Remembering Calving Burrell – A BSA Servant

Remembering Calving Burrell – A BSA Servant

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

On June 29th of this year, Calvin Burrell passed away. There are few people who have had the kind of impact on the BSA and the broader Sabbath community that Calvin had in his lifetime. In this edition of The Sabbath Sentinel, I want to pen a tribute to his life and work for the BSA and the Sabbath community.

Calvin was born at home to his parents Lawrence and Lottie Burrell in 1943. This was near the time that the BSA was founded. For many years, the Burrell house was the headquarters for the organization. His parents served as the BSA Secretary-Treasurer for over 40 years.

BSA Work

Calvin grew up in a home where serving God and others was emphasized. The dining room table was an assembly line for mailings. Folding, stuffing, addressing, stamping, sorting, and stacking for these mailouts was a routine activity in their home.

Here is a quote from Calvin concerning his upbringing in a BSA home: “Growing up in a BSA home, we often mixed with folks beyond our own church.  I still dream of greater fellowship, and collaboration among the many Sabbath keeping believers who are too often isolated behind denominational and doctrinal walls.  BSA is one of the few voices out there committed to celebrate what we share in Christ, in the Bible, and in the good gift of God’s weekly Sabbath.  Let’s make BSA work for all of us.”

Over the years, Calvin would tell us stories from his youth. Among them was how many visitors stopped by the Burrell home to visit with their family, ask questions about the Sabbath, and learn about the BSA. The Burrell family welcomed all people to learn about the Kingdom of God. Among these visitors were people who decades later would connect with the BSA work!

During his life, Calvin held many positions in the BSA. He was a board member from 1985-2020. From the late 1980s into the 1990s, he served as Vice President on multiple boards. He served as President form 2012-2015, Secretary from 2016-2020, and we nominated him as Board Member Emeritus in 2021.

His activities for the BSA included but were not limited to: a regular contributor to the Sabbath Sentinel Magazine; updates to the group’s Constitution/By-laws; instrumental in helping piece together the 2015 BSA directory of Sabbath keeping Churches; participated in BSA elections and manned booths for the BSA; He served on a book committee to approve new materials to be offered through the organization.

To summarize, Calvin contributed in some or fashion to nearly every activity connected to the BSA outreach.

Church of God Seventh Day Work
As busy as Calvin seemed with the BSA over his life, he was also a very dedicated member and minister for the Church of God Seventh Day (Denver Conference). He received a BA in teaching from Northwestern Teachers College in Alva, Oklahoma, and a Master of Religion from Bethany Nazarene College. These degrees equipped him for the work he would do through his home church.

As a member of the Church of God seventh day, he held nearly every position. This included, but was not limited, to: President of the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day), Editor of The Bible Advocate (the Church magazine), and President of the International Ministerial Congress, and Missions Abroad Director. He also taught at Summit School of Theology, Life Spring, and Artios. He was a teacher and principal at Spring Vale Academy and pastored churches in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Shawnee, Oklahoma, Denver, Colorado, and Houston, Texas. He was a published author, on countless boards and advisory committees.

Calvin was a busy man!

A Family Man
While Calvin was busy doing God’s work, he did not neglect his loved ones. He married his wife Barbara in 1966 and together they celebrated their 56th year of marriage earlier this year. He was known as a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Together with Barbara, they reared three children. At the time of his passing, Calvin and Barbara had 17 grandchildren and three great grand-children. He was a family man.

An Avid Outdoorsman
Over the last seven years of knowing Calvin, I was not aware how involved he was with outdoor sports. He enjoyed golfing and sightseeing. Even more impressive was the fact that he hiked all 54 of the 14,000 ft mountains in Colorado. He also hiked in other states.

My Friend and BSA Mentor
This article would not be complete for me unless I shared some personal testimony about how he impacted my life. In 2015, Calvin Burrell invited me to run for the BSA board election. I was honored just to be invited to serve in this capacity. I honestly did not think anything would come of it, but some opportunities in life only come once. I accepted just so I could say I gave it a try!

I was in for a big surprise. First, I was nominated to the board by the BSA membership. For the first board meeting, I planned to run for secretary. I wanted to start at the bottom and understand how the organization worked. Well, God had a different plan. At the first board meeting, Calvin asked for nominations for President. No one said anything. Calvin then asked me to share my thoughts on what direction the BSA should take.

After I spent some time sharing, John Merritt nominated me for President. It was followed by a second and then unanimous yes. It happened so fast that I did not have any time to react. I was shocked! I accepted the nomination realizing that I didn’t have much of a choice at the time. When Calvin prompted me to share my thoughts about the BSA, it was a prophetic!

I did not have the slightest clue about how to run a board. I was baffled, to say the least. Little did I know that Calvin Burrell was going to be there for me and guide me every step of the way. In those early days, it seemed like I called or emailed him nearly every week.

As busy as he was, he always took the time to give advice and prayers for the situation or issue I was having. He always spoke to me with such gentleness and wisdom. As I became more familiar with guiding the organization, I did not have to contact him as much. But if I ever needed his assistance, he was gladly there. There were times I could feel his prayers on my behalf as God gave me wisdom and guidance on the direction of the BSA.

As I became more experienced with the BSA, I sometimes would call Calvin just to report to him how the BSA was doing. I am saddened that he won’t be able to see some of our current work and the plans we have for the future. He was always excited to hear the progress we were making with the group.

Great Advice
Over the years, Calvin provided invaluable insight into working with people from other Sabbath groups and navigating through their differences with each other. Using this advice, I went on the road to visit various Sabbath groups across the country. The more I traveled, the more I appreciated the views that different groups had. Calvin prepared me for this experience and really helped me to adjust as I encountered some difficulties along the way.

