When it comes to eschatology – the study of end times – it has really been bastardized over the last century or so. More recently the Christian pop culture movement has taken it over in recent decades to kick the dog while it is down. Because of that, most of us have ideas in our head regarding end times that really don’t come from Scripture. Instead, they’re a result of sloppy theological work from those making a quick buck off of well-meaning Christians – not unlike the money changers in the Temple that Jesus had to rebuke.
Often when people think of the “Mark of the Beast” or “666” in Revelation 13, they assume that this is a physical mark; maybe some tattoo, or paperwork which people would carry around with them. While this could be the case, this is really not the primary or full meaning of this number, and really, if I could, it misses the mark.
While the number could be a physical presence, it is most likely that the mark is more of or on someone’s life, not a physical inscription. My primary contention is that the focus of the mark should not be on the number, but what it represents.
First, let’s note that Revelation is full of symbolism and allusions. Numbers do not escape this reality. The numbers that we find in Revelation that are repeated with significance are 6, 7, 10, and 12 – or the multiplication of those numbers. Numbers aren’t the only symbols, but in the apocalyptic literature that Revelation is written in, numbers mean things beyond their mathematical meaning.
The bigger question I’d like you to consider is, who are you marked by? For some, their life is marked by Christ, and for others, their life is marked by Satan. This “mark” is in contrast to the “seal” or “sealing” of the Holy Spirit on the life of the believer. Everyone who has put faith in Christ has been sealed, or marked, with the Holy Spirit. In fact, the word “mark” in the Greek, charagma, was used during the time John wrote this book as the emperor’s seal on business contracts and to “mark” Roman coins.
Either your life is marked by Christ or marked by Satan. You are given over to, owned by, or follow one or the other. The question becomes, what is with the marking of skin in Revelation 13:16 where we see the marks on the right hand and forehead?
These marks most likely are allusions back to Exodus 13:9 where the followers were told to have the Torah on their right hand and forehead. This is imagery saying that these are people who don’t have the marks of God, but the marks of Satan, the mark of the beast. It’s the same understanding when we read in passages like Jeremiah 31:33 that God is going to “write them (His laws) on their (believers’) hearts.” God is not physically writing on our souls, but spiritually doing so. “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.” G.K. Beale.
The irony is that if we would just take time to study, we can easily cross reference these ideas and not need to fantasize about them. Revelation 7:3, 9:4, 14:1, and 22:4 all talk about marks on foreheads. These are not marks of the beast, but marks of God, marks of Jesus Christ on one’s life. Again, they are not physically walking around with a “Jesus” tattoo plastered across their foreheads. It means that their minds and hearts have been given over to Christ.
Another question may be, “why the number 6?” The simple answer is that it is just short of seven. The number seven throughout Scripture is the number of perfection and completion. It is God’s number. Kevin DeYoung says, “the number 6, then, would be the number of imperfection and holy incompletion.” If Jesus is the complete, ordered, perfect one, Satan is the chaotic, imperfect incomplete one. 666 therefore means “imperfection multiplied” or the counterfeit to the Holy Trinity. “This ‘mark’ on their foreheads or on their right hand is simply Satan’s way of mimicking the seal of God on God’s people,” says Sam Storms.
For those who fear or are worried of being marked by the beast unknowingly, that should not be our fear. Our concern should be whether or not we are able to endure in our faith as believers, such as is mentioned earlier in Revelation 13:10. The question is not what we are physically marked with, but what is the mark of our heart and soul? Are you marked by the blood of Christ through faith in Him, or are you marked by the deceiver Satan, the false counterfeit king of this world?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.