When it comes to the subject of the ‘mark of the beast’ in Revelation 13, it never ceases to amaze me the many different theories there are on what this mark actually is.
Does it really speak about people being ‘microchipped’ in the future?
Does it really speak about ‘bar codes’ being tattooed on people’s heads and hands in the future?
I don’t have to remind you that the Book of Revelation is a highly figurative book, and we must also keep in mind, that it was written to the seven churches of Asia Minor, Revelation 2-3, to prepare the saints in Asia for the enormous persecutions they would soon have to face, not thousands of years later, Revelation 1:1 / Revelation 1:3 /
Revelation 22:6 / Revelation 22:10.
It was written at a time when the faith of Christians was put to the ultimate test, as they were forced to deny their faith in the Lord and worship Caesar or face torture and death.
In Revelation 13 John introduces us to the sea beast, which is Rome and her rulers. He also introduces us to the land beast, which represents the militia who set up images of Rome’s emperors and who enforced emperor worship.
If the number seven represents that which is complete, perfect, and whole, the number six falls one short of seven.
Does 666 represent some type of ‘hidden meaning’ that requires us to use algebra and trigonometry to uncover some kind of ‘magical calculation’?
No. That isn’t what God is saying. The number six is one less than seven. If seven is perfection, then since six is one less than seven it represents imperfection. And look at how it is multiplied in 666, imperfection, imperfection, imperfection! That’s the idea.
The Roman Empire was the embodiment of human imperfection and human sinfulness. The number 666 isn’t some literal number on some literal human’s head. Nor is it a Social Security number, as some have suggested in the past.
It simply represents the imperfection and sinfulness of man, especially those who were enforcing emperor worship. Without God in our lives, we cannot have salvation and if we look to men for our salvation, our salvation will be imperfect. Thus, 666 is a sign of utter and complete imperfection of man and his sinfulness outside of Jesus, especially in light of the identity of the sea beast and the land beast, which was enforcing emperor worship.
To understand what this ‘mark’ is we need to go back into the history of Rome. Rome had ordered that all citizens give both political and religious allegiance to Rome and her government. All citizens had to submit to the Roman laws along with the Roman religious laws, this was a demonstration of loyalty to Rome.
The ‘mark’ refers to those who would direct worship toward Rome, Revelation 14:9 / Revelation 20:4. The mark, or identification, was both psychological, that’s what the mark is on their ‘foreheads’ refers to, and the mark was also physical, that what the mark on their ‘hands’ refers to.
Make no mistake about it, Domitian wanted total allegiance given to him and he wanted the very minds of people, the ‘forehead mark’, along with an outward recognition, the ‘hand mark’, that people were allegiant to him.
Remember if people weren’t willing to openly declare that Caesar is lord, then they would be put to death! Those who gave in to Rome were given this identifying mark, either on their right hand or on their forehead, because with this mark, came privileges.
Those who had the mark could buy and sell goods, in other words, they could prosper. On the other hand, those who didn’t give into Rome and her laws and religious laws weren’t able to buy or sell any goods, this is the reason why they would suffer. They couldn’t buy or sell clothes, they couldn’t buy or sell food, and everything they needed to live was going to be refused to them because they didn’t have this mark.
When Domitian was ruler, anyone who worshipped the emperor needed to ask for a certificate, but it was only after receiving this certificate, that they were allowed to buy and sell and take part in any Roman activity, this was a way of becoming a Roman citizen.
Many believe that the ‘mark’ is a literal, physical mark on the bodies of unbelievers, but when we contrast this ‘mark’ with the ‘seal’ which is on the forehead of believers, we soon discover it isn’t literal.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a Christian with a literal, physical seal, with the names of Jesus and the Father tattooed on their foreheads.
Remember this is figurative language and here John is describing those who have been born again and redeemed by Christ’s blood. In other words, the seal is describing ownership, those who belong to Christ and the Father, those who are faithful to Him.
By way of contrast, the false prophet who causes everyone who isn’t a Christian to have the ‘mark of the beast’ written on their forehead, simply means that this ‘mark’ was a sign that they belong to the beast and are loyal to him.
The devil always tried to do what God does and so, this ‘mark’ on their foreheads or on their right hand is simply the devil’s way of imitating the seal of God on God’s people.
If you have the name of Jesus and God the Father written on your forehead, it simply means that they own you, that you belong to them, and that you are loyal to the Lord God Almighty. But if you have ‘the mark of the beast’, Revelation 13:17, written on your forehead, it signifies that he owns you, that you belong to him, that you are loyal to the devil.
Since the seal or name on the believer is obviously invisible, symbolizing the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, it seems certain that the mark of the beast is likewise a symbolic way of describing the loyalty of his followers and his ownership of them.
We must always be careful when we’re trying to understand any text of the Bible, especially those texts which are very figurative in nature. If we’re not careful we can come to all kinds of conclusions and sadly, many people do.
When we remember that the things John wrote about in Revelation were ‘soon to take place’, Revelation 1:1 / Revelation 1:3 / Revelation 22:6 / Revelation 22:10, we can know for sure that John when he speaks of this ‘mark’, isn’t speaking about ‘microchip implants, tattoos or bar codes’, something which going to happen in the future. He was writing to Christians about things which were going to happen to them.
The important point in all of this is simply to ask ourselves this question, do you have a ‘mark’ which identifies and signifies your loyalty to the devil? Or do you have a ‘seal’ which identifies your loyalty to Christ?