Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
The Great Controversy (Love Under Fire) chapter 35
Liberty of Conscience Threatened
Headlines abound with stories of corruption and abuse. How can we Adventists live and give a message of uncompromising conviction for this generation?
When COVID-19 exhibited a strong and serious threat to the health of people around the world, it was determined that a united effort should be made to prevent the spread of the virus. Government and health officials went into action and within a week many places and events that involve large crowds of people were either closed or carefully regulated. Schools, churches, restaurants, some businesses, entertainment venues, and sporting events all stopped in-person meetings. People were asked to wear masks and stay home. The changes that took place were experienced around the world.
Could this type of united government authority be a preview of what it could be like if religious freedoms were changed or restricted? The response to this virus was quick and world-wide. The Bible tells us that governments will join together with religious authorities to make changes regarding religious freedom. Although leaders in this world do have power, we are reminded over and over in the Bible that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. As we stay firm in our faith in Jesus, we will see that He is faithful to us no matter what corruption, deception, persecution, and destruction takes place.
OPENING ACTIVITY: TRUST FALL
Explore the concept of trust and faith by helping the youth do a trust fall. If needed, ask a few adult friends to help with this activity; otherwise, work with the youth to try experiencing a trust fall. You will ask the teens to form groups of 4-5. Within each group, a volunteer will agree to do the “falling.” The other 3-4 group members will lock arms and form a safety zone. The person will then turn around and fall backwards while the group members catch him or her. Discuss how it feels to trust that your friends will catch you. Talk through the following questions.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read each Bible passage, then discuss the questions.
Read Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV).
4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
Read 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Firm in Faith
Read Hebrews 4:14 (NIV).
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
The Bible makes it clear that the enemy, the devil, is going to create more and more trouble for God’s people as the time of Jesus’ return grows closer. For the faithful followers of God’s Word, deceptions will not shake us, but it will not be easy for us either. When we lose our freedom of religion, and face the painful and deadly consequences of standing firm in our faith, it will be clear that when church and state join forces it is a dangerous combination. We are commanded and encouraged to hold firmly to our faith in Christ, knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us. All the evil and losses we experience in this world will quickly fade away when Jesus comes back to take us to heaven and eternal life with Him.
Consider applying what you learned in this week’s lesson by doing one or all of these activities:
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
This week’s Sabbath School lesson in Cornerstone Connections deals with the dark side of the book of Revelation. Some consider this to be the main message of Revelation, or it’s what comes to mind when many people think of Revelation. It’s about “the beasts.”
It might be helpful to point out that these two beasts occupy one chapter of the book (Revelation 13) rather than the entire book. Also, the opening line claims this book is “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1 NKJV) rather than saying the book is all about beasts.
Seventh-day Adventist New Testament scholar Ranko Stefanovic has pointed out that the heart of Revelation exposes a showdown between the True Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) and a false trinity (Satan, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth). He shows how the false trinity is trying to copy the True Trinity, but it does a poor job in its attempt. See the “Introductory Attachment A” to notice evil trying to copy good. This could change our focus from beasts to the Lamb—one of the Revelation symbols for Jesus. The sea beast simply tries to copy Jesus, but fails miserably. The second beast of Revelation 13, the earth beast, tries to copy the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent in His place to keep us connected to God and to reveal God and His power on earth. The earth beast also does a horrible job as it tries to imitate the Holy Spirit.
While these beasts are symbolic, they represent something very real. They also highlight the Trinity because they do such a poor job trying to imitate the real thing. You can be intimidated by the false trinity, or celebrate how amazing, powerful, and loving the True Trinity is in contrast.
But what will you do with these two beasts in Revelation 13, especially since they are the topic of the Youth Sabbath lesson this week? Most people want to identify who these two beasts are. The Seventh-day Adventist Church officially formed in the second half of the 19th century in the Northeastern part of the United States—New England. At that time there was a fear of Catholics trying to become the majority in the United States, and also a concern that church people weren’t going to church as much as they had in the past. Congress was considering passing a Sunday law that would prevent people from working on Sundays (so they would be more likely to go to church). Some Seventh-day Adventists were even thrown into jail because they had worked on a Sunday. It’s in this context that Seventh-day Adventists interpreted the sea beast to be the Catholic Church that seemed like a threat to Protestant America, and the earth beast to be the United States that seemed ready to enforce worship on Sunday as evidenced by putting in jail SDAs who worked on Sunday.
