Revelation 13:16-18 (KJV) – “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
There’s been much speculation on the meaning of Revelation chapter 13. Many teach that this scripture refers to a cashless society where all will be required to submit to a computer chip implanted under the skin of the forehead or right hand. (Why not the left hand?) And, of course, the technology for this cashless society is already here. But the question is not whether we might soon have a computer chip implanted in our flesh but whether or not Revelation chapter 13 prophesied this.
Christian Book Publishing
Within the last thirty plus years, there have been many books written by the Christian book publishing industry. A recent search for the words “mark of the beast” on the Amazon.com website came back with 8,371 related “hits”. We are talking about hundreds if not thousands of books that deal with this subject.
Do you remember Hal Lindsey’s book “The Late Great Planet Earth”? It was a best-seller from the 1970s. This non-fiction book of the 1970’s sold millions of copies. Anyone familiar with Hal Lindsey’s timetable will remember that “the end” would happen before December 31st, 1988. Of course, these publishers are counting on people not remembering or not even knowing of past failed predictions.
Where does the Bible mention a “cashless society”? Well, some believe that Revelation 13:17 indicates just that. But how does Revelation 13:17 translate to a cashless society? The word “mark” is the key to the buying and selling transaction. Nothing is said about what the people are using to buy or sell. It just says that they can’t buy or sell without the “mark,” and the mark has to be 666 on the forehead or right hand. Of course, it doesn’t say anything about an embedded microchip. Now let’s keep reading. Skip down to Revelation 14:1.
Revelation 14:1 (KJV) – “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.”
Let me ask a question. If it’s a microchip in Revelation chapter 13, then wouldn’t it follow that it’s a microchip in Revelation 14:1? The meaning of Revelation 13:17 has to be found in the context that it’s given. Like much of book of Revelation, its familiar symbols are meant to represent familiar concepts to its first century A.D. readers. Remember that it was John, the Apostle who wrote the book of Revelation to the seven Churches that were in Asia. These were actual Churches that existed in his day.
The book of Revelation and the entire Bible must be read against the backdrop of the Old Testament and its contemporary historical context. The book of Revelation can be considered the most thoroughly Jewish in its language and imagery of any New Testament book. Revelation speaks not the language of Paul, but of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The beasts, both of the sea and land, the mark on the hand or head, and the number 666 should be interpreted in light of other Old Testament writings.
Six Hundred Threescore and Six
Is Revelation 13:17 the only place in the Bible that mentions the number 666? Well no it isn’t. It’s interesting that in 1 Kings 10:14 the same number is given listing the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year as the number of the beast in Revelation 13:1: “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold.” Also in Ezra 2:13 a mention is made of Adonikam who had 666 children! Who was Adonikam? Well, he was sent by the King of Persia from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. By the way, Adonikam means “lord of rising”. These 666 children of Adonikam were those of his household who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and reverse the curse. Not exactly a negative thing wouldn’t you say?
By understanding the way the Old Testament uses and applies “marks” and the significance of 666, it is not that difficult to determine what John is describing in Revelation 13. For example, there are other scriptures that refer to a “mark” in the hand or the head:
Deuteronomy 6:8 (KJV) – “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.”
Ezekiel 9:4 (KJV) – “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”
Ezekiel 9:6 (KJV) – “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark ; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.”
Philippians 3:17 (KJV) – “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
The “Mark” in these scriptures is not physical but spiritual. It’s a “mark” that’s in the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Interpret Scripture with Scripture
A correct interpretation of the Bible will always be consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. Therefore, it is essential for us as students of the Bible to interpret a passage in light of what the rest of the Scriptures say about the topic.
Whoever carried the “mark of the beast” would be identified as someone who aligned himself with the beast. And whoever carried the mark of the Lamb would be identified with the blood and seal of the Lamb (Rev. 14:1). We see that in Revelation 14:1 and 14:4 that those who carried the name of Jesus’ Father “written on their foreheads . . . follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:1, 4). History tells us that those who identified with Rome against Jesus Christ died in the destruction of Jerusalem when Titus and his army swept in to destroy the temple and the city. Could it be that these are the ones who drank “of the wine of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:10)?
The two “marks” identified two different groups of people: one for Christ and one against Christ. This theme of two opposing groups is seen as far back as Genesis. Take a look at Genesis 3:15.
Genesis 3:15 (KJV) – “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
The Mark of Cain
And what about Cain and Abel? Didn’t they continue this pattern? After Cain had killed his brother Abel, we see that God placed a “mark” on Cain. In Genesis 4:15 (KJV) we read: “And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”
The “Mark of Cain” was a result not so much of murder but the result of a spiritual battle. It was a battle between true and false worship. It was a battle about what was an acceptable sacrifice. God demanded a blood sacrifice, but Cain refused to provide one. Cain refused to follow the righteousness of God, instead following his own righteous. He wanted to do Church his way.
Buying and Selling
I don’t think Revelation 13:17–18 is about economics. It’s not about “buying and selling” actual goods. It’s not about “buying and selling” stuff but about “buying and selling” spiritual things. The control of economic transactions drives modern claims of a one-world government, controlled by ” “The Antichrist” during a period referred to as the “great tribulation.” It’s the popular Christian view. It’s the view presented in best selling Christian books. But I don’t agree that this is the view of the Bible.
