Late Changes to Sabbath School Lessons Minimize Trinity, Emphasize Catholicism
10 October 2018 | Translators who have been working on the Sabbath School lessons on the book of Revelation scheduled for the first quarter of 2019 were surprised to get a late, fairly extensive revision to the lessons recently. The lessons, written by New Testament scholar Dr. Ranko Stefanovic of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, had already been approved by the Sabbath School committee. But a note from the Quarterly’s publication manager, Lea Greve, tells translators to hold off because “the Standard Edition for First Quarter 2019, entitled The Book of Revelation, contains major revisions to correct numerous errors throughout the manuscript.”
Before and after copies obtained by Adventist Today show two major areas of change.
The Identity of God’s Enemies.
The revised manuscript strengthens the identity of the Roman Catholic church and the papacy as God’s particular enemies. Dr. Stefanovic was careful in his commentary to describe God’s end-time enemies in terms of large spiritual principles. He quotes Evangelism, p. 575, which says, ”We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics.” His manuscript is correspondingly careful about such identifications.
The rewritten lesson specifies Roman Catholics and their institutions at every opportunity. For example, in the following passage, Dr. Stefanovic writes ”the medieval ecclesiastical power,” whereas the rewriter spells it out. The highlighted passages were added by the rewriter.
The first half of Revelation 13 describes the
medieval ecclesiastical Roman Catholic power active during the prophetic period of 1,260 days/years
The three angels’ messages are proclaimed by God’s people to counter
the three froglike demonic spirits coming out of the mouth of the satanic trinity Satan and his end-time allies—the dragon, a symbol of paganism/spiritualism; the sea beast, a power that symbolizes Roman Catholicism; and the lamblike beast, or false prophet, a representative of apostate Protestantism in the United States (Revelation 13).
The end-time Babylon in Revelation is
the name for the satanic trinity in union with other false religions (Rev. 17:5) a union of false religious systems that includes Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism.
13–20 12–20 portrays Satan, who, endeavoring to win the world’s allegiance. launches a great counterfeit of the true God and His salvific activities in the world. In Revelation 13 , a triune league is formed between the dragon and his two allies: the sea beast (Rev. 13:1–10) and the earth beast (Rev. 13:11–18) . This satanic triumvirate stands as the antithesis to the Trinity of the Godhead (Rev. 1:4–6) . He uses, in turn, a religio-political power, as well as political powers, to do his work: pagan Rome, symbolized by the dragon (Rev. 12:4, 5); followed by a power symbolized by the sea beast (Rev. 12:6, 15; Rev. 13:1-8); and finally, a power symbolized by the earth beast (Rev. 13:11). Throughout the rest of the book, the members of this satanic triad—paganism/spiritualism as symbolized by the dragon; Roman Catholicism, symbolized by the sea beast; and apostate Protestantism, symbolized by the lamblike, or earth beast—are inseparably united in opposing God’s activities in the world.”
References to the Trinity
Throughout the lesson Dr. Stefanovic contrasts God’s Holy Trinity and Satan’s counterfeit “trinity” (the dragon, the sea beast, and the land beast of Revelation 13). The word “trinity” was used 9 times in the original manuscript. All nine uses of the word have been removed, whether they referred to the Holy Trinity or the false satanic trinity. Similar words such as “triad” and “triumvirate” are at times removed.
In addition to the February 21 passage above, the following passages show representative strikeouts from Dr. Stafanovic’s manuscript:
portrays him as preparing for the final battle, but with the help of his two allies, both portrayed as savage beasts. The antithesis to the Trinity of the Godhead (see Rev. 1:4–6) , these three powers form an unholy triad united in opposing God’s salvific activities and in trying to win the allegiance of the world.
This affirms the fact that the sea beast is the second member of the satanic trinity, endeavoring to take the place of Jesus Christ in the minds and hearts of the people.
The drying up of the Euphrates shakes the satanic triad. At this point, John sees coming out of their mouths three demonic spirits resembling frogs. In the Egyptian plagues, frogs were the last plague that Pharaoh’s magicians were able to duplicate (Exod. 8:1–15) . The three froglike demons are Satan’s last attempt to counterfeit the work of God.
Wrote one translator to Adventist Today, “As these late edits claim to remove ‘errors,’ I find it curious that someone would object to this contrast being made in our quarterlies. After all, the Trinity is still a fundamental doctrine of ours. Removing it from the lessons looks like wanting to blur our view of the Godhead and an important theme in Revelation.”
The following change seems to have been made in favor of a more perfectionistic view:
“Without fault” (Greek amōmos, “blameless”) refers to the fidelity of the 144,000 to Christ. In the
Old Testament Bible, God’s people are called holy (Lev. 19:2; 1 Peter. 2:9). Abraham (Gen. 17:1) and Job (Job 1:1) were blameless. , even though they have sinned as has everyone else
Interestingly, the following discussion question (which questions are not necessarily provided by the original author) was also removed from the lesson on Revelation 13:
If God Himself refused to force our worship and obedience, and was even willing to go to the cross rather than force worship and obedience, what does it tell us about how evil this final confederation of forces will become?
Adventist Today contacted Dr. Stefanovic, who said he had been very surprised to learn of the changes to his manuscript. “The changes were not just edits but major revisions, despite the fact that my manuscript was approved by the two committees with some minor edits.”
“My original manuscript presented the current Adventist interpretation of Revelation,” he told Adventist Today. “One may wonder, why they ask scholars to write these lessons, and then don’t trust them and change the content to something completely different or contrary, even to widely accepted positions of the church.”