About "The Mark of the Beast"
What does "the mark of the beast" and 666 mean? The last few
verses of Revelation 13 speak about a certain "mark" which man
would receive on his right hand or forehead. This "mark," as
well as the number 666, has caused no small stir among those
desiring to interpret the Book of Revelation.
Theories and Their Error. As we would attempt to consider the
meaning of the above, may we realize that a great number of
theories on the subject have been advanced. Some have said that
the mark of the beast was: the symbol of free masonry; the face
that appears on the American dime; the observance of the sabbath
on the first day of the week; the N.R.A. of the early 1930's;
and, last and probably the most popular theory today, the "bar
codes" for products, places and people. This last theory says
that all people will have a final I.D. transaction card, and
without it you'll not survive. What will be the next theory,
only God knows.
As one views the Book of Revelation as a book filled with
symbolism, I see an error in these theories. I see it because
each theory interprets the "mark" as a single, individual,
outward, visible sign that will appear on the forehead or hand
of the wicked at one particular moment in history. But, the
beast is constantly persecuting the church, and indicates every
form of secular power that attempts to destroy believers in
Christ. Thus, wherever and whenever the beast appears, you will
find the mark of the beast.
The Language's Origin. In Bible times, the "branding" of cattle
or slaves was common, and it was referred to as "the mark."
Thus, it showed ownership.
Note in Revelation 14:9-11; 20:4, that the term "mark of the
beast" seems to refer to worshiping the beast, as well as
belonging to him and wearing his name. Thus, the "mark of the
beast" is the God-opposing, church-persecuting spirit of the
antichrist, wherever and whenever it manifests itself. The
"antichrist" has been among us since the first century, even
prior to the closing of the New Testament writings (I John 2:18;
4:3; II John 7). Thus, the "antichrist," or those against
Christ, are not of a 20th Century origin.
The forehead symbolizes the mind, the thought-life, the
philosophy of a person. The right hand indicates his deed,
action, trade, industry, etc. (see Deuteronomy 6:8). Thus,
receiving the "mark" indicates that the person so characterized
belongs to the company of those who persecute the church in what
he thinks, says, writes or what he constantly does.
The Trade Prohibition. In Revelation 13:17, the reference to man
not being able to buy and sell without the "mark" has been a
difficult passage. The marks of identification should not be
misunderstood literally. Yet, in the days of the New Testament
writing, the trade guilds (wool workers, linen workers, makers
of outer garments, dyers - as Lydia [Acts 16:14] - leather
workers, tanners, potters, etc.) were popular. The trade guilds
were associated with tutelary deities (protection, guardian),
and each guild had its guardian god.
If you were in that guild, your membership implied that you
worshipped its god. You were expected to attend the guild
festivals and eat food offered to the tutelary god and also to
take part in the immorality which always accompanied the feast
and worship service. Thus, if one refused, he was out of the
guild, which meant "out of work."
Also, the Roman Catholic Church on occasions has denied that
heretics be traded with. One such occasion came during the reign
of Pope Alexander III, when the Waldenses and the Albigenses
were "under fire" by the papacy.
If the verse in question is taken symbolically, then one might
see that only those "out of Christ" and "in Satan" might be the
ones who are to direct the business affairs of the world. More
importantly, that they would even direct the religious affairs
of the world. Thus, we can understand why some religions do not
want their members to think for themselves, but to listen only
to the interpretations via their clergy.
The Number 666. In Revelation 13:18 the number "666" has had so
many interpretations, one looses count quickly, as he starts
through the history books which record them. Most of these have
been made by adding the numerical values of the letters in the
name of Nero, Mohammed, the Roman Catholic pope (papacy), Martin
Luther, Napoleon, Trojan, and some of our generation have even
seen Henry Kissinger fitting this number. Who or what is next?
Looking at the verse and seeing it as a number of MAN, we can
see that the number six means "missing the mark" or failure. Man
was created on the sixth day. Six is not seven, which is the
number of perfection, victory. Now, note the number of the beast
is six hundred and sixty-six; that is failure upon failure. It
is the number of MAN, for the beast glories in man. Hence, he
May each of us, as a serious Bible student, be slow to accept
every teaching on the Book of Revelation, or any Bible passage.
Let us all study with an open mind and be constantly praying for
God to enlighten us.
To obtain an enlightening adventure in the Book of Revelation,
see More Than Conquerors by William Hendricksen, published by
Baker Book House.