The Mark of the Beast
By Kenneth J. Davies
Many have wondered about Rev. 13:16-17; 14:9-11, etc. regarding
what is usually called "the mark of the beast."
Sad to say, most Christians are woefully unfamiliar with the
Old Testament. Therefore, when they approach the book of Revelation,
they do so with literalistic, 20th century "interpretations."
The first thing one must acknowledge about Revelation is that
it is a book composed almost entirely of symbols—symbols
that a first century Jew would have found immediately recognizable.
These symbols were used before in such books as Deuteronomy,
Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.
If I wrote to you that a friend of mine had "kicked
the bucket," you would understand that it meant he had
died. However, 2000 years from now, a person reading my letter
may not understand this usage and wonder why my friend kicked
a bucket. He might assume my friend was angry! His assumption,
of course, would be wrong, because he would be taking a figurative
(symbolic) statement literally. The same is true of the language
of the Revelation. When a "mark" is spoken of, it
should bring to mind a previous reference to a mark, found
in Ezek. 9:3-6. In that context, Jerusalem was also about
to be besieged and destroyed (by the Babylonians). The Lord
commanded an angel to place "a mark on the foreheads"
of those that lamented the wickedness of the city. This angel
is described as having "a writer's inkhorn at his side"
(9:3), with which he was to mark the righteous. It is clear
from the context that this was not to be taken literally,
as if an angel needed to carry a pen around with him and an
inkhorn in which to dip it. This was a symbolic way of showing
that there was a specific class of people within the doomed
city that were being set apart for preservation (9:6). The
mark is an emblem of ownership. In Revelation, a similar "mark"
is placed on those whom God wishes to preserve (14:1). A "mark"
is also received by those loyal to the beast, one which sets
them apart for destruction (14:9-11).
We must allow Scripture to interpret itself whenever possible.
Whether or not it or its fulfillment conforms to our ideas
of what it should be like, is irrelevant! Most people today
jump into the book of Revelation with the brazen assumption
that it speaks of our times or a time yet future. This ignores
the book's clear statements regarding the time of its fulfillment.
To the readers of the first century, not the 20th, it was
written that these were "things which must shortly come
to pass" (Rev. 1:1), and that the time for its fulfillment
was "at hand" (Rev. 1:3). And just in case they
missed the point, it was reiterated at the end of the book
that these were "things which must shortly be done"
(Rev. 22:6). Christ said to them, "Behold, I am coming
quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according
to his works" (Rev. 22:12). Compare this to Matt. 16:27-28,
in which Jesus stated that some of those listening to Him
at that time would not die before seeing the fulfillment of
His prophecy. "For the Son of man shall come ... and
then He shall reward every man according to his works."
Let us be careful to "hear what the Spirit says to the
churches" and allow God's Word to guide our interpretation,