Any sermon that addresses the antichrist is going to generate discussion, and Sunday’s message from 2 Thessalonians was no different. As people gathered to discuss the sermon in Community Group, some spoke with fear and others with fascination as they learned about this future nemesis. Coming from this discussion was a question regarding the mark of the beast. People wanted to know what this mark was, was it imminent, and was there any way to avoid it. I certainly don’t have all the answers to mysteries of Scripture, but I think I can help with that one.
The mark of the beast is referenced in Revelation 13. John writes, “Also 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.” (16–17, ESV)
This one scripture has generated an entire cottage industry of paranoia that is headed up by alarmists who are constantly hyperventilating over every technological advance. Key fobs, scanners, SIM cards, and bar codes have all been demonized as being ‘the mark’ and Christians are warned that if they participate in these evil schemes they are collaborating with the lawless one. This kind of sensationalism and fear mongering drives me crazy!
When the apostle John wrote Revelation, he used Old Testament imagery to depict future events. This makes sense, his heritage was Jewish and so he used what he knew. So when we read John’s future prophecies we must do it through the lens of Old Testament scriptures. And, lo-and-behold, this is what we find in Deuteronomy 11, ““You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” (18). It seems that there is a prior reference to bearing a mark on our foreheads and hands!
Some observant Jews seek to honor this command by strapping verses of the Law onto their foreheads and arms during prayer. There is nothing harmful in this, but I am not convinced that that is what is being required by the text. What Moses was saying, I believe, is that the Word of God must be in our thoughts (on the top of our minds) and in our actions (on the tips of our fingers). Our all, our inner thought-life and our public actions, should be informed by God’s revealed will.
Recognizing the correlation between Deuteronomy and Revelation makes the mark of the beast less mysterious. What John is prophesying is not a physical mark but a spiritual orientation. Those whose hands and heads are devoted to lawlessness bear the mark of the evil one. I don’t believe that, some day in the future, you will see a mark of evil etched between people’s eyes; it will be glimpsed in their eyes. Their hands may be spotless, but their deeds will not. Loyalty to unrighteousness is not a badge to be worn, but an affection that is proven through acts of unrighteousness.
So please don’t fret over the ever decreasing size of technology, chances are, foreign objects won’t be imbedded inside of you. What we must watch out for is the wickedness that’s already in there.