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The Mark of the Beast

Revelation 13:15-18
The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666. (NIVUK)

It seems strange that God should allow Satan authority to give power to the second beast. Satan can do nothing unless God gives permission, and He will only do so for His own ultimate glory. We know that the Lord allowed Satan to afflict Job (Job 1:1-12; 2:1-6), and sent evil spirits (Judges 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14-15) to disturb people who had rejected Him. Those evil spirits were still under God's command, and they feared the divine authority of Jesus (Matthew 9:28). The wicked rule of the devil and his demons will ultimately serve God's purpose, as did the wicked betrayal of Jesus (John 13:27; Acts 2:23).

In this vision, John saw the second beast, (the false prophet) a global wicked spiritual power (Revelation 19:20), authorise the world to see an image of the first beast (the Antichrist) animated and speaking. Although the Antichrist will be a secular power, it will be invested with spiritual significance. It will become an idol to be worshipped. Those who refuse to bow to it will be martyred. This echoes the golden image set up by Nebuchadnezzar, and those who refused to worship it were thrown into a hot furnace (Daniel 3:1-6). This evil alliance of Satan, the first and second beasts, will seek global domination. This will be achieved by physically marking every person on the hand or forehead with the number 666. Those who refuse to be marked will not be able to buy or sell. Their money will be useless and they will starve to death.

What does the number mean? In the same way that some Latin letters have a numerical value (for example, MMXVIII is 2018), the same is true in Greek and Hebrew. So, graffiti found in the ruins of Pompeii reads, 'I love her whose number is 545.' By transliterating the words 'beast' and 'Caesar Nero' into Hebrew, both have the number 666. 'Jesus' in Greek is 888. Some like to think of the numbers as symbolic. Others prefer to dismiss any word/number in favour of the simple interpretation that a physical mark will differentiate those who accept this global power as the supreme authority from those who do not – in the same way that a worshipper who burned incense to Caesar was given a certificate to prove their allegiance to the emperor as a god. Those who worshiped Caesar, denied the Lordship of Christ and the indwelling Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Believers who persisted in saying the Jesus is Lord, were violently persecuted.

The church is called to be wise. Believers must be prepared to know how to respond in the face of such a totalitarian rule that will have no room for Jesus. Although that seems an extreme choice to make, some believers today already need that wisdom, as others have during the church's history. Jesus said, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" (Luke 9:25). The choice is to win a few more years of comfortable life and lose the presence of Jesus for all eternity. Jesus said, "Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:13). Let us be wise in our preparation for the hard times of isolation, ridicule and poverty – we must not let it take us by surprise (1 Peter 4:12). Do not be duped into denying Your Lord (2 Peter 2:1).

Father God. Thank You for the warning of times to come. Forgive me for giving in to temptation now, thereby weakening my resolve to resist greater pressures in the future. Please help me to resist the devil now by denying myself the idols of my culture, so that I may stand firm in Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams