"Study the 9th chapter of Ezekiel. These words will be literally fulfilled; yet the time is passing, and the people are asleep. They refuse to humble their souls and to be converted. Not a great while longer will the Lord bear with the people who have such great and important truths revealed to them, but who refuse to bring these truths into their individual experience. The time is short. God is calling; will YOU hear? Will YOU receive His message? Will YOU be converted before it is too late? Soon, very soon, every case will be decided for eternity. Letter 106, 1909, pp. 2, 3, 5, 7. (To "The churches in Oakland and Berkeley, September 26, 1909.)" E. G. White Manuscript Releases Volume One, p. 260.
If one prays to discern a modern day counterpart of everything that Pastor Kirkpatrick describes in the following sermon, you will know the future outcome of the professing Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Larry Kirkpatrick. Price Seventh-day Adventist Church. 22 July 2000
A Mark For God's People?
Larry Kirkpatrick. Price Seventh-day Adventist Church. 22 July 2000
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 9:4
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
Tonight we start to see the payoff from our recent meetings. Our objective is to gain a clear understanding of what the Scripture teaches about the mark of the beast. Turn with me now to Ezekiel, chapter nine as we look into a fascinating Bible passage dealing with a mark very much like the mark of the beast. Just one interesting difference:
This mark is placed on God's people.
Let's begin then, by reading from this passage. Consider with me, Ezekiel 9:1- 11:
He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem? Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not. And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.
Why are we interested in the mark of the beast, anyway? Probably because (1) although we may not be sure exactly what it is, we know that it is extremely bad and we don't want to get it, (2) there are no shortage of fanciful ideas in the wind today about what it is, and (3) it sounds like an invasion of our autonomy—our rights—and none of us are for having our rights invaded!
Besides that, we all sense that this has directly to do with our eternal fate. Something called the mark "of" the beast implies that he (the beast) reaches out and marks people. You've heard of "reach out and touch someone"? Well, the beast takes it very literally! He reaches out and touches those whom he can bring under his power through his deceptions. They give themselves to him and he puts his autograph on them in the end. Once and for all. He hit a home run and ruined that soul, so he signs the baseball.
But it gets more interesting. Because God is also signing-off for certain people. Certain people have chosen Him—chosen His ways. And He acknowledges that. He also marks His people. In fact, we will discover that, in the end, everyone will have a mark. The question is not whether you will be marked, but who you will choose to autograph you.
Alright now. Zero-in on this text with me. What's the story? There's a group of six beings having charge over this city (Ezekiel 9:1, 4). The group is summoned by a shining being, doubtlessly Jesus (Ezekiel 8:2; Ezekiel 9:3-4). They arrive in readiness to slaughter. One, dressed in white clothes, is commissioned to "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." Five are instructed to go through after him and "slay utterly" everyone within the city except those having the mark. Furthermore, they are instructed to start the process "at My sanctuary."
Here is assurance of God's judgment upon rebellious people. Ezekiel had been exiled and carried away among the Israelite captives in the Babylonian invasion of 597 B. C. After God's persistent efforts to turn the people of Israel had failed, He sent His judgments upon the unfaithful nation and most of her leadership—faithful and unfaithful—had been carried away into Babylon. Ezekiel and the faithful elders of Israel gathered regularly, praying and discussing their plight. On this occasion Ezekiel entered into vision and afterward told his friends what he had seen occurring back in Jerusalem. (Ezekiel 8:1; 11:24-25).
What was at the center of the camp of Israel while she was traveling through the wilderness? The sanctuary. And where do you think her center of activity was after she had entered the land of Canaan and set up her government in Jerusalem? At the temple—at the sanctuary—of course. Really, the events of chapter nine are a continuation of what Ezekiel was shown starting in chapter eight. And let's see what that was . . .
