Sunday, October 01, 2006

What is the Mark of the Beast? Part 1

When it comes to modern-day discussion of biblical prophecies, the Mark of the Beast is up there with the antichrist in terms of the amount of discussion and curiosity. What could it be? Most Christians today believe it to be some type of microchip or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip implanted in our foreheads or right hands. Taken literally, this prophecy would seem to suggest this as being a correct interpretation. As I have stated repeatedly, our enemy is very deceptive and because of this, I now believe that the actual mark is something else. If most of the world (secular and Christian) have at least heard of the mark and probably have associated some type of microchip implantation with it, then it stands to reason that this is not the mark. It’s too easy to discern. Too many people expect it to be a microchip under the skin. I believe that a microchip could be implanted as a result of accepting the mark (in order to buy and sell), but I don’t believe that this is the mark itself. It’s going to be something much more deceptive. It will be something that only true believers who have received their wisdom and knowledge from God, can discern and avoid. It will be something that doesn’t appear to contradict God, but will, in fact, contradict God’s Word and Law….thereby deceiving those without knowledge of God and His Law. It will also be something that is controlled by force….enforced by the world government. I will discuss my thoughts further on this subject after another excerpt from Steve Wohlberg’s book, Truth Left Behind – Exposing End-Time Errors About the Rapture and the Antichrist.

Because the San Andreas fault line runs through the vast city of Los Angeles, those who live in the area are justly concerned about the coming of the “big one” – an earthquake above 7.0. When it comes to apocalyptic issues described in the Book of Revelation, the “big one” is definitely the Mark of the Beast. If this subject could be measured by a Richter scale capable of weighing spiritual significance, its magnitude would be well above 1,000. The consequences of receiving the mark are truly catastrophic. Those who get it will experience the wrath of God and lose their souls (Revelation 14:9-11). Therefore nothing could be more serious.

The eighth book of the Left Behind drama, The Mark – The Beast Rules the World, continues the developing saga of the “Tribulation Force” against the beast after the Rapture. At the height of his sinister reign over mankind, Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia unveils his secret weapon to gain full control of the world – a highly sophisticated “miniature biochip” to be inserted under the skin of people’s forehead’s and hands “as painlessly as a vaccination in a matter of seconds”. “The visible evidence of loyalty to the potentate,” this techno-mark also “serves as a method of payment and receipting for buying and selling. Eye-level scanners will allow customers and merchants to merely pass by and be billed and receipted”. This forces the members of the Tribulation Force to make a final decision: either submit fully to the Antichrist or expose themselves as Christians. For all who refuse to follow Carpathia, “loyalty enforcement facilitators await with sharpened guillotines”.

This incredible scenario reveals what most prophecy-minded Christians today imagine when it comes to the Mark of the Beast. They know it will come from the devil, will be enforced by the Antichrist, will be used to control buying and selling, and they assume it will be centered around some sort of high-tech computer technology. As we have already seen, the majority also believe it will come after the Rapture. Beyond this, there seems little else to know. Or is there? When it comes to the mark, could Left Behind be once again sincerely, yet mistakenly, out in left field?

“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” (Revelation 13:16). Here the Bible says a mark will be received in the hand or in the forehead. Yet the Bible does not specifically say it will be a “miniature biochip”, or even that it will involve technology at all. These modern words, “computer”, “biochip”, “technology”, “bar code”, and “scanner” do not appear in Revelation. People just assume it will happen this way. It’s a little bit like the Catholic doctrine of the assumption of the Virgin Mary established in 1950. Because Pope Pius XII proclaimed the assumption to be true, many Catholics now believe Mary was “assumed” or taken to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life. Yet this is really just a huge “assumption”, not supported by the Bible.

It’s the same with the Mark of the Beast. Christians assume the mark will involve computer technology developed by a Microsoft or an Intel, yet the Bible itself does not specifically say this. I call this the “Great Mark of the Beast Microchip Assumption.”

The Bible specifically does say, “He deceived them that had received the mark of the beast” (Revelation 19:20). Notice carefully. Those who receive the mark are deceived. Therefore, the mark of the beast must involve some sort of subtle deception. That is, it must not be too obvious or easily noticed. If it were, how could almost the entire world be mislead? Jesus warned us that Satan’s deceptions are so tricky they can “deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mathew 24:24).

It seems to me that the Left Behind scenario portrays the mass of humankind as altogether too gullible. Think about it. How deceptive would it be for someone like Nicolae Carpathia to command everyone to accept a computerized biochip in their foreheads or in their hands? Honestly, let’s get away from fiction and talk about real people. How many real people do you know who would accept big government implanting biochip technology inside their heads? The idea becomes slightly more believable if one imagines a world in which millions of people have just vanished. But what if people don’t vanish? What if we are dealing with this world – the real world and real people? Even more than this, what if we are talking about you and me facing the Mark of the Beast? How deceptive would that be to us? How could this “deceive, if possible, even the elect”?

