The Beast’s Mysterious Mark
Scarcely any prophetic subject has elicited more conjecture and speculation than the “mark of the Beast.” In addition to a “mark,” Revelation 13 also mentions an “image” of the Beast as well as the mysterious “number of his name”-666. What is the significance of these mysterious symbols?
Before examining the number, the image or the mark, consider what we have established so far. The end-time Beast is clearly identified in your Bible as the modern successor to the empire of ancient Babylon. The prophet Daniel identified four successive kingdoms: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Rome, the “fourth kingdom,” was to continue through seven revivals until the return of the Messiah, when the God of heaven will destroy the final revived Roman Empire and set up a kingdom that will endure forever.
Since the Roman Empire is the Beast described by John in Revelation 13 and Revelation 17, the “mark” is a brand or mark of the Roman Empire. The “image” of the Beast must be something modeled or patterned after the Roman Empire.
Before going further, notice that Revelation 13 mentions a second “beast” with an earthly, not heavenly, origin (v. 11). It outwardly masquerades as Christian, seeking to be identified with Christ, the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29) but receives its power from the devil, that old dragon (Revelation 12:9). In prophecy, horns are used to represent rulership or authority, and this creature is pictured with two horns. Revelation 13:12 reveals that this second beast insists that all give their allegiance and loyalty to the Holy Roman Empire, the beast whose deadly wound was healed (v. 12). This second beast is described as performing great miracles, which will deceive humanity (vv. 13-14). In Matthew 24:24, Christ prophesied of “false Christs” who will deceive all but the very elect.
Historically, was there an institution claiming to represent Christ (“like a lamb,” v. 11) and holding sway over the populace by means of various “miracles” (v. 14)-an institution which taught the devil’s false message that God’s law was “done away” and which insisted that its adherents give their loyalty to the Holy Roman Empire? Throughout the medieval period, the Church of Rome did exactly this!
Why the two horns? The Church of Rome is both an ecclesiastical and a civil government. The pope is both a religious leader and a civil head of state. Bible prophecy shows that the church-state union of the Middle Ages was a forerunner of end-time events whose scale will be far grander.
The Mysterious Mark
What could possibly be considered the mark or brand of the Roman Empire? Whatever it is, within a few years it will be required for all of those who are going to participate in the economic system of Babylon the Great (Revelation 13:17). Yet those who accept it will, by their actions, call down upon themselves the undiluted wrath of God (Revelation 14:9-10). Whatever this mark is, it has been extant for centuries, because all of the righteous martyrs have rejected it (Revelation 20:4). Revelation 13, in describing the interaction of the Church of Rome and the medieval Holy Roman Empire, makes plain that the mark, the image and the number of the Beast’s name were all extant during the Middle Ages as a precursor of end-time events.
In years past, many suggestions have been advanced to identify this mark. Back in the 1930s, some tried to connect it with the Social Security cards required by the Roosevelt administration. Others have seen sinister implications in the universal product codes read by cash register scanners. Still others have been suspicious of bank ATM cards and other technological innovations. Many expect some sort of tattoo or hidden embedded computer chip to be foisted upon an unsuspecting populace. But unless we look at all that the Bible reveals about this subject, we will be unable to gain a clear understanding.
Revelation 14:10 reveals that those who receive the mark of the Beast will have the wrath of God poured upon them. Notice the Apostle Paul’s clear teaching about the recipients of God’s wrath. Colossians 3:6 tells us that “the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” The mark of the Beast is therefore a brand of disobedience to God. It marks those who refuse to keep God’s commandments in spite of both the preaching of the two witnesses and even the final warning delivered by an angel of God (Revelation 14:9).
The mark of the Beast stands clearly as a brand of disobedience to God and His laws. Does the Bible reveal a contrasting sign of obedience that identifies God’s true people? Notice Exodus 31:13-17. Here God declared to ancient Israel that His Sabbaths were a sign between Him and His people forever! The Sabbath is the test commandment to identify the true God of creation and the people who are obedient to His commands and laws.
Revelation 13 explains that the mark of the Beast, a brand of disobedience to God, is taken upon the hand and the forehead. Just as disobedience is described as worn upon the hand and forehead, so also is obedience to God’s law. Notice Deuteronomy 6. “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and commandments… And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes” (vv. 1-2, 8, KJV). The hand is symbolic of actions, while the forehead is the seat of intellect. Obedience to God involves both actions (hand) and will (forehead).
The mark of the Beast is a brand of disobedience to God. Not only must this involve rejection of God’s sign of obedience, the Sabbath, but also the acceptance of a counterfeit sign or mark. This mark is, in reality, a brand deriving from Babylon and Rome. Is there such a symbol that has come all the way down to modern times?
By John H. Ogwyn
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