First, the prophet is carried in vision straight to the sanctuary in Jerusalem. There, to his sorrow, he is shown an idol that had been set up right within the precincts of the sanctuary, right next to the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard (Ezekiel 8:5-6)—right where heaven had designated the place where the the sacrificial offerings be made. Remember, the purpose of the structure and system was to eliminate sin from God's people. Here, in this solemn setting, a substitution had been made. The sacrifices that stood for the ultimate coming of Jesus who would give His life for His people, were replaced by a statue of a heathen god so placed as to receive their reverence! What did God say to Ezekiel about this? "Seest thou what they do . . . that I should go far off from My sanctuary?" (Ezekiel 8:6).
But this was not all. Next, Ezekiel is shown a second abomination in the sanctuary, a secret one (Ezekiel 8:7-13). The leaders in Jerusalem were shown as being present in a room connected to the temple/sanctuary structure in Jerusalem, in hiding, in "the chambers of [their] imagery." All along the wall were portrayed the various idols and images of animals and crude figures worshiped as gods. But worse yet was what Ezekiel saw in their midst: led by a man named Jaazaniah, the 70 elders of Israel were offering incense to these false gods. Their attitude? "The Lord doesn't see us. He is not active in the earth" (Ezekiel 8:12).
A third abomination now is shown to Ezekiel, as He is carried out to the north gate of the temple (Ezekiel 8:14-15). Here he sees several women, gathered together, weeping for Tamuz. Tamuz was a foreign deity usually considered the spouse of the goddess Ishtar. "Weeping for Tamuz" was a part of the worship of Tamuz. But heaven has one more abomination to show God's prophet in this vision . . .
Here's what he was finally shown—what heaven counted as "greater" than any of the other abominations he'd seen (Ezekiel 8:15):
And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and, behold, at the door of the temple [the sanctuary] of the Lord, between the porch and the altar [the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard, between the entrance to the courtyard and the sanctuary structure], were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple [the sanctuary structure] of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.
God's sanctuary—the place He asked His people to build so that He could dwell with them—so that He could put an end to their sin problem—was turned to the worship of the sun. What greater offense could be offered to the Creator who made the sun, than to turn one's worship away from the Maker to what He had made!
Summing up the divine response to the wickedness of the people, Ezekiel was told "Therefore will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them" (Ezekiel 8:18). God would no longer have mercy. And perhaps we are shocked, but it is true nonetheless: God told them that He would not listen to their prayers any more at all. Their worship of the sun had been the last straw.
They were goners.
Now we can better understand what we already saw happening in the ninth chapter of Ezekiel. Nothing was arbitrary about heaven's judgments on Israel; they were the measured, appropriate responses of Goodness against sin. Pay close attention now. This wasn't something that those who were slaughtered were necessarily tricked into. The marking for salvation was at the same time the marking for slaughter. You only have to mark all the good or all the bad to distinguish between the two groups. In this case, the representation is that the good were marked for salvation. The evil were marked for destruction by the fact that they weren't marked for salvation.
Fence-post-sitting Christianity is what is popular today. But where is the fence in Ezekiel nine? There isn't one. Everyone is marked-off into one group or the other. So let's take a closer look at those receiving God's mark.
The individual with the inkhorn was sent to "set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for the abominations that be done in the midst" of Jerusalem. I want us to notice something very important right here. Are you ready?
Heaven makes a moral evaluation of the people here. The man with an inkhorn is told to mark only those who "sigh and cry" in the city. But why are they sighing and crying? "For the abominations that be done" in the midst of Jerusalem. These persons are experiencing real mental agony about the sin in the midst of Israel. In fact, such an evaluation can only follow what could be called an investigative judgment of everyone involved—a look into not only the story told by their outward acts, but by their inward attitude. The man with an inkhorn is sent to seek out those "sighing and crying," not as a cheap outward show, but as the real expression of inward shame and revulsion against rampant sin.
