The Mark of the Beast has been the focus of much speculation, consternation and deliberation for centuries among Christendom. The Apostle John, aka John of the Apocalypse, recorded his vision, the Book of Revelation, 2,000 years ago while living on the isle of Patmos. There have been untold numbers of books, treatises, essays and now blogs claiming to understand this grand Revelation of the end times. That is not happening in this writing. I neither pretend to know or understand much of the book, especially when John starts writing about seven scrolls, seven seals, seven trumpets, six bowls, three woes, etc. The imagery and the language is such that I question anyone who says with confidence that they “get it”. So why write?
As I was perusing this mystical book I came to Chapters 13 and 14. There I found something that I had never seen before. Yes, an “Aha!” moment. This new observation has provided me with some encouragement, perhaps more a sense of relief, especially given the dark times which we are now entering as a nation and as a world. My hope is that it may provide the same for you. I encourage you to read the text for yourself, context is always necessary. So you may wish to stop here and read Revelation 13 and 14 or, if you so choose, you can take my word for it.
The context is the appearance of two beasts. The first arises from the sea and then the dragon, earlier identified as Satan, gives this beast his power and authority. For followers of Jesus this beast is our worst nightmare. A second beast arises out of the earth. It seems his primary purpose is to make the first beast look good. He supplies healing to the first beast’s “fatal wound”, he performs miracles, calls down fire from heaven and makes “the earth and all who dwell in it to worship the beast”. His coup de gras is to tell the people of earth to make an “image” of the first beast. He then “gives breath to the image” such that it speaks. And, here comes the punch line… he “causes all who do not worship the image of the beast to be killed”.
As an aside, it should be noted that Satan has no power to create. He is not a creator, he is a copy cat par excellence. He has, or will, establish an unholy trinity, if you will. He is a counterfeit of the Father, the source of power and authority in his evil kingdom. The first beast who arises out of the sea, receives a fatal wound, but is miraculously revived is a picture of the Christ. In fact many refer to him as the Antichrist. (A word which by the way is not found anywhere in the Book of Revelation.) The second beast lives and works to aggrandize the first. His presence and assignment are much like that of the Holy Spirit who has revealed and glorifies Jesus as the Christ.
Back to the subject at hand, we need not identify with any specificity who or what these beasts may be in order to be certain that they are powerful, evil and hate God’s people and/or anyone else who refuses their dictates. Either worship the image of the first beast or die. Period. What then of the Mark of the Beast?
The first mention of the Mark of the Beast in all of scripture is found in verse 16 of chapter 13. This mark will be given to everyone… the small, the great, the rich, the poor, the free, the enslaved; without which no one will be able to buy or sell. This Mark will be either the name or the number of the beast and will be placed on the right hand or the forehead of the marked person. Many assume it is the number 666, which it is not. John tells us, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” The number has to be “calculated”, it is a bit of a riddle. [Inasmuch as the number 3 is the number of God and the number 6 is the number of man, this beast appears to be one who is a man, but makes himself out to be God.] In any event, it will be exceedingly difficult to survive if one cannot buy or sell. But, that predicament pales in comparison to the fate of those who take the Mark as described in chapter 14, starting in verse 9…
“Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’”
No interpretation is required. For those who have read this prophecy there has been, and still is, much fear and consternation surrounding the taking of the Mark of the Beast. It is this fear that is the focus of this blog.
First, if anyone refuses to worship the image, which will come to life and be empowered to speak, he/she will be killed. This conundrum is presented in the chapter 13 before the Mark of the Beast comes into play. Therefore, those who refuse to bow down to the image of the beast will be killed and therefore be saved from the predicament presented by the Mark of the Beast. This then is a case in point where one actually loses their life in order to save it.
Of course, it does require martyrdom, the giving up of our lives, and in truth no one knows how they will react when threatened with their own death. For humankind it is the ultimate fear. I’m sure many will be persuaded to bow to the image of the beast in order to save their lives. But for a follower of Jesus who has read this book the issue is not one of courage it is simply a matter of knowledge. How so?
If one decides to worship the beast to save their life what have they gained? Only delay. For soon thereafter they will be faced with another life or death choice. The Mark of the Beast. If one refuses the Mark they may well starve to death as they will not be allowed to buy or sell. If they capitulate and take the Mark they will have sealed their hellish fate, as described in chapter 14. Therefore, it makes no sense to save one’s life from one fatal threat only to face another, and that in short order. One who chooses to worship the image of the beast has not saved their life at all, rather they have simply prolonged the inevitable and assured themselves of further torment, in the short term and the long.
At the very beginning of the book John writes, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3) I have often wondered what specific blessings could or would flow from the reading of this mystical, apocalyptic tome. I now can say with some confidence that I know of at least one. After reading chapters 13 and 14, the fear of taking the Mark of the Beast, either intentionally or unintentionally, should be dispelled. That is a great blessing.
Death, and the fear of death, is by far the greatest single issue of our short lives. No one is exempt. We will all die, we may get to choose the modality. Why not die in honor, in faith, knowing that to prolong one’s life is only to invite hell, in one form or another? Why spend another ten seconds worrying about the Mark of the Beast when we know that the only sure way to avoid it is to simply to know “the rest of the story”. Paul Harvey would be so proud…