Mark of the Beast?

1 Thess. 5:21  "but test everything; hold fast what is good."
Dear CBC Family,

Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Yesterday I received a call from a woman who was told that because she took the vaccine she had received “the mark of the beast” and was going to hell. I could not believe someone claiming to be a believer could spread, never mind believe, such a foolish lie. I spent the next hour or so sharing what the Bible actually does say.

One thing became apparent to me which is I do need to do a series on eschatology so I am trying to determine what is the best means to do that. I am thinking about a CBCBI class, instead of during the service, because it allows for questions and discussion.

The vaccine is not the mark of the beast. That is ridiculous as is much of what people are saying today about the book of Revelation. Let’s quickly look at the text in question.

Rev 13:14-18 “…for the beast (Nero) that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it (Titus, the second beast) was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also, it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”
   
I want to simply point a few things out to you. I put Nero in parenthesis because both the early church, and many others, believed that. That is the historic understanding. All the modern views have only been around since the 1850s.

V3 says that the beast had a “mortal wound” and its “wound was healed”. Nero plunged a knife into his own throat. He recovered, or raised from the dead, as the Romans were told. He was deified and worshipped. The number of Nero’s name was 666 and he was literally called “the beast” during his lifetime. Anyway, I digress.

The “mark of the beast” is not “666” as that is the “number of the beast” and has nothing to do with the “mark”. The “mark” is for those V15 who “worship” the beast. Those who did not worship were killed. So, even if this was future, and much of it is not, the mark is tied to the worship of the beast. The Christian will/cannot receive the mark because V8 says those whose names are written in the book of life will not worship the beast. The mark is part of the worship. Also, notice the believer has a different “mark” on their forehead 14:1 which is their Father’s name. These “marks” are not literal. As I have said on many occasions, apocalyptic language is not meant to be taken literally. It is highly figurative in order to get a vivid picture in the mind of the reality presented. “It is raining cats and dogs” is a modern use of this type of literature.

The Jews were well aware of Exodus 13:16 which reads: “It shall be as a sign on your hand and on your forehead between your eyes, for by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

Almost word for word this is what the beast requires of his subjects! The idea that the Lord delivered His people out of bondage was to be an everlasting memorial for the Jews and it would be a sign on their foreheads and their hand. The Pharisees, thinking this was a “literal text”, even wore what are called phylacteries on their heads as a reminder of this. This truth was meant to convey that the Jews were not only to retain the commands of God in their hearts, and to confess them with the mouth, but to fulfil them with the hand, or in act and deed, and thus to show themselves in their whole bearing as the guardians and observers of the law. As the hand is the medium of action, and carrying in the hand represents handling, so the space between the eyes, or the forehead, is that part of the body which is generally visible, and what is worn there is worn to be seen by all. The Beast in Revelation seems to have had the same idea; that he would copy God and seal his people, not for good, but for destruction. All would see by what they did, said and followed who belonged to who.

For modern Americans to somehow be sitting around and waiting for the Anti-Christ to come and stamp 666 on our foreheads and hand shows a complete ignorance of scripture. I am old enough to remember when barcodes came out. Those that are confused about scripture had a field day promoting the barcodes as the mark of the beast. This, of course, would be just another in a continuing line of end times foolishness that is not going to stop anytime soon.  Every new presidential election, every blood moon, every war, and every political stunt brings on a new round of end time prophecies which of course pads the pocketbooks of the scammers. Since Revelation was written to a first century audience, then would it not make more sense to interpret it from their vantage point instead of ours 2,000 years later in a completely different setting and culture?  

Much of Revelation takes place at a time preceding the “Parousia” which obviously transpired by AD70. This was the time that Jesus warned the Pharisees about when their house would be left to them desolate as it is still to this day.
   
While attempting to understand the apocalyptic language of Revelation one must refer to the Old Testament. To read a passage of scripture and then just make something up according to your modern, out of context, thinking will lead you to the wrong interpretation, and weirdness, every time.  

The mark of the beast is not a vaccine, barcode, tattoo, 666 or any other such thing but was something that occurred in the first century and was connected with the final events of AD70.  This is something that would have been readily understood by any faithful Jewish Christian of the day. Once taken out of context it becomes a Pandora's box full of anything people can imagine/make up because it is all fairy tales at that point.  

Lastly, I want to point out that there is little evidence of only ONE antichrist. John writes the following:

"Children, it is the last hour and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared from this we know that it is the last hour"

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son."

"Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world."

"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist."

Now, if we read these passages and we believe God's word to be true, we cannot but accept the following facts:

1. The Antichrist is anyone that denies that Jesus is the Christ. (this includes the Jews).

2. There were/are many antichrists.

3. The antichrist(s) were already in existence at the time when John was writing (used the words "already here", "is").

On another note: the outside of the church is really coming together. We have to move the mulch out of the playground and then use it to cover the new landscaping. We will be putting up stone veneer, to the level of the windows, to cover the moisture barrier on the front walls and finish it all off with some retractable awnings to provide shade and a great place for fellowship. We were given a gift designated to do this work.

This weekend we will continue in Romans 10 learning the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray you will join us.

Contending with you for the truth that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

Blessings,

Pastor Scott