I can remember one instance where some people really came against me. I asked Calvin as to how I should respond, and he simply said: “Sometimes the best defense you have against your enemies is silence.” I took his advice on this type of situation, and I learned over the years that it was great advice to say the least! But Calvin had many other bits of wisdom he shared. He always encouraged me to never be afraid of the views of other Sabbath keepers. He taught me that I could learn to respect their beliefs, but also make sure I understand my own.

He was not quick to make an accusation against other Christians – sabbath keepers or not. He wanted to gain understanding about their practice in a way that was not judgmental. Calvin would ask me and other people questions about our beliefs. It was not to argue, but to understand. This is a rare trait in the Sabbath community and even Christianity at large.

Great Example

To this point, Calvin was never afraid to fellowship with other Christians even if they had very different beliefs. He was never intimidated because he was secure in his own beliefs. A great reminder for us all. His attitude in this area always reminded me of the verse in 2 Tim. 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Often Sabbath keepers operate out of fear towards others who view things differently. In fact, a lot of problems in the Sabbath Community come from insecure leaders. This was not the case with Calvin. He knew how to stand his ground with his own beliefs, but still love and appreciate others.

To illustrate this point, I will share with you an example. In 2016, the BSA board attended an in person gathering hosted by Dr. John Merritt in Tampa, FL. Dr. Merritt was attending a Hebrew Roots fellowship at that time, and we all went to visit. I remember this visit like it was yesterday.

The first part of the service was interesting. The leader of the group asked Calvin to speak about modern Sabbath history. Without hesitation, Calvin stood up and shared what he knew. That was impressive to me as many people would not be able to speak impromptu in a church with which they had no familiarity. Without fear, he spoke with conviction, poise, and passion.

The next part of the service involved live worship music. In the middle part of the meeting hall, they had Hebraic dance. Calvin jumped right in and danced without hesitation. This was amazing to me as most Sabbatarians do not practice this form of worship. He recognized that these ardent Sabbatarians were worshiping God even if it was different to him.

The last memory from this event is when we were in the car heading back for the board meeting that evening. Calvin curiously asked me why I practiced the Holy Days and what Bible verses supported the idea of a plan of salvation in the Holy Days. I shared with him Colossians 2:16-17, the meaning of those verses, and prophetic events in Christ that they represent – past, present, and future. He acknowledged that I had a good answer and did not try to argue with me or nitpick my answers. He just wanted to learn more. He admitted that he had considered observing the Day of Atonement.

Calvin loved the Sabbath.  He often said it was the best day of the week. In my early days as a BSA board member, I can recall him asking other board members: “How was the best day of the week for you?” He loved Sabbath keepers of all beliefs.

He was a great family member, father, grandfather, great-grand father, mentor, and brother to many people. He will be greatly missed.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Sabbath School Teachers Are Different

Sabbath School Teachers Are Different

By Eugene Lincoln

“Teaching is teaching, it might be said, and with some truth; but when the role of the Sabbath School teacher is compared with that of the public school teacher, it will be seen that there are several significant differences as well as some similarities. A good Sabbath School teacher will recognize those differences and adapt his teaching accordingly.

Any successful teacher is a success, at least in part, because he loves children and feels a call to work with them and to help mold their lives.

It might be well before discussing the differences found in teaching Sabbath School compared to other teaching to touch upon their similarities. As we mention these, perhaps the reader can think of ways to use some of these likenesses to his advantage in teaching a Sabbath School class…”

(this article is an excerpt from the Feb 1970 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 4, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/tss_158Feb1970.pdf

Were there Independent Sabbatarian Groups in the Early Nineteenth Century?

Were there Independent Sabbatarian Groups in the Early Nineteenth Century?

By Craig M White

Introductory Comments
This article is much shortened version of a longer collection of information The Independent Sabbatarian Groups (non-Seventh Day Baptist) c1800-c1860, available online for free at http://www.friendsofsabbath.org/ABC.htm.

It was either in 1973 or 1974 as a youngster that I talked with a visiting Church of God minister about the origins of the Worldwide Church of God and its doctrines. Having been brought up in a religious environment, discussions around various Biblical topics, doctrines, ethics and church historical subjects abounded within my extended family and influenced me.

So, due to this background, of interest to me were the origins of the Church of God (Seventh Day) and also some similarities in doctrine between various groups (refer to my articles The Doctrinal Heritage of the Church of God in the Nineteenth Century and History of the Fair Chance Doctrine for detailed information).

The minister didn’t have any knowledge of this or answers, but the roots of Worldwide Church of God doctrines (regardless of source) and Sabbatarian/Church of God history and linkages continued to interest me in those years and have done so ever since. Especially the years 1800-1860 and the supposed missing link around 1820-1845.

For instance, I read about the Church of God (Adventist) in a book listing the religious denomination in America that I found either in the school or local council library (I think it was Handbook of Religious Denominations in the United States). The minister couldn’t understand who they were, so I commenced my own research into the matter. It took many years to find out that this was, apparently, the name (whether registered or not) for the Church of God (Unattached) grouping that broke from the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) around 1905. It was certainly not an early name for the Church of God (Seventh Day) itself as I found out over time.

In the first instance, the term ‘Church of God’ is an appellation that we use today and from what can be gathered, was seldom used over the centuries. To understand the history of our forebears I like to use the term ‘spirit-led, Law-observant community of believers under God.’ The church, regardless of its title today, is the assembly of His people throughout the ages.

Sabbatarians continued since the First Century
Over the centuries, the true believers may not have officially called themselves ‘Church of God’ but would have gone under a similar title or another descriptive title.

