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Saturday, 29 September 2018 07:26

96. The name and number of the beast: the mark of the beast * Revelation 13:16-18 - PART 2 of 3

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16 And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17 And that no man might buy or sell, except he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

18 Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three score and six.




*** Who, where, why and what ***: Revelation 13:16-17 contains a list of 6 pairs of items that describe who will receive the mark mentioned there, where it is located, why they receive it, what it is and its implications. It is interesting to note in the list that in Greek, there is no “or” after the expression “he that had the mark” in Revelation 13:17. Since there were no punctuation signs such as colon in Greek back then, and the the word “or” was present between the pair of words mentioned in the list, this suggests that what comes next, after the expression “the mark” is the explanation to what the mark is: “the name of the beast, or the number of his name”. Here is the list:

1. Small and great,
2. Rich and poor,
3. Free and slave,
4. A mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads
5. No man might buy or sell,
6. The mark: the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

*** Who ***: Just as the signs and wonders the earth beast performed were done in front of the entire humanity, there seem to be no boundaries as to who can get this mark. This means that in order to get the mark, a person won’t need money - both the poor and slaves will be able to receive it (Revelation 13:16). People won’t need to be living in a technologically advanced or a rich society in order to get the mark. One could argue that this rules out the theory that the mark of the beast is a chip implanted under the skin. We can imagine that implanting chips on billions of people around the world would be quite a costly undertaking. We can see in the Bible that the mark is something global, reflecting a person’s worship choices. The mark mentioned in Revelation 13:17 is a consequence of what people will choose to do, wether by belief or fear. This concept is a nice segue for the discussion about where the mark will be placed.

*** Where ***: The mark will be placed on people’s forehead or their right hand. In the Old Testament, God established a covenant with His people, and they were instructed to believe in this covenant and act on their belief. The symbolism chosen then is very similar to the one seen in Revelation. When the Israelites left Egypt, the Lord established a covenant with them to remind them of how God had freed them from slavery. This covenant was a celebration, the Passover. God wanted to establish a sign between Himself and His people. He wanted the people to have the Law of God in their mouth, meaning, they would believe the message and preach it to the following generations. The Passover would be a sign: “And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:9, NAS, see also Exodus 13:16). Note that the Israelites should be professing the Law with their mouth, and as a reminder, they would have a sign on their hand and on their forehead. This sign was an event, the Passover, which pointed to God as their Savior: “It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8).

Later, in Deuteronomy 6:4-8, God instructs the people on another sign to be placed on their hands and forehead: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” The driving force for keeping the Law He was giving the people should be “Love the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

In Deuteronomy 11:16-18, God ask the people to bind something to their hands and forehead: “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you. You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” The people should only worship God.

In these Old Testament passages, the forehead is used symbolically to indicate remembrance and acceptance, as well as understanding. It points to the mind. The hand is also used symbolically to indicate an action. God had expectations for the people’s behavior. The Israelites were supposed to not only believe but also do something. But how does this relate to Revelation 13 and the mark of the beast? In the minds of the 1st century Christians, who at the time were mostly Jews, the significance of the mark of the beast being placed on the hand and forehead would be clear. The idea of having a mark on the hand or forehead had been part of their culture for a long time. They took that concept so literally that during prayers the men would wear an object called phylactery on their hand and forehead to remind them to keep God’s Law. They would have understood the mark of the beast as a pretense substitute to their phylactery.

Remember how people in Revelation 13:14-15 found themselves having to choose between death or worshipping the image of the beast? At the time of the end, the earth beast will instruct the people to recreate the religious power symbolized by the sea beast (Revelation 13:1-10, see studies #86-92). The people are told to value that recreation, or image, to the point where they find themselves repeating what the sea beast power did in the past. Some will follow the image of the beast because they believe in it. Others will follow the image even if they don’t believe in it but because they are afraid of it. Having the mark placed on the forehead is a substitution to the agreements God had made with the Israelites: to worship God only and to keep His commandments.

