Economic Warfare

The False Prophet employs economic pressure to coerce men into rendering homage to the “Beast from the sea.” 

Dollar and Coin - Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash
In 
Revelation, the “false prophet” uses the economic power of the first Beast against those who refuse to give allegiance to the empire, and the “mark of the beast” is employed to enforce conformity. The ability to level economic penalties against nations, communities, and individuals is the key to the false prophet’s power - [Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash].

We often assume the power of the “Beast” lies in its military might. And while it may indeed possess the ability to subdue nations through naked force, in Revelation, the key to its domination over the “inhabitants of the earth” is its control over world commerce.

The book contrasts the “inhabitants of the earth” with the followers of the “Lamb.” Members of the former group have the “number of the beast” branded on their “right hand,” but those from the latter have the name of the “Lamb written on their foreheads.”

And so, the “mark of the beast” is the Devil’s counterfeit of the “seal of God” - (Revelation 7:1-3, 14:1-4).

ECONOMIC CONTROL

All the “inhabitants of the earth” take the “mark of the Beast,” and therefore, they are legally authorized to engage in trade - to “buy and sell” - (Revelation 13:16-18).

In contrast, the followers of the “Lamb” have been “purchased from the earth,” and because they bear his name, they are prohibited from full participation in the economic life of the empire.

Humanity is divided into two recognizable groups: the men who follow the “Lamb,” and the “inhabitants of the earth” who give fealty to the “Beast.” There is no middle ground, no neutral position.

To which group one belongs determines whether one’s name is included in the “Lamb’s book of life.” References to the “earth” and “Zion” are NOT geographical, but relational.

MARK OF THE BEAST

The “mark” or “number” of the beastly system designates whether one belongs to the “Beast.” Without it, no one may engage in commerce. It is also called its “name” and the “number of its name.” Functionally, they all accomplish the same thing – they determine whether one can engage in the economy. One’s ability to “buy and sell” is dependent on one’s submission to the “Beast.”

But in the larger picture, having the “mark” determines whether one is excluded from the “book of life” or not. And placing the beast’s “mark” on the “forehead” or “right hand” mimics the ancient summons to Israel to worship Yahweh alone:
  • (Deuteronomy 6:5-8) – “You will love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day shall be in your heart. And you will teach them diligently to your children and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise-up. And you will bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

If the “seal of God” is figurative, so is the “mark of the Beast.” By default, anyone who gives allegiance to the “beast” has taken its “mark” and “number,” just as everyone who follows the “Lamb” receives the “seal of God.” The fundamental choice is between who one worships – To whom one gives allegiance – the “Dragon” or the “Lamb” - (Revelation 14:9-11).

ANCIENT NUMBER

The description of the “Beast from the earth” utilizes language from the third chapter of Daniel. The Babylonian ruler erected a “golden image” and required everyone in his empire to “bow down and render homage to the image I have erected.”

The same passage is the source for the number 666, which is derived from the measurements of Nebuchadnezzar’s “golden image” - “Its height was SIXTY AND ITS BREADTH SIX CUBITS.” The link to this story emphasizes the idolatrous nature of the “Beast” system, the empire, and the homage that it demands - (Daniel 3:1-7).

Those who are “wise” must “count” (psephizō) the “number of the Beast.” The Greek verb signifies the tallying up of two or more numbers; in this case, the numbers 6, 60 and 600, or 666.

Commerce - Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash
[Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash]


In Revelation, numbers are figurative and often tripled and even cubed. For instance, the number 12 is compounded into 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1000). The “ten days of tribulation” become the “thousand years” (10 x 10 x 10).

In the Greek text, the “number of the Beast” is listed as “six-hundred sixty and six,” or exakosioi (600) exékonta (60) ex (6), three distinct whole numbers.  They, in turn, represent the three entities that plot against the “Lamb” - The “Dragon,” the “beast from the sea,” and the “beast from the earth.”

For its number is also of man” (anthrōpou estin kai ho arithmos autou). Here, anthrōpou is used for “humanity” in general, not for “a man” or “the man.” The point is not to identify an individual by decoding the number, but to link it to humanity in some capacity, to show the reader the true significance of the number.

Just as the “golden image” of Nebuchadnezzar was “his image,” so, also, the “number of the Beast” is linked to humanity in its idolatrous political and civic religions.

What distinguishes the “image of the Beast” is not its shape, size, or form, but the total allegiance it requires, the absolute loyalty that belongs only to God. It is the ultimate form of idolatry, in this case, state idolatry, the political order demanding the absolute allegiance that belongs to God alone.

NAME OF THE BEAST

The “name of the Beast” is just that – “Beast.” Revelation uses the diminutive form of the Greek noun for “beast” or ‘thérion,’ which corresponds to the diminutive form for “Lamb” (‘arnion’). Thus, the “Beast from the sea” is an imposter, a false Christ who counterfeits Jesus and his lordship.

This last paragraph of chapter 13 alludes to the conclusion of the book of Daniel:
  • (Revelation 13:17) - “HERE IS WISDOM. LET HIM THAT HAS UNDERSTANDING count the number of the beast.”
  • (Daniel 12:9-10) - “Shut up and seal the prophecy until the season of the end. Many will purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined…but none of the wicked will understand, but THEY THAT ARE WISE SHALL UNDERSTAND.”

Only those with wisdom from above understand the significance of the “number of the Beast.” It cannot be decoded or calculated by mathematical formulas or mystical interpretations.

When a political entity appears on the world scene that uses its economic might promiscuously against nations, peoples, and even individuals that do not submit to its demands and whims, that will be the first clue that the “Beast” is beginning to “ascend from the sea.”

When it does appear, we must choose whether to submit to it or “follow and the Lamb wherever he goes.” If we do the latter, very likely, we will find ourselves marginalized in the economic sphere, if not persecuted. But we will also find ourselves standing before the “Lamb” and the “throne” in the “city of New Jerusalem.”

But if we submit to the “Beast” to preserve or improve our economic standing in this life, we will find that our names have been “blotted out of the book of life of the Lamb.”

If there is a relevant message in this, it is a warning to exercise painstaking discernment before blindly embracing the political and cultural values of the surrounding society and political order. When we imbibe its values and beliefs, we begin to take the “mark of the Beast.”



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