Worldwide Church of God representative Herman L Hoeh wrote that

“… God’s people were commonly referred to as Sabbatarians in the 17th and 18th centuries and that is how we identified them – rather than by the now common denominational term Seventh Day Baptist … the church of God was used as a generic term, not a denominational term. We … do not dispute the use of other terms in the Sabbatarian churches, for the New Testament does the same” (“The Plain Truth Responds,” The Sabbath Sentinel, March 1992, p. 10).

Researcher Leon Lyell’s commented on this matter in an e-mail

“I think some of the people he mentions from 17C England (eg Bampfield who remained part of the Church of England) were not baptists but I think his thrust is correct, though in the seventeenth century the sabbatarians who were Baptists and who mostly anticipated the imminent return of Christ were not one organization. The issue of predestination was one which caused division for example.  

Re the early SDBs in America, I think the key point is that there were many independent baptist congregations who valued their autonomy. What became the SDB conference brought the benefits of being organized but I’d guess that many congregations didn’t ‘join up’ so in that sense there are likely to have been a number with differing beliefs form the main conference who kept to themselves. Many believed that agreeing to a list of doctrines may prevent the church from growing in truth. I’d also guess that as these groups would have been small some would have died out as their leaders passed away and some individuals may have later become attached to the SDBs SDAs, CoG or other organized groups. Many of these congregations would probably have kept a ”church book” and those that survived could be with various regional historical societies. The SDBs may have some from those which joined their conference. I’d guess some may well come to light as more records held by smaller historical societies become digitized.” (20 November 2015)

A Church of God Timeline since 1800 has been developed tracking the major events during the history of this little flock and is available online at the aforementioned website.

In the collection of information in The Independent Sabbatarian Groups (non-Seventh Day Baptist) c1800-c1860, I brought together whatever sources that could be sought to find out more about the offshoots from – or those Sabbatarian groups that didn’t join the Sabbatarian General Conference in 1801 or thereafter. But I cannot vouch for their accuracy in every detail.

At that time only about 8 churches joined the General Conference with the majority remaining independent. Full organisation came about in 1806, I believe. Information on these early conferences is available in Seventh Day Baptist Conference. It’s Origin.

Twelve years later, in 1818, the General Conference voted to change the term Sabbatarian to Seventh Day Baptist. Some congregations remained outside of the General Conference, and I do not know if there are any records of them in State libraries in America or held by the Seventh-Day Baptists themselves.

Did these groups merge with the Church of God groups that sprung up in the 1840s-50s? Did they die out? Or did they become part of the Seventh Day Baptist Conference? No one knows, but it will make for an interesting hunt by researchers someday. But at this time no evidence exists for Sabbatarian groups that were separate to the Seventh Day Baptists having been extant into the 1840s – 1850s that joined the emerging Sabbatarian Adventists that emerged out of the Millerites. They may have, but any hard evidence is lacking.

We can merely speculate that these remnant Sabbatarian groups, in existence alongside the Seventh Day Baptists continued on and found their way among the other Sabbatarians or Adventists per the below.

When Baptist preacher William Miller proclaimed the imminent return of Christ commencing about 1831, many began to respond (he was a Sunday keeper and never became a Sabbatarian). Whilst his followers were popularly known as ‘Millerites’, among themselves they were known as ‘Adventists’ – proclaimers of Christ’s second coming – His literal second coming.

The second coming of Christ literally to the earth, a 1,000 year reign of His upon the earth and other truths were very seldom mentioned or believed in Christianity – until the Advent movement. Indeed, at that time Christianity was indifferent to Christ’s return or was seeking it to occur after the millennium!

It took some years before a handful of the Adventists adopted the seventh-day Sabbath. This is how God, in His mysterious ways did this:

“Rachel (Harris) Oakes Preston (1809-1868), had a great influence on the Sabbatarian movement.  She was a Seventh Day Baptist who persuaded a group of Adventists to accept the Sabbath and thus to become in that sense, the first Seventh-day Adventists. Born in Vernon, Vermont, she joined the Methodist Church, then joined the Seventh Day Baptist church of Verona, Oneida County, New York. Later she moved to Washington, New Hampshire, to be near her daughter, Delight Oakes, who taught school there. When Mrs. Oakes sought to introduce the Sabbath to the company of Adventists in the Christian church there, she found them so engrossed in preparation for the coming of the Lord that they paid little attention to her Seventh Day Baptist literature.

She did eventually gain as a convert, Frederick Wheeler, a Methodist preacher. One Sunday while conducting the communion service for the Christian congregation, he remarked that all who confess communion with Christ in such a service as this “should be ready to obey God and keep His commandments in all things.” Later Mrs. Oakes told him that she had almost risen in the service to tell him that he had better push back the communion table and put the communion cloth back over it until he was willing to keep all the commandments of God, including the fourth. Knowing she was a Seventh Day Baptist, Wheeler thus began serious thinking and earnest study, and not long after about March, 1844, as he later related, he began to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. After the Great Disappointment in October, 1844, during a Sunday service in the Washington church, William Farnsworth stated publicly that he was convinced that the seventh day of the week was the Sabbath and that he had decided to keep it. He was immediately followed by his brother Cyrus and several others. And Mrs. Oakes, in turn, soon embraced the Adventist teachings. Thus it was that the first little Sabbatarian Adventist group came into being.

Mrs. Oakes later married Nathan T. Preston and moved away. Not until the last year of her life did she join what had meanwhile become the SDA Church.” (Adapted from the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Volume 10, page 1149, 1976. Review and Herald Publishing Association.)

Five groups emerged directly from the original Adventist/Millerite movement:  Seventh-day Adventists (1863), Church of God (1866), and three Sunday-observing Adventist groups: Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith (1888), Advent Christian Church (1860) and the Life and Advent Union (1862) (the latter two merged in 1964). Except for the Sabbath, the Sunday observing Adventists groups have some major similarities to the Sabbatarian Churches of God, including the future Kingdom of God on earth, conditionalism (soul sleep), anti-trinitarianism and water baptism.