That was about 150 years ago. Today some SDAs are looking for a return to that same scenario, focusing either on the pope and his every move, or on a national Sunday law in the United States. Neither of these has a focus on Jesus. An increasing number of SDAs think continuing a focus on 19th century New England makes people oblivious to what’s right in front of them and the beastly powers at work today around the world who are doing the opposite of what Jesus and the True Trinity would do.
Which direction will you go with this lesson? Will you go with teaching or reinforcing the traditional explanation of these two beasts in Revelation 13 or will you take a different approach?
See “Introductory Attachment B” to see who these two beasts in Revelation 13 are based on the four major schools of interpreting Revelation, including the traditional SDA approach.
You can see God’s response to the false trinity by reading Revelation 14 and beyond.
But for right now, here’s an RBS (Relational Bible Study) on Revelation 13 and the two beasts/bullies who try to imitate Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Dealing with Bullies
What bully do you remember from your childhood?
Read Revelation 13:1-18.
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The Beast from the Earth
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
1. Where does the first beast of Revelation 13 come from?
2. What catches your attention the most about this first beast?
3. What do God’s people need when it comes to the first beast?
4. What Old Testament roots come to mind with the second beast?
5. What is 666?
6. What is your gut reaction to these two beasts?
7. Where do you see the activity and actions of either beast today?
“The Great Controversy” is a meta-narrative (the big picture story) Seventh-day Adventists find true, compelling, and helpful to understand and explain so much of what’s happening in our world. As such, the two beasts in Revelation 13 show the evil side of this ongoing conflict between good and evil—between Christ and Satan, between the True Trinity and the false trinity. These beasts are simply bullies. They try to intimidate and coerce to get their way, but they are actually just scared entities trying to scare others. We know the rest of the story. Even though there may be persecution and even death over the short term of our lives on earth, the lamb of God has conquered death and given us eternal life. The Lamb is the one who emerges as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14 and 19:16).
The devil and those associated with him are bullies. They boast and seek to intimidate; they lie and deceive, hoping to take down as many with them as they can. But truth, and Jesus who is the Truth, and the way, and the life, stands up to such bullies. How will you do that this week when individuals and institutions act like beasts?
You can expect to see individuals and institutions acting beastly. It might be time for you to call it out—for your benefit as well as for the benefit of others. Sometimes it’s like a knee-jerk reaction to just call someone names (“you’re a beast”) if you don’t like them or what they do. But instead of starting with yourself, start with Jesus. The sea beast and earth beast come after Christ’s people because they are wanting to get to Christ.
There’s a human tendency to point the finger at others rather than pointing it at ourselves. This is certainly true when it comes to the two beasts in Revelation 13.
In response to the study about the two beasts in Revelation 13, read about the good news (Gospel) God sends to earth by means of an angel (messenger) who has the “everlasting Gospel” (eternal good news) for all who are on the earth.
By Vandeon Griffin, Tracy Wood, and Armando Miranda
The #ONETEAM CHALLENGE is a 21-day devotional written by leaders for leaders. As co-laborers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church commissioned to lead and serve the youth and young adult generation, we share the burdens and triumphs of ministry.
In this devotional, we will walk together through scripture and journey through the lessons of life and ministry. Daily, you will be challenged with reflective questions and to share your affirmations on social media to encourage and inspire others. We are #ONETEAM!
Birthday in a Box
Spread birthday joy at shelters. Collect and assemble birthday candles, cake mix, frosting, decorations, plates, cups, napkins, and a simple toy or two in a box. Decorate the box.
Cost: Less than $10.00
Sock Collection for Homeless
Give the item most requested at homeless shelters. Collect and donate white crew socks for men, women, and children.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Paper Bag Decorating for Meals on Wheels / Food Bank Snack Pack
Add pizzazz to lunch for seniors. In addition to receiving the hot portion of the meal in a tray, Meals on Wheels recipients get the cold portion in a lunch bag. Add life to their meals by decorating lunch bags. Simply buy paper lunch bags and use your creativity, crayons, markers, stickers, or any art materials you have on hand.
Cost: Less than $5.00