The book of Revelation is an imagistic feast; a fantasy writer’s treasure trove, full of beauty and horror. Some people would say that this beast in John’s vision has already come and gone — Hitler caused hundreds of thousands of Jews and countless others to be marked and murdered. But the prophecy found in Revelation has not been fulfilled. What is this mark and who is the Beast?
Who Is the Beast in Revelation?
There are actually three beasts that make up what Thomas R. Schreiner calls “The Unholy Trinity” of monsters. One is a dragon, Satan, who stands on the seashore summoning another “beast rising out of the sea.” The one Satan summons behaves as a demonic ruler but takes his orders from the evil one.
The third member of this group “claims to speak for God” but is a false prophet. He “represents religious authority contrary to God’s Word and ways.” He returns to life after a death blow, mimicking Christ’s resurrection and lending credibility to his lies. Much of the world will worship this “miraculous” beast who “enforces the power of the first [beast] through economic discrimination.”
A fourth beast is mentioned. Perhaps John pictured this beast as Rome, still a powerful empire in the late first century. None of these beasts has ultimate control, however, “God ordains what the beast does” and His “judgment is his ‘strange’ work” referenced in Isaiah 28:21. “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
Mark of the Beast Revelations
Christians believe Christ’s return is imminent, certainly, but they have thought this since apostolic times. Schreiner says the second beast is a “kingdom rising out of the sea” which “is not humane, civil, or supportive of its citizens.” The sea “was a place of chaos, danger, and evil for the Hebrews.” We are watching for a time of chaos to sweep the globe, bringing widespread political upheaval, censorship, despotic legalism, and terrorism.
We see strife in the Middle East, the Near East, in many parts of the African continent, and across South America. It feels like the end is upon us, but chaos has not taken over nations across the globe.
The example of a despotic evil empire contemporary to the Apostle John as he wrote Revelation was the Roman Empire. Scholars argue about dating Revelation, but Schreiner and many others agree that John was probably writing in the 90s.
Emperor Domitian was certainly inhumane, greedy, and violent, but there was no sign that Domitian’s rule was popular or that the public would follow their cruel and unpredictable leader. The Senate was overjoyed at Domitian’s death, and his memory was officially condemned following the emperor’s murder. Schreiner argues that the beast was not Nero, who had been dead for many years by this time, and even a legend about his resurrection could not be evoked convincingly three decades after his death.
The beast of John’s vision had not yet risen out of the sea. Christians today would say that he might be alive right now, a boy just growing into manhood, or he might even be ruling a city, state, or country; but the prophecy has not been fulfilled.
What Is the Mark of the Beast?
Satan’s mark is supposedly 666, the number of man, while “777 represent perfection.” Man and woman were created on the sixth day. “Man labors six days only. The sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not murder.” Six words are used for man: Adam, ish, Enosh, gehver, anthropos, anar. Also, 6 x 6 = 36; 36 + 35 + 34 + 33 + 32; 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 666. 666 is the number of the antichrist. This means that the name of the antichrist in Greek adds up to 666. This is a mockery of the Trinity.” We can come close, mimic perfection, but only for a short time.
In the final scene of the original “Omen” where Gregory Peck reveals “666” marked on his own child, this mark confirms that his son is the Beast foretold in Revelation 18. We don’t know for sure if this is the number or if there will be a visible mark on followers of the Beast. Commentators understand why we expect to see a “brand” or “tattoo” on these individuals.
According to Sam Storms, marking has been common throughout society as a means of “tribal identification,” punishment, as a sign of “ownership,” of “disgrace,” and of “loyalty to a pagan deity.”
As mentioned above, Jews were marked by the Nazis during the 1930s and 40s. Satan tries to copy everything God does, as seen in the creation of his “trinity,” the resurrection of his beast, and with the “false prophet.”
Why not also copy His example for marking? “And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Genesis 4:15). But Cain’s mark might have been “some type of token or pledge.” Theologians suggest that “the phrase set a mark upon Cain more likely means a sign for him.”
Mark of the Beast Chip
One writer has commented that technology exists to mark every person on the earth using a microchip, so marking everyone who does not pledge allegiance to Satan (or reject Christ) is technically possible.
However, Sam Storms writes that God does not physically mark believers; they are sealed with the Spirit which is invisible and internal.” Since Satan copies God, he might look for the lack of Christ’s seal and create a similar spiritual mark. Revelation 18 speaks more of a “mark of belonging.” The mark is “a symbolic way of describing the loyalty of [the Beast’s] followers and his ownership of them.”
Storms evoke Old Testament imagery suggestive of a “seal” such as the kind one would press into wax to close an official document, or “of the Roman ruler’s head on coins.” The third beast will initiate economic separation which will force people to pledge allegiance and receive an economic “stamp of approval” or be cut-off from all services: food, gas stations, medical help, etc.
Consider the chaos and pain experienced by those who live without the medicines they need or without immediate medical attention in an emergency. Christians will suffer and must be willing to do so because God will allow the beast “to exercise his authority.” During this time, however, “many will come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” even at “the cost of their life.”
The reward will be in the mark that matters most; that is, the writing of their names in the Book of Life. Those who die by the Beast’s sword will live eternally in heaven for they are the ones “who were inscribed in the book of life before the world began.” This is the relevant mark for Christians, blotting out any tattoo Satan might cause us to wear before our temporal lives come to an end.
Will Only Christians Suffer?
When it comes to the final tribulation in which rebels are beheaded, will it matter to Satan if those rebels choose Christ over him? Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). In other words, worshiping another god is the same thing as saying “yes” to Satan. Helping a Christian, on the other hand, might change things “for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).
Does that mean a person can be “for” Christ without knowing it? Imagine what it would take to stand up to Satan and help a Christian during this time — can one do so without the power of Christ? I don’t know the answer to this.
Meanwhile, many “so-called” believers will show their true allegiance during this time. Craig Keener explains that Satan’s challenge to Christians could be a subtle prod to their “stubbornness” — do this simple thing and you won’t die. That is frightening enough, but Keener further asserts that “the same spirit of the self-deifying empire remains in every human heart that seeks to make itself the center of life while burying thoughts of its own mortality.”
Satan won’t have to work hard to trap his victims given our propensity for “self-deification.” We won’t have to be tempted to sacrifice to another god; only to ourselves. In essence, what defines our lives is all around us; it’s what we fear losing the most, cling to and worship: that is what marks us.
Bishop: Dr. L. Smith