Both Adventists and Churches of God are familiar with their common roots and beginnings during the nineteenth century. With the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, some individuals and fellowships either never joined and remained outside of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, withdrew in 1863 or withdrew three years later in 1866 (see Linden, 1844 and the Shut Door Problem, pp. 80-81; Bjorling, The Churches of God, Seventh Day. A Bibliography, pp. 10-14). Of course, the Seventh Day Baptists remained a separate entity to this day.

Later, with the incorporation of the scattered non-Seventh Day Adventist and non-Seventh Day Baptist churches, the new group eventually became known as the General Conference of the Church of God. In 1923, the name General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) was officially adopted and has remained such to this day. It was never known as Church of God (Adventist).

Craig White

Select References and Suggested Further Reading

Benedict, D. (1813).The General History of the Baptist Denomination in America. Volume 2. Mannin & Loring Printers.
Campbell, M W. (2015).Developments in the Relationship between Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists, 1844-1884. A paper presented to the American Society of Church History, 16 April.
Cross, W R. (1950).The Burned-Over District. Harper & Row, New York, NY.
Davis, T. (1851).A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. Lindsay & Blakiston, Philadelphia, PA.
Haloviak, B. (1984.)Some Great Connections: Our Seventh-Day Adventist Heritage from the Christian Church, General Conference Archives, USA.
Kiesz, J. (1965).History of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Midwest Bible College, Stanberry, MO.
Kiesz, J. (2016).“CG7 elder and evangelist Kiesz gives church history”, The Journal, 29 February.
Knight, G. (ed) (1994).1844 and the Rise of Sabbatarian Adventism. Review & Herald publishing, Hagerstown, MD.
Linden, I. (1982).1844 and the Shut Door Problem. Libertryck, Stockholm. 
Seventh Day Baptist General Conference. (1907).Seventh Day Baptist Conference. It’s Origin. The American Sabbath Tract Society, Plainfield, NJ. 
Weston, H. M. (1949).“The Seventh Day Baptists”, The Ministry, January, pp. 17-19.
White, C. M. (2022).Church of God Timelines. Sydney, Australia.



The Visitor

The Visitor

By Christine Burns

“The day dawned clear and very bright,

A perfect Sabbath day.

I hurried then with all my might,

So I could be upon my way

To meet with others of like faith

Where we could worship, sing, and pray.

I found the church, a lovely place

For all to come and draw apart,

Where worldliness would leave no trace

And peace from heaven fill my heart.

I stepped inside and looked about,

And saw a place of beauty rare;

Then to my right I heard a shout

Of children playing on the stair….”

(this article is an excerpt from the May 1971 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 9, click this link:

An Early Christian Perspective on Revelation 17 (Part 2)

An Early Christian Perspective on Revelation 17 (Part 2)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the first part of this series, we looked at quotes from some early Christian authors concerning the woman Babylon of Revelation 17 (click HERE to read part one). They viewed this as the city of Rome.

In the second part of this series, we want to look at the Bible and Roman history to understand more about why they viewed the chapter with this understanding. We will compare many verses from Revelation chapters 17 and 18 and then compare them to other historical writings near the time the book was written.

Revelation 17:1-2
1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. 2With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

In the first part of this verse, we see a woman being depicted as a prostitute. Kings of the earth committed adultery with her and her wine intoxicated inhabitants of the earth.

In about 200 BC, the city of Rome first appeared on ancient coins. The city was personified and deified as a goddess called Roma. On most coins, she is depicted as sitting.

Below, a coin from the reign of Vespasian (69-79). It depicts Rome as a woman sitting on seven hills or mountains (we will review the seven mountains later).

© The Trustees of the British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/image/88823001. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

“…the kings of the earth committed adultery…”

When the Romans conquered a kingdom, many times the kingdom was required to accept certain trade terms which were favorable to Rome. The Roman deities were also expected to be worshiped amd/or worship the emperor. Also, conquered realms often sent the king, queen, and or their children to Rome. They were treated well and educated about Roman ways in hopes that they would be appreciative about Rome and serve her interests. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, these kings were called “subject-kings” (The Histories, 2.81).

Antiochus IV (also called Epiphanes) was the Greek king during the events of the Hanukkah story. He is probably among the more famous kings who spent much of his youth in Rome. When he became king, he respected the Romans and did not turn on them.

“…The inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries…”
The book of Revelation speaks of world-wide events. However, one historical application which dates to the first century was the perspective that the Roman empire was considered the habitable world or earth.

Tacitus, writing around the start of the second century, said that the Roman Empire was the whole earth or terrarium orbe (Histories, 4.3). Plutarch wrote that the Roman Empire was the habitable earth (de fort. Rom., sec. 11). Josephus used similar language in calling the Roman Empire the habitable earth (Wars of the Jews, 2.16.4, 2.18.3, 2.20.7). Other places were considered another world or separated from the world. Parthia was considered another world (alio ex orbe) from the Romans (Tacitus, Annals, 2.2). Virgil said that Britain, which at his time was not part of the Roman Empire, was totally divided from the world (toto divisos orbe) (Ecologue, 1.64-67).

In the Bible, we understand that adultery is connected to spiritual unfaithfulness to the True God. This included disobedience and the worship of other gods, which involved the use of idols (Jer. 3:8-9). The Romans at times, usually in crisis or in great celebration, tried to force people to worship and sacrifice to the gods of Rome (to learn more about this, read our article: The Mark of the Beast: An Early Church Perspective). This forced her inhabitants to participate in spiritual adultery.

Rev. 17:3-4
3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.

The language used here is fascinating. The leaders of Rome were considered the head of the state. The empire was called a beast.  

