Can Christians Receive the Mark of the Beast?

Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666 (Rev. 13:15-18 NLT).

Many believers walk in an inordinate amount of fear concerning the mark of the Beast. Their fear is deep, pervasive, and emotionally debilitating. Over the years, numerous questions have come up in my pastoral ministry as to the characteristics of the mark of the Beast mentioned in Rev. 13. Believers are anxious that they might be forced against their will to receive this dreaded mark. Is it possible for Christians to receive the mark of the Beast? Is the mark of the beast a tattoo, or a computer chip, or a bar code, etc.? Some despicable use of current computer technology? Should Christians fear the Second Coming of Christ because of the mark?

First, the context (Rev. 13:11-14:5) of the passage speaks of a mark of the beast and a seal of the Lamb. If you receive a tattoo or a computer chip for following the Beast, then in turn, you must also be given a tattoo or computer chip for following the Lamb. Present day End Times teaching emphasises the negative mark, Beast, not the positive seal, Lamb. What is true for the mark of the beast must also be true for the mark of the Lamb.

Second, the symbols in Revelation should be interpreted first by their counterpart in the Old Testament. The “mark” comes from Ezekiel 9:4-6, where an angel is instructed not to kill those who have the mark. The mark is invisible to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, it is seen and known only by God and the angels. The mark is indicative of the individual’s heartfelt allegiance to God. Notice that the “mark” is the Hebrew letter “taw” which is roughly the shape of a cross.

Third, the beast in the Book of Revelation is the city of Rome and her empire (Rev. 17:7-9), the “seven hills” would have been known in the first century as the “City of the Seven Hills,” Rome. Therefore, the beast, Caesar, is asking for lordship over the lives of all the Empire’s inhabitants. True believers refuse Rome’s domination for Christ is Lord over their lives. Several Caesars expected to be worshipped as a god, yet the early church only recognized Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world (Phil. 2:10-11; 3:20).

Last, the Roman Empire was so oppressive that only those who worship Caesar as divine were allowed to do business in the empire (Rev. 13:16-17). One’s allegiance is obvious by the way one worships, dresses, serves, and lives. You could not do business in Roman trade guilds if a citizen did not declare Caesar as Lord and eat food sacrificed to idols. Similarly, believers under communist rule in the Soviet Union suffered penalties during the dark days of the Cold War if they did not declare their loyalty to the State and their acceptance of atheism. The visible mark of Christian believers is the distinctive manner in which they live the life of love (John 13:35, 1 John, Epistle to Diognetus).

By way of application, the Beast today is any governmental authority who sets themselves up, over, and against faith in God and love of Christ. The Beast is any civil government that persecutes Christians and attempts to destroy the church. The Beast is idolatry and love of all worldly things: economic control, unbridled sex, and thirst for power. The love of the Beast and the seal of the Lamb are heart issues, therefore, unseen by men, except by their outward behavior.

Conclusion: The mark is invisible, seen only by God, nothing to be feared by believers, and indicative of one’s true allegiance: the systems of the world, Beast, or the Lordship of Jesus, the Lamb.

Like the other markings in Revelation, it seems to be symbolic (see comments on Rev. 3:12; 7:3; cf. 14:1; 17:5; 19:12; 22:4); some Jewish texts speak of a symbolic mark of destruction on the forehead of the wicked (Psalms of Solomon 15:9) in contrast to the mark of the righteous (15:6). Some interpreters have nevertheless seen a tangible expression of allegiance to the world system; in at least the last two major imperial persecutions of Christians, both in the third century, certificates were issued to those who had fulfilled the mandated rite of emperor worship. But the text may simply imply a figurative slave brand identifying to whom a person belongs — God or the world. Participation in idolatry appeared to be almost an economic necessity in many cities in Asia Minor (see comment on 2:18-29), and John warns that commercial discrimination would grow more severe, alongside the graver danger of martyrdom.

Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

6 thoughts on “Can Christians Receive the Mark of the Beast?