Some today are afraid that they will be forcibly bar-coded, or a computer chip will be forcibly placed in their forehead, or that their credit-card number will turn out to contain the digits "666" (by the way, we'll be talking about that number!). But do you know what you need to be concerned about? You need to be concerned that you will be able to tell what sin is and be found sighing and crying about it when God marks His people. Do you really hate sin? Do you really love what is moral and right? If you don't, God can change you. But you don't—I don't—dare linger over sin. We already have a lot of affection for sin. You know its true. But our Father in heaven can change that if we will only permit Him to. No friends; never forget, from this moment on out to the moment Jesus comes, that the mark of the beast and the mark (or seal) of God is about moral character. Its not about what you profess to be, but about what you are by the grace of God, (or with your permission by the ungrace of Satan).
A dialogue between Ezekiel and God clarifies the fairness of God's dealing with Israel. He tells Ezekiel that He will "recompense their way upon their head" (Ezekiel 9:10). That is, His response is an appropriate one when the largesse of Israel's sin is kept in view. Our father is not arbitrary in His dealings with people as individuals or groups. Those finally receiving the mark have acted so that even a merciful God grants them, in all fairness, their choice. They by their lives will have chosen their mark themselves. They will sigh and cry for abominations, or love the abominations. They will love righteousness and hate sin, or love sin and hate righteousness. God then rewards them according to their chosen moral character.
We saw in ourfifth presentation how God's purpose was made known to His people when He commanded, "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). He would dwell in the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary, directly above His Ten Commandment law and between the cherubim. We also saw that for humankind, only one entrance—the single door at the eastern side of the courtyard—admitted one into the place of His presence, the place where one would be freed of sin through heaven's provision.
Chapters 10 and 11 of Ezekiel finish that section of his vision with the awesome appearance of the divine "chariot" of Ezekiel chapter one. But its appearance outside of the sanctuary, moving to its east gate, and finally from there to the east-overlooking hill of the Mt. of Olives was a disheartening blow to Ezekiel. God was leaving His house! The sin of the nation's spiritual leaders was driving their God from the sanctuary.
Listen to the Biblical description of the departure of God:
Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. (Ezekiel 11:22-23).
Not many hundreds of years later, Jesus would, from the top of that same eastern mountain, cry as His tearing eyes surveyed the city, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:37-38). Even then, mercy would linger another forty years until the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. But the presence of God would be removed. The sanctuary would stand empty. A tragedy would be upon His people.
Our heavenly Father's actions are always fair. Before He takes an action that will decisively change the situation between Him and His people, He tells them through His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7). He doesn't jump up and leave His city or His people precipitously. Consider what was happening in Israel: His people were breaking His Ten Commandments. The second command says not to worship idols, not to make a likeness of anything in heaven or earth and then worship it (Exodus 20:4-5). After long and repeated and flagrant violation of the law upon which His covenant is based, He first disciplined His people, but when even that failed, He actually left His sanctuary/temple.
Here's another major example. Turn with me to Jeremiah 17:19-27. God stated through His prophet Jeremiah that the sin of His people was deeply entrenched in their hearts, and that it was expressed in the idolatrous worship taking place in the high places of the land. (Jeremiah 17:1-3). Did you know that He promised that the city of Jerusalem would never fall if they obeyed His law? Look at Jeremiah 17:24-25:
And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto Me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain forever."
But if they would break this part of the Ten Commandments . . .
But if ye will not hearken unto Me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
He promised that if they obeyed His sabbath (the fourth of the Ten Commandments), the city would "remain forever," but if they disobeyed, He would "kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." So. Does God take His law seriously? Indeed!