Livy (64 BC-17 AD) – (context: the consul of Rome died) “The helpless commonwealth, deprived of its head and all its strength, was saved by its guardian deities and the fortune of the City, who made the Volscians and Aequi think more of plunder than of their enemy” (Roman History, 3.7.1).

Tacitus (56-120 AD) – “How long, Caesar, will you permit the state to lack a head?” (Annals, 1.13). “but to convince him by his own admission that the body of the State was one, and must be directed by a single mind…” (ibid, 12; side note: this quote has interesting connections with Rev. 17:12-13).

Seutonius (69-122 AD) – “…yet he refused the title for a long time, with barefaced hypocrisy now upbraiding his friends who urged him to accept it, saying that they did not realise what a monster (belua – which can also mean beast) the empire was…” (Suetonius, Tiberius, 24).

What is interesting is that as the emperors became stronger, the focus was on the head or leader and not the beast or body. We will deal with the number seven later in reference to the seven heads and the ten horns.

“She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries…”
In the Torah, we learn about the definition of an abomination. This included actions such as idolatry, sorcery and witchcraft, sexual perversion, unclean animals, and other behaviors. These actions would be applicable to behaviors commonly found in the Roman world. As a side note, it is interesting that the Romans accused both Christians and Jews were denigrated most likely because they refused to engage in these behaviors (see Tacitus Annals 15.44 and Histories 5.4-5).

Rev. 17:5
“5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes, and of the abominations of the earth.”

As discussed earlier in this article, Rome was depicted as a woman on coins. Among ancient authors this same pattern is found.

Virgil (70-19 BC) –“Illustrious Roma will bound her power with earth, her spirit with Olympus. She’ll enclose her seven hills with one great city wall, fortunate in the men she breeds” (Aeneid, 6.781).

Livy (59 BC-17 AD) – “the City which was the mistress of the world…” (The History of Rome, 38.51.4).

Ovid (43 BC-17 AD) – “Other princes through the long centuries shall make her powerful, but a prince sprung from Iulus blood shall make her mistress of the world…” (Metamorphoses, 15.447)

Why Babylon?
What connection exists between the Rome and Babylon? In the last article, we read ancient Christian writers such as Augustine who viewed the city of Rome as a Babylon in the West. On a theological level, we learn in Daniel 4 that the root of Babylon was held down by iron and bronze, which represent Rome and Greece. However, there is also an historical application.

Certain aspects of Babylonian worship were preserved by the Greeks and Romans. In Babylon, one of the chief gods/goddesses was Ishtar. She was the great mother god who goes by many names. She was married to her brother named Tammuz. As their worship traveled west, Ishtar became known by several names, among them: Astarte, Ashteroth, Baal, Cybele (or Kybele), Aphrodite, and Venus. As Venus, the deity was known as the protector of prostitutes (Encyclopedia Britannica: Ishtar). In Babylon, Ishtar was called the great mother and ‘mistress of the mountains’ (Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, vol. 2, p 591).

During the second war between Rome and Carthage (around 204 BC), the ‘great mother goddess’ came to Rome in the form of Cybele. From there her influence spread. Another eastern pagan cult that made its way to Rome was that of the sun, which grew in prominence from the first century BC onwards. In the vision, we see the woman as a ‘great mother’ who sits on seven mountains.

Rev. 17:6
“6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”

Early Christians were persecuted by Roman officials starting in the time of Nero. As time passed, other emperors and/or their magistrates engaged in this behavior. In the second, third, and early fourth centuries these persecutions claimed lives and greatly disrupted Christian communities.

Rev. 17:9-10
“9 This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.”

The Greek word translated as hills in this verse is orous. It could easily and more accurately be translated as mountains. One thing to keep in mind is that we are not exploring the modern conception of a mountain but the ancient concept.

The ancient Roman writers viewed Rome as dwelling on seven mountains. Every December 11th there was a festival in ancient Rome called Septimonium, which in Latin means “Seven Mountains.”  The Latin writers of this time period tended to use the term mons to refer to the seven mountains that Rome was built upon. We have quotes from three Roman authors below:

Marcus Varro (116–27 BC) –“Septomontium Day was named from these seven (septem) mountains (montibus) on which the City is set” (On the Latin Language, 6.24).

Propertius (50/45–15 BC) – “Farewell, ye mountains (montes) of Rome, and Rome that crowns the mountains (montibus), and Vesta brought to shame by my sin!” (Elegies, 4.4.35-36).

Aullus Gellius (125–180 AD) –“Therefore it has been, and even now continues to be, inquired why it is that when the other six of the seven mountains of the city (septem urbis montibus)…on that hill Remus took the auspices with regard to founding the city…” (Attic Nights, 13.14.4-7).

Seven Kings
In verse 10, we learn that the seven heads of the beast correspond to seven kings.Five have fallen, one is, and the other is yet to come.  It is interesting that during the monarchy period, the Romans had seven kings.

While this is not the immediate meaning of the verse, it is also interesting to consider that the Romans had six forms of government or heads by the time of John. 1) Monarchy; 2) Consuls; 3) Dictators; 4) Decemvirate; 5) Tribunes; 6) Emperor (also called the Princeps). We learn about this from the writers Livy (Roman History, 6.1) and Tacitus (Annals, 1.1). The sixth head that existed in John’s Day was the imperial system.

Ten Horns as Ten Kings
While the ten horns on the beast are ten kings which connect to a future event, this number of representatives is also important to Roman history.

The senate was divided into sets of ten men called curia. The ten best men formed a committee called the decem primi. When a king died, they held executive power until another one was found (they rotated power on a five-day schedule. At one time, Rome was ruled by a committee of ten men called decimvirs. Their sacred documents were protected by a committee of ten men (Decemviri Sacris). Treaties were sometimes signed with a delegation of ten senators. These men were usually nobles from the patrician class, which would make them princes or lords. (William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, articles Decemviri, Decem Primi, and Senatus).

