Embracing the Mark of the Beast

Synopsis - The “inhabitants of the earth” are willing participants in the veneration of the Beast, but Christians may also succumb to the false faith


Dollars - Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Discussions on the “mark of the Beast” tend to focus on questions about what it is, precisely, and most often, what is the significance of its number or ‘666.’ Putting aside such questions, as important as they are, issues of far more relevance to the Christian must be addressed - How is this mark implemented? How does a believer avoid taking the “mark” or the “number of the Beast”?

The popular tendency is to picture the “False Prophet” busily compelling everyone to take the “mark of the Beast,” using economic pressure, threats of imprisonment or worse for any refusal to do so. Apparently, men and women will have no choice but to take the mark or suffer deadly consequences.

Almost certainly, when the “Beast from the Sea” appears in history his reign will include an element of coercion. However, the book of Revelation does NOT free individuals from personal responsibility for taking its “mark” or rendering homage to it, whether he or she is a Christian or not.

At that time, the “Beast from the earth,” will cause the “inhabitants of the earth” from all social classes to take the “mark of the Beast.” He will “deceive those who are dwelling upon the earth,” and, so, they make an image of the “Beast from the sea.” Furthermore, he “causes” everyone to take the Beast’s mark or his “number” - (Revelation 13:11-18).
The last statement indicates the “mark” is imposed by the “False Prophet” on both the willing and the unwilling. However, this is not the complete story.
English translations tend to render the clause along the lines, “He causes all…to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead” (NASB). This is misleading. The Greek verb translated “given” is in the third person, the plural number, and the active voice. It reads, more accurately, “That they should give to them a mark upon their right hand or upon their forehead” - (Revelation 13:16).

The “Beast from the earth” certainly “causes” or sets the process in motion, however, the recipients of this “mark” are consciously involved in the process – “Taking” it is a part of rendering homage to the "Beast." The “False Prophet” may use deceit, nonetheless, the “inhabitants of the earth” are willing participants in the procedure.

In the sevenfold series of the “bowls of wrath,” the first bowl causes “a painful ulcer upon men, those having the mark of the beast and those rendering homage to his image.” “Having” and “rendering homage” represent present tense participles in the Greek sentence, with both in the active voice. The Greek present tense signifies ongoing action. The active voice means the subject performs the action (as opposed to the passive voice in which the subject is acted upon). That is, the individuals involved actively engage in taking the “mark” - They embrace the system, which is why they suffer the plagues unleashed by the “bowls of wrath” - (Revelation 16:1-2).

The later vision of the “Rider on a White Horse” concludes with the Beast and the “False Prophet” cast into the “Lake of Fire” because they “deceived those having taken the mark of the beast.” Again, an active voice participle is used. “Having taken” or lambanō in this configuration means to “take,” not to “receive” the “mark” - (Revelation 19:17-21).

666 Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash
Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash

Finally, those men who reign with Christ for a thousand years, do so because “they did not render homage to the beast,” and, they did not take its mark.” Once again, active voice verbs are used, in this case, for actions NOT taken by followers of the Lamb. Their decision in contrast to the “inhabitants of the earth” who chose to render homage to the beast and take its mark - (Revelation 20:4-6).
When the Beast arrives on the scene, both Christians and non-Christians will have a choice - Whether to bow to the Beast and take its mark, or not.
In the book of Revelation, the “inhabitants of the earth” are held responsible for their choice to follow the Beast rather than the Lamb. With this background in view, Christians must exercise extreme caution before blindly embracing the societal values of the existing world order or submitting blindly to the demands of any political order.

In the future, coercion may be applied by the “Beast” and its agents to compel men and women from all levels of society to render allegiance to it. On the other hand, millions may prove to be more than willing to do so. Additionally, Revelation stresses the economic control used by the “False Prophet” to induce submission to the “Beast.” History demonstrates men and women often embrace almost any political or economic system that promises prosperity.

The seven churches of Asia are not immune from the danger, especially the church at Laodicea. This congregation has become reliant on the material prosperity provided by the local economy, to the point, the only option remaining is for it to embrace faithfulness to the Lord by undergoing fiery trials. As Jesus warned the “messenger” from Laodicea:
  • Because you say, I am rich, and have gotten riches and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked; I counsel you to buy of me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe thyself, and that the shame of your nakedness be not made manifest; and eye-salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” - (Revelation 2:17).

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