When the people of God break the law of their God, it always has devastating results. One part of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 that we didn't completely explain was the last part. And just here is a good place to share that. We've seen today that God demands obedience, offers to change our hearts so that we can obey, and then holds us responsible for being moral people—people like the Savior Jesus. We've seen that He is fair when He blesses and fair when He punishes. He is willing to let people have what they want, even if it leads to their destruction, because He respects the freedom He has given to them. So let's look at that last part of the section in Daniel 9:26-27:
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations He shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
I want us to notice here that the terms "Messiah" and "Prince" go together all through this passage from verses 24-27. This is important, and let me tell you why. We saw in our last meeting that "Messiah" here has reference to Jesus Christ. But did you know that many people think that this passage has reference to the anti-christ rather than to the Christ? Its amazing! We already saw how the prophecy fit Jesus so exactly. But let's make sure we get an understanding of what happens.
I believe that all the references here to "Messiah" and "Prince" refer to the same individual: Jesus. We already saw how Jesus came in the fall of A. D. 27 ("unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks" (Daniel 9:25), was cut off in the midst of the week (spring of A. D. 30), and the 490 years cut off for the Hebrew nation to bring in Christ, ended in A. D. 34 (Daniel 9:27). But what about the remainder of that verse? "And the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined."
Who are the people of the Prince that was yet to come (from the perspective of Daniel's time)—the only prince that this passage is referring to? Jesus is "the Messiah the prince"—the only person in Scripture referred to this way. And who were His people? The Hebrew nation, the Jews—they were His people. But this verse says that those people are those who shall "destroy the city and the sanctuary." You may be aware that the literal city of Jerusalem was actually "destroyed" a number of times. But the most devastating attack was when the city was utterly wasted and the sanctuary/temple leveled, in A. D. 70 in the seige, attack, and burning carried out by the Roman General Titus and His legions. Some have understood Titus to be "the prince" and "the people" to be the Roman army. The problem I see with this interpretation is twofold: first, it means arbitrarily splitting "Messiah" and "prince," whereas they seem to hold together all through the passage as referring to one individual, and second, it takes away the ultimate responsibility for the destruction of Jerusalem from God's people and gives it to the Romans.
Remember Daniel 9:24 had said that 490 years were cut-off for the Jewish nation to bring in righteousness. They did not. It was not the Roman Empire on probation, but God's people. And God's people failed. When they failed, they assured the destruction of their city. Not the Romans. The Hebrew nation chose to go away from God. They chose to reject the Messiah when He came. And God destroyed their city, and took His kingdom away from them (Matthew 21:33-46). They destroyed their own city. They destroyed their own sanctuary. They chose to reject Jesus and to reject His law.
"The end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." In the end the Romans came in indeed, so very much like a flood. And to the end of the war desolations were determined. By the lack of sorrow of God's people they were determined. Oh yes, make no mistake—just as we've noticed before, the choice of the Jews was made, with God finally sending the Romans in as His agency of retribution. If we took the time we could work through the last part of Daniel 9:27, which really just echoes the last part of verse 26 again (see the following graphic from Seventy-Weeks, Leviticus, Nature of Prophecy, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series—vol. 3, p. 98):
Turn to Revelation 7:1-4, and let's see how all of this ties into the representation there of God's people being marked. Consider:
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
See here how angels are restraining "the four winds of the earth" so that they will not blow before God's people are sealed? How similar this is to the command given by the man with the inkhorn in Ezekiel nine to mark the foreheads of those who "sigh and cry" before the destruction of those lacking God's mark (those implicitly bearing the mark of Satan, or "the mark of the beast"). In the second verse here we see that an angel comes from the east, "having the seal of the living God." He commands the angels holding the four winds to continue to restrain them just a bit longer, "till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads" (Revelation 7:3).
It is plain that before Jesus returns to earth in the second coming, heaven has undertaken a plan identical to Ezekiel nine. The people of God are being marked before Jesus comes. The attention of heaven is, even now, directed to this task.
A process of sealing a people is God's agenda for the end-time—sealing them in their foreheads. As we also saw in our first meeting,Collision with Prophecy, Satan uses an earthly, religio-political power to impose his mark—the mark of the beast—upon those who have willfully joined his kingdom. It is a battle of markings. God's "seal" versus the beasts' mark. And we live at the climax of the battle.