  1. Gary Feister

    Great post! I once commented to you that I didn’t read Revelation because of all the abuses of its content that I grew up under. Your response changed my mind for the better. You said, “We have to remember that the book of Revelation is also God’s truth and God’s word to us.” I’m encouraged and reminded by these recent post on this magnificent book that it was written to encourage devotion to Christ in the midst of persecution and difficulty – to and for all believers in all times. Thanks! Good stuff.

  2. GlennDavis Post author

    Dcn. Gary:

    Thanks so much for your encouragement. By far the book that has encouraged me most in reading of this grand and unusual book is Richard Bauckham’s *The Theology of the Book of Revelation* in the Cambridge N.T. Theology series. Bauckham’s short 164 page treatise is a boon for discovering and understanding the apocalyptic symbols found in Revelation. The book will open your eyes to the theological depth of this grand prophecy/letter/apocalypse. Dr. Gerald Bray recommended it to me and I will forever be in his debt.

  3. michele dickey

    Hi Glenn, a few thoughts for you.

    1. If we are abiding by the law of first mention to discern what the mark of the beast may be, should we not refer to Gen 4:15?

    Genesis 4:15  And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark (‘owth {oth}) upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

    Clearly we have here a visible mark.

    2.Within the context of Rev. 13:11-14:5 the mark (charagma {khar’-ag-mah}) specifically is given to “all” so that they could not buy or sell without the mark. Also noted is the fact that anyone who does does worship the beast will be slain.

    However, the “mark of the Lamb’ that you mentioned is not called a mark, it is the Father’s name written upon the foreheads of only a select group.

    Revelation 14:1  ¶And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written (grapho {graf’-o}) in their foreheads.

    This name of God is only written on the foreheads of the 144,000.

    Personally, I’m convinced from Scripture that the mark of the beast will be clearly visible.

    Best,

    Michele

  4. GlennDavis Post author

    That is fine to hold the visible view. A number of well-known bible teachers do hold to a visible mark position. Based on scripture and the proper reading of apocalyptic literature, I do not feel that it is necessary. I believe that the visible view has created alot of unnecessary fear among believers.

  5. michele dickey

    But Glenn! You didn’t answer my points (from The Holy Scripture) that point to a visible mark!

  6. GlennDavis Post author

    Michele:

    First, please read my post on “How to Read the Book of Revelation” placed right before the Mark of the Beast. Apocalyptic literature by its very nature is symbolic as a genre. The author’s intent is to affect the emotions and the imagination of the reader as well as to inform the mind. “Most frequently the ‘stuff’ of apocalyptic is presented in the form of visions and dreams, and its language is cryptic (having hidden meanings) and symbolic” (Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for all its Worth, p. 251). The main source of the symbols is especially found in Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and parts of Isaiah (Fee, 251). Second, the hermeneutic principle of progressive revelation states that a fuller and richer understanding of thoughts, events, people, and symbols is unveiled as the Bible storyline unfolds. By example, the O.T. speaks of Sheol (Psalms), then spiritual warfare (Daniel), then Gehenna (Gospels), and finally a fuller revelation of the whole spirit realm (Revelation).Thus, we are not bound to a first use principle. Third, many evangelical bible-believing commentators affirm that “the mark of the beast is a parody of the seal of God” and the seal is “a symbolic way of expressing divine protection” (George Eldon Ladd, *A Commentary of the Book of Revelation*, p. 185). The mark and seal are not two different things. Isaiah 44:5 as well as the Ezekiel 9:1-6 passage I quoted earlier, mention a mark and this mark is invisible to the eye of humans. Fourth, the mark really is not the issue in this text. John is stating that in the end times, people will be clearly divided into two groups: those loyal to the beast and those who hold allegiance to the Lamb. “Speculations about the visible mark miss the main point of the spiritual distinction between the two groups” (*The ESV Reformation Study Bible,* p. 1862). Last, I do not hold to a dispensational understanding of the Book of Revelation, so you and I will interpret the book and its revelation differently, yet both of us are committed to the truthfulness and inerrancy of scripture.

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