Rev. 17:15
“Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.’”

At its height, the Roman Empire spanned from the British Isles, Spain, France, parts of Germany, Italy, much of southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, Israel, Syria, and northern Africa including Egypt. For a brief time it stretched to the Caspian Sea and into Iraq near the Persian Gulf. There were millions of people with many different languages under Roman hegemony.

Rev. 17:18
“18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

Roman writers described Rome as a great city. Tibullus (55-19 BC) wrote,“Now, while ye may, bulls crop the grass of the Seven Hills (septem montibus). Ere long this will be the great city’s site (magnae iam locus). Thy nation, Rome, is fated to rule the earth…” (Elegies, 2.55)

The comparisons between Rome and the woman of Revelation continue into the next chapter. We will look at a few examples.

Rev. 18:2
“2 With a mighty voice he shouted: ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal…’”

This woman of Babylon is called the home for demons and unclean spirits. The Roman writers viewed Rome as the place (location) of the gods. Ovid wrote: “…but she looks out from her seven mountains upon the whole world – Rome, the place of the empire and the gods” (Tristia, 1.5.68-70).

Rev. 18:3
“3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

The Roman Empire had extensive trade routes which brought it goods from places outside of the realm they deemed the ‘inhabited earth’ like Sri Lanka, India, the horn of Africa, and even China.

Rev. 18:7b
“In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’”

This verse contains a quote from Isaiah 47:7, where the daughter of Babylon claims that she will sit as the eternal (olam) queen.The Romans viewed the city which was invincible and eternal. By the third century, the Romans had coins made which inscribed the words Roma Aeternae on them.

Livy – “…Rome a blessed City, invincible and eternal” (Roman History, 5.7.10).

“‘Go,’ said he, ‘and declare to the Romans the will of Heaven that my Rome shall be the capital of the world; so let them cherish the art of war, and let them know and teach their children that no human strength can resist Roman arms’” (ibid, 1.16.7).

“…the spot would be the stronghold of empire and the head of all the world…” (ibid, 1.55.5-6)

Virgil –“the Father of men and gods…spoke thus…For these I set no bounds in space or time; but have given empire without end” (Aeneid, 1.254, 278-279).

Tibullus – “not yet had Romulus drawn up the Eternal City’s walls, where Remus as co-ruler was fated not to live” (Elegies, 2.5.23-24).

The connections between Revelation 17 and 18 are numerous. As you can see from the artifacts and Roman writings near the time of John, we can better understand why early Christians equated the woman of Babylon with the city of Rome.

Thanks for reading and God Bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President

The Quartodeciman Controversy – A New Book for Free Download!

The Quartodeciman Controversy – A New Book for Free Download!

We are excited to release this new book on the first three hundred years of the Quartodeciman Controversy!

Just click on the picture below!

Summary:

The Quartodeciman Controversy refers to a dispute between Christians about when to keep the Passover feast, also called Pascha. Christians in the east contended that the feast as observed by Jesus and the first disciples should be retained. On the other hand, believers in Rome argued that a newer practice should become the standard.

Confusion and conflict resulted as Christians in various cities calculated the timing for the new Passover in different ways. Starting in the fourth century, the Roman Church tried to force their celebration on everyone else. Despite these efforts, Quartodeciman Christians still existed into the fifth century. 

In this book, you will learn about the first three hundred years of the Quartodeciman Controversy.

An Early Church Perspective on Revelation 17 (Part 1)

An Early Church Perspective on Revelation 17 (Part 1)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Among the more controversial chapters in the Bible is Revelation chapter 17, which describes a woman named mystery Babylon and a beast that she rides upon. There are numerous explanations being taught today concerning this chapter – some of them are older while others are relatively new. In this two-part series, we want to examine the early church perspective on Revelation 17.

In this first part, we want to review a series of quotes from early church writers. How did the early Christians view this passage of Scripture?

Hippolytus (180-230 AD)
“Tell me, blessed John, Apostle and disciple of the Lord, what did thou see and hear concerning Babylon? Arise, and speak; for it sent thee also into banishment” (Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ, Section 36).

Tertullian (155/160-220 AD)
“So, again, Babylon, in our own John, is a figure of the city Rome, as being equally great and proud of her sway, and triumphant over the saints” (Answer to the Jews, 9).

 “By a similar usage Babylon also in our St. John is a figure of the city of Rome, as being like (Babylon) great and proud in royal power, and warring down the saints of God” (Against Marcion, 3.13)

Victorinus (270s-280s AD)
“Therefore in the trumpets and phials Is signified either the desolation of the plagues that are sent upon the earth, or the madness of Anti-Christ himself, or the cutting off of the peoples, or the diversity of the plagues, or the hope in the kingdom of the saints, or the ruin of states, or the great overthrow of Babylon, that is, the Roman state…” (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 17.2).

“‘the seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman sits’ – That is, the city of Rome” (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 17.9).

Eusebius (260-340 AD)
“And Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle which they say that he wrote in Rome itself, as is indicated by him, when he calls the city, by a figure, Babylon, as he does in the following words: ‘The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you; and so does Marcus my son’” (Church History, 2.15).