*** Why ***: Revelation 13:17 gives a compelling reason as to why people will be looking to worship the image of the beast, even if they don’t believe in the revived religious system of the Middle Ages: buying and selling. The first aspect af this reason is that there will be an economic system where commerce is directly influenced and led by those bearing the mark of the beast. This reminds us of the situation of the first Christians that suffered persecution and hardship for not recognizing the divinity of the Roman Emperor (see the studies #13 to #27). They were only able to conduct business if they participated in the pagan festivals (see study #19). Even the expression “buying and selling” in Revelation 13:17 serves to emphasize how much the political power will be forcing their religious views and decrees on the people. The requirement to worship the image of the beast will be placed so heavily on the people that those who do not have a strong relationship with the true God of Heaven will not be able to resist the temptation to break God’s Law and worship the image. Another aspect of buying and selling is its reference to the buying and selling in terms of the preaching of religion. We can understand that no other religious information will be allowed to circulate unless it is approved by the beast. Under this point of view, preaching could be considered as a type of merchandise promoted by the beast. The deceiving force in the end time, described as Babylon, has a strong association with such merchants (Revelation 18:3). Whether the buying and selling are commercial or religious in nature - or both - we know from Revelation 18:3, 9-19 that the merchants of the earth became rich because of Babylon (Revelation 18:3, 15).

*** What ***: So, What is this mark? What can be so deceiving that will face little resistance and have the people of the earth willing to receive this mark? Is it a literal etching on the skin? As we saw in the Old Testament, God’s covenant with His people was symbolically placed on their foreheads and hands. The people, however, after their return from Babylonian exile, found a way to turn this symbol into a real object which they would tie around their hand and forehead. This object was called the phylactery. So the same thing could happen in the last days. For God, the actual mark is whether or not people really love Him and keep His commandments. You could tie a phylactery all day long to your arm and head, but if you did not love God with all your heart, the real sign - the one only God can see - would not really be there. The physical marks that people may come up with could become a mere distraction from the real one. Let’s not forget: we are fighting a spiritual war, as Paul says (Ephesians 6:12). The weapons used are also spiritual. This battle is fought in the mind. The enemy wants to get our minds away from God. And so, this is the mark of the beast on the forehead: the absence of worship directed to God. And how about the sign on the hand? It’s the absence of obedience to God. Remember what Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When people lose their love for God, they lose their faith and they stop following God’s teachings. When people stop obeying God, sin grows. This is one of the things Jesus said about the end times: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” (Matthew 24:11-12). The enemy wants to substitute worship and devotion to the True God with worship and devotion to anything else. If Satan can distract people and fill their minds with the creation of a new world order where the teachings of the true God are not part of it, then he will have succeeded in marking his team.

*** The Seal of God ***: As a contrast, God’s people will be sealed only on the forehead, and will not have any markings in their hand. This is because we are not saved by any actions, works or good deeds we may be involved in. Only the work of Jesus saves, not our own. We cannot improve upon what He has done for us on the Cross. That was perfection by itself. Now, it doesn’t mean we are not involved in good works or obedience to the Law. It means our salvation is not dependent on them.

*** Overview ***: We often hear how Christians today are under the new covenant. This is true according to the Bible. Here is what God had to say about His new covenant with His people: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33). The new covenant is God’s Law written in people’s hearts. This goes very well with the verse where Jesus is promising the Holy Spirit, the One who is our seal: “If you love me, keep my commandments”. (John 14:15). If you love God, His commandments will be very important to you - they are in your heart. The expression “in your heart” really means in your mind, where you think and where your feelings are generated. The new covenant has to do with the Law of God, and as we saw earlier, the old covenant was also about His Law (Deuteronomy 6:4-8). So in reality, both the Old and new covenants are the same thing. The difference is that the new covenant is not to be wrapped around your hands (or works) to indicate Salvation. Loving God, worshiping Him with all your hart is a matter of personal choice. And so, the seal of God during the end times is only placed on the forehead of those who truly love Him. Revelation 14:12 describes the people who will be saved: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” The saved people are not saved because they keep the commandments, but rather, they keep the commandments because they are saved and love God. It’s the other way around. Salvation by works is part of the enemy’s deceiving strategies, not part of God’s truth.

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