Before we summarize and close our meeting today, one last point remains. Let's turn back to Ezekiel 8:16:
And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.
I want you to notice something here; something that is giant. Remember that the temple and the sanctuary are one and the same, just in different points in time. After the Hebrew nation came out of the wilderness, and ceased their wandering, they established the sanctuary permanently in Jerusalem. The temple was built nearly identically to the sanctuary (minor variations are evident as described in 2 Chronicles 3-4). One minor addition is the porch—a staircase ascending up from the courtyard to the doorway of the sanctuary/temple. Thus "the porch" was just immediately before the entrance of the temple. With that in mind, consider the tragedy of this text. Ezekiel saw the leadership of Israel. They were within the precincts of the sanctuary. They were there, "between the porch and the altar." Facing which way? Facing toward the east! Their backs were turned on the sanctuary of the Lord!
To what then were their backs turned? To the presence of God, in the Most Holy Place, between the cherubim, to the Mercy Seat, beneath the Shekinah glory of God's presence, and above the box or "ark" of God. Their back was also turned to the Ten Commandments kept in that ark. Their back was turned to the veil recording the sins of Israel. In fact, their backs were turned to the altar of incense which was connected with the offering system. Behind them lay the table of shewbread on the north side of the Holy Place, and on the south side, the candlestick representing the Holy Spirit. In fact, my listeners, the backs of these men were turned totally to the entirety of the sanctuary and its sacrificial system. And that means to the daily offering, to the yearly Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement, and so, even to the eradication of sin from the camp of Israel.
And what did these men see before them, their back to the sanctuary, their faces eastward? Before them, as they worshipped the Sun, they could also see the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard, perhaps the laver, and definitely the doorway on the east entering into the courtyard grounds.
Directly before them they could see the altar of sacrifice. And what did that altar stand for? For the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our sins. That sacrifice provided no less than 100% of the sacrifice standing in the place of our own sinful life. Jesus' sinless life stands in the place of my sinful life. Furthermore, it is not just counted in place of my life, but the life of Christ, represented in the blood—that blood ministered through the sanctuary system—to which the elders of Israel had turned their backs—that life presented by Jesus now as our High Priestly Intercessor, sends the power of God forth, out of the sanctuary and into us. Through that ministry we are enabled to live obediently, keeping God's commandments. The supernatural power making this kind of life possible comes only through the sanctuary system.
Today Christendom claims to believe in Jesus. It claims to accept His sacrifice and all that it means in its fulness. But you can't separate the sacrifice offered at the altar with the ministry through the sanctuary system. You can't separate Jesus' death upon the cross, from His high Priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. They belong together. They work together. They do NOT function when they are artificially separated from each other. The gospel not only deals with guilt for past sins, but gives power to live a holy life so that we reach a point where we stop choosing to sin. Sin stops going up into the sanctuary. It then becomes possible for our Jesus to finish the "cleansing of the sanctuary" (Daniel 8:14).
So. Who will you have to autograph you? Do you want to receive the seal of the living God, or the mark of the beast? Will you float along with the crowd and receive a Christianity claiming to be centered in Jesus yet allowing immoral living, or will you embrace a Christianity with Christ and authentic moral living? Those are crucial questions. As we've seen today, we may not, all of us, be ready yet for Jesus to come back. Are you, in your heart, sighing and crying for sin? Won't you plead with Him to grow in your heart both, a hatred for sin and love for righteousness? And shall we not pray that as Christians today, we will not repeat the failure of Israel to let God repair them? Now is our hour!
Don't miss our next meeting. The two opposing systems of salvation have led to the rise of a power understood in Scripture as the antichrist. In our very next meeting, we will go through the Scriptures, and with a careful, step-by-step approach, identify it. Our talk will be titled, "Big Words. Little Horn. Great controversy".