Throughout church history there’s been intense curiosity and fascination with the “mark of the beast” described in the book of Revelation. While serious interest in the truth of God as revealed in His Word is a wonderful thing, in recent decades much of what is marketed as end times intrigue has been detached from its biblical foundation. Once that happened, it was bound to blossom into something quite ugly, and blossom it has.
In its “Bible lite” format, unhinged from the full context of Scripture, most “end times prophecy” has predictably gone from bad to worse to…where we are now. And people love it (which tends to be the case with any biblical passage or concept taken out of context and massaged to fit the inclinations, desires, and traditions of man). The “mark of the beast” reference made in Revelation 13:16-18 is right there with the “Judge not” partial verse snippet surgically removed from the tippy top of the rest of Matthew 7 when it comes to examples of our culture’s propensity for the convenient destruction of context.
The modern spin on end times prophecy has pegged the obsess-o-meter in our culture. Inspiring and inspired by a growing gaggle of wildly popular yet comically unbiblical movies, books, and “end times ministries”, all coming together to produce a particularly wacky, nasty, and destructive little feedback loop, this movement shows no sign of slowing. This self-perpetuating end times prophecy machine has served as a powerful force of distraction for the professing church in America, with even many true believers captivated by its never-ending parade of tantalizing speculation, gossip-as-“prophecy”, and pin-the-tail-on-the-antichrist sessions.
Ironically, the modern end times prophecy movement would itself seem to be a great indicator of a world come off its biblical rails and in need of an apocalyptic purge.
That said, each of us should resist these distractions and shun even the sheer entertainment value of Jack and Rexella Van Impe’s 2,342nd “I’m not setting a date, but…” prediction for at least long enough to prayerfully focus and seriously consider Revelation 13:16-18, which reads:
…it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666*. (*Some manuscripts record the number as 616.)
The aim here is not to discuss the subject of the mark in detail, rather it is to inspire each of us to consider whether we, in light of this passage from Revelation, could be said to be displaying, right here and now, a “mark of the beast”.
Please note the “a” part of that last sentence. The reference is to a mark of the beast, not the mark of the beast.
It has been rightly noted that to be marked in such a manner (on the forehead and on the arm) is likely an indicator of one’s thoughts and one’s actions, with the mark on the head symbolizing one’s worldview in thought, and the mark on the hand representing one’s worldview in action. What we think and what we do marks us. There need not be a physical mark in order for a person to be marked either by the world or by Christ.
If we obey Christ, we are marked for Christ, and that mark is visible to a watching world. It is visible to them through our actions, which are a reflection of our actual belief (as often opposed to the belief we profess with our mouths but contradict with our actions).
The more American culture plunges itself into Christ-less oblivion as the wrath of God is poured out upon the land and its people, the more these marks will show. And the more these marks show, the more the world will persecute those displaying the mark of Christ.
When we want to be better able to “buy and sell” (as in “make more money” and “get a good job”), what has become “the way of the ‘Christian’ American”?
Compromise, of course. If taking an actual, clear stand for Christ as commanded by Christ would cost us something like a good job (or a shot at any job), we just won’t go there. That’s not how we roll. We simply don’t do personal sacrifice on a serious, comfort-destroying level, to say nothing of embracing a willingness to actually die for the Gospel, which has been a defining mark of the true Church at its world-shaking best throughout history. No, we here in good ol’ comfortable America are not at all interested in paying those prices or making those sacrifices.
“That’s just the way the world works,” we are told and tell ourselves. And besides, there’s no need to sacrifice that much, since Jesus is just gonna fix it all in the end anyway.
That is our testimony to the world.
That is our worldview in action.
That is our mark.
It is right and good that each of us ”examine ourselves” to see whether we are really “in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5-6), and repent of any mark embraced that does not conform to the lordship of Christ. May God grant His people repentance and restoration, so that true Christ-centered, Gospel-fueled revolution might once again shake the world.
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© 2013 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.