When we look carefully at Revelation, we discover that the Mark of the Beast is not the only thing placed in people’s foreheads. Amazingly, the forehead is mentioned many times apart from the mark. The first time the mark is mentioned is in Revelation 13:16. Three verses later John saw a group called the 144,000 with the “Father’s name written in their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). This solitary sentence flashes new light on this whole topic. One group gets the Mark of the Beast while the other group has the name of God in their foreheads. Referring to the saved, the very last chapter of the Bible says, “They shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Therefore, both saints and sinners will all one day have something in their foreheads. Does this mean God’s people will walk around with actual, visible letters written on their foreheads?

John also saw an evil scarlet woman riding a beast. “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS” (Revelation 17:5). No one doubts this is a symbolic prophecy. There will be no real prostitute riding a beast. Therefore, the writing of that mysterious name upon her forehead must also be symbolic. Are the scales beginning to fall from your eyes? The real issues are more than skin deep.

This idea about the forehead or the hand is not unique to Revelation. Moses told the Israelites, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart…Thou shalt bind them for a sign on thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 8). Again Moses said, “Therefore shall ye lay up these mine words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 11:18). What did God intend the Israelites to learn from this? Did the Lord want them to take a fine-point pen and write the words on the tiny bit of skin between their eyes above their noses?

With a little bit of reflection, we should be able to understand what this idea of the forehead and hand is really all about. Anciently, God wanted His words on the foreheads of the Israelites. This must mean He wanted them inside of their minds. What about His words on their hands? This must apply to their actions. So, the forehead represents the mind, and the hand represents the actions. That’s simple enough. Therefore, what the Book of Revelation is really saying when it speaks of a mark in the forehead or in the hand is that one day the masses of humanity will fully yield their minds and their actions to some specific idea, or tradition, or “mark” that comes from the beast. They will be marked in their minds. Yet God’s true people will see through this deception. Why? Because they have the name of God in their foreheads.

What is the name of God? Is it only a specific set of syllables God would like us to use when we address Him, or does this issue involve more than mere pronunciation? When Moses ascended Mount Sinai, “The Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord” (Exodus 34:5). Then God described His character. He revealed Himself as merciful, gracious, patient, forgiving, just and full of truth (Exodus 34:6-7). These wonderful attributes are referred to as “the name of the Lord.” At the end of His earthly life, in a prayer to His Father, our Savior said, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (John 17:6). Jesus didn’t say this simply because He had been pronouncing certain syllables correctly, but because His life revealed the true character of God. So, when the Bible says people will have the name of God on their foreheads, this means that His gracious attributes of character have become a deep part of their thinking and actions. They are truly connected with Jesus Christ. In the final days, God will have a people who are so firmly rooted in Jesus and in His attributes of character that they will not be deceived or go along with the Mark of the Beast. Thus, we are dealing with deep spiritual issues.

The mark is mentioned eight times in Revelation (13:16, 17; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4), but there is only one unique section that specifically and comprehensively clarifies the issues and warns the entire world against receiving this evil mark. It is the three angels’ messages found in Revelation 14:6-12. Sadly, most Christians have never even heard of these messages, yet they are of cosmic significance. They are just as important as the message of Noah before the Flood. Why? Because they contain Heaven’s last call before the return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 14:14-16).

Here’s a quick overview of these mighty messages. The first angel proclaims the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, the hour of judgment, and the importance of worshiping the Creator of heaven and earth (Revelation 14:6-7). The second angel announces the fall of the Babylonian harlot, which has made the whole earth drunk with her confusing wine of deception (Revelation 14:8). The third angel solemnly warns about the beast, the image, and the deadly mark, stating that those who receive the mark will drink the wine of the wrath of God (Revelation 14:10, 11). The third angel concludes with these highly significant words, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). As soon as God’s three angels have completed their heavenly assignment, then follows a power-packed description of the return of Jesus Christ on a white cloud to reap the final harvest of the earth (Revelation 14:14-16).

We’ll continue with Steve’s insight into the mark of the beast in the next posting. Are you beginning to see how this is actually going to happen? Notice that the angels mention God’s commandments. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next posting. Only those who are living for God will have the ability to discern and reject the mark. My guess is that many of us will warn the world when we see it, only to have the truth rejected by people who do not know God and don’t want to know Him. They will not understand the significance of what is happening. As a result, they will incur the Wrath of God upon themselves. Simply going to Church for an hour on Sunday is not going to get you where you need to be spiritually in order to face the tribulations that are coming, you need to turn your life over to God so that He can use you for His purpose…..everyday.

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