Augustine (354-430 AD)
“In Assyria, therefore, the dominion of the impious city had the pre-eminence. Its head was Babylon – an earth-born city, most fitly named, for it means confusion. There Ninus reigned after the death of his father Belus, who first had reigned there sixty-five years. His son, Ninus, who on his father’s death, succeeded to the kingdom, reigned fifty-two years, and had been king forty-three years when Abraham was born, which was about the 1200th year before Rome was founded, as it were another Babylon in the west.” (The City of God, 16.17)

“…where it is needful, to mention the Assyrian kings, that it may appear how Babylon, like a first Rome, ran its course along with the city of God, which is a stranger in this world. But the things proper for insertion in this work in comparing the two cities, that is, the earthly and heavenly, ought to be taken mostly from the Greek and Latin Kingdoms, where Rome herself in like a second Babylon…” (The City of God, 18.2)

“To be brief, the city of Rome was rounded, like another Babylon, and as it were the daughter of the former Babylon, by which God was pleased to conquer the whole world, and subdue it far and wide by bringing it into one fellowship of government and laws” (The City of God, 18.22).

These quotes seem to be unanimous in their view that the woman of Babylon was the city of Rome. Indeed, the woman is described as a great city which influenced many people in John’s day (Rev. 17:1, 15, 18). Hippolytus made an indirect reference to the city when he referred to John’s banishment. Early Church writers understood that he was banished to the isle of Patmos by Roman authorities.

Tertullian and Victorinus made direct references to the woman as the city of Rome. Tertullian compared the pride of Babylon with that of Rome. Victorinus linked the seven mountains from Revelation 17 to the seven mountains that the city of Rome was built upon.

Eusebius also links the city of Rome to the Whore of Babylon. In the quote we used from him, he claimed that Peter’s reference to Babylon in I Peter 5:13 was symbolic language which referred to Rome. Augustine’s three quotes provide another unique perspective. He called Rome ‘the Babylon of the west’ and then called Babylon the first Rome!

Early Church writers seemed to be convinced that the Whore of Babylon was indeed the city of Rome and its government.

In the second part of this series, we will examine why they held this view. Moreover, we will examine what Roman historians said about the city of Rome and compare it to Revelation17 and 18.

God Bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Concerning the Commandments

Concerning the Commandments

By Herbert E Saunders

“A couple of weeks ago a rather intriguing and thought-provoking letter found its way to my desk. Now I really enjoy interesting mail. It does something to my spirit. And this particular piece was so enjoyable to me, in a rather odd sort of way, I thought you might appreciate two or three paragraphs:

Some very serious words were spoken not so long ago by a comedian. He said, “If Moses were alive today and fulfilling his assignment from the Lord, he would say to the people, ‘Here are ten demands from the Almighty, and they are nonnegotiable!’ He might also add, ‘And God said nothing about amendments either!’”

Those commandments are simple and uncomplicated. They are easy to understand. The first commandment tells us to worship God and none other. The second tells us that we must worship Him directly and that we must not have any idols. The third commandment calls for….”

(this article is an excerpt from the Sept. 1972 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 3, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/tss_189Sept1972.pdf

How I Came to the Sabbath

How I Came to the Sabbath

By Jeromy Kusch

After thirty years of faithful belief and church involvement, a basic foundational understanding of one core Scriptural truth eluded me. Once my eyes were opened it would change my life forever. Looking back now it almost seems ridiculous that I could make a statement like that, after all, I attended church my entire life. How was it after decades of Biblical study, church involvement, and being a Bible teacher myself, I still completely missed the truth about the Sabbath in Scripture? The story is not that crazy, eventually truly understanding the Biblical Sabbath fundamentally changed my faith.

Being a life-long member of the “I’m an awesome Christian club,” I fell into the trap at a very early age of believing I knew and understood the Bible. At the astute age of 18 years old I honestly believed there was nothing left for me to learn. Despite my zeal, this eventually led to a severely stale faith. I would sing songs about a “river of life” springing out of me, but no such river prevailed in my faith. There was no crisis of faith, however, I became a life-less pond. I was full of knowledge but lacked corresponding action. Slowly this brought on a sense of complacency that led to isolationism, which led to a slow, lurking destruction I never saw coming. My wife would eventually be the catalyst to a renewed faith and hunger for truth in my life.

Seven years into my marriage I was spiritually dry, yet my wife recognized our young family needed more. She discovered a local congregation and began attending Sabbath services. Her eagerness to learn spurred her faith forward as she realized for the first time the importance of the set apart Moedim of YHVH in Scripture, set aside traditional holidays for God’s days, learned Hebrew, and started keeping the Sabbath. The longer she studied the more she began to shift. As an outsider to this personal development in my wife’s life, I struggled to keep pace, and it thrust our family into a period of Spiritual turmoil. The life I built refused to comply with this “new” Old Testament lifestyle.

At this point in my life, I worked retail as store manager for a local shoe store, and my schedule was very busy especially on Friday and Saturday. When my wife initially brought up keeping a Saturday Sabbath I struggled. Jenny’s passion eventually led to her to invite me to join her with these new convictions. However, I dismissed her conviction as a Jewish thing, and as a Gentile I worried about muddying the Jewish pool water.

Inside my spirit, I realized keeping a Saturday Sabbath would eventually upend my life, and I knew it would require a high price of me. These doubts proved to be a huge hurdle to overcome. In my own reasoning I believed the decision boiled down to two choices: pay my bills or trust God and His Word. My wife was persistent; she would not let it go. Little did I know, this was all a part of YHVH’s plan for my life.

My wife and I have always struggled with our communication and the Sabbath “issue” was no different. During this time in my life, I largely gave up on corporate worship and stopped attending church altogether. This lack of participation was not because I doubted God. Instead, I became disenfranchised by the state of American church. I hated participating in such shallow observances which produced no fruit in our lives.

My wife on the other hand refused to accept this state of faith. Her desire for more truth fed her passion for the Word of God. Unfortunately, I was not the eager cheerleader. All I saw was…NAGGING! It seemed relentless, and I despised the constant Biblical debates. The arrogant 18 year-old know it all was being bested by his wife, and I refused to be wrong.

