Few things have titillated prophecy junkies more than solving the identity of the famous Beast of the book of Revelation and speculating about what his "mark" might be. And few prophecy junkies have gone to the lengths that Sabbatarian Millerites have engaged in to solve the riddle! For those, like me, who emerged from the trainwreck of Armstrongism, they will remember Herbert Armstrong's speculation about a United States of Europe in the role of the beast. Likewise, other Sabbatarian Millerites (Seventh Day Adventists and the folks from the Churches of God Seventh Day) will also remember the near certainty among their people that the "mark" of the Beast would be centered on the forced observance of Sunday as a day of worship. More recently, some have even speculated that mandates for the Covid-19 vaccinations might be the "mark" of the Beast! What about these things? Do these notions represent profound spiritual insights into the prophecy of the Bible or are they so much "pissing in the wind?"
As longtime readers of my writings know, I rarely venture into the realm of prophecy. There are many reasons for this, but the obsession of my former affiliations with the subject are probably among the most important for my silence. You know - the old adages about being gun-shy or once burned.
Nevertheless, after recently listening to part of a sermon offered by one of the pastors allied with one of the many ACOG splinter groups on the obligations of Christians to come out of Babylon, I was inspired to offer some of my own thoughts on the subject. In short, the rank deception and outrageous speculation which some folks have been subjected to regarding this matter makes me sad for them and has pricked my conscience about offering them some hope and clarity on the subject.
First, I wish to plainly state that I believe that no other book in the Bible has been abused and misrepresented more than the book of Revelation. Moreover, it is now very plain to me that this book was meant to encapsulate the entire experience of humankind and Christians since Christ's resurrection and ascension to heaven. In other words, it should NEVER have been regarded as a road map to the proper sequence of events leading to the Great Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ to this earth! Please, don't misunderstand me, the book most assuredly does discuss the return of Jesus Christ; but it was originally intended to contrast the history of the folks who belong to this world's system with those who belong to God's system!
Indeed, when we take a fresh look at the highly symbolic language of the book, the contrast between the two ways becomes very apparent. The Beast and Babylon are obviously manifestations of this world's system (militarily, economically, politically, socially and religiously) as influenced and empowered by the Dragon (or, as he's more popularly known, Satan the Devil). Indeed, from the very beginning, the image of the Beast with its horns and crowns, and the fact that it derived its "power and throne and great authority" from the dragon, all points to the human system which would stand in opposition to God's system down through the ages. We are also informed that the whole world marveled at the Beast and said things like "Who is as great as the beast?" and "Who is able to fight against him?" In other words, in this world, man's system would be supreme!
Moreover, the contrast to God's people and system is made even plainer in the verses which follow. We read there: "And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast." Indeed, this work of harassment and persecution against God's people hearkens back to the Dragon's persecution of the Church (the woman) in the twelfth chapter of the book. Even so, God tells his people to endure the Beast's persecution and remain faithful to his system, and God assures them that they will triumph in the end!
And then we come to that all important scripture which has provoked so much speculation and angst on the part of so many Christians. We read that the Beast "required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead." And, for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Torah, what does that imagery bring to mind?
The Jews call it The Shema. In their article on the topic, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-shema/ informs us that the Shema is an acknowledgement of God and his kingdom and is based on a scripture in Deuteronomy. Indeed, we read there: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Notice how this declaration of one's allegiance to God and his system was to appear on the hand and forehead! Hence, it is clear to this blogger that the mark of the Beast is a kind of anti-Shema - a profession of allegiance to (whether consciously or by participation in) this world's system! Indeed, this allegiance to/worship of the Beast (and his system) is reiterated over and over again in the scriptures that follow.
Thus, we are forced to conclude that ALL of the military, economic, political, social and religious systems of humankind are part of the Beast system, and that they ALL stand in opposition to God's system! Hence, for those who profess to belong to God and his system, participation or glorying in the brilliance, power and authority of the Beast's system(s) is unthinkable.
What is the Beast's system? We've already discussed how the fact that this human system encompasses ALL areas of human activity (military, economic, political, social and religious). Hence, we could say that nationalism, patriotism, capitalism, socialism, authoritarianism, democracy could ALL be considered to involve activities which COULD be characterized as participation in the Beast's system! In other words, what is your Shema? Is your Shema "that all men are created equal" and "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights?" OR Is your Shema "from each according to his ability, and to each according to his need?"
Hence, I'm thinking that it might be a good idea to reevaluate our thinking about the Beast and his "mark." If we truly want to be accounted among those who have "not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands," we may want to be more careful with what we participate in and where our allegiances lie!
*****************This work is intended to comprehend Revelation chapters 12-20 for those who might be interested in following along in your own Bible**********************************