. One is described as the Mark of the Beast, Revelation 14:9; the other as the Seal of God, Revelation 7:2, 3.
Jesus gave a strong rebuke to all who elevate human authority over God’s authority: “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:9. Furthermore, severe judgment is pronounced upon those who knowingly teach others, by word or example, to break God’s Law. Romans 7:12; Matthew 5:17–19.
In contrast, the Bible commends those who keep God’s law: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.
The third angel of Revelation 14 warns against receiving the Mark of the Beast. Those who receive this Mark will show their loyalty to human authority; while those who receive the Seal of God will show their loyalty to divine authority. Sunday observance, by Rome’s own admission, is the mark of human authority.
Does this mean that all who currently worship on Sunday have the Mark of the Beast? No, but Bible prophecy actually describes a time when the whole world will be forced to participate in Sunday worship upon pain of death. Revelation 13:15–17. Only then will Sunday worship become the Mark of the Beast. Only then will God pour out His wrath on those who fear man more than they love God. Revelation 14:9–11.
Honoring the seventh-day Sabbath during those days could cost you your life. But those who love God more than they fear man will be honored with the Seal of God.
It is easy to believe that we can wait until Sunday laws are enforced and then choose to honor God on His holy Sabbath day. Friends, if we find it inconvenient to honor God today, when our lives are on the line tomorrow, it will be harder, not easier. If we desire to be found among those who escape the Mark of the Beast and the wrath of God, we must cultivate a spirit of loving obedience to all of God’s requirements today. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
1. The Catholic Press, Sydney, Australia, August, 1900.
2. The Christian Sabbath, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: The Catholic Mirror ), pp. 29–31.
3. A quotation from a letter written in November, 1895, by Mr. H. F. Thomas, chancellor to Cardinal Gibbons, replying to an inquiry as to whether the Catholic Church claims to have changed the Sabbath.
Taken from Last Generation, Vol. 25 No. 5. Last Generation is a vibrant 32-page soul-winning magazine published six times a year. To subscribe, call (540) 672-1996, Ext. 283.