WHAT IS THE MARK OF THE BEAST?
[Note: I took Wayne Walker's Answer on "The Mark of The Beast"(found in the Question Answer Index-cs) and added to it. The following is the end product which may be usable to some in teaching others.]
I suppose every evangelist among us has been asked the question above repeatedly. Once we placed a question box in the back of the auditorium for the members or anyone who wished to place their written questions and once a month on the Lords day evening I assured them I would devote that evening to answering as best I could their questions. Sure enough, the first question that was placed in the afore mentioned question box was; Would you please explain to me what is the mark of the beast in the book of Revelation? The following two paragraphs are an answer to the above question by Wayne Walker. I have added my two cents worth before and after for the sake of teaching, and have made this into tract form for wider distribution since this is such a misunderstood and an often asked question.
Answer: The passage in question is (Revelation 13:16-17) where John wrote, And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Based on a misunderstanding of Revelation, many have assumed that this mark of the beast refers to some specific event or thing that is currently happening or yet to come and is a sure sign that the return of Christ is near. But putting aside all human speculation, what does this passage mean?
First, we must understand the time-frame in which the book of Revelation was written and the nature of its language. In Revelation 1:1 John began, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show His servantsthings which must shortly take place, (or shortly come to pass KJV). And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John. The book contained things which would shortly take placenot thousands of years in the future. Also, it was signified, or written in signs and symbols with highly figurative language. Thus, the mark of the beast was intended to signify something that was relevant to the people who lived when John wrote. The best explanation involves placing the book in the historical context in which it was written. The Roman Empire was ruling the world at that time and used both civil and religious power to exercise control.
This created a conflict with the church. The beast from the sea in (Revelation 13:1-10) most likely represented the Roman government, and the beast from the land in (Revelation 13:11-15) most likely represented emperor worship. The empire required an acceptance of Caesar as God before one could engage in any buying or selling, and so gave a mark to those who publicly worshipped the emperor in the form of a certificate allowing them to participate in trade. Since Christians refused to do this, they were banned from commercial activity and persecuted. To prevent the Romans from understanding the communications between the inspired apostle and the faithful, John used symbols or signs, figures of speech which many of the early Christians (who were familiar with prophetic symbols from the old testament) would understand what was being written as encouragement to the persecuted Christians, but their persecutors could not understand the language even if they should fall into their hands. If it had been written in plain language and he would have identified the Emperor and his cohorts, persecution would have been intensified you see.
Christ promised that they would be rewarded for their faithfulness to Him. In Revelation 20:4 John wrote, And I saw thrones and they sat on them and judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is simply talking about those who did not give in to the demands of emperor worship but remained loyal to Christ.
While the primary application of all this is to the time when the book was written, the message of Revelation is generally applicable to us as well. Just as some in the first century did conform to the world of their day to do business, so many now conform to the world of our time to carry on their affairs. And it is just as wrong today as it was then.
Romans 12:2 says, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. We can take great courage from the example of those recorded in Revelation who did Gods will. But the mark of the beast has no reference to some current or future event which will be a sign that Christ will come soon.
Those of the Premillennial persuasion, who deny that Christs kingdom has already come and are still waiting for Him to return to Jerusalem, Palestine and set up an earthly kingdom take a seat on Davids literal throne and rule for 1000 years, make the Revelation letter a prophetic time table still looking toward this supposed event. The fact is, the very first full gospel sermon preached by one of Christs inspired apostles to whom He gave the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:13-19), stated that Christ had been raised to sit on Davids throne and was now there at the Fathers right hand exalted (Acts 2:22-37). When asked what they must do to be forgiven those who believed on Jesus were told to repent and be immersed...for the forgiveness of sins... (Acts 2:38). When some three thousand did what they were commanded Acts 2:40-41, they became kingdom citizens by virtue of this new birth of the water and Spirit just as Jesus had told Nicodemus in (John 3:3-5). These folks were added to the church of Christ which is His kingdom (John 10:16). Jesus told Pilate My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). His kingdom, the church is His rule. He began this rule or reign when he went back to the Ancient of days where he was given power, might and dominion and a kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14). This was in the days of the Roman kings (Daniel 2:44). Paul later wrote of how he and others had been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom... (Colossians 1:13-14), when they obeyed the gospel (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 1:22-25). To preach a future earthly reign of Christ is to deny that He is now reigning and to deny that He is now reigning is to deny His resurrection and exaltation as preached by Peter on Pentecost. Since Christ was raised to sit on Davids throne if He isnt sitting there now, he hasnt been raised. So the Premillennialist deny the resurrection and the present reign of Christ while the apostles have him now reigning (1 Corinthians 15:23-25).
I know the church and kingdom are one and the same relationship and that Christ is now reigning, for He placed the observance of the Lords Supper in the kingdom (Luke 22:16), yet the observance was done in local congregations of the Lords people, the church (1 Corinthians 11:23-30). Christ will never again sit foot on this earth. When He returns as He promised, it will be to receive His virgin bride the church to Himself and then He will deliver the church/kingdom to the Father that the Father may be all in all (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:24-27).
By Kenneth E. Thomas
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