Most believers are totally unaware that there has ever been a need to be wary of counterfeit worship.
In a world where image trumps character, it’s not unusual to find counterfeits of designer label products being sold as the “real McCoy.” Oftentimes winked at in polite society, counterfeiting offers a way of appearing to live the high-life, when one has to live on a budget.
Fake goods may trouble the average consumer, partly because of the ethical issues; but, safety is a far more serious concern. Often of inferior quality, bogus health and beauty products may actually cause harm. Consumer Reports Magazine notes, “At best these. . . will not perform as well as authentic ones. At worst, they can fail catastrophically with potentially fatal consequences.1” CNN Money notes that annually, $461 billion in counterfeit goods are sold globally.2
That large figure, pales however, in comparison to the very large number of believers, fooled by the greatest counterfeit scheme in the history of humanity. Although bogus as a $3 bill, there is an exercise in counterfeiting that has found acceptance among God’s people. Astonishing, given the Bible’s strong imperative that the redeemed should be capable of “. . . rightly dividing the Word of truth.” Still, most believers are totally unaware that there has ever been a need to be wary of counterfeit worship.
As we conclude our examination of the three angels’ messages of Revelation chapter 14, we find counsel regarding worship. Understandable, given that worship is the central focus of Lucifer’s rebellion.
That God is worthy of worship is undeniable. Likewise, it is undeniable that Satan/Devil wants our worship, too. Track down his manifesto in Isaiah 14:12-14. Lucifer, as he was then called, wanted to be like the Most High. In Matthew 4:9, 10 the devil attempted to secure the allegiance and worship of Jesus by offering the Lamb of God the riches of the world.
Tracking down the origins of most counterfeit goods in our society may not be possible. Nevertheless, the origin of counterfeit worship is indisputable. It can be traced directly to Satan/Devil.
Obedience at the Heart
In this solemn and dire warning, Revelation 14:9 cautions, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. . .”
The messages of the three angels in Revelation 14 begin and end with a focus on worship, not on the substance of worship, nor on the style of worship. No, this call to worship is unmistakable. We are called to worship the Great God of Heaven, and Him only. Any worship that either disregards the Word of God or that is directed at anyone other than the Lord God, is counterfeit worship.
Furthermore, the angel made a direct correlation between our worship of the Almighty God, and our obedience to the will of God. Think of worship and obedience as the twin escorts, which guide believers into the Kingdom of God.
Read what Paul said about worship and obedience in Romans 6:16. There’s no ambiguity. The one we obey is the one we worship. Choosing to obey the Lord is an act of worship resulting in life everlasting. Choosing obedience to the devil is likewise an act of worship leading to everlasting destruction.
Behind the Scheme
Beware of counterfeit worship and its consequences, which is the essence of the third angel’s message. But, that message goes far beyond merely offering a warning regarding counterfeit worship. It also spells out the penalty this bogus worship system brings to those who follow it. They face suffering the wrath of God being poured out upon them, full strength, without the benefit of either grace or mercy.
The counterfeit system of worship orchestrated by Satan is an attempt to replace God’s commandments with the teachings of men. Rather than worshipping God, on the seventh day, as He commanded, (Exodus 20:8-11) the false system of worship has substituted the first day of the week. The net result is counterfeit worship.
Daily around the globe, consumers unwittingly purchase fake merchandise. Likewise, most believers have unwittingly embraced a counterfeit religious system that owes its authority to the doctrines of men, and not the Word of God.
The third angel warns against counterfeit worship, worship as directed by the beast, which receives its authority from the Dragon. Who is the dragon? Revelation 13:2 identifies him as Satan. Then, who is the beast? The beast is symbolic of a system of worship that finds tradition and human commandments subverting the Ten Commandment law of God.
According to Daniel 7:25 the beast attempted to change God’s law. Ezekiel 22:26 tells us, “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have put no difference between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” The only earthly organization claiming the prerogatives to adjust both God’s Ten Commandments and the day of worship is the Papacy.
Can we know which system of worship claims our allegiance? Absolutely. A child of God can know whether they are true worshippers according to the will of God, or partakers of a counterfeit system of worship that will ultimately end in destruction. We can know ourselves. We need but compare ourselves with those the Bible says are truly on the Lord’s side. In Revelation 14:12 we read, “Here is the patience (steadfastness) of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Real or counterfeit? The choice is ours.
This article is part of our 2018 September/October Issue
DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.