Nearly two years passed for my wife as a Sabbath keeper, but her persistence began producing fruit as I wrestled with inescapable evidence against my position. A mountain of evidence threatened to bury me as I remained firmly shackled to my untested Biblical theology regarding the Sabbath. However, if by some miracle I might break free from those chains, this mountain would provide a clearer vantage point by which my entire view of Scripture would finally find clarity.

Spiritually, I stood at a precipice. The daunting prospects paralyzed me for months. Either my theological slate must be completely wiped clean, or I needed to commit to my long-held belief and return to what I always believed was true. It was a frightening proposal. If I gave it all up and started over, I could not be certain this “deconstruction” wouldn’t sink my faith altogether. Yet, if I returned to what I always followed before, I was at risk of falling into the same complacency that had dogged my life for many years.

Looking back over the previous two years, the evidence from my own life was enough. I was a dry well, but I became a spring of living water. I had returned (unaware to me) to my first love. I studied Scripture relentlessly, bearing good fruit in my life and convicting me of sin. My old life stood as a witness against me. As I reflected on the clear change in my life, it became clear only one option remained viable. I must accept the challenge of laying aside thirty years of church doctrine and theology and start my journey anew in the Word of God. The very first thing I faced was the Sabbath, and all my old fears were waiting for me.

The more I studied my doubts about seventh day Sabbath observance were burned like chaff. When I reflected on my decades of study and learning growing up, I still to this day, do not remember a single sermon or lesson taught on the Sabbath in any church I attended. The churches I grew up in all but ignored the Sabbath. Yet what I saw in the Bible told a different story. Scripture was abundantly clear. Countless examples of God’s eternal Sabbath covenant and sign for His people echoed throughout Scripture. Surprisingly, even the apostles were keeping the Sabbath years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. How did I fail to see this after thirty years in church?

It was impossible to unsee. The Bible was VERY clear, the Sabbath day was Holy and it was foundational for anyone who claimed to be in relationship with God. In Exodus 31:13 the people are told to keep the Sabbath “above all” the other commands. It is listed in the ten commandments I had revered my entire life, it is called a sign of God’s covenant between God an His people, it is a delight, and on and on. How is it in all of these years, I had never been taught a single thing about the Sabbath?

Eventually, the truth led to conviction, which led to action. After praying and studying to the point of absolute certainty I sent an email to my boss and the owner of the company (a Jewish man) requesting a meeting to discuss Sabbath Observance. It was a lengthy email where I laid out my heart and simply requested a meeting to review the possibilities of rotating Sabbaths on my schedule. In my mind something was better than nothing, but I had to make a change. I received no response. A few weeks later I was asked to join a “review” meeting of my performance. In that meeting a few outlying “concerns” with my management style were discussed and I was fired. Fortunately, I was reassured it was not because of my Sabbath request. I later found out the email I sent a couple months before was indeed the very reason I was terminated.

Looking back over more than ten hears of observing the Biblical Sabbath so much changed in my life. I still struggle to find work, but the Father has cared for me and met my needs. What initially seemed to be a minor theological issue resulted in an entirely new Biblical focus. If I believed the Bible was true (as I claimed my entire life) I had no choice but to act upon those beliefs no matter the cost. For me, the first major hurdle was a HUGE one, being willing to give up a well-paying job to accept the righteous instruction of YHVH.

Following that momentous decision, the Father continues to provide for my family. My wife and I are earnest about studying Scripture. We now raise our children the way of the Lord, and the fruit bearing out in my life continues to grow and flourish. It is not easy living like as a sojourner in our modern society. However, it provides me so many opportunities to share my faith with others and to truly appreciate what a wonderful blessing the Sabbath is for us all. Yeshua says it best in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our good Father made this day for us, why would I arrogantly refuse His gift?

If you find yourself on the same ledge I did more than ten years ago, do not be afraid to take the leap. Trust the Father to guide and instruct you by His Spirit, but be prepared there is a cost. Find good, Biblically sound fellowship to disciple you in this walk, and continue in it humbly before God and man. The sacrifice is worth it, and it will change your life forever.

You can follow Jeromy and his family’s ministry work through their website www.lanternministry.org.

Improper Sabbath observance… the death of WCG?

Improper Sabbath observance… the death of WCG?

BY RICHARD C. NICKELS

“How did the Worldwide Church of God get to its present position, that the seventh – day Sabbath is no longer a requirement for Christians? In the Twentieth Century, Herbert W. Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God promoted the Sabbath in a powerful way, throughout the world. After Armstrong’s death in 1986, his successor Joseph Tkach led an assault on all of Armstrong’s teachings. This attack resulted in an abandonment of teaching that the Sabbath is a commandment of God, acceptance of the Trinity, Christmas and Easter, and in short, a wholesale departure from nearly every one of Armstrong’s distinctive teachings. Some Worldwide Church of God congregations today meet on Sunday, or other days of the week. They believe that no day of the week is holy time.

How did this change come about? It did not start after 1986. It began decades earlier. Paul Royer, one of the leading ministers in Pasadena for many years, left the Worldwide Church of God in 1975 and currently heads The Church of God, Sonoma in California. In a 1976 sermon tape entitled “Keeping the Sabbath,” Royer claims that breaking the Sabbath was the beginning of the downfall of the Worldwide Church of God. Royer maintains that one of the major ways we show our respect for God is how we keep the Sabbath.

In the late 1960s, Royer noticed students jogging at Ambassador College just before sundown on Friday evening, and others shopping at El Rancho supermarket on Sabbath afternoon. He remarked to his friend Rod Meredith, “Give us 15-20 years, and this Church will not even know the Sabbath.” Meredith thought it would take 40 years…”

(this article is an excerpt from the June-July 1999 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 4, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/477/tss_477.pdf