According to the authors of these apocalyptic books, a future world political leader called “the antichrist” will take control of the entire world. This control includes the technology of a cashless society. According to popular belief, this will result in utter economic chaos. Such chaos will make the stock market crash of 1929 look like a minor economic adjustment. Revelation 13:16, 17 is the biblical point of entry for discussion of the cashless society, a one-world government, global economics, and prophecy. But Revelation 13:16–17 says nothing about a “cashless society.” The Bible does not specifically predict computers, the Internet, computer chips under the skin, credit cards, or any of the other trimmings that facilitate the modern electronic banking system.”
In fact, Revelation 13:16–17 does not describe the control of financial transactions, but rather access to the temple controlled by the Jewish anti-Christian religious establishment. The key to interpreting the passage is the prohibition “to buy or to sell” (Rev. 13:17) if a worshiper does not have the “mark of the beast.” Buying and selling, when properly understood, are worship-related rituals (Isa. 55:1–2).
Isaiah 55:1-2 (KJV) – “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
This concept of buying and selling spiritual things was established in Revelation 3:18. It says: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”
Mark of the Beast
When those who refuse the “mark of the beast” are not allowed to buy and sell, it means that they were expelled from the synagogue or the Jewish Temple. The merchants of the land in Revelation 18 are those who worshiped at the Temple and synagogue. Jesus foretold that this would happen:
John 16:2-3 (KJV) – “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
Early in the church’s history the Christian disciples went to the Jewish temple to preach the gospel. Let’s go to the book of Acts to see what happened to them.
Thrown Out of the Temple
At first, these new believers in Jesus Christ were welcomed. Later they would be thrown out of the Temple and even imprisoned.
Acts 2:46 – 47 (KJV) “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Acts 5:20-21 (KJV) – “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought.”
Peter and John frequented the Temple during “the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1). Jewish Christians continued to use the temple, even participating in some of its rituals such as purification in Acts 21:26. After the temple officials had learned that these Jews were preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Paul was “dragged . . . out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut” (Acts 21:27–31).
Acts 21:27-31 (KJV) – “And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.”
Jesus tells the church at Laodicea, “I advise you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich. . ” (Rev. 3:18). How were the people to buy gold from God? Buying gold refined by fire is symbolic and relates to spiritual worship. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the reference to “buying & selling” in Revelation 13:17 is also symbolic and related to worship.
The interpretive background for understanding Revelation 13:17 can be found in the gospels. During Jesus’ ministry, the temple officials were “selling,” and worshipers were “buying,” access to the temple (Matthew 21:12).
Matthew 21:12-13 (KJV) – “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
Doves were what the poor bought and offered as a sacrifice. The Priests, who were responsible for the temple, had rented out sections in the outer courts of the temple where greedy and irreligious merchants made a gain of the poor pious worshipers. Their “buying and selling” turned “God’s house” into a “robbers’ den” a “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9). Only those Jews who aligned themselves with the priests, the sacrificial system, and the temple buildings were allowed to enter the temple for worship. If anyone did not have the “mark of the beast”, that is, if they did not align themselves with what the temple now represented apart from Christ, they could not “buy or sell” in order to offer the appropriate sacrifices.
To take the “mark of the beast” meant a person denied that Jesus was the Messiah, the true temple of God, the only sufficient sacrifice. Of course, Christian Jews avoided the “mark of the beast” and showed their true allegiance to Jesus. They had “His name and the name of his father written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). They did this through public professions of faith and allegiance to Jesus over against the corrupt priesthood that had chosen Caesar over Christ.
When commanded not to “speak to any man in this name,” Peter and John responded, “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:18-20).”
When the disciples heard Peter and John’s account of their encounter with the priests Annas and Caiaphas, they turned to Psalm 2 for understanding:
Psalm 2 (KJV) – “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way,when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
Acts 4:25-26 (KJV) – “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.”
This “rage” only intensified as Jews made their decisions regarding Jesus more resolute.
Two Systems of Worship
Revelation 13 and 14 contrast two ways of salvation: access to the stone temple through the “mark of the beast” (Rev. 11:1–2) or through Jesus Christ, the true temple (John 2:13–25) and the “mark of the Lamb” (Rev. 14:1). Most professing Christians are still looking for the coming of “the antichrist” and the “mark of the beast”. But the Bible teaches that there are many antichrists, even in John’s day.
I John 2:18 (KJV) – “Even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
II John 7 (KJV) – “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
Let me that just say it as plainly as I can? The Christ rejecters, the mockers and the scorners have already taken the “mark of the beast” They have cut themselves off from God’s grace and mercy.
II Tim 2:19 (KJV) – “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal. The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
Revelation 7:2-3 (KJV) – “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”
Revelation 9:4 -6 (KJV) – “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”
There are two marks representing two spiritual systems and two systems of worship. Some have speculated that the 666 are the number of false gods that you might worship. We may very well see the day when we will see a cashless society. A day when computer chips will be inserted under our skin. However, something far worse could happen to us in the meantime. We could go thru life without the “mark of the Lamb” in our foreheads. When we have the “mark of the Lamb”, our center of power will also be under his control. Our thoughts and actions will be Christ-centered.
We can worship at the stone temples of false religions, or we can become the temple of the Holy Ghost. We all have a choice between religion or relationship. We all have a choice between true worship and false worship. If you’re wondering about when the “mark of the beast” will be given, well Christ rejecters, scoffers, and those who have pleasure in unrighteous have already taken the mark. God has turned them over to a reprobate mind that they would believe a lie and be damned.
Whose mark have you taken?
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